Wow, Who Knew? Kids Should Go Down Slides ON THEIR OWN!

Hi Readers — and thank you for sending this story, “A Surprising Risk for Toddlers on Playground Slides,” that was in yesterday’s New York Times. And what exactly IS the surprising risk?

Parents! Extremely loving, extremely cautious parents who, rather than letting their kids navigate the slide on their own, put them on their lap and let gravity do its thing. The problem is: The thing gravity is doing is breaking their childrens’ legs.

Yes, “helping” the kids actually makes the slide experience less safe. Kids are getting their legs stuck and twisted and even broken, because (sez the story) “If a foot gets caught while the child is sliding alone, he can just stop moving or twist around until it comes free. But when a child is sitting in an adult lap, the force of the adult’s weight behind him ends up breaking his leg.”

Now, I am of at least two, possibly even three-point-five minds about this story. First off, of course, I am a little smug about the news that helicoptering doesn’t help kids. The fact that kids have been going down slides alone since Danny slid down his Dinosaur should have been evidence enough that modest inclines and moppets are a good mix.  But we live in a culture that loves to demand ever more involvement on the part of parents, so a lot of folks got the idea that GOOD moms and dads are the ones who put down the Starbucks and go, “Wheeeee!” with perhaps more enthusiasm than they feel. Now they are off the hook.

ON THE OTHER HAND (we are now onto Mind #2), this article also makes it seem as if the parent/kid playground combo is the slippery slope to hell, and that slides are even MORE dangerous than anybody had ever imagined. And considering we have already imagined them as SO dangerous that regulations require them to be no taller than the average mound of laundry (or is that just at my house?), this is another blow to playground fun.

And here’s Mind #3: The fact that this issue merited an entire article in the hard copy of the New York Times — space that is disappearing faster than Happy Meal fries  — is just another example of our obsession with every little thing that has to do with parenting. As if  every hour of time with them is fraught with the potential for developmental leaps or horrifying danger. When really what we’re talking about is an afternoon at the playground.

And now for the .5: One point the article made is that, “The damage is not merely physical. ‘The parents are always crushed that they broke their kid’s leg and are baffled as to why nobody ever told them this could happen,’ Dr. Holt said. ‘Sometimes one parent is angry at the other parent because that parent caused the child’s fracture. It has some real consequences to families.'”

In a nutshell (and I do mean nut) here are my final thoughts:

1 – Parents are BAFFLED that NOBODY EVER TOLD THEM every single thing that could possibly go wrong in any situation?  That’s one reason why we are so litigious: We expect every activity to be perfect every time, and if it’s not, we are so angry we want to blame someone (else). Not fate. Someone.

2 – While I can totally see being mad at the parent who broke my kid’s leg, I can also see moving on. Getting over it. Realizing it could have been ME. Lasting consequences seems a bit dramatic for an injury that, the article says, the children recover from in 4 to 6 weeks, without “lasting complications.” (Except, of course, for the divorce.)

3 – And, in defense of the article and the author, whose work I like, maybe the piece actually did perform a public service. Hoopla aside, now you know: Let your kid go solo down the slide.

I think I’m done. Feel free to take up where I left off. — L.

Okay, maybe this slide IS a little dicey, with or without a parent.

“Stop the Swing Completely Before Getting Off”

So you think you know how to swing, kid? Sure, sure — everyone thinks they do: “You get on, you swing.” Yeah. And brain surgery is, “You open the top, you put in the marbles.” Listen, it’s not that simple.  If it was, everyone would be doing it!

Luckily for you, The National Program for Playground Safety has come up with some very helpful playground tips, including, “Always sit in the swing; don’t stand or kneel. Hold on tightly with both hands. Stop the swing completely before getting off.”

Got that? HOLD ON TIGHTLY WITH BOTH HANDS! That’s something they don’t teach you whippersnappers in school, right? You’re always tying yourself on with your pigtails.  But now you know better! And there’s more! Say you’re thinking of going on the slide!

Well, I wouldn’t if I were you. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you — why take that kind of crazy chance? But if you’re hellbent on riding the silver devil,  for God’s sake, remember:

“Take one step at a time and hold onto the handrail when climbing the ladder to the top of the slide. Never climb up the slide itself to get to the top.”

Understand? No more climbing the ladder without your hands! And I suppose I gotta remind you:

  • Always check that the bottom of the slide is clear before sliding down.
  • On hot days, feel the slide with your hand before climbing up to the top. If the slide feels too warm, don’t play on it.
  • And now, kid, it’s time to talk about the hard stuff. The big time. The ol’ M B: Monkey bars. You and your friends are going to want to go climbing all over them, I just know it.  All I ask is that you listen to the playground safety experts:

    Crowded equipment can be dangerous. Everyone should start on the same side of the equipment and move across it in the same direction.

    Just like a military drill. It’ll be fun! If and when you climb down safely, you can always go jump rope or something. But I’m telling you: Hold onto that rope with both hands! And when the rope is approaching your feet, for God’s sake, get them out of the way. I don’t care if you jump, skip, hop — just  lift them up! I know it sounds hard and confusing, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it. 

    And if not, there’s always working for the Program for Playground Safety. — Lenore

    Maybe You CAN be Too Safe

    Hi Readers! Here’s a little piece from MSNBC some of you sent in (thank you!), about kids and slides. Turns out when mom slides down with Junior on her lap to make him safer…she doesn’t. That’s what Dr. John Gaffney, a pediatric orthopedist and professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, discovered, to his surprise:

    After treating a spate of broken shinbones in toddlers who’d been riding on slides, Dr. John Gaffney decided to look for the cause. Gaffney, a pediatric orthopedist at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., and a clinical professor at State University of New York Stony Brook, dug out all the medical records for kids he’d treated with fractured shinbones over the preceding 11 months.

    Out of the 58 fractures in kids under the age of 18, he found that 13 were sustained on slides. And every one of those injuries occurred when a toddler was riding on the lap of an adult or an older sibling, Gaffney reported this month in a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics.

    It’s really sad that those little kids fractured their legs and I can only imagine the parents’ guilt!  But maybe we can all learn a little something from this Slide ‘n Slip parable: Overprotection can sometimes hurt children more than letting them try something on their own. Especially when that something used to be considered a normal, pretty safe childhood activity — like sliding! (Next up: The dangers of trying to pogo stick with your child?) — Lenore