I’ve been that parent. The one who shimmies sideways with hands raised while my kid toddles along the platform of a higher-than-arm’s-reach playground. I’ve shadowed my child as she’s navigated her way from bouncy duck, to teeter totter, to swing – ready to pounce if she loses her footing.
Now that I’m on child number three, I’ve loosened the reins a bit. I’ve learned that no amount of hovering will keep my children out of harm’s way, and try my best to let them run free on the playground without my guided hand or dictatorial direction.
The reality is, as much as we’d love to bubble wrap our kids and keep them safe in all scenarios, having adults on the playground can sometimes hurt kids - literally.
Heather Clare, a New York-based mother of two, is sharing a chilling tale of what seemed like an innocent day of playground play with her then one-year-old toddler. Doing what many parents do, the mom slid down the slide with her daughter on her lap. As they slid, the child’s leg got caught between the mother’s leg and the side of the slide, snapping the child’s leg in two.
The moment the child’s leg broke was caught in a chilling photo of the pair, and the mom shares the graphic capture on Facebook each year as a reminder to parents of the dangers that can result from sliding down slides with their children. This year alone, her post has been shared more than 105,000 times.
When Clare arrived at the ER, her doctor lectured her on the commonality of this type of injury, stating that it is one of the top-three reasons young children are seen in hospital during the spring and summer months. Clare hopes that by sharing her story, more parents will become aware of the potential dangers of sliding with small kids.
An article shared inToday’s Parent recently, titled “We need to stop worrying and just let our kids play,” exposes a new New York-based adventure playground that has one simple rule: no parents allowed.
Looking more like a scrapyard than a place for play, Play:groundNYC appears at first to be unsafe for kids. On the property is a scattering of broken-down stationary bikes, rusty warped wheels, scrap metal, broken planks, and a bunch of tires that sit in a haphazard pile. Also on site is a tool shed filled with hammers, axes and saws, available for sign out should a child wish to take their hand at building.
Based on a trend that stems from Europe, the purpose of the 50,000-square-foot adventure playground is to encourage children to engage in riskier play, emphasizing the benefits of self-directed play and the positive impact that can result from the absence of parents.
The organized movement is run by experts who have studied children’s development through play, and understand the benefits of “freely chosen, self-directed, intrinsically motivated play” for kids. The movement is getting traction, with adventure playgrounds popping up all over the U.S. and Canada.
Independence is an important life skill that more and more children are being deprived of learning, thanks to the influx of helicopter parenting.
If we want our kids to be able to identify risks, and navigate through life independently, the best thing we can do for them is just step out of the way. Perhaps implementing some adult-free playgrounds in our own backyard would be the best first step towards cutting the cord and giving our children the freedom to play. Being more hands off today, could be what keeps them safe when they’re all grown up.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee.