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Let them play

March 31, 2014 - Marguerite Lanthier
Is there a new movement underway to make playgrounds less safe? Sometime in the late 1970s, a child in Chicago was seriously injured falling off a high slide. A lawsuit led to safer and some say more boring playgrounds. After nearly 30 years of trying to make playgrounds more safe, some are advocating playgrounds that encourage more risks and critical thinking from children. Growing up in the 1970s, my playground at school was blacktop with a chain-link fence around it, right next to a busy main road. There were hidden areas where you could climb over the fence or hang from the basketball hoops (which were attached to metal poles). We didn’t have swings or anything like that — just wide open spaces and rubber balls for kickball or dodgeball. If you fell, you got one heck of a scrape on your hands and knees and maybe hole in your jeans (if they weren’t reenforced by patches). Our neighborhood playground was a piece of woods next to the river. There were fallen trees, ponds, wooden bridges. We made up imaginary worlds, fished for turtles and crawfish, waded in dirty river water. Sometimes we ventured to areas that were off limits, like below the falls across the river, which you had to access by going behind the papermill. I guess it’s lucky we weren’t seriously hurt. But maybe playing in those areas made us more careful.



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