I was walking through the local park the other day and noticed the playground was fenced off for construction. Actually, it was more like DEstruction, because they were ripping out the swings.
A worker there told me it was for "safety reasons" and then showed me a picture of what they were replacing it with: A two-level monstrosity with more bars than a prison, and more padding than an insane asylum.
The entire second level looked like a jail cell with slides coming out of it. There were bars on the top level to stop kids from jumping off, and the slides were enclosed in tunnels to keep kids from jumping off those, too.
And if any kid DID manage to break free, the entire surface surrounding the "play structure" would be soft as a sponge thanks to some weird rubbery material.
This isn't just happening at my park. It's happening at parks, playgrounds and schools all around the country. Kids are being coddled and bubble-wrapped to the point where none of them will ever face danger or risk injury and it's downright maddening -- because bumps, bruises, scratches, scrapes, stitches, chipped teeth and the occasional broken bone are part of a NORMAL and HEALTHY childhood.
But don't just take my word for it: New research finds that these modern playgrounds are actually TOO safe!
Kids who have some reasonable risk in their play have better physical health, behavior and social development, according to the study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
What's more, children who can climb, jump and even FALL are more creative and more resilient.
A little risk gives children a chance to test their own limits and figure out what happens if they push it a little too far. It's the old School of Hard Knocks and while not every kid graduates with flying colors, most of them make it through just fine.
So if you've got kids or grandkids or great grandkids, of course I want you to do your best to keep them safe... but sometimes, that means letting them be a little UNsafe, too.