Fact Du Jour – August 29, 2019 – Brits’ “Risky” Take on Playgrounds

Summer is winding down, and the parents out there are probably gearing up to get their kids ready for “back to school.” If your kid lives in the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission probably dictates how the playground at your child’s school is built – to optimally promote safety. Rubber chips/mats are commonly placed underneath the play equipment, swings can’t swing too high (a buddy of mine was talking recently about how he went about swinging over the bars on swing sets as a kid), slides can’t be too high, and gosh darn it –  metal parts mustn’t get too hot in the blaring sun, either! Also, be sure to make the play equipment “age appropriate!” The “little kids” can’t play on the “big kids'” equipment!


An “age appropriate” playground at Waterloo Recreation Area in Michigan. I’m being a bit goofy here!

That’s not to say I never hurt myself while playing on the “unsafe” equipment in my own schools’ playgrounds as a kid. I slipped on some ice under “monkey bars” and likely broke my pinkie (it never healed properly and has had a “bend” in it ever since it happened). Kids were verboten from doing “penny drops” because they were deemed “too risky.”


A “penny drop.” Note the wood chips underneath (I never saw piles of woodchips under any play equipment when I was a kid).

Only the older kids (not kindergartners) could use the “big” slide. The merry-go-rounds of my childhood wouldn’t pass safety muster today (and boy were they fun even when I had grown into a teenager)!

Nowadays, most children’s playgrounds in  the U.S. resemble this:


Safety is good, right? I remember asphalt/cement being underneath play equipment in my school playgrounds in the 1970s/1980s. How in the world did we survive to adulthood?

British educators have begun to take a differing view on “safety!” Rather than reduce risks, they’ve taken steps to INCREASE risks. Take note of the Princess Diana Playground in London’s Kensington Gardens – where children can build fires, play with sharp objects, build things and explore, explore, explore. Behold…


Here’s a snippet from a New York Times article  about this:

Out went the plastic playhouses and in came the dicey stuff: stacks of two-by-fours, crates and loose bricks. The schoolyard got a mud pit, a tire swing, log stumps and workbenches with hammers and saws.

Whatever doesn’t kill you – makes you stronger?  I know which playground I’d prefer is I was a kid again! And which playground I’d prefer for my kids to play in (if I had kids). And to that, I say “Rule Brittania!”



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