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.