I’ve written before about how playgrounds in New Zealand are, in my opinion, just a little more risky than playgrounds in the USA. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Quite the opposite, really. It makes sense to me to think that kids will take risks no matter what, and that creating a playground that supports a controlled, safe risk is better than a playground that removes all risk. A playground that removes all risk (you know the ones I’m describing – the swinging bridge is an inch off the ground and surrounded by rubber peanuts) leaves children bored. They end up trying to make things less boring, and thereby more risky, by using the equipment in an unsafe way.
Regardless of how risky or not risky a playground is, parents should still be watchful when their kids are on it. I try to hold back some of my mothering fears and encourage Joe to take safe risks while at the playground with me nearby to catch him if he falls. However, it seems to be one of those facts of life that fathers are more likely to encourage risk-taking than mothers. Case in point: Joe’s episode on the flying fox (i.e., zipline).
Before you get too worried, no, Chris didn’t send our 19 month old zinging down the hill by himself. He was running alongside him with his hands on Joe’s waist. But boys being boys, and big boys being little boys at heart, they got going faster than expected and Joe zoomed forward with more force than anticipated there at the end. The result: he bit down hard on his lower lip and there was a fair bit of blood. Still, no worse for the wear. He was smiling and laughing again within minutes. Just another battle scar to add to his already skinned knees.
I think that many playground safety improvements are good ones, especially the rubber surfacing that covers the ground on most. But I also think that making a playground “too safe” has the opposite effect by encouraging overly risky behavior in kids and by lulling parents into a sense of false security. What are your thoughts on playground safety? Do you think playgrounds today are “too safe”, and thereby boring and more likely to encourage unsafe risk-taking?