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Bring back the jungle gyms

A new study says that the move toward safer (and less risky) play equipment for kids could be stunting their emotional growth. What do parents think?


Gone are the high slides and jungle gyms of our youths, and in are the safe, non-threatening playgrounds. No longer can kids aspire to hang from the monkey bars upside down or fly down the slide faster than their peers.

No, today’s playgrounds focus on safety in a way that just might be stunting kids’ emotional growth. What do parents think about this?

Bring on the challenge

Many parents are wishing their kids could play like we did when we were young. That is, on playground equipment that is challenging and exciting.

“As the mother of two very active boys, ages nine and three, I would definitely like to see more old-style equipment. High slides, jungle gyms, merry-go-rounds and the like are disappearing from playgrounds, and are leaving playgrounds so safe that the children are not engaged,” says Shannette Prince.

“Jungle gyms taught you hand-eye coordination, high slides allowed you to take risks (albeit small) and overcome fears. Merry-go-rounds taught you to work together and how to give your team (riders) a push when needed. Most importantly, the kids were tired when they left the playground.”

And some experts agree. “Kids need challenging play ground equipment to develop their muscles. The ‘less risky’ equipment might not give them enough sensory input and motor experiences for their strength and development,” says pediatric occupational therapist Lisa Shooman, a mom of three.

Pets have it better

Interestingly enough, pet playgrounds actually have better play stuff now. “I certainly mourn the loss of more interesting playscapes for children — there’s a dog park in Chelsea with mounds, rocks and ‘fallen’ log bridges. Every time I see it, I think, ‘It’s so sad that one of the most interesting play spaces in NYC is for dogs, not for kids,'” says Nicole Tucker of Green Apple Land Arts, a mom and trained landscape artist.

Safety is important too

Still, safety matters too. “It’s so tough to be a parent and want to keep your kids safe but want to help them take risks and grow,” says mom Michele Samuels.

She says that she tries to strike a balance, taking her son to old parks with big slides, but also making sure he wears proper safety gear when doing other activities like riding bikes. “I think there are precautions that parents need to take — for example, my son wears full pads and helmet when on any skateboard, scooter, skates, etc.”

More on playground safety

How to keep your kids safe on the playground
Real Moms Guide: Playground safety week
Why sliding with kids is dangerous

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