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Author Topic: Food for thought?  (Read 774 times)

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Online MithlomwenTopic starter

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Food for thought?
« on: July 22, 2011, 08:15:52 AM »
http://shine.yahoo.com/event/summertimefun/have-playgrounds-become-too-safe-for-kids-2513862/

Quote
Playgrounds these days are usually brightly colored things, low-slung plastic-coated structures with short, gently sloping slides, set on surfaces covered with shredded rubber or wood chips. No see-saws. No hand-pulled twirling whirling rides. No super-high jungle gyms to climb. Swings (if there are any) often have safety bars and seat belts attached.

But that wasn't the case just a generation ago.

"I am still quite nostalgic for the two-, three-, maybe three-and-a-half-story high wooden playground castles I grew up with 30-odd years ago," says Alex Gilliam, an architect and a national expert on K-12 design education. "We're now at a point where every playground is pretty much the same. And they're boring. They're not challenging."

Blame a litigious society. Or, maybe, helicopter parents. But the increased focus on safety may have had unintended consequences: a generation of kids who aren't able to accurately assess risk or cope with fear.

Have playgrounds become too safe?

"Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground," Dr. Ellen Sandseter, a professor at Queen Maud University in Norway, told the New York Times. "Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years."

In a small 2007 study in Europe, Sandseter observed six different types of "risky play": playing on high structures or at high speeds, using dangerous tools or playing near dangerous elements, roughhousing, and games where the children can "get lost," "disappear," or avoid adult supervision. But instead of allowing children to explore their environment and understand how to interact with it, schools and public officials have been working to eliminate even the smallest risks.

In 2006, some cities and schools banned tag during recess, citing safety concerns; others have outlawed contact sports like touch football and soccer. Dodge ball has been out for years. And in 2005, South Florida's Broward County school system banned all running on playgrounds. Swings and see-saws were banned there, too. "They've got moving parts," Safety Director Jerry Graziose told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."

Actually, according to the National Program for Playground Safety, the number one cause of injury on public, school, and home playgrounds is falling off of equipment. Even so, the vast majority of those injuries—85 percent—aren't classified as severe.

Moreover, while many parents worry that a bad fall could lead to a life-long fear of heights, the New York Times points out that the opposite is actually the case: Studies have shown that "a child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights."

"Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology," Sandseter and her colleague,  psychologist Leif Kennair of the Norwegian University for Science and Technology, write in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

Gilliam sums it up this way: "The whole notion of protecting kids has kind of backfired."

As the founder and director of Public Workshop, an organization that encourages kids to take part in designing the cities in which they live, Gilliam has been involved in the research and creation of plenty of different kinds of play spaces. Modern "safe" playgrounds aren't interesting enough for older kids, he points out. That leads to an increase in sedentary activity, which has been linked to the spike in childhood obesity rates.

"We carp, as adults, all the time that we've lost our kids to video games, we've lost our kids to TV," says Gilliam. "Of course we have. We've made the world, the physical landscape, so boring to kids that of course a video game is going to feel more stimulating."

But there may be hope. "We're at a weird tipping point," Gilliam says. On one hand, the way we worry about the risks associated with play are "a little depressing at times," he says. But on the other hand, it may allow us to reassess the way kids really need to play. Just as so-called free-range parents made others think about the way we foster independence, when it comes to super-safe and boring playgrounds, Gilliam says, "Some people are finally starting to say, 'Maybe enough's enough'."

Offline Linna

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Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2011, 08:36:54 AM »
I grew up on the edge of political correctness.  When I was in elementary school, we had swings and we had a merry go round.  I remember one day the teachers were spinning the wheel for us, and I lost my grip.  I went tumbling through the dirt, but I got back up and happily got back on.  Sure I was a little sore, but I didn't care.  I used to jump from swings when the bell rang, each of us trying to get higher and higher to see who could land the farthest.  They did away with it every year we did that, because they wanted us to be 'safe'.  And we got bored.  Hell, by the time I was in High School, all we had to do was stand around, because there was nothing to do.  We eventually started bringing hacky sacks to school because there was nothing to do for an hour.  It was like being in prison: plastic utensils, throw it all away when you're done, don't bring anything hazardous to school, obey all rules, do as you're told, obey obey obey.

