The other week I was helping at a working bee for my son’s school, on of the jobs I had to do was raking the mounds of bark around the playground back into some semblence of order from where it has all accumulated.
I was working with two other Dads…one from Zimbabwe and one from South Africa. We commented on the playgrounds of our youth…that all this palaver of soft surfaces and such was making kids sissies. I remembered a big slide I used to use that had nothing but grass surrounding it….of a flying fox at Pauanui that would never be able to be built these days, they remembered the hard packed earth around their playgrounds.
It turns out that in making playgrounds “safe” we may have in fact stunted our kids:
In the summer of 2011, the New York Times published an article asking, “Can a Playground Be Too Safe?” It cited recent studies in the US and Europe documenting how antiseptic safety-first playgrounds may actually stunt emotional and cognitive development and leave children not only decidedly bored and under-stimulated but with skewed abilities to manage real-world risk later in life. The research also suggested that claims (made by the manufacturers, who had lobbied for stricter safety standards in the first place) that injuries had decreased overall thanks to the new play equipment may have been incorrect, and that total injuries may have actually risen due to the illusory perception of a danger-free zone. Either way, researchers agreed that mastering challenges, negotiating risks, and overcoming fears were critical to healthy play.