If you were to ask my children to recount a favorite story about Europe, or to pick the best thing about any one of the amazing cities we visited, they wouldn’t tell you about ancient cathedrals or moats left by the invasion of the Turks.
No, they don’t care so much about those. What they will tell you about is the most amazing onslaught of playgrounds since the beginning of mankind.
Giant 60-foot metal slides, zip-lines, merry-go-rounds, rope swings, giant 30-foot rope structures for climbing.
None of this bark nonsense.
Viktor and I were so impressed we launched into story after story, reminiscing our childhoods filled with “real” playgrounds with metal slides, and swings over concrete patches of play yard.
I still have bits of pebble embedded in my elbow from a mishap on the swings in the 3rd grade; when I whipped that out to show the children, Viktor pulled up a pant leg to reveal a scar of his own left over from a hot slide in the playgrounds of New Orleans or L.A.
We had a lot of conversations with the children about the state of play in America. We reminded them over and over and over again how lucky they are to have a big yard with a swing set, to be able to roam free in our safe neighborhood. How lucky they are to have played on 60-foot metal slides in Salzburg, and a zip-line in Prague.
We talked to them endlessly about children who have no play structures at all, who have nowhere safe to play.
And of course, we discussed the reason playgrounds in America have become so “safe”. We’ve become a land of so many lawsuits, there’s little room for common sense and natural parental intervention.
We were so relieved to find that somewhere in the world children are still playing on playgrounds the way they were meant to be.
— Discuss. What do you think? Should kids have natural parameters in the shape of rubber mats and bark chips? Should swings be banned from elementary schools? —