New Playgrounds Are Safe—and That’s Why Nobody Uses Them
In a not surprising article from, of all places, a medical website, comes new research on the consequences of safety guidelines for children’s playgrounds. Apparently they have become so safe, so uninteresting that children no longer want to play on them. This contributes to a reduction in the physical activity they were of course designed to encourage.
According to the study, the new, safer equipment often became boring because children mastered it so quickly. To make it more challenging, kids tended to improvise, walking up the slide the wrong way, or using supports as a climbing apparatus. Sometimes younger children were drawn to the older kids’ equipment, presumably because it presented a more interesting set of challenges.
Lead author Kristen Copeland, a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, commented that some participants said that overly strict safety standards made much of the climbing equipment uninteresting, thus reducing children’s physical activity.
“An important message from this study is that well-intentioned policies may have unintended consequences for preschool-aged children’s physical development,” Copeland said. “Daily physical activity is essential for preschool-aged children’s development and for preventing obesity…. In essence, in ensuring that young children are smart and safe, we may also be keeping them sedentary.”