When Risk Visits the Playground

Hi Readers — Here’s a note from reader Althea Smock, a mother of two Free-range Kids, ages 5 and 7,  in Arvada, Colorado. I find myself thinking about  our inability to understand, deal with or accept risk a LOT and, apparently, so does she! — L.
.
Dear Free-Range Kids:  The risk adversity in the U.S. is out of control. I just read about the CPSC recalling 7 million candle holders because there was a single incident of one (one!!) melting.
.
This comes on the heels of a discussion we had at our Parks Board last week where the playground designer came in to talk about the safety of playground equipment. The gist of it was: there is such a permeating fear of lawsuits and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) that playgrounds are required to be as generic as possible, lest a lawsuit occur. There was great discussion about the $600 test each playground inspector must take every three years to be certified to be able to even inspect a playground, and the number of people we have employed just to complete inspections on the equipment in our city alone. Each playground is inspected every 3-6 months: every screw and nut is examined, along with the width of all the poles,  and evidence of settling, protrusions, wear, etc. It takes several hours to inspect one playground thoroughly and completely.
.
Swings are still allowed, but the CPSC rules –“which are treated as law” — are so stringent on how and where they’re installed, it’s almost not worth putting them in. It was so sad to listen to how the paranoia that has determined how playgrounds will be built, resulting in homogeneous, boring play zones for kids.
.
At the end of the discussion it turned out that in our town of roughly 100,000 people there has been a single lawsuit over the last 12 years regarding play equipment. A grown woman got stuck in a baby swing and couldn’t get out so the fire department was called to cut her out of the swing. She sued for humiliation. And now swings are becoming a rare commodity.
.
Please, please, please keep up the work you’re doing in calling out the ridiculous paranoia overtaking our country where a single incident can incite a recall.Threats of lawsuits create such fear that now any risk is unacceptable. And as you’ve pointed out, life is risky! We need to collectively get over it! It’s frustrating to hear at every turn we need to be “safe” of there will be a recall or lawsuit. Erg! — Althea Smock

The swing: an endangered species?

92 Responses

  1. Shame on the courts for entertaining a lawsuit based on SELF INFLICTED humiliation. Wasn’t she humiliated enough just sitting in the baby swing?

  2. I am becoming more and more convinced that lawsuit paranoia is like predator paranoia–unsubstantiated by fact and built on sensationalized media. There are not that many actual lawsuits that cost any substantial sums.

  3. Oh My Goodness. We went to dinner last weekend with some friends. She does not let her 8 year old go to the park because “it is a pedophiles dream”.
    It is a paranoid world we live in.

  4. My mom treated the bumps and bruises of childhood as barely noticable annoyances….As in “Why are you bothering me with this, can’t you see I am doing something??”

    Even things that required stitches received only one day of babying, and then we would be instructed to toughen up, it was no big deal, and we were going to live.

    I do not get all of the worry, I just don’t. People get hurt, children included, and unless it is something serious…i.e. surgery, chronic conditions, losing a limb…Why won’t people shrug it off and go about their lives. I guess I don’t understand the psychology behind this endless fear.

  5. And it’s all thanks to the media saturation of fear from the 24-hour news stations and the Web.

  6. I would agree lawsuit fear is becoming almost as bad as kidnapping/predator fear.

    A lot of it comes from insurance companies. Here is a good one. My local park district gym has a 5 lane pool. They do lessons and classes. Then they have lap swim. During lap swim there are no lifeguards. To swim during lap swim you have to be 18 or older. Ability doesn’t matter. See I have a 10 year daughter that swims competitively and I would like for her to swim there from time to time for extra practice, but she can’t swim during lap swim because she isn’t 18. It doesn’t matter that she swims better than 99% of all adults that swim there. I went all the way to the director and she said it was the insurance company that would not allow it. Funny how the insurance company are making the decisions for pool.

  7. I will admit to not letting my 9 yr old go to the park alone. But I have a slightly justified paranoia of CPS showing up on my doorstep and telling me it’s illegal to let them walk to the park and play there w/o direct supervision. Since I’ve had them on my doorstep before, it’s at least a slightly justifiable paranoia. I wouldn’t ever worry about the park for “safety” reasons. We lived on a hobby farm for the last two years. My kids came out unscathed (ok, permantly). Great Blog! LOVE It!

  8. Don’t tell the Fun Police, but my town still has its OLD playground equipment. As in, from the 80s. My kids love it!

  9. I’m just sorry my kid will never know the joy and stomach upset of a playground merry-go-round.

  10. Well, on the one hand, if a big corporate manufacturer of playground equipment was knowingly selling poorly built structures or shoddy materials to cities and profiting from them, I would definitely want them to be held accountable for such negligence.

    Also, we need to teach our kids how to make their own decisions about *degree of risk,* and which risks are worth taking. Risking a scratch on the knee is worth running around on the playground. Risking a life-threatening concussion by riding a bike without a helmet? While I totally agree that we can’t, and shouldn’t shelter our kids from risk *in general*, as a parent, I’m not sure why I would unnecessarily increase the amount of risk to which my kid is exposed.

  11. I’m lucky to live in a town with swings and merry go rounds. One park we go to even has a NEW merry go round. I didn’t even know they were still in production the fear of lawsuit is so high these days. In my town when on of the bucket swings for little kids wears out they cut half of it off and turn it into a half bucket swing with a chain on the front. My little one has fallen out of a swing like this on more than one occasion and you know what, she’s fine. I guess the show is right, the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland. Even on the playgrounds.

  12. I’d be very interested to know if these hypervigilant playground inspections are happening in low income/poor neighborhoods–or is this mostly a rich white folks thing.

  13. I think the real solution for something like this is with the judges. If a judge grants payment to an adult for getting stuck in a baby swing, then he should be voted out. It seems like the issue here isn’t so much concern for safety as it is money. To me it sounds like the people need to be more diligent in knowing what is going on in the courts. This judge was a fool and the city should have repealed his decision. One feels like this is the sort of thing that should be in the media so that the judge could be voted out and another judge would come in with more sense of what the people want. Any one with any sense can see that an adult should not be sitting in a baby swing. Also, I think it would make more sense for the city to put a note saying “Hazard, only for children under 5,” rather than just taking out the swings.

  14. In Seattle, whenever a playground is revamped, the community works hard to “grandfather” in the old merry-go-round, the real swings with long metal chains, and the old-school, fast ziplines. We’d rather keep these peeling-paint eyesores than replace them with the sanitized, slow, not-nearly-as-fun facsimiles.

  15. Judges are not elected officials, they cannot be voted out.

    But I think the judge should have made HER pay a fine for destroying city property by using it in a way it was not intended to be used.

  16. I’m currently living in Germany for a few months. It is amazing how much more interesting the playgrounds here are! My daughter has been bored on American playgrounds since age 4. Here you see 10-year olds still having fun on the playground! They have djungel gyms and pyramids made out of netting that you can climb. They are probably 30 feet high! And then you can slide down the slide from that height. Why are they more interesting? I think it’s because of the difference in liability law. You can’t sue the city because little Johnny fell of the swing and scraped his knee. You could only sue if there is malevolent wrong doing from the side of the city. They just post a sign “Use at own risk” somewhere and that’s it. By the way, we just found out that the playgrounds in Paris are as interesting as the German ones.

