This Is The Playground We Were Discussing the Other Day

Hi Readers! Remember the chat we all had about the playground closed for the winter because of the protective  cushioning frozen to unprotectiveness beneath it? Here it is in all its caution-tape glory! And a note from the mom who first brought the issue to our attention. – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: Is a picture worth a thousand words? Although it’s a gorgeous 40-degree day today in Saratoga, this is what we saw when we dropped kids off at school this morning. Last night caution tape was wrapped all over the playground equipment, presumably to keep kids from playing on the equipment during off-hours. We’re almost certain it is not a decision by the school administration–they’ve been very supportive and sensible–but if this is a district decision, it has nothing to do with conditions on the ground. – Saratoga Mom (and photo by Charlie Samuels.)

Does this look like a playground to be avoided?

52 Responses

  1. I think the crime scene tape says it all. This is a CRIME not to let the kids play.

  2. How sad! Just look at the height of that slide slope I mean that has got to be so dangerous hasn’t it?

  3. Oh my!! Now, they have created a possible choking hazard because a child who gets away from their parent (in excitement of seeing a playground) may run towards it and get caught up in the caution tape. Maybe someone should point that out to them. The district obviously created a more dangerous situation. What a shame!

  4. I remember the days when proper “protective cushioning” was maybe grass or dirt and your backside. Denying kids the opportunity to play is just silly. Nothing like preventing the best cure for childhood obesity…

  5. The only thing administrators respond to is fear of lawsuits. So sue them under the premise that, by preventing access to the playground, they are contributing to, um, make something up. Childhood obesity? That might work.

  6. I vote for Occupy The Playground! Have a play-in with balloons and snacks, making sure parents are around so there can be no moaning about lack of supervision. It would be great fun, a community bonding experience, and a free-range action all at the same time!

  7. That equipment is so small, I don’t think kids could get hurt falling off it if it sat on a CONCRETE base!

  8. Arania: either that or people should light candles around it and leave heaps of flowers and stuffed animals….

  9. I love the idea of an “occupy the playground” movement.

  10. And before they re-open the playground they need some padding on that exterior wall. A kid could bump into it and get hurt! Of course, all outdoor play should be conducted in bubble-wrap overalls anyway.

  11. Wouldn’t lighting candles be OMG DANGEROUSSS!!!? We can’t have people catching on fire!

    LOL

  12. The things people do in the name of safety and order, I tell you.

  13. Ariana, that’s it! We surround the playground equipment with every recalled toy we can find, every single dangerous thing we have heard of being outlawed or forbidden to kids: pile up tree branches, pocket knives, nerf toys, soccer balls, Valentines, lollypops….and then we have total strangers hang out there. Let’s turn this thing into a serious statement on the absurdity of fear-mongering.

  14. “Yeah, man, uh, bag-a-glass, we’re just selling what the little kiddies want.”

    Now, maybe we should get sued just for finding him amusing?

  15. The next thing this off-limits playground needs is some chalk or taped body outlines of the children it turning away.
    Here lies Johnny and Sally. Turned away to live a life that now risks diabetes and obesity because nowhere is it safe for them to play.

  16. Wow, we’re getting morbid. 🙂 When I suggested the occupation, I was thinking more of a light-hearted party after a caution-tape “ribbon cutting” ceremony. Maybe find some local politician or business owner who is in favor of free-range to do the honors.

    I was part of Occupy Boston encampment, so my mind immediately goes to joyful non-violent direct action. When the community comes together, things get done.

  17. Cat Stevens said it best.

    Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
    For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas.
    And you make them long, and you make them tough.
    But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can’t get off.

