Safety can be dangerous for kids, writes Philip Howard in the Wall Street Journal. Making playgrounds safe means taking out “merry-go-rounds, high slides, jungle gyms, seesaws or pretty much anything that’s fun,” he writes. That leaves children at risk of growing up without learning to deal with risk, he writes.
Allowing children to test their limits in unstructured play, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, “develop[s] their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.” Scrapes and bruises are how children learn their limits, and the need to take personal responsibility.
Free play also burns off calories.
According to the Center for Disease Control, (child obesity) would basically cure itself if children engaged in the informal outdoor activities that used to be normal. But how do we lure children off the sofa? One key attraction is risk.
Risk is fun, at least the moderate risks that were common in prior generations. An informal survey of children by the University of Toronto’s Institute of Child Studies found that “merry-go-rounds . . . anecdotally the most hated piece of playground equipment in hospital emergency rooms — topped the list of most desired bits of playground equipment.” Those of us of a certain age can remember sprinting to get the contraption really moving. That was fun. And a lot of exercise.
When I was in kindergarten, the big kids would push us aside when we tried to play on the merry-go-round. I figured I’d be big enough by first grade. But the summer before I started, some kid broke his collar bone on it, and the school decided it was unsafe and took it out. I never got my chance. Not fair.