Being a parent of 3 boys that love playgrounds, the topic of a recent article in the NY Times caught my attention. Are playgrounds now a day’s really being made too safe? Are kids not experiencing enough adventure and excitement that playgrounds “back in the day” offered and is the result that children are discouraged from healthy exercise because they aren’t being challenged?
This article is saying that playgrounds are being built lower, slower and well, more boring, with the intention of reducing the risk of injury. The article contends, “The old tall jungle gyms and slides disappeared from most American playgrounds across the country in recent decades because of parental concerns, federal guidelines, new safety standards set by manufacturers and – the most frequently cited factor – fear of lawsuits.” But I do not agree that it is producing unintended consequences, causing children to take fewer risks or miss out on opportunities to overcome fears such as heights. I’ve seen plenty of playgrounds with climbing walls that are quite tough and high, my kids easily get butterflies in their stomachs and still need encouragement to get to the top and not be afraid.
Children probably get hurt far less now than 20 or 30 years ago when they built 10ft high jungle gyms, but I believe that is attributed to the ingenuity of playground engineers and architects simply creating safer equipment without sacrificing the high speed thrills of a fast slides or spinning merry-go-rounds. To say that playgrounds no longer offer thrills is ridiculous! Sure they are safer and I absolutely love the rubber mulch and soft surfaces, but they are in no way discouraging my kids to take fewer risks. In fact, the newest park we’ve visited has had some of the most ingenious structures I’ve ever seen that encourage kids to climb, spin and swing on equipment that requires way more physical exertion and intuitive thinking than I ever experienced growing up. And don’t forget, kids will be kids, they will climb all over the more simple structures in ways the designers never intended to get their thrills, I’ve kissed many bruises that can attest to that!
You can read the full article here.
What are your thoughts…are we designers playing it too safe when it comes to playgrounds?