    Oh, I know we’ve come a long way,
    We’re changing day to day,
    so tell me, where do the children play

  18. There’s a current Snow Patrol song out called “Called out in the Dark” and there’s a line in it that makes me think of FRK:

    “We are listening
    And we’re not blind
    This is your life
    This is your time


    And as the kids took back the parks
    You and I were left with the streets”

  19. Or Madonna…

  20. Wow! That’s not a playground. They should have seen our playground back in the day. Twice that size, literally. If our playground was still around, these people would have a heart attack, and tear the whole thing down immediately. And ALL the kids used to play a game called “Beam Tag”. It’s tag but you weren’t allowed to touch the ground. So all the kids were running on the wooden beams that made up the playground. There were also big orange tubes for sliding down, and crawling across. Kids got so creative in avoiding being tagged, they started climbing on TOP of the tubes and traversing or climbing across them. Think Spiderkids meets monkeys. lol No one ever feel. I think the worse spills came from walking back to class after recess. Tripping over shoelaces or their own “two left feet”. lol I’m really glad I’m not a kid in this day and age. There’s no fun anymore. And that’s why I make sure my kids, have just as much fun and freedom as I did at their age. I want them to grow up just like me. 😉

  21. yeah, eric!
    i looked at the picture and thats what i thought. the only reason its so dangerous is that its so small! even with TWO of them! why in the world is tiny playgrounds such a big trend? they look the size of a refrigerator box! i mean, all over the place are these HUGE MEGA expanses of grassy field, but smack in the middle is the teeny tiniest playground in the world. if i owned a huge grassy field, id bulld the biggest playground i could on the spot. i do have to commend one playground, though. in Williamsville, NY there is Maple East Elementary school. they used to have a wooden playground, but it got torn down. i half expected to see a cardboard box-sized playground put in its place, but its actually pretty big. the main deck is (at least!) 6 feet off the ground; and owns a rock wall. then above the main deck, you go up ANOTHER 4 or 5 ft of steps to get to the mega-tunnel slide. THAT playground has potential.

  22. Firstly, how ridiculous. This reminds me of how my grandmother is so concerned that I have hard floors in my house, because “the children could fall and get hurt.” Sigh.

    Secondy, I just had an unrelated Free Range frustration. I gave my 5yo permission to walk two houses down to her friend’s house to play. Before she got halfway there, she was stopped and brought home by the cop who spends his day sitting in our quiet neighborhood waiting to catch someone running the stop sign. He told me that he was very concerned about my daughter walking on her own in “this society.” Then he told me that she was walking in the street. Well, there’s no sidewalk. I asked if she was walking in front of oncoming traffic (because if she’s doing that, then there’s a real problem, and I want to know!), and he suddenly became evasive and defensive and threatened to call CPS. I calmed him down by explaining that I was not trying to be combative, just trying to understand the situation. When I promised to have her older sister walk with her, he finally left.

    When I got back inside, I found that while I’d been talking to this helpful officer who was so concerned about my daughter being “unsupervised,” my 3yo had gone into the bathroom, gotten his father’s electric clippers, and given himself a reverse mohawk. Sigh.

  23. The last week our kids have been playing on two islands.

    Blue toy ( a set up like the picture minus the tape) or our Black top. The drought + construction this summer dug deep trenches in our playground. That are now ankle deep in water. We are switching off with the third graders so the kids get some exercise.

    Ironically we are still need like 8 more inches of rain before the drought will be considered broken.

  24. @Michelle! hah! at least about the reverse mohawk. This ‘playground’ really isnt that big. When I was in grade school, we had all the stuff, but our favorite during the winter was playing on the edges of the lake in the clumps of cattails. And we’d play on it till it got too warm to not get your leg in the water too.

  25. Woa, I think that may be my niece’s school. I’d ask my sister, but she’s the type who won’t let her kids (5 and 8) play unsupervised in the fenced backyard in a safe residential neighborhood because someone might come along and snatch them. I promise we did not grow up that way, and our mother even suffered from fairly serious anxiety and still let us play freely outside.

  26. Today’s playgrounds are so boring that by the time you’re five, there’s nothing to do on it unless you have a pogo stick or roller blades. My kids would tie each other up with the caution tape and go down the slide backwards with their feet tied together.

    This generation is going to be the least creative because we are squashing all the risk out of them. It’s sick and sad.