  17. The thing that frustrates me most about this is that we have all these kids with autism, ADHD, sensory integration disorder and other such issues who are calmed and centered by getting the sort of vestibular input you get from swings and merry go rounds. When I was a kid, the recess bell rang and I beelined for the swing set, but my 9yo gets to go to the occupational therapist’s office where she has a single swing hanging from the ceiling. Can’t have swings on the playground, though–someone might fall or get kicked! (Not that I’m not grateful he has the option.)

    I wonder how much more money school districts have to spend dealing with special-needs kids because they’re too lawsuit-averse to provide the kind of equipment those kids need to take care of themselves.

  18. I should say, though, that in our Seattle parks, there are always the annoying parents that insist that all children remain seated on the merry–round at all times. How much fun is that?

  19. LOL, a little boy came through my check-out with a cast on his arm. I asked him how he broke it and the response was, “I did it at Monkey Joe’s.” I asked the mom if Monkey Joe’s had insurance to pay for stuff like that and she said they didn’t, but the good part was that she didn’t say, “And we’re going to sue their butts.” It’s gratifying that a parent realizes that broken arms can happen anywhere.

  20. Here’s another one for you.

    Kids Chemistry Set Contains No Chemicals

  21. The school my daughter attends does not allow running. Well, they can run laps around the playground during special times and there are “clubs” for running, but no games of tag or simply running to let out energy.

    It drives me NUTS. I have complained about it, and gotten nowhere. It is an excellent school in every other way, but this paranoia makes me a little crazy.

  22. Our town had an AWESOME old playground. One of the big wooden ones with lots of places to hide, climb and pretend. It got removed, a week before summer vacation started last year and replaced with… nothing.

    It was the only ‘big kid’ playground in our town. All the other ones are tot lots designed for the 5 and under crowd. There are structures at the schools, but at least two of them will not be available this summer due to construction.

    When that playground was up, I was amazed at how many parents bitched and moaned about it. “I can’t see my kid at all times”, “My daughter got a splinter there once (oh the horrors!)”, “It’s too wild – there’s too many kids”. Well duh, there were a lot of kids BECAUSE IT WAS FUN! My kids were just at the age where they could ride their bikes there on their own, and it got yanked. So now I spend half the summer trying to coax them to go ride somewhere but “there’s nowhere fun to go”. Maddening.

  23. I believe this risk aversion carries over into adult life as well, today as adults you are not allowed to loose your job your house or become ill without the govt being responsible for it. We live in the forest without cable tv, but we do have an old tall metal slide, monkey bars, creeks and ponds for swimming that are full of fish frogs
    Snapping turtles and an occasional snakeI my boys ride dirtbikes kayaks and horses and we do visit the ER

  24. People who oppose this nonsense need to understand how it seamlessly links to the broader issue of government usurpation of personal rights. Once power is ceded to government to control some consensual human behaviors, and to replace parenting, the cards tumble down. It is not possible to selectively retain rights: it’s all or none. We are careening toward none.

  25. A few weeks ago my husband and I took our son to the little town we lived in for his first 2 years of life. It’s only 30 minutes away and is considered an historic landmark. Lucky for us, this means that any playground put in place before the this designation occured has all of the original playground equipment. It is maintained by the parks dept. and volunteers from the city.
    I have no idea what happened, but during this last visit one of these really fun pieces that combined two metal slides, a fireman’s pole and a metal and wood climbing structure was gone. My son was very sad. It was his favorite thing to play on.

  26. @ Nicole
    Where we live, judges are elected.

    And where are my playground inspectors?! In our city of almost 300,000 there are no large playgrounds, and the small ones in neighborhoods, while they often have good swings and merry-g-rounds, and in such bad condition that I don’t take my grandson to them. For instance, a merry-go-round rusted off the post around which it spins. The post had rusted right through the deck, and there is was, all sharp and broken and rusty. Swing chains broken, with the swing hanging by one chain. A baby swing with one side cut through, and another baby swing cut off one of the chains. And yet all the city talks about is how young families move out of the city, and how can we retain them? Ummmm… fix the damn playgrounds, and work on making the schools not some of the worst in the country. Three of our four high schools made the worst schools list this year. Yay. My grandson is about to start kindergarten. We’re moving.

  27. To the person who asked about Arvada being a place for rich white people: It’s a suburb of Denver. There are all backgrounds, but overall I’d say it’s mostly middle to upper-middle class, mostly white. Still, what community in this economy should spend all that time and money on over-the-top playground inspections?

    Measuring poles? As if they’ve changed in circumference in a few months?

    We’ve been to parks in Arvada dozens of times. They are all cookie-cutter, low-to-the-ground, low-risk places with padding. I can’t think of an interesting playground that made my kids say WOW when we’ve gone. We have been to some awesome playgrounds in the metro area. They do exist. But not in Arvada.

  28. Take that back: The playground at the Arvada Center is awesome. It’s a big stone dragon, primarily for climbing.

  29. My hometown elementary school has a beautiful wooden playground full of imagination. It was built in 1992 and, although I was an adult when it was built I still played on it and every time I’m in town I bring my son to play on it. It is slated to be demolished in June because people are getting slivers. They are going to put in a new playground, but they haven’t said what type of playground it will be…I’m betting it’s a boring plastic one just like every other playground. Very sad. If they had asked I would have bought them sandpaper to prevent the slivers. Sigh. I love that old playground.

  30. “I think the real solution for something like this is with the judges. ”

    These decisions are usually made by juries. Judges might be held responsible for not throwing dumb things out of court, but we don’t want to give judges too much power to disallow suits (because some of them surely are just) so the real problem here is with juries, which means the general population, not judges.

  31. I don’t know. Whenever I see a new playground in NYC, it’s full of fun stuff we never had as kids. People say “oh, they got rid of merry go rounds”, but I never saw one of those as a kid and the new playground at Union Square has TWO of them, one of which you hang from (often, it seems, upside down from your knees). People talk about taking away swings, but I’m starting to see that in newer playgrounds, with cooler structures, kids spend more time on the structures and less on the swings… which really do take up a lot of space for the number of kids who can use them at any one time. In some areas, reducing the number of swings might simply be a financial choice, a way to increase the amount of kids you can get playing at any one time without increasing space.

  32. This makes me appreciate the new playground at my daughter’s old school even more. It was installed around 2007, so it is mostly the new plastic and metal stuff, but it does more interesting things than most such sets.

    There’s the balance beam, for example. Crooked and designed to wobble as you cross it. Stools the kids walk across that drop down as they step on them. Some of the other equipment is challenging too, and stuff I haven’t seen elsewhere, although I assume it must be generally available.

    Perhaps the best part is that it’s open evenings and weekends to the public. There’s one gate that is usually unlocked at those times, and sometimes other gates as well. I really wish we still lived by it.

  33. When I was a kid, we had a very tall metal slide at the private school I went to. The after school providers were nice enough to give us wax paper to use on occassion. that was super fast and awesome! I’d do that for my boys, but I haven’t seen a metal slide in a while…

    On another note, we vacationed at a campground last year and they had a large plastic pirate ship on their playground, very cool looking. Where were all the kids? On the other side of the playground on the merry go round. There were about 15-20 kids all squished on. then, when a toddler came over, they slowed it down to let him on for a bit. My son tried to speed it up when he didn’t see the toddler and the child’s father just said, “slow down, he’s little.” I was so glad that he said something because I was on the benches and my shouting wouldn’t have been heard.

