Are Today’s Playgrounds Too Safe?
July 28, 2011
by Sasha Emmons
Has your kid ever played on a see-saw? In recent decades, see-saws, tall jungle gyms, big slides, merry-go-rounds, and even tire swings have largely disappeared from playgrounds as federal guidelines and safety standards set by manufacturers (largely driven by fear of lawsuits) aim to make structures safer. But a recent New York Times piece wonders: are kids missing out on the chance to build confidence by having all the risk removed from their play spaces?
Plus: Dear Playground Moms
Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.
“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”
What do you think: do you miss some of riskier play structures of your youth? Do you think today’s kids are missing out?