The New York Times warns that your child’s playground might be boring them to death (or at least into a phobia).
It’s summer time and parents everywhere are crowding onto playgrounds with their children. Me included. And I am shocked at just how boring they have gotten. Gone are the days when playgrounds were thrilling places: climbing to the top of a huge jungle gym, teetering 5 feet off the ground and screaming at my little brother not to drop me, or hurdling around on a tire swing until getting
Today, in fact, I was at what now passes as a playground. A sad, ill designed place with a tiny little plastic play structure with two tiny little slides on hotter-than-Hades black rubber and only two swings, both adult style. Even the see-saw has been dumbed-down to a—what are these things called?—a gentle jumper. Yuck. No one but babies was playing there and everything was so hot that even the babies didn’t want to be there.
In Vancouver, one after another the best playgrounds are being replaced. Big slides, high monkey bars, wood chips are all disappearing and being replaced by little slides and things that spin (but not too fast) or that bounce (but not too high). Sure, the new ones are cool (at best) but the old ones were dangerous.
According to The New York Times recent article: Can a Playground Be Too Safe? the answer is: “Yes it can.”
In fact, they point to research that shows that “A child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.”
The article also references Dr. Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway who says: “Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground.”
She isn’t alone in her theory.
“Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology” she writes in a co-authored article in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.
Boring playgrounds aren’t proven safer
“There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds,” said David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London. In the NYTimes article he postulates why this might be true: certain types of injuries are made worse by the softer surfaces, parents and children think the surfaces are safer than they truly are, or simply the playgrounds get so boring that older children stop playing in them and find real thrills (and real risks) elsewhere.
Why have playgrounds gotten so boring?
A fear of lawsuits. North America, of course, is the king of boring playgrounds because we love to sue. It is this fear that led many cities to get rid of merry-go-rounds, ropes, tire swings, and real see-saws.
What’s next? Will they rubberize all the trees?