  34. I highly recommend the recent book “See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation.”

    http://www.amazon.com/See-You-Court-America-Lawsuit/dp/1595584102

    With unions almost gone, nobody but lawyers are out there to defend your rights. The system is insane and inefficient, but don’t blame bureaucrats and laws. Right-wingers who’ve killed contract law and deregulated led us to need these tort lawyers, however silly and frivolous some suits seem.

  35. I am a survivor. I fell off the top of a super tall, metal playground slide when I was four…on to blacktop. Still alive, we didn’t sue and the slide was there for years and years. Go figure.

    I feel sorry for kids today who will never know the joy of giving and receiving wicked cherry bumps on teeter totters and spinning til they puke on hot metal merry go rounds.

    Maybe they can come up with a Wii simulation.

  36. What I find funny is that kids are not allowed to go out and play on these “inspected play grounds” anyway, so why the need to inspect every three to six months? They hardly get any wear and tear from lack of use. We have a few play grounds in our area and everytime I take my toddler to one of them it’s a ghost town with only tumble weed to accompany us.

    Regarding the lady who sued, didn’t she think that sueing for getting stuck in the swing was more humiliating then getting stuck? I mean she basically publicly announced she got stuck by suing and attracted more attention to the situation. *scratches head*

  37. @Susan: “My kids can’t swing at the playground anymore because somebody else’s kid fell off, which is a predictable risk, and broke his arm, also a predictable risk, and the parents sued the city for a bundle, and they actually won” is not on the same continuum as “I could not magically predict that there was going to be a recession bad enough to destroy the company I work for, none of the job applications I sent out resulted in an interview, my savings have run out, and I don’t have any rich relatives or friends, so I am so glad that I get an unemployment benefit so that I can at least eat.” It absolutely does not map to “I could not predict that I would get cancer and the treatments that will prevent my death are going to cost more than my income for the next 50 years–but that’s OK because I live in a country where nobody dies of a treatable condition from lack of money, thanks to our government.” Not that the last is true in the U.S., but preventing people from actually dying does not make a state a nanny state.

  38. Regarding bumps and bruises that kids get:

    I recently took my kids in for their annual well visit. As I stripped them down to their underwear, the bandaids and bruised and skinned knees had me a bit nervous. Yes, they were happy and healthy (no sick visits), but they are definitely rough and tumble, and playing is their life, as it should be for any little kids.
    I made mention of the knees and bruises to the doctor, who put things in perspective for me. He said, “it’s the little kids who don’t have any cuts or bruises on their knees, THOSE are the kids I worry about.”

  39. While I miss certain structures from my childhood (crawl through mazes made of rubber tires, cement tunnels, rocket ship shaped slides), on the whole, I have to say that there are more, better, and better equipped public playgrounds today than when I was a kid. I think the school playground are worse, but the public parks have awesome stuff, at least around here – mini rock climbing walls, vertical merry go rounds, horizontal merry go rounds, swings, monkey bars, a variety of slides, a rolly thing you can stand and run on, almost like a hamster wheel, while clutching the sides, rings, etc…Yeah, it’s on mulch instead of concrete and blacktop and pebbles now, and there’s more plastic than metal on slides, but that’s not such a bad thing. I begin to think the dirge of the lost playground is a bit exaggerated. When it comes to the school playground though – yeah, they took a LOT out of my old elementary school and have much less in terms of equipment now and much more in terms of wide open spaces.

  40. My son plays at an old-fashioned playground every afternoon aftr school by himself.

  41. “Judges are not elected officials, they cannot be voted out.”

    Actually state trial judges are often elected officials.
    However, Judges don’t decide who prevails at trial and what award is given. That is up to the jury. Keep in mind that a judge is only the trier of law. Matters of fact, such as whether the park was negligent in some way in the swings, is solely for a jury to determine.

  42. When I was a child (about 13 years ago, lol) I hurt myself on one of the most insanely stupid pieces of playground equipment I have ever seen — it was basically a climbing structure, but right in front of the ladder there was a huge hole for the fireman-style pole, so if you weren’t paying attention when you were running up the ladder, it was pretty easy to fall through, and the sand below was so densely packed it might as well have been blacktop. I cried quite a bit, got a dinner out and a new doll, and…um…lived. In fact, I am that dangerous combination of distracted and clumsy, so I injure myself all the time, and continue to live, although perhaps without overreacting because I’ve known since I was a child how to cope with pain!

    I really must work on figuring out immigration to a sensible part of Europe before I do something silly like having children in an increasingly paranoid country.

  43. I actually wish our neighborhood’s “tot lot” would be inspected. It’s an embarrassment.
    But, I agree. We are, as a country, really denied a lot of pleasure due to fear of litigation. We stayed at a B+B in tuscany that had a gorgeous, in-ground pool with NO FENCE. Rolling hills and umbrella pines as far as the eye could see. It was bliss. That would never happen in America.

  44. Our favorite park is this one:

    Coolest part about it is the art work which is made be all the local elementary schools and includes scavenger hunts, etc. It’s 4 stories high and not for the faint of heart (or fearmongering parent).

  45. I bet diving boards are a big victim of insurance/ risk worries. They require deep pools and I see plenty of pools without them. However, I love the zero entry pools available now. Perfect for my 2 year old to play in. Wish the pool we went to still had a diving board to teach my kids how to dive.

  46. If ever appointed US surgeon General, only Warning I will ever issue: Life results in Death, Live with it.

  47. Somewhat off topic, but can I ask for some Free Range Advice?

    My daughter will be 9 next week, and I think she is super responsible. She has asked to bike to our library, which is about 2.5 miles away, by herself. She would need to travel on a couple of busy roads, but they are county roads, not freeways.

    I am afraid to let her try this, because I do fear that she might be hit by a car. I do not worry about strangers at all, there has never been a non-relative kidnapping in our town, but I worry about car accidents.

    I just get so nervous about speeding traffic, and she does get distracted occasionally and drift into the center of the road, but so do I sometimes. 🙂

    Can I ask what the other free rangers have done here to combat the fear? And is 9 an unreasonable age to let her explore a few miles worth of our town?

  48. Here is a shot of the wonderful playground my old hometown elementary school is getting rid of in June.

  49. I like metal slides. Plastic ones are too static filled which is no good for kids with cochlear implants. Can’t stand plastic slides!

  50. I am not against recalls in theory. For example, my children were sleeping in the Simplicity cribs that killed several babies. Darn right I wanted that thing recalled and wanted to know about it!!! That is an example of a good recall.

    Other recalls not so much. Still in the end a product recall does not hurt anyone. If you don’t want to heed the recall you can ignore it and continue to use your product as you wish. You just lost your right to sue later on if you get hurt. You also can’t resale the kids item if it is recalled and not repaired.

    Now playgrounds being recalled or made safer is again something that can be positive or can be negative. I am sure some playground equipment is outdated or unsafe and I appreciate it being replaced or fixed. For ones that are just fine, such as swings, they need to leave them alone. Obviously life is not risk free or injury free.

