Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Eliminate Playgrounds? You Must Be Nuts! (Playgrounds)

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Eliminate Playgrounds? You Must Be Nuts! (Playgrounds)

Article excerpt

Just think ... if we could eliminate all public playgrounds, we would no longer have to worry about accidents or having enough money to purchase or replace equipment. There would be no need for maintenance or costly repairs. No more lawsuits. Our lives as park and recreation professionals would be a whole lot easier. Of course, hundreds of thousands of families would be without playgrounds, but that would be their worry.

Actually, we do have a problem of major proportions with our public playgrounds. There is a serious playground accident happening every two-and-a-half minutes.

Do we know where these accidents are happening? Yes.

Do we know who is getting injured? Yes.

Do we know how and why these accidents are happening? Yes.

Do we know how to identify and eliminate hazards on the playground? Yes.

Do we know how to prevent playground accidents in the future? Well, maybe.

Can we reduce most of the serious accidents? Probably, with a lot of help

from readers like you.

There is no such thing as a 100%-safe playground given the unpredictability of children, yet we should not consider taking away the opportunities playgrounds afford just because we can't guarantee no one will ever get hurt. The thought of doing away with playgrounds is not as far fetched as you might think. I recently heard of a state that is discussing the end of playgrounds and recess in their public schools. In my opinion, it would be a grievous error and a dismal day if play were eradicated. Think of telling 40 million American children that there is no more recess on the playground. Right!?!

Besides a kid's right to fun, some neuroscientists believe that playgrounds are a valuable benefit for developing children. While we think primarily of the physical attributes of play -- running, skipping, sliding, jumping, swinging and hopping -- there is much more to it than that. Scientists at The Children's Institute for Research and Development emphasize how play experiences benefit the cognitive, social and emotional development in children. Children's games actually program the brain for language, art, math and science, as well as build interpersonal abilities and intelligence. Kinesthetics is the perception of movement through nerves in the muscles, tendons and joints. This process is enhanced with continued physical activity at an early age. A Baylor University College of Medicine study reported that children who do not play develop brains that are 20% to 30% smaller than normal for their age.

Is there any doubt that children need the physical, social and multi-sensory experiences that take place during play? What our children don't need, however, are playgrounds with hidden hazards that could lead to broken bones, skinned arms and legs, concussions, and even, on occasion, death.

Eliminate Hazards

The National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) spends a great deal of time identifying the difference between a risk and a hazard. A risk is something we as individuals are willing to take. It implies the voluntary taking of a chance. An adult can look down the black diamond run of a ski slope and decide to go for it. It is his choice, a risk he is willing to take. It may be hazardous to his health if he misjudges and ends up in the hospital, but he's making that choice. Likewise, if a four-year-old looks down an eight-foot slide and decides it is worth the risk and goes for it, it is his choice to try the slide. …

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