  27. Michelle, that situation is so frustrating. Even when we want to be free range society won’t let us.

    And I agree velobaby, this generation is going to suffer in many ways by because of our paranoia, creativity being one of those.

    Speaking of playgrounds, have any of you noticed the age suggestions on the playgrounds around your homes? Mine is 6-12 years. WHAT?! By the time my child is 6 the last thing he is going to want to do is play on the playground that is so “safe” it can hardly entertain a 4 year old. Seriously.

  28. I live next to a construction site where they’re drilling a well. Sharp objects, large puddles, and an enclosure that’s rumored to have a thousand foot hole underneath. My friends and I naturally assume the yellow tape around it is for decorational purpose only. So will these children. It’s so cute how adults think they have control.

  29. Bwahaha! Thin ribbons of yellow plastic keeping kids out? Looks like a Halloween decoration. I bet some teens will be in there having fun tonight. Unless they’ve bn indoctrinated too?? Or maybe someone wl steal the tape to decorate their bedroom with………

  30. Dear school district,
    Attached is a set of scientific studies that show the importance of children learning to play and fall at a young age. We are sending them to you via registered mail, so that you will not be able to claim in court that you did not know about them.
    I our children hurt themselves due to not having learned proper falling technique because you deprived them of play time, we will be suing the school district for both actual and punitive damages.
    Sincerily,
    Parents

  31. Isn’t it more dangerous to teach children this is how adults analyze risk?

  32. My son and his friends would be all over that crime scene tape in a heartbeat. They would see it as a dare to try and find new ways to use that playground equipment.

    I can’t believe that’s an elementary school playground. It looks more appropriate for 2 to 3-year-olds. My son’s kindergarten (preschool) had much bigger structures that didn’t necessarily meet US safety standards. Even the play areas in big stores like IKEA have larger climbing structures.

  33. So, we now live about a half hour south of Saratoga, right near my sons’ school…and I was surprised to hear the district also has banned outdoor play on the playground equipment during cold winter months (even though the wood chips underneath are anything but frozen solid right now) — but only during recess. As soon as m son gets out of school, he and a couple dozen other kids go right for the same banned playground equipment and monkey around on it.

    So far, no frozen tragedies.

  34. It is a pretty sad piece of equipment, even without the tape around it.

    Can I suggest a guerrilla tactic to the school. The children are not allowed ON the equipment, right? But that needn’t stop them playing WITH the equipment. I tend to advise schools to increase the play opportunities of such equipment by adding loose parts. This means that you add guttering and water to pour down this and the slide, big hoses can be threaded through the holes – children can speak to each other through these and run balls through them. I’d be adding bunting to the sticky tape cordoning it off – a nice wee art activity. Pulley systems are great fun too. I could go on here but I’m sure you’ll get the just of it.

  35. When I was a kid in upstate New York, I spent a year at a school in Syracuse. There was a big hill behind the school, and an awesome wooden play structure with an asphalt pathway under a footbridge (more about that later). Syracuse gets a lot of snow, and it was a daily ritual in the winter to bring water from the cafeteria to put a fresh coat of ice on the snow slide down the hill. All of us in our snow suits at recess would slide in one spot down the hill, on the ice slide. We used to make jumps in the hill, too,. I think there was some hay at the bottom. That play structure with the pathway underneath? There was a wall made of cut off telephone poles on either side of the walkway, and it was sunk probably two or three feet below the level of the ground there, so the foot bridge could pass over top comfortably. We used to jump from one side of the walkway to the other, and one day I caught a foot on one of the cut off poles, and fell onto the asphalt. When I woke up, I was in the nurse’s office. I recovered. I’m still a functioning member of society despite what might be seen as an incredibly dangerous childhood! I think it was great fun.

  36. I had no idea how lucky my children are. Sure, people are paranoid around here, but there are piles of kids playing outside, even in the streets. There are playgrounds that stay open all year long–even when it is 105% or 20% F, and 5 year olds can walk down the street a few houses without a cop picking them up. I don’t know what makes it different here. I know that most people know all their neighbors. Maybe it is that most people around here get married young, have children young and have lots of children. It is hard to be overly protective when you have 8 children! And if you’re my mom, you have 8 in 8 years!

