Darell Hammond: Dangerous Playgrounds Are Good for Your Kids

10/05/2012 5:05
Darell Hammond: Dangerous Playgrounds Are Good for Your Kids

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above 

Darell Hammond is an American philanthropist, founder and chief executive officer of the non-profit organization KaBOOM! that helps communities buildplaygrounds for children. 

” It’s National Playground Safety Week, but I’m not celebrating. In fact, I’d like to propose a National Playground Danger Week instead.

Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate playground safety…… there are certain precautions I’m glad we take. For instance, I’m glad we surface our playgrounds with engineered wood fiber instead of, say, cement. I’m glad that we follow guidelines for swing set placement so that a kid doesn’t jump off a swing and sail smack into the side of a building.

That said, we as a country have taken playground safety too far. We have crossed the line from common sense (don’t place a swing set next to a building) to that murky “What if?” territory in which we imagine every conceivable accident that could ever take place on a playground (what if a finger gets caught in a see-saw?) and try to guard against it.

The result? Boring, uninspired playgrounds that lack whimsy, risk, and — yes — see-saws.

We all have a natural instinct to protect children from harm. It’s never fun to see a child hurt, even if it’s just a scraped knee. But on the other hand, children need to take on physical challenges to learn and grow, and scraped knees and other bumps and bruises teach them valuable lessons about their own limits.

When given age-appropriate challenges, children tend to take them very seriously; in fact, the more obvious the risk is, the more cautiously a child will proceed. Adventure Playgrounds are a perfect case in point. While our paranoid and litigious society boasts only a handful, Europe has hundreds, offering kids the opportunity to play with fire, use handsaws and sail across 50-foot zip lines.

…..What we like to say is that there are no hidden risks in the playground. Even a young child walking through the playground gates can look around and tell that it’s a different type of playground, and there are sticks and boards and nails and rocks and things that they need to watch out for.

….We don’t give our kids enough credit. No child wants to fall off a jungle gym or slide. Accidents are an unfortunate fact of life, but to lower every last slide and jungle gym to a height that would only interest a toddler is doing our children a grave disservice. Our instincts to protect and our instincts to immediately point fingers when accidents do happen by filing a lawsuit, are actually hurting our children by denying them the opportunity to take on vital challenges.

During National Playground Safety Week, I’ll celebrate common-sense safety. I’ll also celebrate skinned knees and bruised elbows. I’ll celebrate so-called “dangerous” playgrounds –playgrounds with see-saws, zip lines and towering slides. But I won’t laud so-called injury-proof and lawsuit-proof play equipment — because a boring playground is nothing to celebrate.

Tess Michaels