Are Park Playgrounds too Dangerous?
Playgrounds and Childhood Development
I just read The New York Times article “Can a Playground Be Too Safe?” by John Tierney and couldn’t help but think about my own children’s playgrounds.
We live in Gwinnett County, Georgia, which has won several awards for their parks system. And although we pay for it in our taxes each year, our family greatly benefits by having access to many parks within a few miles in any direction we go. After reading the article above, I can’t help but think how these playgrounds in Gwinnett County are so different from the playgrounds I had growing up.
The playgrounds of my youth were filled with swings, monkey bars, slides and teeter totters. The parks in Gwinnett feature almost all of those things and more, including rock-climbing walls and swiveling chairs and stand-up things that spin a child (or adult when I feel like it) just by moving body weight. Most of the playgrounds I've seen feature foam padding to prevent injuries when children fall and are awash in brightly colored elements. (Honestly, I’m not sure if I like the foam or not, I can’t help but think that germs stay there a lot more on the surface than on traditional biodegradable dirt and grass.)
"Interestingly, the perception that a playground is 'safe' may cause children (and parents) to act carelessly, potentially leading to injury. By contrast, when risks are obvious, children are likely to proceed more cautiously".
--Kerala Taylor, Kaboom.org
Visit Kaboom! for pictures of some of the most kid-friendly "dangerous" playgrounds around the world.
Tierney’s article notes,“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground” explaining that even major falls and injuries “rarely cause permanent damage, either physically or emotionally." I tend to agree with Tierney's position. Children need to conquer fears and make off their goals. The smile of a chidl who went across the monkey bars for the first time is proof enough that children enjoy taking risks and making accomplishments.
Despite the fact that the parks in my area seem both safe while still allowing for fun, fastness and heights, I also enjoy the classic such as a twisty slide and the traditional see-saw.
So what do YOU think of children safety on the ground? Do you think we should shelter children and remove things from the playground that are tall or pose a possible safety risk? How much risk is worth it for childhood development?
The Berkeley Adventure Playground
The Berkeley Adventure Playground (Berkeley, CA) is a kid-designed playground that mixes fun and adventure, and teaches kids how to be safe in a potentially dangerous environment.