Risk. Safety. Fear.
Are these things you think about when letting your child play outside? Or even on a playground?
I want to share a very interesting and thought provoking article that I found.
It is a bit lengthy, but if you take the time to read it, I think it will get the wheels in your head turning. If you aren’t as brave and patient as me, I’ll hit some high points for you.
Take a look at this picture. Do you see anything wrong or concerning?
Something tells me that you might see this:
- Dirty junkyard
- Kids doing dangerous activities
- Garbage everywhere
- Germs (I can’t see them, but I know they are there!)
And the list continues. Oddly enough, this is actually a playground. WHAT?! It must be some place in a bad neighborhood where parents just let their kids run wild with no supervision. Call DHHS, call the police, call somebody!! Ok, maybe you didn’t go that far, but you might still consider this picture a disturbing sight! Where are their parents? Where is the rubber surface in case they fall?
This “dangerous” place is known as “The Land”. It is an Adventure Playground located in the U.K.
Now before you scoff at the U.K. for thinking differently, think back on your own childhood. Really think.
How often were you unsupervised? Did you walk to school (cue scary music)……alone? Did you have a treehouse or some wooded area to venture out into? When I think about my own childhood experiences, there are many things that come to mind. One place I remember is our backyard swimming pool. Growing up in Texas, a swimming pool was pretty much a necessity. We played every kind of game imaginable. We used to bring our “Littlest Petshop” stuff out and pretend that the pool was a huge lake and all our animals had to learn to swim. Were my parents in the pool with us making sure we didn’t drown? No. We were outside in the pool for hours on our own. My parents did, however, put me in swimming lessons almost before I could walk, so there’s that, but they were not hovering over me making sure my head never went underwater.
Another place I remember was our family cabin in the mountains of New Mexico. Right through the trees down from the cabin was (and is) a creek. The water in it comes from yearly snowfall, so it’s always pretty cold. We would play in that everyday for hours whenever we went to visit. We tried catching fish. We came up with ways to build bridges. We walked up and down the creek exploring. Were my parents and adult family members watching us? Nope. Who knows what they were doing. Probably relaxing and chatting with the other adults.
I must have been neglected as a child. My parents were not around to wipe every tear. They weren’t always there to tell me that everything would be okay. They apparently didn’t care about me. Now, if you seriously think that, please re-read the article above. (By the way, it is titled “The Overprotected Kid”.)
Back to The Land. Some of the things that kids are “allowed” to do at The Land is start fires, climb on unstable things, use hammers and other tools, and more!
Here are a few poignant quotes from the article:
“Today, these playgrounds are so out of sync with affluent and middle-class parenting norms that when I showed fellow parents back home a video of kids crouched in the dark lighting fires, the most common sentence I heard from them was, ‘This is insane.'”
“If a 10-year-old lit a fire at an American playground, someone would call the police and the kid would be taken for counseling.”
“In the two years since [the playground] opened, no one has been injured outside of the occasional scraped knee.”
“It is no longer easy to find a playground that has an element of surprise, no matter how far you travel.”
“Beginning in 2011, Swanson Primary School in New Zealand submitted itself to a university experiment and agreed to suspend all playground rules, allowing the kids to run, climb trees, slide down a muddy hill, jump off swings, and play in a ‘loose-parts pit’ that was like a mini adventure playground. The teachers feared chaos, but in fact what they got was less naughtiness and bullying-because the kids were too busy and engaged to want to cause trouble, the principal said.”
So, what is the moral of the story. We need to take a step back and realize that children are intelligent, capable beings. That doesn’t mean we leave them to fend for themselves. Instead, we need to foster their imagination and give them the freedom to find themselves and discover their limits. Failure and risk are part of everyday life. “We can no more create the perfect environment for our children that we can create perfect children.”
Look at the picture again.
Now what do you see?