I remember one day they made the announcement that because someone tore up a fan on the upper balcony of the gym, that the gym was automatically closed off to students during the lunch hour.  That's the type of knee-jerk reaction that they had: If students disobey, punish all of them.  And I know I'm not the only one to see this coming.  Schools are more like prisons now, and I hate to think of what's going to be seen in just a few years.

Offline Jagerin

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Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2011, 08:54:45 AM »
I normally avoid the P&R boards because I don't like to debate my views...but I feel I need to. Our daughter falls all the time. She scrapes her knees and elbows. She plays rough and I see nothing wrong with that. Her doctor said that she is tired of seeing kids come in that never have a single scratch or bruise on their knees or elbows. She believes that children won't know their limits if they are never allowed to explore them. I believe that as well. That's how I was raised. My elementary school had swings that were rusted and sounded dangerously creaky when the swings moved. We swung as high as we could and then jumped off. We liked to see how many people we could bounce off a see-saw or how fast we had to spin a merry-go-round to fling each other off.

At home, when I decided I wanted to go outside to play, I wasn't restricted to my yard. I was allowed to grab my bike and go anywhere I wanted. I was carried home by my friends on day because I climbed too high in a tree and couldn't get back down, so I jumped and I nearly broke several body parts when I landed on the stump of a recently cut down tree. My parents scolded me for climbing so high. They grounded me from going to that friend's house for a week after I healed. They said I needed to think about things before doing them...and I did. Since then, I've never fallen from a tree because I never climb too high. I learned my lesson the hard way.

I told all this to another friend online once and she said, "Are you like 70 or something?" because, obviously, if I was allowed to do such things as a child, then I have to be old and lying to everyone about my age. When I told her I was only 24, she was in disbelief that we could really be the same age because her parents would have killed her if she dared to leave their fenced in backyard growing up. I think it's sad that we're at a point in our society that we're making our children so scared of being hurt that they can't enjoy being children.

There is a little girl at my daughter's daycare/preschool that isn't allowed outside because her mother won't allow it because she might get hurt. I asked the teachers about her and they said that at first the girl really wanted to go out with the other kids, but now she just sits alone inside with one of the other teachers and does nothing. She doesn't read, she doesn't play with toys, she doesn't talk with the other kids, she doesn't try to interact at all. She cries after her mom leaves and runs and clings to her mother when she is picked up. She doesn't even say 'bye' to her teachers or the other kids. The teacher said she's not allowed to join in on water day (they put out a slip n' slide for all the kids to play on) because her mother doesn't want her to get hurt. She's not allowed to eat anything with nuts, because she might be allergic. Not that she is allergic, but she might be. She's not allowed to play with the finger paints because she might try to put it in her mouth. She's not allowed to drink or eat anything the school/daycare provides because it might be bad for her or make her sick, instead she is only allowed to drink bottled water that her mother provides and sealed food that her mother provides.

I feel sorry for this little girl.

Offline Avis habilis

Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2011, 09:29:38 AM »
That's not overcautious, that's mentally ill. I don't mean that in the rhetorically hyperbolic "that's just nuts" sense either; that girl's mother has pretty obviously got some kind of disorder going on.

So will the girl if that's how she's being socialized. Or not socialized.

Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2011, 10:25:35 AM »
Yeah, that sounds like it's bordering on...not abuse, but somewhere between abuse-by-proxy and neglect.

Offline Linna

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Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2011, 10:27:17 AM »
What's going to happen to that little girl is she's going to be so scared of interacting with the world that she'll shut down when she's no longer in her mother's care.  Unfortunately, from the way this sounds, her mother might not ever let her leave the house once she's old enough to care for herself.  She'll be kept at home and only allowed to leave with her mother's strict attentions.  She won't be going to a normal school because they'll send her outside to play, which her mother will absolutely forbid.  Instead, she'll probably have a special tutor to keep her indoors and if the tutor violates the mother's strict regime even the slightest, she'll be fired and replaced.  Obviously, this woman has problems, and unfortunately it's a case where we can only look on and shake our heads because we can't do anything about it legally.  That little girl is going to grow up so scared of the world she'll never be able to function in society without her mother's strict guiding hand, which I believe is the beginning of how most serial killers get their start.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2011, 12:18:09 PM »
Yesterday, the little Oni skinned her knee.  I put ice and Neosporin on it, dried her tears, and within half an hour, she was ready to go back out and play.  She's walked to the store for eggs and back by herself (only one casualty).  There was one time that we were walking to the store, and a grasshopper was in the middle of the sidewalk.  I told her to go up and touch it, and she giggled when it jumped.

