Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Playing It Too Safe?

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Playing It Too Safe?

Article excerpt

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but after I finished reading our cover story this month on playground safety, I had to wonder how I survived childhood. It made me want to amend the old saying about cats and their nine lives to include kids. When I grew up, the fancy playgrounds had asphalt surfacing and climbing apparatus better suited to military basic training. Now that I've dated myself, I can easily say that the safety advances in playground design and construction have been immense.

So, it is more with amusement than concern that I hear about schools of thought claiming playgrounds have become too safe. An article published last summer in the New York Times articulated this very lament: "Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries--and the evidence for that is debatable--the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone." At first I thought this perspective philosophical, that hermetically sealed leisure environments just don't build character in kids like they did in the good old days. But, no, it's playground design that's being challenged.

As author Carrie Madren writes in our cover story, the ways kids can hurt themselves are almost countless--from sweatshirt drawstrings caught in cracks in equipment to worn and faulty facilities. She cites a litany of statistics documenting decreased injuries and fatalities over the years as playgrounds became safer and inspected more rigorously. …

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