Kids playgrounds have become too safe

A few years ago (2011) in an interview on ABC radio, an early childhood expert - Prue Walsh, spoke out saying Public playgrounds have become too safe.  She believes that the influence of insurance costs and the fear of councils and schools being sued are part of the problem in making playgrounds unimaginative and too safe for our children.

I agree with her opinion completely.  I recently watched a TV programme called 'Lost Adventures of Childhood' which covered this very topic of discussion.

I certainly remember playgrounds being a lot different when I was a child.  My local park had a row of four swings, a roundabout and a large slide.  Todays playgrounds don't seem to have as many swings in a row, nor go as high as the ones I remember.  Nowadays, playgrounds are more brightly coloured, with a lot more rails and enclosed parts. They are more restrictive and allow less scope for imagination.  Playgrounds used to be very simple and encouraged children to be imaginative in their play and to take risks, with high swings and jumps.  

So are risks a good thing? Do more risks mean more injuries and more broken bones?  I think these would happen anyway.  Kids will always find places and ways to take risks, and if they don't find this in playgrounds when they are young, then where and when will they start to take those risks?

I think that generally today there is a tendency to over-protect our children.  Kids 'go out and play' far less than in previous generations, partly due to the advent of computer and video games, but also because parents are aware of the dangerous nature of the world we live in thanks to the ever present media.  But is the world really any more dangerours than in the past- or are we just more aware of those dangers?

By not letting our children take risks, how will they learn where the boundaries of common sense lie?  How will they learn to think for themselves and become adapatable and self-confident?

Making playgrounds safer and subject to more rules and regulations is also detremental to our kids physical development.  Play is nature's way of making sure we learn necessary skills.  A few years ago I remember a friend being told to take her child to a park and tell him to climb the wrong way up a slide in order to help him improve his underdeveloped motor skills.  Kids should not need to be 'told' to play and experiment, it should be a natural part of their lives.  I see skills being 'taught' in schools now - like balancing and climbing.  Surely kids should already have acquired these skills by the time they start school!

Are we stunting an aspect of the growth of our children in trying to protect them?  Injuries, scrapes, bruises and even broken bones are a part of a regular normal childhood.  Patterns of behaviour are leant from risk taking and from making mistakes.

At the end of the TV programme I mentioned earlier (Lost adventures of Childhood)  mention was made of special adventure playgrounds that have been built in the UK, which provide a structured and supervised place for children to take risks.  Basically it's like taking them back to what playgrounds used to be like! 

It seems  that we are now coming full circle and realising we have taken the real 'play' out of playgrounds.  Hopefully playgrounds will start to return to the real adventure playgrounds I remember from my childhood, and our children can be allowed to play as nature intended again!

Do you agree?  Or are you happy that playgrounds have become so 'safe' now, and children are less likely to hurt themselves there?


  1. Yes, I do agree. Children are being expected to grow up too soon and the idea of playing is becoming a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the people who are obsessed with being compensated have ruined it for the those who genuinely just want their children to grow up at a normal pace. Money talks, money rules. And that's what's happening in our society.

    There aren't many playgrounds around these days and the ones that are offer little enjoyment or fun, 1) because they're vandalised and 2) because they're made for toddlers rather than children aged between 5 and 10.

    It's very sad.
    CJ xx

  2. I totally agree! But my kids are pretty much free range like my chooks! LOL I stumbled onto your blog via googling time tables made fun! Great blog and great attitude towards learning! Love it! I can see myself coming back for a bit of catch up reading! Thanks

  3. I have a daughter that almost died falling from our second story window (15 ft). Our playground is a happy medium. Anything that a child can fall from or cause serious injury may not be the best idea.

  4. Well...I don't know. When I'm at a park with my kids, I want to sit and relax from one of the park benches...knowing that they are relatively safe. I think that the newer play equipment have improved on many safety issues and less children are getting hurt now. That's really a good thing. I have children ages 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11 (and 3 teenagers) The younger six still play at parks quite often. My younger ones are "safe" because the equipment has railings and bars that keep them from falling out of the high places. My oldest son - 19 years old - fell off of a slide when he was three years old. From the top. He fell because the sides of the metal slide were very low. He leaned over too far while going down and fell over the side. It was one of those "rocket" slides - those are VERY high, with different level slides that you can go down, on each level. Luckily, my son didn't get too hurt on that day, just knocked the wind out of him, but if he had fallen on his neck or something, would have been a different story. This was back in 1994 and we were at an older park with old equipment.

    One thing that I sort of miss from the "old" park days -- the roundabout. I used to love that! We called it the "merry go round" and I remember how fast we used to get it going. So fast that those who could not hold on tight enough went flying OFF. And you know, all it would take is for someone to get hit in the head by one of the spinning handles -- instant brain injury. Although there's a part of me that misses that particular "ride" at the park, I am really glad it's no longer there to pose a threat to MY children.

    I know we can't protect them from everything, but when we know better we should do better, right? I'm quite sure enough kids were seriously injured by the older park equipment to warrant a change to the safer ones of today.

    What I think is missing in today's youth (as you also mentioned) is not so much the more adventurous (dangerous) park equipment, but rather playing outside in general. Today's youth are WAY too into computer games, their iphone and iPods, Xboxes and all that. What they need to do is get OUT and find something to explore, play games in the neighborhood like hide and seek and tag and all that fun stuff that gets them moving and keeps them interacting with friends. My kids do have the computers and all that, but I take them away quite often and tell them to GET OUT and PLAY! They get them back at night right before bed. When I was a kid, I stayed outside almost the entire day, playing with friends. I think kids need more of that "old fashioned" play time :)

    I enjoyed your article - thanks for sharing.

    I am already a follower via GFC but now am also following you on FB - "liked"

    They All Call Me Mom

  5. I am a new follower from the hop, hope you will visit:
    I tend to agree with your article because we have gone from total freedom to total control on the playground. Maybe we should have found a happy medium to help encourage self control in kids instead of forced control. I enjoy the discussion in the comments.


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