On the flip side, one of my sisters has a little boy that she has transferred all of her own phobias to: he's terrified of dogs, and once hid in the coat-closet rather than going out for recess because 'there are bugs outside'.  No lie, this little boy is scared of bugs - all bugs, including earthworms, butterflies and ladybugs.  When we went to a Mexican restaurant for my parents 50th anniversary, she brought him little baggies of sliced lunch meat and cheese, while my little one nibbled on nacho chips and other things that weren't too spicy.

I can see the need for 'reasonable care' (stranger-danger, and all that), but we're raising kids, not porcelain dolls.

Online MithlomwenTopic starter

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Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2011, 12:33:54 PM »
I tend to be a pretty laid back parent.  Unless the kiddos are endangering themselves or someone else, I let them do their thing.  They jump on the beds, they use the couches to jump off of and pretend they are superheroes.  They set up the chairs and make blanket forts...ride bikes....rollerskate....ride scooters.....

I had a fantastic childhood.  My friends and I (during the summer) would be outside after breakfast and usually wouldn't come inside until after dark.  We would be filthy and banged and scraped up, but man....did we have a ball! 

Just a few weeks ago we were outside doing some yard work, and my youngest two found a rather large muddy puddle.  Well before I realized what they were up to, they were both just absolutely covered in water and mud.  I opened my mouth to yell at them and then heard their squeals of laughter....needless to say I just let them play.  They had an absolute blast....were completely and utterly filthy by the time they had to come in.

So I stripped them naked at the back door and ordered them straight up to the bath.  ;D  Happy happy kiddos. 

People these days seem to be so afraid to let kids be kids.  They have pads and protective gear for everything....I don't think I EVER wore pads to ride bikes or skate or anything else.  There is antibacterial EVERYTHING these days.  Their little immune systems don't have the chance to work before parents are hosing them down or wiping them off lest they catch a germ of some sort. 

Kids are supposed to get dirty, they are supposed to get bumps and bruises and scrapes.  I remember when my oldest was a wee tot and I had to take him to the doctor during the summer.  He was wearing shorts naturally and I told the doctor I was almost embarrassed bring him in as his little legs were nothing short of bruises and scratches.  She made my day when she looked at me and smiled and said, "Anything below the thigh I consider 'little boy bruises' and don't even worry about it." 

Offline Malefique

Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2011, 03:51:25 PM »
I grew up playing in lethally risky environments, according to these standards.  Our local park had a playground with one of the old 'witch's hat' roundabouts - you know, like this?

Only it was so old it kept falling off the post.  Really.  We loved it.  And I played in a huge field with a deep pond in it, and a railway line ran through it that had huge holes in the fence so we always got through, and every few months travellers set up camp at one end.   I made it just fine.  My youngest was born with a rather large heart defect that wasn't identified till she was 4 (medical professionals diagnosed it as asthma >:() so she was frail and got tired very quickly, but I'll never forget the ward where she went for her open heart.  Everything was scrubbed down as often as could be done, but the kids were running around with these massive chest wounds and wires and tubes hanging out of them, and they were finger-painting and throwing balls around and covering themselves with scrambled egg and jam.  The staff were perfectly okay with it, just helped clean them and the ward up afterwards, and every last one made a perfect recovery.  if it's okay for kids who've just had major surgery to get mucky, why the hell shouldn't healthy ones?  And our local primary has banned marbles and conkers as risky, but encourages the little ones to come to school on cycles (at rush hour, knowing full well most of them make their way alone to school).  None of them ever had a conker or marble-related injury, but so far this year alone six have been hit by cars and one by a bus while travelling to and from school on bikes.

Offline Caela

Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2011, 08:45:46 AM »
This is crazy. Our local park has a merry-go-round and my daughter (almost 3) refuses to get on with the little kids her own size. She hops on when the bigger kids start to and just holds on for dear life as they twirl that puppy as fast as they can. She squeals and laughs the whole time and I grin watching her enjoy herself. Heck, sometimes I help twirl it even faster! I make her sit in the middle and wrap her legs and arms around a post so she doesn't go flying but I don't stop her from riding it.

