School Ban on Cartwheels & Handstands Takes Fun Out of Recess

cartwheelBumps and bruises. Cuts and scrapes. I've always thought they were like a road map of childhood, up and down our kids' legs and across their arms. But then I hear about schools like the one that's banned kids from doing any sort of somersault, handstand, or cartwheel during recess.

They're trying to keep kids from getting hurt. But who says "getting hurt" is the worst thing that is going to happen to our kids?


I remember a time when kids played at recess, I mean really played. We ran our little legs off during glorious games of chase. We slid down hot slides and hung high in the air on the monkey bars. I grew up in a poor rural school district where there wasn't enough money to put into playgrounds for every grade, and so I remember more years than not being forced to play on hard blacktop.

And despite a few sad memories of bullies and buttheads, the memories of childhood play are mostly good.

If you look long and hard at my legs, you'll notice the scars. There is where I tripped while getting off the school bus in kindergarten. That's where I ran into the bumper of a car in the school parking lot during recess. Mrs. B. had to use butterfly bandages to close it up. And that one? Well I'm not exactly sure, but I'll bet it was fun.

I'm sure I cried about the boo boos. I don't have the highest pain tolerance. And yet, they are part of who I am today. They're markers of my childhood. And they were lessons learned. I always looked ahead of me when getting off the bus after that tumble. I never ran near parked cars again. And when I do get a "boo boo," I avoid that dreaded pour of peroxide like the plague.

I still hate pain, but I don't flail and gnash my teeth. I've seen what's on the other side, and I wait.

That is the lesson of bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes. You'll live, kid, you'll live.

Only our kids aren't allowed to get bumped or cut anymore. They're not learning what's on the other side.

I'm not sure when we stopped being able to differentiate between "extreme danger" and "slight risk" for our kids, but it's as though the two have been lumped in together. What might, possibly, in some situations, cause a child to break a nail is now side-by-side with activities that risk certain death.

This is how schools put out memos to their parents that kids will only be allowed to do cartwheels, somersaults, and handstands if there's a trained gymnastics instructor overseeing them. Because after centuries of kids tumbling ass over teakettle to no ill effects, we worry that one day one child may (or may not ... probably not) get a slight knock on the noggin. That's progress for you.

What do you think of these rules? Stupid or safe?


Image via Bitterjug/Flickr

Read More >