Today's Playgrounds Are Too Safe for Kids

Jeanne Sager

playgroundRemember the playgrounds when we were kids? The metal slides that burned your butt? The rickety swing sets that seemed like they were thisclose to coming uprooted the harder you pumped your legs? The merry-go-round that all the kids piled on while one ran round and round outside, getting it going, before jumping on, trying not to get his legs caught in the mechanism? Turns out there's more to those nostalgic musings than you thought.

A bunch of childhood experts are coming out to say the newfangled plasticky perfect playgrounds that our kids are playing on are just an accident waiting to happen. The problem? They really don't teach our kids enough about "calculated risks."

Huzzah!! The good old days really were GOOD!

OK, enough celebrating. Because now we've got the bad news. All these playgrounds are full of safe stuff. Where kids are protected at every turn, and where helicopter parents wait at the bottom of the slide, arms wide open, lest little Sally feel the insult of a wood chip on the bottom of her shoe when she reaches the bottom.

Seriously, people? If my kid comes in from playing outside and doesn't have a skinned knee, I wonder what's wrong.

It may not seem like that big a deal in the scheme of things, but playgrounds are where our kids first get their taste of freedom. Even the parent who hovers the hardest has no control when their kid is on the playset during recess at elementary school.

So kids learn to judge distances with their eyes -- I can jump from X to Y without falling. They learn coordination by navigating slippery slides. They develop ingenuity by yanking off their sweatshirt and putting it UNDER their butt before sliding down the hot slide. And I'll say it, they have more fun when they have to figure things out!

Today's playgrounds are safe, alright, but the bumps on the toddler slides that keep them from falling defeat the purpose, and the measly inclines are far from thrilling. And can we talk about the spring ponies that have replaced the seesaw? Who can get air off a little spring firmly cemented in the ground? Yawn!

The best playground in my neck of the woods is a great mixture of old and new, but the one piece used by every single kid is that merry-go-round, still standing from when I was a kid, still making parents' hearts skip a beat when their kid is the one trying to jump on as it's spinning super fast. And guess which piece of equipment I put my kid on first?

Do you yearn for the really fun playgrounds of yesterday?


Image via laffy4k/Flickr

Read More