    I let my 3 year olds play on playgrounds very often. We travel to playgrounds all over town and in different cities. I let them play on ones that technically they are not old enough for yet I just use my judgement. We have not had any bad injuries yet either. Its because I supervise my kids. If something looks unsafe, I don’t let them go on it. I watch out to make sure they don’t run in front of a someone swinging. I make sure all the kids are going down the slides the right way.

    I almost feel if parents paid more attention sometimes a lot of accidents could be prevented. I don’t hover. I stand back and observe and step in when needed.

  51. ps I have been very afraid a couple times that I was going to have to call the firemen to cut my larger son out of the baby swing. I have a bad back and hardly any upper body strength. He has always been a large boy. I almost did not get him out a couple times. He loves the baby swings and would still go in them if I would let him but I finally had to say no more because he was getting stuck. Even when he was the proper age for them I could hardly get him out because his thighs and shoes got caught.

    He sounds very fat from what I described but hes not overweight. He is just built like a linebacker with a huge head and well I am a tiny weakling. Not a good combination.

  52. @Micki — Speeding traffic is a tough one for me, too. But I noticed it seems to follow the same “free-range law” as observed in the other things we let our children do: The more practice they get with doing it alone, they better they are able to manage it, the safer they are, the more we can relax. The truth is, it is the only way for us to “get over it” .

    Maybe your daughter can wear a reflective vest? Or would she find that too silly? At least maybe she can dress in brighter clothes that are easily seen from further away. That may relieve some of your anxiety. And, no worries, if she spaces out and drifts toward the center of the road, one or another “helpful” driver will be sure to honk at her – that’ll wake ‘er up.

    Nine is a great age to explore a few miles worth of your town

  53. This posting is really, really all over the place.

    * A $600 certification exam taken every three years for a qualified safety professional is hardly onerous. Professional certification for inspection and trades runs from a few hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. Trust me, you want your safety inspectors for playground equipment qualified, and “fear of lawsuits” has nothing to do with it.

    * Blaming the CPSC? “Fear” of it? The CPSC is one of the most badly underfunded agencies in government. It has a backlog of complaints in some areas that’s a decade long. It has a chronic shortage of qualified professionals. Its enforcement provisions are practically toothless, and a “recall” is a generic term used to alert the public of any defect.

    You site one example, without attribution, of a single recall to try to show the ludicrousness of the CPSC, but you know what? Where was the CPSC when lead and cadmium were put into toys for toddlers, or the FDA when deadly chemicals were put in food products including infant formula? I’ll tell you where. Nowhere, because they’re so hideously understaffed and underfunded and because the threat of fines is hardly enough to deter industry that reaps huge profits from cutting corners on safety.

    “Fear” of the CPSC sounds like a generic and ill-informed reaction to the bogeyman of big government, which is NOT the problem with our litigious society, There’s a good argument to be made that if the government were doing its job properly in safety regulations in areas ranging from food to toys to nuclear reactors, there would actually be far fewer lawsuits. In any event, “fear of the CPSC” is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard given the current sad state of the agency.

    *”Threat of Lawsuits”. Yes, this is a problem in a general sense, but it’s vastly overstated, and there’s also a politiical agenda behind this from corporations that are trying to eliminate any oversight at all and get carte blanche legal protection. Insurance companies are reactive, because they never want to pay out anything, and a lawsuit involving a hurt child is always bad news for an insurer.

    So, guess what, virtually every public space where your kids play is under an “assumed liability” doctrine – you can see the liability provisions plastered over all the equipment if you look at the labels — basically, you’re surrendering most of your rights to sue the minute your kid steps onto the equipment.

    No the “fear of being sued” is a real issue, but it’s largely a psychological one. Product lawsuits involving playground equipment are not common, and when cities get sued, it’s largely for gross negligence in failure to maintain, not from the play equipment design itself. As the poster commented, “At the end of the discussion it turned out that in our town of roughly 100,000 people there has been a single lawsuit over the last 12 years regarding play equipment.” Exactly. That is the key fact to focus on, and the “just in case” crowd needs to be reminded.

    Which brings us to the Playground equipment issue, one near and dear to my heart as a dedicated Free Ranger. I am totally in agreement that dumbing down playground equipment is a problem. I miss merrygorounds and real slides, which were fun and yes, dangerous, especially when they aged.

    You know what the solution is? Think outside the box. The best playgrounds are trees, rocks, dirt, bits of random lumber and old boxes and tires. The very concept of “playground equipment” is a very structured idea created mostly by adults within the last century.

    My kids adore playgrounds. They love the equipment and the challenges, such as they are. But I don’t think their lives are going to be poor because they can’t swing on a certain type of swing or use a teeter-totter. They’ll be poor if they’re not given a *non-playground* play experience, using their own wits, the collaboration of friends, and a minimum, MINIMUM amount of adult supervision to let them learn, discover, and yes, get hurt upon occasion on their own.

    THAT is the real “Free Range” solution to playground equipment.

  54. I’ll repeat what I’ve said before in case new eyes are reading.

    A disclaimer fashioned something like the following should be used by all city governments, schools, services, and manufacturers.

    DISCLAIMER

    “We cannot guarantee the personal safety of you or anyone who steps onto our premises, or uses our products or services. All organizations, products, and services carry inherent risks, risks of serious injury and death.”

  55. @Matt:
    I agree! I’ve been watching my kids lately in the playground and I’ve noticed that the 8yo plays with other kids (sometimes abiding by some rules, but mostly they make it up along the way); the 6 yo hides behind some bushes with other girls and recite all sorts of tongue-tying rhymes while they clap hands or jump the rope; the 5 yo ignores everyone and finds the most yucky things lying around (bugs, mucky mushrooms, bugs, mossy rocks, more bugs…); and the 2 yo plays with her buckets and spades (after “accidentally” emptying her water bottle in the sandbox).
    Sometimes they use the equipment, but only as a sort of impasse. So yeah, I sort of see what you’re saying.

  56. mamamezzo writes of a swimming pool in Tuscany, which because it was unfenced, allowed gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. In Italy, it seems, beauty counts. Obviously more than some practical concerns.

    The reasons Americans are not insulted that their children are playing on horrid, lame, plastic equipment (and “the government wants to turn us all into drones!!” isn’t one of them. Way to pass the buck, that idea. As the writer here pleads: We need to collectively get over it! ), are surely manifold. But what about beauty?

    The role of aesthetics in the US is a damned one. More often than not it appears to take a backseat to practicality in the States. Don’t know why. But this attitude certainly helps the cause of “Safety First!”
    Just a thought.

  57. “Where was the CPSC when lead and cadmium were put into toys for toddlers, or the FDA when deadly chemicals were put in food products including infant formula? ”

    On a different continent?

  58. @Matt — love the anti anti-government rant. Long overdue response for many a comment left here. So, cheers for that!

    Your right, playgrounds are a fairly new invention. But I imagine the reason for the invention was because the new “urbanization” of childhood, with more and more families living in cities, children no longer had access to trees and fields and nature to play in. This is still true for most children on a day to day basis. Children “needing” playgrounds isn’t going to go away any time soon. So let’s try to fight against them becoming, as you so rightly put it — dumbed down — rather than give up on them entirely. A little “realpolitik” couldn’t hurt.

