Free Range Kids » A Playground Accident and the Instinct to Blame

12/01/2013 1:01
Free Range Kids » A Playground Accident and the Instinct to Blame

I read Free Range Kids each day. Some of the posts are pertinent to what I do, most dovetail with my philosophies. I have a number of other posts from different sources that I “bank” and then multi-post when I get the time, however as soon as I read this one it got shunted to the top of the pile.

 As a designer I work within the constraints of Federal, State and Local legislation and expectation, experience as an educator and designer and common sense.  Therefore when I design a playspace I create projects that provide a measured challenge and usually have in build (and required) safeguards to prevent accident or injury. Regardless of this, in my time as an educator I have been party to some children’s accidents that could never have been foreseen, let alone prevented, by the playspace designer, the builder, educators supervising the area or the person or body in charge of the centre.  Children are so full of energy and VROOM, but frequently so short on sensory focus and fine and gross motor control.

I agree sometimes accidents just happen, regardless what we do. What is important is our reaction to them. What tacit messages are we conveying to children about perceived and real dangers, risk taking and personal responsibility?

Full article can be read from the link above.

Hey Readers — Here’s a note about insurance issues, and modern-day instincts, that I really appreciate. It comes to us from Ann, a mom of three girls who blogs at . (What a great blog name! ) – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday, my 11 year old fell off a piece of playground equipment at school (she called it a “spinny thing”) and broke her ankle. When I picked her up at school, I didn’t question what happened, when the playground equipment was last inspected, or who was supervising. I just took her to urgent care with the understanding that these things happen.

While we were there, my daughter sobbed, “I’m never getting on that spinny thing ever again!” — an understandable sentiment given her level of pain and anxiety at that moment. I said to her, “You know what, accidents happen. They just do. You’ve probably played on that thing a million times without ever getting hurt. Today was just an accident. At least you were having fun! Can you imagine if you broke your ankle while taking out the trash? That wouldn’t be worth it at all. I bet when it happened though, you were having fun, laughing with your friends.”

And that’s when it hit me: Her immediate, instinctive response of “I’m never getting on that again!” is the response we’re seeing from parents and schools when accidents like this happen. I could have stormed into that school, demanded to have that piece of playground equipment removed and contacted the media about the dangers of all “spinny things” on playgrounds. I think her response of never wanting to get on there again was reasonable for her age, her maturity, and her view of how this injury is impacting her world. As adults though, we need to take a step back and figure out what is really a true danger, and what is just an accident. It is as though people have forgotten the phrase, “accidents happen.”

Thanks for opening my eyes to Free-Range thinking. — Ann

Tess Michaels