Seesaw laws and missing merry-go-rounds

Melissa Landry Jul. 25, 2011, 10:52am

In a recent article, John Tierney of the New York Times questions a disturbing trend that's taken over playgrounds across the country.

Seesaws are being torn out, jungle gyms lowered and merry-go-rounds closed down—all in the name of creating safer play for kids. But is it possible that all this bubble wrapping of our public playgrounds is doing more harm than good?

The article points out that researchers have found no credible evidence to demonstrate that these new safety measures have actually lowered the average risk on playgrounds. In fact, many researchers now believe children need to encounter risks on the playground so they can learn how to address challenges and overcome fear in real life.

Does this mean we should go back to the days of black asphalt and 10-foot tall monkey bars? Of course, not. But do we really need warning signs that read, "CAUTION: Slide may be hot"? (We already have heat warnings on coffee and irons, now we need them on slides too?) There is a way to strike a balance between safety and fun, but it's hard to get there when personal injury lawyers are writing the rules.

The fact is many of the new safety standards in place today have much more to do with avoiding litigation than protecting children—and that's not fair. More and more of our everyday lives are defined by the fear of lawsuits, but how much more are we willing to give up?

As it is already most of our kids will never know what it's like to ride a seesaw, scale a jungle gym or feel the rush of a spinning merry-go round. In the future, what else will we – and our children – have to lose to lawsuits?

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