Among the playground rules for students at my daughter’s elementary school:
No climbing to the top of the monkey bars.
No hanging upside-down from the monkey bars.
No pushing other people on the swings.
No jumping off the swings.
First, I’m wondering what, exactly, one is allowed to do on the monkey bars? I mean, isn’t climbing to the top or hanging from them kind of the whole point?
And what’s with the no pushing other people on the swings?
What kind of world are we waiting for before we declare it safe to live in and enjoy? A world where the playgrounds are 100% safe? (No running, skipping or frolicking, please.) Where the ground is 100% soft (no concrete, please!), but not made of wood chips (which have arsenic), or rubber chips (which may contain trace elements of toxins, even though we seem to ride around on rubber tires every day and you don’t hear a lot about THAT). Where the ground is not covered by those twin dangers actually cited by the article: “dirt or grass”?
Playgrounds shouldn’t be built on GRASS??? That is what the article quotes a “safety commission” as concluding!
Lenore ends with this:
This is pretty much our view of everything where kids are concerned now. No route to school is safe enough. No bus stop is safe enough. No toy or bottle or crib is safe enough. And no playground is safe enough, even if the kid is there with mom, dad and the National Guard. And they brought along a big swatch of shag carpeting to play on. “Microsize risks” look giant to us because we are shrunken with fear. Until we see them for what they are, we will fear everything: trees, air, grass and dirt. Not to mention swings.
I think the reason my daughter’s list of playground rules bugs me so much is that I work very hard to control my helicoptering, over-protective tendencies. Last weekend, I was very proud to be the only parent sitting on a playground bench, rather than shadowing my child as he/she climbed, slid and jumped off swings.
(What is with the “No jumping off swings” anyway? How can you swing and not jump off? It’s like telling a former teen of the 80s not to rollerskate to I Love Rock & Roll.)
I guess I should be grateful they apparently will be using the playground.
Last year, every time I drove by the school during recess, the kids were milling around on the asphalt parking lot. (No, running, chasing or roughhousing, per the rules, of course.)
“Don’t you ever play on the playground?” I asked Tootie.
“No,” she said.
“Why not?” I pressed.
“I don’t know. We just don’t.”
At the next parent-teacher conference, I asked her teacher about it. Mrs. H., whom we loved, explained that if there weren’t enough parent volunteers at lunch and recess, the kids couldn’t use the playground. I could tell from her tone and expression that she thought the children needed to be on the playground, rather than congregating on blacktop.
My first reaction was: Why is the school so dependent on parent volunteers for lunch and recess duty in a day and age when so many families have two working parents?
I’m sure what all this boils down to is a fear of liability.
Clearly, schools now feel compelled to cordon off yet another fundamental part of childhood.
Makes me wonder when they’ll ban recess altogether. I mean, who knows when some willful child will decide to skip across the asphalt and skin a knee?