Warning, Danger Ahead

“Oh, you may get a few little cuts and scrapes — that’s inevitable. But don’t hurt yourself just because you didn’t pay attention to what you were doing.” 
— from Introduction to “Fifty Dangerous Things”

Gever’s words are at the core of why I contacted him earlier this year when he was in Los Angeles. In my work I encounter a good number of young children (2 to 7 years old) who are not allowed to use scissors or knives at home. Maybe parents are afraid of the curtains being cut. Or maybe they don’t want their kids to get little cuts or scrapes. But, children are curious. They naturally want to do what their parents do. Scissors are a basic tool for transforming and learning with materials and, in turn, will be part of understanding and interacting with the physical world.  Sure, your child may get scraped and cut now and then but with your help they’ll slowly learn how scissors can cut paper (and hair) and should be used when sitting down (and not to poke their brother).  These are the beginnings of safety or as Gever puts it, “to learn how to judge danger.”

Who am I and what do I do? I am Mary Beth Trautwein, Director at the reDiscover Center where we use clean, discarded materials to tinker and play with.  Essentially, we have a warehouse of loose parts and provide tools and guidance for children to construct whatever sparks their interest. I feel that our support for kids and their parents to learn skills and solve problems is among the most important things we do. In a crowded, busy city like Los Angeles how many homes have a tool bench or sewing machine? How many kids learn how to use a screw driver if cheap appliances are thrown out instead of repaired? Tinkers, young and old,  encounter obstacles along their creative path but with a little help and guidance they gain confidence and become inquisitive members of society. At the beginning of “Fifty Dangerous Things” Mike Petrich, Learning Studio Director at the Exploratorium writes, “I argue that NOT doing these things is ultimately a more dangerous proposition for ourselves and society.”

So, do these things (and more!) with your child and enjoy exploring the world together. Next time you cut something at home and you notice your child grabbing for the scissors give them a pair of their own. You’d be surprised how young children can use scissors—the girl in the photo above is less than two years old!

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2 Responses to Warning, Danger Ahead

  1. Deb says:

    Loved it, Mary Beth!

  2. Jim says:

    Well said, Mary Beth!

    Ahh, young children and scissors. We have history, scissors and me.

    I was, in my early childhood (back in the early-to-mid-70s), faced with the prospect of being forced to use the dull, rounded-end “LEFTY” scissors (you remember those: green plastic-dipped handles and all) because I was (and am) left-handed at a time where southpaws were considered clumsy oafs to be protected from themselves. The LEFTY scissors didn’t actually cut anything, they just sort of mauled the paper into ragged submission.

    So I did what any kid in my position would do: started using the regular right-handed scissors. In my left hand, which meant they were upside-down. Didn’t work so well. So I turned them right-side up. Worked better, just slightly awkward. So I started using them with my right hand. Worked a treat. So I just kept doing it that way in order to keep using the real, functional scissors instead of the useless LEFTY maulers.

    And that was the beginning of a lifetime of semi-ambidexterous function. I can’t write very well right-handed, or throw a baseball very well, but I shoot [basketballs, arrows, firearms] better righty, golf (on those very rare occasions I golf) righty, and mouse righty (and SpaceBall lefty) on the computer. When wrenching on stuff, I’ll use whichever hand fits into the available space better.

    But none of that would have happened (or at least it wouldn’t be as ingrained and intuitive as it is now) if I hadn’t even had the chance to use scissors back then.

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