Back to the Playground

Highlights from a 2007 article in the Boston Globe:

“There’s a real international playground movement taking hold around the world, and it’s really very exciting,” says David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University and author of the recently published book “The Power of Play.”

(which I have not read, but intend to)

“…this reexamination of playgrounds is triggered by the conviction that, in the United States in particular, playgrounds have become rather unfun — designed with only safety in mind, they’ve lost the capacity to excite or challenge children.”

“…according to Susan Solomon, an architectural historian and author of a history of American playgrounds…fear of personal injury lawsuits has shrunk the playground. Slides and swings today are lower, and therefore slower, than before. Raised platforms are girded by railings, and monkey bars are practically nonexistent. “The see-saw today,” points out Solomon, “is pretty much a horizontal bar that hardly moves in either direction. It just kind of jiggles a little bit.” School playgrounds in Broward County, in south Florida, now post “No Running” signs.”

… in several European countries it’s possible to get an advanced degree in playwork, and the far less litigious European legal climate gives playground designers far more leeway.”

“…according to David Rockwell (designer of the Imagination Playground), a playground with similar basic components could be built for far less. “All you need is a landscape that has sand and water with the ability to mix the two, and loose parts — many of which are things we found — for kids to play with,” he says. “It doesn’t get much more basic than that.”

“We’ve been overwhelmed with requests from people who are interested in seeing how these ideas would apply to their school or their neighborhood or their community,” Rockwell says.”

“Children need vertiginous experiences,” says Mary Rivkin, a professor of education at the University of Maryland. “They need fast and slow and that high feeling you get when you run down a hill. They need to have tippy things.”

“one problem with trying to child-proof playgrounds is that children, trying to make the safer playground equipment interesting, come up with unforeseen and often more dangerous ways of using it.”

Hmmm…making the playground safer can actually make it un-safe. Interesting.

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