We don't have the huge three story castles but ours is probably 1 1/2 and we have REAL swings as well as the swings that are more protected for the smaller tots. I don't freak out if I can't see her on the castle, it has blind spots. So long as I can hear her I let her play and only call out to her when she stops giggling like a monkey lol. She needs to be a kid and to know that I trust her. She climbs on furniture, jumps on the bed, and gets dirty. I don't really worry about any of it. If she falls she gets brushed off and gets a hug, maybe gets her "owwie" kissed or cleaned up if it needs it and she is off again.

Kids learn by falling and getting scrapes. We don't get one set of skinned knees healed before they are scraped up again and she doesn't care in the least. Immune systems were mentioned and I must say, my daughter's is fantastic and I think part of that is because I let her get dirty! I let her play in the dirt and with other kids and don't keep her swaddled in cotton and lathered in antibacterial soaps and hand washes. She picks food up off the floor (5 second rule Mama!) and pops it into her mouth without a care in the world.

I want her to learn her limits but she learn those by finding them herself and enjoying the experience (mostly) far better than if I set up arbitrary boundaries and limits for her. She's not big enough to go bounding around the neighborhood yet, but in a few years she'll have that freedom just like I did. She'll have certain roads as boundaries and need to be home before dark, or at a set time during the school year, but I want her outside playing and having fun, not indoors playing video games.

I say let them play, them them get hurt sometimes, let them run and laugh and get dirty and drink water from a garden hose and just BE KIDS.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2011, 11:08:04 AM »
Well, an important part of the article which does not get a lot of emphasis is that this shift in parenting is due to “satellite parenting.”  Parents are there but often work or have other activities in life that require them to give their children over to another.  By require I mean that they cannot perform the task they want to do with the children present.  So the protective instincts are still there, the desire to ensure that the child does not come to harm.  Yet the parent isn’t there to see that their child is alright or that the scrap is just another event in a young life.  Instead they get the child back later in the day, the child talks about how much hitting their knee hurt and the parent feels that guilt that they were not there.  So they rush back to the playground, school or daycare demanding accountability.  Schools and playgrounds react by slamming down on anything they can view as dangerous.

Really the entire thing is a multi-pronged affect of fear, work and litigation.  Parents are afraid of their children being alone because of kidnappings.  This is despite the fact that stranger kidnappings are exceedingly rare.  Most households have a two parent working structure in order to make ends meet, so the children are left unattended more often.  Schools and playgrounds have to contend with the fact that any aspect of fault can be placed on them and in turn be sued.  So of course those schools and playgrounds move to the other extreme of, “No harm shall come.”  Parents aren’t there to protect their children, they are fearful of anything happening because of what is seen on television and ready to sue if anything should happen as a way to protect their children.  A sort of “parenting after the fact.” 

For a long time there was a real fear that playgrounds would disappear entirely from our modern society.  Sociologists wrote many papers on the lack of face-to-face interaction children were experiencing with peers and adults.  There was a lot of research into the lack of cohesive unity that a neighborhood without a playground or common area felt, because the playground certainly becomes a meeting place for people in the area.  People have made building, maintaining and supporting a playground exceedingly difficult due to litigation and fears.

I remember one of the activities we had to do in pediatrics was to assess a playground for safety.  The checklist for safety was insanely long and detailed.  We are talking inspection of the dirt under the swing set, measuring the distance from one piece of equipment to another, checking the rubber matting for signs of defect.  My group went out to a playground in City Park, which was newly constructed.  The playground, which was brightly colored and safe to our eyes, was considered dangerous according to the playground check list.  One of the women in the group remarked that she brought her children there all the time and according to the check list the place was a death trap.  Yet every time we went out there, nobody was hurt and the children we talked to along with their parents seemed to love going there. 

Offline Merrik

Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2011, 11:33:09 AM »
It's stupid and I hate what people are doing to their kids. Most of the scars I have gained thus far are from when I was a kid. I did something stupid and dangerous, I got badly hurt and I learnt from my mistakes. Kids these days are wrapped in cotton wool and think that everything is out to get them.

Offline auroraChloe

Re: Food for thought?
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2011, 11:33:52 AM »
Quote
Blame a litigious society.


if your kid gets skinned up or a broken bone on your time, it's one thing.
but a lot of folks might not hesitate to sue a day care provider or school or city for the same.  the 'playground providers' are covering their a$$es   :-\


we had a jungle gym that was all metal pipe.  i think it's gone now.