  59. When I was in elementary school we had a wooden monster known as “the big toy”. It was enormous, had monkey bars from here to the moon, tires, tires, tires, and this bridge made of thick, foot-wide rubber strips. I got so many blisters from the monkey bars, splinters from the wooden parts and once I fell through the bridge while wearing a skirt, scraping up my leg something awful.

    When I was in high school, they tore it down and put up one of those safer ones made of plastic and painted metal. I cried bitterly.

  60. @Lollipoplover: Wow, that’s the stuff kid’s dreams are made of. Beautiful!

  61. Micki, If you are concerned about the bike skills, can you follow along on your own bike a couple of times? Let her know this is a test?

    The vest thing is an idea, I see a fair number on adults riding to work. Lights, flashing or not, is another thing that would make her more visible.

    My oldest probably would have been ready at that age. My middle is 9 an I would not let him. It all depends on the abilities of the kids.

  62. My kids fave park is about 5 miles away and it is SERIOUSLY old school. Like 60’s/70’s– metal slides , teetertotterery double saddle swings, 10 ft monkey bars,wooden merry go rounds, wooden swings, ladders to the top of the swingset and a deathslide(no safety rails!) to the bottom. In short, all the stuff that you can’t find anymore, anywhere.They love it. All painted and maintained by the local Lions club, And no kids(to my knowledge) ever get hurt…imagine that!

  63. Those who always read every comment probably knew that I was going to post this here. Anyone who hasn’t read this already (and even those who have) should take the time to read it all, as it deals directly with the issue in Mrs. Skenazy’s post.

    I am currently a 17-year-old boy in Tulsa, OK. Understandably, most of my playground experiences were with the new plastic stuff. Back when I was 4 years old I often went to Whiteside Park, which had a mix of fiberglass and painted wood. I remember a boy named Joe who used to be there many times… he could swing really high on the swings which were still the old chain kind (albeit with a plastic/rubber seat; and they were only 8 or 10 feet tall). AFAIK they still have the same equipment today, including the plastic 10-12′ straight and steep slide (not too many slides are straight anymore). Another park, Darlington, had and still has all-metal equipment (though it’s a really small structure). However, LaFortune is the one I want to write about here. As late as 10 years ago they had old wooden equipment (with metal slides and bars). I remember some very high monkey bars (maybe 8 feet?), a swinging bridge (had to be pretty small… maybe 10′ long tops), and 3 slides, each bigger than the other (top one was maybe 10 feet). Back in 2000 or 2001 or so they changed to new plastic equipment. At the time I was very excited since they had changed from a relatively small structure to two large ones. In 2004 I had the opportunity to visit a playground untouched by litigation-fearful government. My great uncle was about to pass away, and the family took a 1-day trip to Aurora, MO, to see him one last time. Apparently not wanting me to see him in his poor condition, my mom found a playground and told my dad to play with me there (I was 10 at the time). That is an experience I will never forget… there were an old-style metal seesaw, a metal merry-go-round, and a very steep metal slide that had to be at least 15-20 feet tall. Being accustomed to plastic all my life, I was at first afraid of the big slide. From what I recall I eventually got on it and loved it… as well as the other stuff there. From what I see on Youtube some places still have this old-school equipment… but they are mostly in other countries (Germany pops up a lot). After reading this article I realize what has truly become of society today. This is not simply a problem with playgrounds, it extends to all aspects of daily life. The American legal system is becoming too constricting to organizations, often doling out six-figure amounts for accidents that deserve more reasonable payments of zero to four figures (case in point: Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants 1994, aka the Coffee Case). Though consumers may think they are getting a better product from the additional regulations, they are the ones who are really paying for them. Thus the governments force unintended mandatory “insurance policies” upon the people… businesses have to pay more and skimp on the product to meet regulations, and the consumer ends up paying for a few people’s troubles in the form of increased prices or inferior products. Change needs to occur in the law schools before it can occur on the playground.

    If you are older (or have relatives living in rural communities), you may remember the slides and swingsets being bigger than they are today. Many probably tell you that “you were smaller, everything was big”. In most cases they’d be right. However, in this one solitary case, I can confidently say that they are wrong and you are right. While I’ve never (as far as I can recall) seen a 12-16′ swingset, there are [hard-to-find] pictures that prove that they existed. As for the slides, just read my post. Despite the extreme difficulty in finding pictures, I am absolutely certain that they existed (and still do, though straight slides of all kinds over 8 feet are a dying species).

    One particular piece of playground equipment that intrigues me due to its unique history is the Giant Stride. Unlike most playground equipment, these were mostly removed in the 1950s, long before the Age of Litigation began circa 1984 (date chosen on purpose). Google “980 playground equipment” and read the comments on the blog to see more about this intriguing piece of equipment… sure it was probably the most dangerous piece, but it was also the most popular in places that had it. Supposedly Sunrise Park in Paris, Illinois, still has a couple (unless they were removed after the 2008 ruling that any park with one automatically loses any lawsuit related to playground injuries, regardless of the scope of the injury and regardless of what equipment actually caused the injury)

    Here’s a link (remove spaces from link): http : // www . parisillinois . org / index . php ? option=com_content&view=article&id=128&Itemid=148

    If they’re still there, anyone care to go and take a video for Youtube?

    Also, just something I’m curious about. After reading many comments on blogs, I get the feeling that kids back then were more resilient than kids today. Kids back then could fall four feet without it hurting much, and eight feet without getting more than a scraped knee, maybe a sprained wrist at the worst (and often these high falls of 10′ or so were from the aforementioned Giant Strides). Kids in the old days used to jump from 10-foot barn roofs for fun, and one particular comment on another blog described kids purposely jumping down 20-30 feet to slightly inclined ground and getting little more than a sprained ankle. I don’t know how they did it… there wasn’t a secretly required Parkour class in elementary schools back then, was there?

    One example of the last paragraph can be found in these pictures (the sand is supposedly a few inches deep at most… definitely not enough to pass today’s standards for that kind of jump):

    http : // a5 . sphotos . ak . fbcdn . net / hphotos-ak-snc1/4583_85593368861_639953861_2007092_8324144_n . jpg

    http : // a7 . sphotos . ak . fbcdn . net / hphotos-ak-ash1/19355_1333485145994_1497022124_921218_6270406_n . jpg

    http : // a4 . sphotos . ak . fbcdn . net / photos-ak-snc1/v2588/2/18/710507810/n710507810_1954871_5517785 . jpg

    Pictures from “I played at Dennis the Menace Park and lived!” group, remove spaces from links.

    The current Dennis the Menace Playground appears to be a very toned-down version of the old one. I wouldn’t quite say that it’s now only a super-large cookie-cutter playground (which wouldn’t really be the worst thing in the world… most places are not as big as that), but it’s definitely nothing like it was. If someone [rich] were to combine the new and old elements into one park, I’m sure the resulting park would become very popular with kids from around the nation (USA that is). Only thing to worry about would be the lawsuits… and maybe local building codes, though one could conceivably build one in a small town that doesn’t have such stringent regulations.

