Playgrounds Too Safe to Keep Little Kids Active

07/01/2012 0:00

Universal formula for the eradication of learning and development of imagination and creativity through PLAY,

Ignorant and officious bureaucracy + fear of litigation = death of unstructured play/spaces.
“Boring playgrounds may be one reason preschoolers aren’t getting enough exercise, researchers found in interviews with childcare providers.

Strict safety rules for equipment and low budgets at childcare centers were largely blamed for playgrounds that don’t make kids feel like playing, Kristen Copeland, MD, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues reported.

“Fixed playground equipment that meets licensing codes is unchallenging and uninteresting to children,” The other main problem cited was pressure to focus on academic readiness at the expense of physically active play time, Copeland’s group noted. Another common theme was pressure to prioritize teaching children shapes, colors, and skills that would prepare them for reading over giving them time for outdoor and active play.  That pressure came directly from parents — both upper- and lower-income families — as well as from state early-learning standards. The result was that many providers tried to turn active time into learning time too, “motivated to demonstrate a ‘purpose’ for gross motor time so that the children would not be seen as just ‘running around.'”

Several providers also mentioned pressure from parents to keep their children from getting injured, even being asked to keep a child from participating in any vigorous activity. State inspections of their playground equipment and increasingly strict licensing codes made the providers feel confident about safety, though perhaps too much so for the children’s tastes. “To keep it challenging, teachers noted that children would start to use equipment in (unsafe) ways for which it was not intended,” the researchers wrote.

They quoted one provider who explained that with new equipment fitting the tighter standards, “you see children trying to climb into places they’re not supposed to climb in because it’s just not challenging. They’re walking up the slide much more than they ever did with the other one. You can see they are just trying to find those challenges.”

Tess Michaels