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Let the Little People Play

Michal Eisikowitz

Are the delightfully exhilarating — if a bit dangerous — parks of our youth facing extinction?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

If most of your time at the playground is spent exhorting your six-year-old daughter not to run up slides, you’re not alone. And there’s probably a good reason for her shenanigans: she’s bored. Ever wonder where all the seesaws have gone? The jungle gyms? The tire swings? Playgrounds of the 21st century have undergone total makeovers, resembling little of the intimidating yet enthralling steel structures of our youth. Thanks to increasingly strict regulations and lawsuit-driven concerns, gone are the high slides, merry-go-rounds, firefighter poles, monkey bars, high swing sets, and rolling factory slides. And to a great extent, gone are the challenge, excitement — and fun. Modern playgrounds have gotten lame, says Susan Solomon, author of American Playgrounds and the Science of Play. “They don’t allow kids to take chances. Risk involves uncertain outcomes — going fast, reaching great heights, or even hiding, in order to overcome primal fears and create exhilaration.” Today’s parks are gentrified places, featuring plasticized materials, rounded edges, and super-soft ground surfaces. They are utopia for the toddler and user-friendly to the extreme — but are they cultivating a generation of wimps?

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