Earlier this morning I was thumbing through articles and came across this 2011 piece by John Tierney of The New York Times. The article discusses the growing push to make playgrounds ultra-safe. Tall slides—too high. Monkey bars—too tough. Jungle gyms—too dangerous.
According to Tierney, while playgrounds were once important tools for children’s emotional and psychological development, in many places they’ve simply become boring. The piece goes on to detail the growing backlash against modern, ultra-safe playgrounds.
The article opens:
When seesaws and tall slides and other perils were disappearing from New York’s playgrounds, Henry Stern drew a line in the sandbox. As the city’s parks commissioner in the 1990s, he issued an edict concerning the 10-foot-high jungle gym near his childhood home in northern Manhattan.
“I grew up on the monkey bars in Fort Tryon Park, and I never forgot how good it felt to get to the top of them,” Mr. Stern said. “I didn’t want to see that playground bowdlerized. I said that as long as I was parks commissioner, those monkey bars were going to stay.”
His philosophy seemed reactionary at the time, but today it’s shared by some researchers who question the value of safety-first playgrounds. 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.
Sometimes, you just have to let kids be kids. Read the rest of the article here.