    Part of the reason the Dennis the Menace Playground was so famous was 1. Its creator was well-known, 2. It was HUGE (one of the biggest playgrounds in the nation, still is pretty big; Hank probably created it as a place that even a super-active kid like Dennis [both the real one and the fictional one] would like), and 3. The likely reason that it maintained its fame through the years is that it was not touched by litigation-fearful people until much later than most playgrounds (the Helicopter, essentially a safer version of the Giant Stride in that both are basically large merry-go-rounds that are high off the ground, was the first thing to go in 1988). One final thought: Watch for some truly innovative (or possibly even retro-throwback) designs in the future. Most things go in cycles (it is simply human nature for people to always be dissatisfied about something… and people tend to get in a hurry and over-correct), and the current downtrend has been particularly vicious (kids are staying inside due to “stranger danger” [stranger abductions are actually lower per capita than they were in the 70s and staying inside with a friend’s parents is statistically MUCH more likely {depending on the math used it could be millions of times more likely} to result in sexual molestation than going outside is since most molesters go after someone they know, also kids are much more likely to be killed in a car accident than abducted], playgrounds are being downsized and boring-ized for the sake of “safety” [in actuality the car ride to the playground is much more dangerous than even the oft-cited playgrounds of the 1920’s… the walk to the playground is a different story though😉 ] and coincidentally [or not], childhood obesity is at its highest since records began… the last point may become the impetus for an upswing). Among those wanting to start the uptrend is Lenore Skenazy, called “America’s Worst Mom” by the paranoia-mongering media (both the conservative FOX and the liberal MSNBC applied that title to her). IMO it is just a matter of time until somebody rich en0ugh to call lawsuit settlements “pocket change” connects the dots (parenting change + playground change = weight change) and starts to actually do something about it. The kids of today will become the adults of tomorrow… and the kinds of adults these kids will become would likely support a very dramatic upswing if they would only hear from someone who could tell them that their kids don’t have to be like they were. Someone like Lenore Skenazy.

    The preceding monologue was copied from a couple of posts I wrote for a comment on the Playgroundology blog (though I have posted an outdated version of that on many blogs, including this one).

    Much of the discussion on another comments thread on this site seems to have shifted to whether playground equipment suitable for teenagers and adults should be built. Looking at pictures from the past (the previously mentioned Dennis the Menace Park FB group), I get the impression that all ages from around 4 to 13 were frequently seen at the non-kiddie areas of DTMP (current playgrounds mainly cater to ages 3-9). Older teenagers were rarely seen there (in fact, the only pictures in that group where the person is unquestionably 14-22 years of age were taken in the last decade… then again, picture quality was not that great back then, so the facial features of kids in the background cannot be identified well; plus it is usually parents of younger children who take pictures at playgrounds [outside of the recent ones which were for “retro appeal”], pretty much ruling out a teen sighting in the foreground). Having said that, I must respond to the question of playground equipment that is meant for teens with an emphatic YES. The line of reasoning is such: Current playground equipment, designed for kids ages 5-12, sees ages 3-9 instead (and an occasional 10-year-old, rarely 11 or older unless they have younger siblings or the park is older [“older” usually means pre-1984]). Design something with ages 11-17 in mind, and you will likely see ages 8-13 frequenting it. I do agree with the point that ages 15 and older will never be nearly as commonly seen as 12 and younger, but why exactly do they have to be? Right now most newer playgrounds are becoming “uncool” or “boring” even with 10-year-olds. The point is to make a playground that truly is for older kids (6+) and not the “5-12 in name only” ones we see so much today… and right now it seems the only way to do that is to tell the architects to design for ages 11-17. So, when will the next Hank Ketcham come up to the plate and dare to swing for the fences? We are sick and tired of base hits… it’s been way too long since we’ve seen a real home run.

  64. Wish they could get some playground inspectors in Chicago. The Chicago Park District is huge and most of the parks suck. I rarely allowed my kids to even go to the playground around the corner from us. For over a year the bridge connecting the 2 sides of the play structure was missing. Nothing blocking kids from falling 3 feet. Not that that’s a big deal in itself except one half is meant for toddlers with stairs and small slide and steering wheel (that was the extent of use for anyone under 4). Then again I guess it didn’t matter because whoever designed the thing put the monkey bars there so there was already a 3′ drop necessitating a parent stand right there for anyone under 2 1/2-3 or with bad balance (like my middle daughter). Most of the times half the swings are broken and they haven’t replaced or refilled the wood chips in…ever. Under most of the structure there isn’t even an inch or two of padding (law says there has to be 12″ of sand or woodchips…if you push the chips you see hard packed dirt).

    Another park near by floods whenever it rains…huge, muddy, icky puddles under both structures. The bridges are falling off their chains so they slant in one corner or are broken all together. Paint is chipping off the metal parts, swings are mostly broken. Another park had a separate section for 5 and under but the slides ended 2′ above the ground so that anyone shorter than 4′ had to jump or be helped down. I took my youngest dd there at 3 and she had to climb down off the slides and the first step up to the structure was just below her hip (meaning she had to climb onto it with hands and knees instead of stepping up). The hand holds for the tiny bridge were at head height…nothing stopping her from just falling off. And it was marked 5 and under. Uh huh. I still let her play on it while I sat on the bench because I knew she could handle it but it sure didn’t look all that safe.

    The worst was this one park a couple blocks away. We’re not sure if it was owned by the park district or the school (whose property it was on) but the place was a mess. Weeds up to your knees, all but 1 swing broken. The tunnel connecting the 2 halves of the toddler play area gone (so no way to get to the slide without a parent lifting the kid up because the stairs were on the otherside). The bridge on the older kid section slanted on one corner (dropping a good 4-5″) and you felt like you were going to fall off. The zip line thing was broken, paint was chipped off and everything was covered in vulgar graffiti. It was like that 3 years ago when we moved back with my dad and was like that when we moved away last summer. I’m sure it still looks like that. They periodically cut the weeds down but that’s it.

    These are all within a 1 mile radius of my dad’s house…a working class, Mexican and Polish neighborhood.

    Heck the park around the corner form my dad has a sprinkler and it’s broken. It’s been broken since we moved there in 1989. All the water comes out of one of the 4 spouts instead of being evenly distributed. 20+ years we lived there and it’s never been fixed.

    Luckily we’ve lived other places and have found some pretty cool playgrounds. One in the town we lived in when in PA had the old school monkey bars (the tower kind), the old metal slide (although a smaller one) that was completely broken and tilting to one side and a swingset that looked like it was put up in the 50s and had the half seats in stead of baby seats (which sucked because I had a baby…my toddler loved them, though). They had a more modern structure next to it but the kids loved the old stuff. Every month we’d take a trip to Brady’s Run Park and all over the place they had teeter totters and really high metal slides (7-8′) and swing sets with wooden seats.
    Another Park near us had the old metal merry go round and the kids loved that. The park in Cranberry had a huge wooden structure that my kids had never seen before and LOVED.

  65. I’m very surprised to hear about the boring playgrounds everyone has near them. We have awesome playgrounds in our community. Most are new as of 5-10 years ago. They took down old equipment and put up some great stuff. There are climbing structures much higher that when I was a kid, and every park has swings. Not only regular swings but also the special ones for handicapped kids, which of course my kids love to swing in. One park even has a gigantic boulder to climb on. It frightens me to cross it, but it’s the only way to the slide. It’s about 12-15 foot high and extremely narrow across, I sit and scoot! The kids climb up it, and down it, and cross it, it’s great. Much more and fun and dangerous than the parks when I was a kid.

