Let kids play outside, and get out of their way
It's not only sticks and stones that may break your bones, but your parents insisting you're too fragile to go it alone. Alex wants you to know he's been saying this for a while. Although given that Wally's been nose-diving down slides for well over three years, it may not have applied to me. (I do like riding down with him on my lap sometimes, but that's only because I get weird looks when I go by myself.)
A more interesting article, in my opinion, was linked from that one, published last July. "Have playgrounds become too safe for kids?" It's not only that they're too safe and therefore boring, but that they're not teaching kids how to be independent, handle fear, and gradually master new challenges. Basically, overprotecting kids doesn't actually protect them, and in many cases does the opposite, leaving them vulnerable to a world they're scared of and don't have the coping skills to navigate.
It's not just playgrounds themselves that expose this disturbing trend of safety measures that are detrimental and even dangerous, but the whole issue of play and the way its treated. School recess is being phased out or already has been in 40% of U.S. schools due to budget-cuts and need for extra test prep time. Tag is banned in many schools that still have recess because it's considered dangerous. Tag! Dodge ball I can understand. I remember hating dodge ball. I could never dodge. I was always pelted. But I think it's good to suck at things and still be forced to do them.
This article "Why kids need recess and exercise" by Denene Millner that ran April 3 of this year in parenting and ccn is worth reading.
My sister, a public middle school math teacher, has been writing letters about how the current testing mandates undermine learning and exact a high cost in instruction time (including time for grading the tests) and sending around this petition. Here our current pre-occupations dovetail, a rare occurrence, given that recess time in grade schools is sometimes sacrificed in favor of additional test prep time as it did for the 4th-grade daughter of Ms. Millner as described in the above-mentioned article. Here she writes:
"I could see the toll it was taking on my daughter Mari, when, two weeks before fourth-grade testing, she dragged herself off the bus and into our kitchen--exhausted, tense, and frazzled. Turns out the only break she'd had during her six-and-a-half-hour school day was for a 22-minute lunch (quiet talking only). Recess had been "suspended" for two weeks so the teachers could get in extra test prep--and by this point Mari hadn't seen the monkey bars, bounced across a hopscotch board, or breathed fresh air for days.
She was toast.
And I was fuming.
I'm glad there is more awareness about this issue. I loved recess. And I miss see-saws.