  37. Off-topic, but I came across this news story which I thought you would find interesting: http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/ex-affies-pupil-loses-claim-against-school-1.1240106?showComments=true

    While we have our own unique problems here in South Africa and our crime levels mean you have to think a bit more carefully about how you freerange, at least our judiciary system still expects you to be able to think for yourself.

  38. Who can play on the slide with all that tape in the way? Some kid could choke on it…

  39. I logged on to your blog this morning, my 8 year old son sitting next to me, reading a book. He looked at the picture of the playground and wanted to know what was happening. I explained that the cushy stuff on the ground was too hard because of cold weather, and so the playground was close. We live in a cold weather climate, so my son understands cold and safety. But he looked at the picture and said, “Mom, kids are tough. That playground shouldn’t be closed.”

  40. What has inevitably lead to this kind of thing is a child getting a broken arm from falling off the slide/climbing whatever and the parents of the child suing the school district for “damages” caused to their child. It sucks and I REALLY wish it wasn’t true but it happens so the districts overreact now. All of our schools have fencing and are locked up tight promptly at 3:30 when the let out.

    I grew up in the 70s and we use to be the pack of kids running around the neighborhood playing. One day a friend of mine was running through someone’s front yard and stepped into a hole on the property. She broke her leg. The homeowner/fellow parent didn’t know the hole was there and was more than willing to pay for the ER visit and cast (nothing else special was needed) but her parents took them to court for 10K in “damages”. The family moved shortly after because they couldn’t get homeowners insurance any longer.

  41. “The moral panic about adults deliberately harming children in their care is an unfortunate reality of modern times. From hysteria about sex rings at day care centers to myths about poisoned Halloween candy, our culture is transfixed and obsessed with the idea that adults want to deliberately harm children. Adults in playgrounds without children are breaking the law, as are parents who allow their children to ride bikes without helmets. If a child is hurt in a playground, it is because their parents weren’t watching them and they should be arrested or because the playground equipment is dangerous and the designers should be sued. It is not possible that sometimes kids get hurt when they play – that is what scares us. The police state we live in makes everything a crime, especially when children are harmed. An adult must have caused this – accidents don’t happen in a society where everyone is either a victim or a perpetrator.”

    http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/02/16/murder-by-nursing

  42. They are just trying to avoid being responsible for the child safety during their period of supervision.

  43. This is really a good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw. Thanks for posting this informative article.

  44. I came across this late, but it is the local school in our former neighborhood. It’s a former high school, and this set of equipment actually doubled the amount of play space there used to be. They also added a tiny vegetable garden in the front, which is something of an improvement.

    But I thought I’d point out that this is the same district that was criticized in 2009 for not letting kids bike to school. https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/wow-maybe-biking-to-school-is-not-a-crime/

    Any wonder why I homeschool?

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  46. In the newsletter from my daughter’s primary school, the new principal informed parents that the kids were not allowed on the play equipment before school starts in the morning. It didn’t even mention that this is because there is no supervision. I don’t know why they think them playing on the equipment is more dangerous without that one teacher that normally “supervises” the kids during school hours. I do trust that if my child fell off and injured herself that she wouldn’t just be left to bleed to death! What’s more, I have never heard of any serious injuries in the playground during school hours, so why would it be more likely to happen before school? It annoys me to no end and I end up feeling torn between telling my child she can ignore stupid rules like that and my responsibility to ensure that she doesn’t get into trouble and learns to accept authority.

  47. I am completely baffled by this. 40degrees is about 10c right? They closed the playground for that? Glad these people aren’t here, it can be -20 and ours still open. In fact I never seen it closed.

  48. It looks more of a safety hazard now because it is probably more enticing for older kids to ‘try it out’ and get caught yp in the tape.

  49. It looks more of a safety hazard now because it is probably more enticing for older kids to ‘try it out’ and get caught yp in the tape.

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