  66. @ KyohakuKeisanki

    If you want to see an awesome playground come to St. Louis and visit the City Museum. It cost 12 bucks to get in but it is well worth it. It is simply amazing. All sorts of metal and concrete to climb over and through and slide down. You are literally climbing through a metal human slinky about 40 foot above the parking lot. The guy who created it hates lawyers! There is no waiver to sign although it is clearly the most dangerous place I have ever been to. He does his own thing and refuses to answer to anyone. I’m sure he’ll get shut down someday but for now I take my kids there as much as possible. Last year he was so mad at a local TV lawyer that he actually put a dummy in stocks in the front entrance with a giant photo of the guys face on it. It was great!!!

  67. Gawd those inspectors would just $hit if they knew about the swings at my old playground. The elementary school I went to in fourth grade was so old that it was closed the year after. There was a set of swings in the very back of the playground that my friends and I LOVED! The chains on these swings were longer than on others and we would lean into the seats of the swings with our stomach/ or chest and then go to opposite corners of the swing set. Then we would run in a circle causing the chains to twist which would send one or both of us flying against our seat. MYGOD that was FUN!!

  68. We climbed uninspected trees and lived to tell about it. 🙂

  69. Nancy: I was just in St Louis a couple of weeks ago, but I only had one day and was looking at a local University. Might end up going to college there though.

  70. I find it difficult to believe that playgrounds need a full inspection every three to six months.

    A cursory examination every three to six months to check for the sort of serious damage that arises suddenly (i.e., something having BROKEN), fine… but a full examination including measuring things and checking every bolt and joint? No. That’s stupid. Once per year, or once per two years, a full inspection might be warranted, but not once every six months, unless the playground is built very poorly with awful materials.

    That being said, with a reasonable inspection schedule, I do believe that inspecting playgrounds regularly is necessary. As an adult I still like to swing on swings from time to time and I really, really, really want the assurance that they’re not going to break while I’m on the maxima of an arc and send me flying forward onto the ground. I also want the assurance that there’s nothing sharp or jagged on a playground for any child I know to hurt themselves on, and I double especially that nothing’s going to break while they’re on it (rusty metal breaking underneath you tends to lead to lacerations and nasty infection).

    $600 for three years’ worth of licence sounds fine. Remember that a playground inspector has to be a little bit of materials engineer, a little bit of mechanic, a little bit of physicist and a whole lot of safety official.

  71. What I loved about the playgrounds growing up was that they were diverse. My parents could bribe us into an extremely boring gift-shop-filled day trip with a promise to visit this playground that was all wooden, had a rope bridge and a castle (at the time a novelty). When one of the other elementary schools in my own town got a similar playground, it was a BIG DEAL. Sometimes my parents would take us there at night, and there would always be a ton of other kids there.

    The playground closest to home was very ‘old school’. It had (still has actually) a ‘kiddie portion’ that’s fairy-tale based and all metal. You have a metal castle with a slide, you have a jungle gym shaped like a shoe (as in “there was an old woman who lived in a”), and the spider who frightened Miss Moffet’s body is a tunnel. The rest of it had a merry-go-round, several swing sets, metal slides, including a twisty slide, all that good stuff.

    I got hurt there twice that I recall. I got a nasty blood blister on my hand from a joint on the twisty slide. Also, when I was on the merry-go-round, a horrible little boy whose name was not Jamie Lucas hit me in the face and knocked out one of my baby teeth. But no one would have dreamed of suing, these things happen, no one was killed.

    I think modern playgrounds are a lot less joyful. I did a story on some that are in various stages of fundraising. The parents all talked about combatting obesity, building motor skills, consulting with phys. ed. teachers. Noble goals, absolutely, but does there have to be a purpose to everything kids do? Not everything adults do has a purpose.

  72. most of these post have lots of value. And yes, america is a law suite land- you can suit for everything now and most likely win too. I grew up in Germany and we were able to run around and get hurt, put a bandage on or got stitched up and we were back to running around and PLAY. This is what children do they play, get hurt, learn to problem solve and find a way around to not get hurt again.
    I am disappointed in the court how let that adult woman in a children’s swing win. I am sorry but that just seems wrong. Children need to be able to run around, be outside and be active if we do not have fun and interesting playground we have the kids sitting inside and playing electronic games where they do not know anymore what it means to be outside and have fun and socialize with others. These are all steps of growing up and we as adults should encourage them to be on playgrounds and assure that they are safe but do we really need to have for every little hurt a law suite? I do not think so! I can understand when the manufacture company is supplying us with dangerous material that is not safe but if we fall and get a broken ankle I would not even think on suing!
    Than there is another picture, that i just heard recently, called Nature deficit disorder. Yes, you heard right, there is a diagnose for that, where children do not spend enough time outside anymore and it has many side effects therefore.
    We need to keep the playgrounds we have and make them interesting so children can play. through that they develop their gross and fine motor skills, engage socially and develop language by adding new words to their vocabulary, and grow cognitively by problem solving… there are many positive outcomes about it and that is all by having FUN!

  73. I ADORE our local parks right now, as I am reading this. Climbing structures, slides, fake rock walls…. It’s glorious. Swings. A merry-go-round substitute, which has a padded bench that amuses me but runs at an angle and is actually LOADS of fun (I ride it with my toddler, he is my excuse as he can’t keep it going…hehe).

    They have one enormously tall slide that they made meet the insurance’s safety standards by building it into the side of a (rubbery surface-coated, sigh) hill they constructed. You can’t fall off the top or sides because there’s no sudden drop anywhere.

    I DO wish they hadn’t replaced the sand with bark chips, as that does lead to more splinters, but I also can’t fault them. That wasn’t an insurance issue, it was more “your pet did WHAT in our safe landing pit?” Argh.

    They did take the baby swings out at one of the parks recently, but they were worn and one began to tear. I hope they will eventually put new ones in, but those were actually becoming risky.

    And you know what? My two year old ended up on the “big kids” swings since the baby swings weren’t there, and he was THRILLED. He was not thrilled when he fell off and landed flat on his back, but he was fine after we picked him up, dusted him off, and gave him a kiss. He even managed to land in all that wood chip stuff and not get a splinter! Imagine that!

    They do post age recommendations on some equipment, not that this stops us from letting our son play on it anyway if he wants to and WE think it’s safe.

    Wilsonville, a suburb of Portland Oregon, here – we’ve got cool playgrounds!

  74. Another outrageous example of people banning fun in the interests of ‘safety’–http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8472394/Butlins-bans-bumping-on-the-bumper-cars.html

  75. Sounds to me like the city is just gouging more dollars to put in their pockets. $600 test fee for officials to be certified to check on equipment?! And according to the poster, they need a lot of inspectors.

    I can pretty much guarantee that any competent person, who has moderate to advance knowledge of being a handyman, can tell you what is safe and what isn’t. It doesn’t take several hours to inspect a playground. Unless of course the playground is the size of a mini amusement park. No that’s just what they do to justify the amount of money spent on inspecting these playgrounds.

  76. @ Donna, While judges are usually appointed by the Governors, many states allow them to be voted out. This happened recently in Iowa. 4 judges were voted out after they got rid of the states marriage amendment. People have more power in America than they think.

