Egg boxes, toilet rolls, rice - but think of the children!
At the risk of sounding a bit too 'Trumpy', there have been some cases of ‘fake news’ being spread around social media and on various teaching sites over the years. The content hasn't involved a certain President, but it has involved what we can or can't use with children!
If you give egg boxes to children, they’ll all catch salmonella!
If you let children play with toilet rolls, you may as well let them play in a poo-filled toilet!
Rice is full of bacteria! The children will all get ill if they play with it!
Whilst the thinking behind these statements may be well meaning, the reality is that egg boxes, toilet rolls and rice are no worse to play with than playdoh, finger paints or the mud kitchen!
The Health and Safety Executive have published a number of ‘Myth Busting’ panel findings on their website that try to clear up some of the confusion.
Egg boxes and toilet rolls are the classic examples. I’m not sure there are many practitioners out there who would use anything that is covered in the contents of a broken egg, or smeared in the much less desirable contents from a toilet! The guidance from a number of organisations is if they look clean, then there is no reason why they should not be used, as they pose no greater risk than everyday living. Children are at greater risk from not washing their hands properly after visiting the toilet than playing with a toilet roll!
Many children get to use hammers, nails, saws and axes when they are at Nursery. This might cause some to back away slowly, muttering how irresponsible it is! But as long as the children are taught how to use the tools properly and sensibly, as well as being supervised when using them, then we are providing them with a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and manage risk which will prepare them for life beyond childhood. To quote the Health and Safety Executive:
“There is no health and safety legislation which bans these activities, in fact HSE is on record as encouraging schools to allow these activities to go ahead. If individual schools choose to ban these activities it is for other reasons, not health and safety.”
The H&S umbrella can get stretched out even further. The HSE includes a piece about mobile phones being banned in schools for Health and Safety purposes. There may well be a perfectly sensible reason behind the ban of mobile phones in a school, but H&S isn’t one of them! There seem to be a number of instances citing ‘Health and Safety’ as a reason to remove or not allow something, but in reality there are no H&S reasons for a majority of these bans, and all this does is provide a negative view of H&S. The truth is, most Health and Safety issues simply require a strong grounding in common sense.
So, next time you hear of someone telling you that you can’t do something because of ‘Health and Safety’, don’t just take it at face value – ask them to explain why, especially if you think that, with a good risk assessment and supervision, it would be a perfectly safe and rewarding activity. Because in the long run, if we really did remove toilet roll and egg boxes from our junk modelling areas, mud from our mud kitchen, and rice from our tough-spots it would be the children who would be missing out.