Playing With Fire

Playing with fire

The NY Times recently ran an article about how “safe” playgrounds are stunting our children’s growth. According to studies, super-soft landings, climbing equipment that is impossible to fall from, and safety-distance short slides lead to increases in fear and phobias, boredom, and lack of mastery. Paradoxically, they also fail to protect children effectively and in fact, apparently increase the incidence of serious injuries while decreasing the incidence of minor ones.

This news comes as no surprise to free range parents, who for a long time have bemoaned the increasing tendency to protect children from every possible bad thing that could happen to them. Many of us advocate the belief that fear-based parenting actually harms our children.

And now the empirical data is starting to back up our gut feeling.

I won’t get into all the arguments for letting your children do “dangerous” things. Suffice to say that both data and common sense point to letting our children live their lives a little more freely. Walk to a friend’s house, play in the yard alone, climb trees, jump on a trampoline, use real knives, answer the door when someone knocks (by the way, a different NY Times article shows that violent crime has gone DOWN since we were children, not up as the media would like us to believe). They’ll get more exercise, learn life skills, and perhaps most importantly–as the NY Times says–they’ll learn to be courageous and also how to judge danger accurately for themselves.

So go ahead. Do something dangerous with your kids this week. I’m not, of course, suggesting that you stick them in the car without seatbelts or encourage them to play with bears, but there is plenty of wholesome, developmentally rich, “dangerous” stuff you can do without being stupid.

Like play with fire.

Wielding a tiny firebrand

The finished product

Little one learning from his brothers


2 responses to “Playing With Fire

  1. Doesn’t it all have to do with liability (aka fear)? We recently went to pay our power bill and Anna asked the lady who always helps us if they have suckers. Guess why they don’t? Fear. So, Anna and I bought a huge bag of dum-dums and pass them out to strangers around Brunswick when we think of it. Also, the playground in River Hills has a merry-go-round and one of those giant metal geo-domes if you ever get a chance to play there. Yay for free-range parenting!! LOVE!

  2. I LOVE your dum-dums project. You are so rockin and your kids are so lucky to have you. And I want to go play on the merry-go-round–that was my favorite playground piece as a kid and of course they don’t exist in modern playgrounds.

    I think you’re right about liability, and unfortunately the liability fear has crept into private activities too, even inside peoples’s own homes. I understand people want their children to be safe (so do I!), but I also want my children to understand that life is NOT safe, and it’s important to be courageous, try new things, and hopefully develop some common sense along the way.

    I truly believe they are safer as free range children than if I were to circumscribe their activities with some 21st century idea of “safety” such as everything bite-sized before it hits their plate, and riding their bikes in a tiny circle in the driveway under my direct supervision instead of exploring the neighborhood (with regular check-ins). And the stats seem to be gradually backing us up on that.

    Thanks for posting. You always make me smile. 🙂

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