  77. “Unless of course the playground is the size of a mini amusement park.”

    Now that would be cool😛

  78. @ Diane, I’m not sure why that was addressed to me. I actually stated that many state court judges are ELECTED. In my state, they are usually originally appointed by the governor when a position becomes available and then run for re-election every 4 years thereafter. Federal judges are appointed.

  79. Could someone please take a picture of a merry-go-round at a playground? Its been so long since I used one I think they were just a figment of my imagination because I don’t see them anymore save older episodes of “The Simpsons”

  80. Oh, I should clarify– the manual ones we used to push on to spin till we got dizzy or fell off, not the mechanical ones with those horses on them at the fair😉

  81. I don’t live in the US — but my husband is a health inspector in Canada and we’ve discussed the safe playground issue many times, mostly while standing back watching our 2yo son racing around on the climbing structure. I’m actually glad it’s inspected regularly. Ours sees hard use by a lot of kids. Things wear out.

    The argument that we played in old-fashioned playgrounds and survived doesn’t wash…some of us didn’t. Some of us suffered serious injuries that didn’t have to happen. Getting injured needn’t be the end of the world but it doesn’t necessarily mean a better childhood.

    If your towns are saddled with boring playgrounds, you need to take issue with whoever is approving them! There are lots of companies making challenging, interesting and safe play structures out there. There’s a whole science around it…but someone has to step up to do the research to find the good stuff. And, in fairness, I’ll bet in many areas it’s a funding problem, but maybe if your local McD’s is willing to sponsor the little league they might chip in for a decent playground too.

  82. Whenever I pass by a suburb and see amongst all the identical houses a lone playground sitting in a mowed grassy lot – I think – ugh, how boring – what a dull place to be a kid.

    I just can’t even fathom a grown women suing for humiliation after getting stuck in a swing… just no words.

  83. I have no problem w/playgrounds being inspected for saftey–making sure all bolts are bolted, things aren’t cracked, etc. I think that’s just being responsible.

  84. Anyone from the SF Bay Area may remember how cool the Children’s playground in Golden Gate Park was (as in, used to be). Here’s a hilarious photo tribute to what a playground should be like–a little dangerous, and fun: http://www.retrocrush.com/archive2006/sfoplayground/

  85. Time to fight back!

    When someone says to you, “Aren’t you worried they will be kidnapped?” turn to them with a sneer and say this:
    “No. There are only about 150 or so kidnappings a year in the US. Aren’t you aware that children who aren’t street smart and independent are the ones most at risk to be one of those 150? Aren’t you worried your child will be at risk for all sorts of swindlers if he doesn’t learn to be independent? Also, aren’t you afraid your child will get diabetes from the lack of running around? What kind of parent ARE you? Perhaps you would be happier in Iran or some other Sharia-compliant state, where they lock up their families.”

    Give them a look of scorn and say, “What kind of parent ARE you? That type of helicoptering isn’t a ‘parenting style’, its bordering on abuse! Someone should report you to CYS!”

    Fight fire with fire.

  86. Library Diva, you’re not talking about the Cabot School playground in Newton, MA, are you? It had a tower with a slide, a mini two towers with a slide, Cinderella’s coach and a giant spider…

    The giant wooden castle was in Sudbury I believe…

  87. We’ve been trying out playgrounds near the houses we’re considering buying, and I was utterly amazed and delighted to find that one has *massive rocks* embedded in the ground around a central hill, that 7-8-year-olds bounce around on like mountain goats, heedless of the fact that, “Oooh, they might fall and hit their heads!”

    I adore this playground. It has slides so steep and tall they scare ME (but my 2-year-old adores them).

  88. I would bet alot of playground injuries happen because we try to force kids to act outside of their natural instincts by giving them bubble wrapped playgrounds with very narrow, prescribed ways of using them. On all the play structures I see, they may as well just rope off a designated path your supposed to take, and exactly which activities your supposed to do on each structure. Does anyone think that’s actually fun for kids? Kids want to be outside of their comfort zone, they don’t want to follow the cut and paste path through the playground, they want to forge their own path through it. Doesn’t anyone remember playing on those tube slides? Wasn’t it just the coolest thing in the world to climb on top of them instead of going down them?
    What I’m saying is, kids are always going to try to find something adventurous to do on a playground. By trying to spell out for them exactly what’s allowed and what’s not (by making play structures with such obvious and narrow uses), and trying to build the structures in such a way as to minimze improper use, we are making them more and more dangerous. Kids are going to use them improperly and they are going to find any way to do so in spite of our best efforts, because they are kids. I think we need to find safer ways of making them unsafe, as in, build them so that kids can use them in multiple ways and feel adequately challenged by them.

  89. I live in Northern New Jersey, which is major scary-lawsuit territory.
    It’s true our playgrounds don’t have a lot of the really high metal slides.
    But they aren’t boring by any means. They have all kinds of climbing and running and spinning and sliding things that I would have never dreamed of as a kid. They are amazingly cool. One park by us has a playground with different sections designed for kids of different age ranges, from the 6 months-2 years (they have a tiny little metal slide the kids can crawl down) all the way up. Climbing walls, metal rope ladders… all kinds of stuff. Areas for playing house and store, crawling tunnels…
    And nobody is being forced to get rid of the swings, either.

    I’ve even seen some nice parks in PA, where I used to live: one that has a three story wooden hill with a three-story slide that runs down it…

    One thing about these parks is that many of them are ADA compliant, which is great even if you don’t have a challenged child– it means that the equipment is built so that you can go in yourself if you have to/want to (like to resolve a sibling squabble or retrieve an I don’t want to go home). Also, the play spaces are designed (unlike the old slide-swings-teetertotter combination) to allow the kids to come up with all different ways to play in them. There are even play spaces underneath climbing structures.

    The other day, my family was discussing rubber mulch, like they put down in these playgrounds, and if we could get some at Lowe’s. Where would we put it, I asked. My husband said he didn’t know, but maybe we could squish it down really well and turn it into the rubbertop playground surfacing? that would be FUN, he said.🙂

    I do think its good that playgrounds have to be inspected, especially the older, wood and metal ones. (Not all municipalities inspect their play equipment.) A lot of the playgrounds I remember– and some I’ve seen– are in poor repair if they aren’t being cared for, and broken swing seats, rusty slides and the inevitable broken springy animal (didn’t every playground in the 70s have several of these, by definition? usually only one of them wasn’t broken and leaning to one side) aren’t much fun. I have to think that recycled plastic beams are probably one of the best things that could happen to playground design– they don’t rust and they don’t weather much and they don’t get eaten by termites….

    How seriously any given municipality takes its playground inspections probably varies by locality– and by how afraid their risk managers are of *getting sued*. Not getting sued and losing– just getting sued and having to pay a lawyer to fight it, and maybe paying out just to make the lawsuit go away.

  90. […] And other tales of playground litigation and the Consumer Product Safety Commission [Free-Range Kids] […]

  91. […] I remember a set of swings in the back corner of the old elementary school I attended in Alaska. Dear Free-Range Kids: The risk adversity in the U.S. is out of control. I just read about the CPSC recalling 7 million […]

  92. […] playgrounds are being ruined by safety hysteria and the unaccountable […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: