Theseprogress in complexity as children’s ability in-creases. The one-year-old crawls and creeps because it is easier than walking. The five-year-old enjoys crawling through con-crete tunnels as part of another game or just for fun. The baby hides for fun and being’ found’ is an essential to his game. Older children may hide away because they deliberately wish to be in a private space alone.
Large hollow cubes with access holes, a stair unit with an access point to crawl into, long tunnels of tough fabric on a special frame and polythene barrels open at each end are alldevelopments which have taken place in the last ten years and have proved popular and useful for nursery groups.
This equipment can often be used in conjunction with climb-ing frames and slides to make an obstacle course. There have been varying reports on the durability of some of these new pieces of equipment but on the whole most of the problems have been solved so that they are satisfactorily safe. The crawling tunnel for instance has been much improved and one firm now produces a strong plywood cradle for polythene barrels. This last is an excellent idea as it holds the barrel firmly, thus preventing accidents, but still allows for it to be turned round and round so that children inside can enjoy the rolling motion they used to get from free movement across the floor.
Where a permanent garden setting is possible large concrete pipes – wide enough to ensure that even a big child will not panic and get stuck – can be firmly fixed into interesting groupings. They need careful inspection to ensure that they keep in good condition. One of the most irritating problems with these is fouling by dogs and cats and no one seems to have come up with a satisfactory answer to this yet.
There are of course two sides to this particular activity. While an effort should be made to provide suitable equipment for this game it is equally important to watch out for children who find their own hidey holes and crawling spaces. The tragedy of children dying in old refrigerators went some way towards teaching adults this lesson but this urge is strong in children and they have all the time in the world to find potentially dangerous situations which adults might not have noticed or thought of. Particular care is needed in new situations such as at holiday times or moving house, or even in the nursery group when new equipment arrives, as the children may use it in a way we would have thought impossible.