The War on Children’s Playgrounds

Hey Folks — Branching out. Here is my story on the cover of today’s Salon, all about how our quest to make playgrounds safer than safe has also made them safer than fun. Here’s a snippet:

…For the past 40 years or so, we have certainly been working to make our playgrounds safer than safe — maybe even safer than fun. Seen an old merry-go-round lately? Or a swinging gate? How about a seesaw — the kind without springs, where, when your so-called friend suddenly plopped you down, you felt it?

Didn’t think so. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued reams of playground regulations and actually gone so far as to recommend against “tripping hazards, like tree stumps and rocks.” Maybe we should just bulldoze the local parks and put in a couple of blobs…made of plastic.

The idea, of course, is that playgrounds need constant overhauling because kids are hurting themselves unnecessarily. But that depends on your definition of “unnecessary.”

“Children rise to risk,” says Joan Almon, executive director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood. “Give them some genuine risk and they quickly learn what their limits are, and then they expand their limits.” The problem is: If kids never encounter even tiny risks, they never develop that thing we call common sense.

Read on, at Salon! (Hey, I’m a poet, too!) — Lenore