On a recent playground outing a father and I encouraged our sons to share a Little Tikes car by having one of them push while the other rode. My son was having trouble steering so I helped him. The other father said, "that's okay, let them crash." Um...okay, if you say so. And the boys had a blast crashing the car against other equipment. It reminded me of a recent, fascinating article on playgrounds by ("infamous" mom) Lenore Skenazy bemoaning raising children in a "world without a single ouchie. The bubble-wrap zeitgeist."
In her article, "The War on Children's Playgrounds," Skenazy touches on the growing movement of the past few decades to enhance playground safety almost to the point where they're not fun anymore. (I don't know what your local playground is like, but the ones in my neighborhood are great for small children, but extremely boring for any child over the age of, say, five.) Partly spurred by fearful parents and partly by fear of litigation, communities have been dismantling "hazardous" playgrounds, even ones that aren't very old, to conform to the rigorous safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and to respond to worried, vocal parents (and their lawyers).
What's so wrong with wanting our kids to avoid injury you might ask? Skenazy answers, "The problem is: If kids never encounter even tiny risks, they never develop that thing we call common sense."
I highly recommend a quick trip to Salon to read "The War on Children's Playgrounds" which touches on playground history (including Danish "adventure playgrounds"), the importance of play and risk-taking for children, and challenges of modern playground design.
(Photo by Flickr member James.Thompson licensed for use under Creative Commons)