Parents want their children to be safe at all times, especially in school and at the playground. Playground equipment manufacturers have no alternative but adapt to this trend and replace the old metal structures and fast merry-go-rounds with slower, safer, plastic and rubber alternatives. But how does this tendency impact the children?
In a Washington Post article, paediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom argued that the outdoor play equipment of the past was preferable to today’s safe but boring solutions. She explains that the equipment nowadays labelled as dangerous was, in fact, an important contributor to proper child development.
Playground Equipment as a Safety Hazard and Health Promoter
Occupational therapists use equipment similar to merry-go-rounds while treating their patients for its ability to activate the children’s inner ear vestibular complex and improve their self-regulation ability and their sustained attention to various tasks. Used regularly, this equipment strengthens the children’s sense of balance and improves their attention over time.
But merry-go-rounds were removed from most playgrounds or replaced with slower, safer alternatives. What is the result? More children have difficulty concentrating in school, trouble staying in their seats, and they are clumsier than ever. That is because those old and “dangerous” merry-go-rounds, tall swings and teeter-totters helped children develop better balance, stand sturdier on their feet and learn faster.
Contemporary equipment is indeed safer, but it is also less challenging, less stimulating. Children get bored of it after just minutes and start using it in ways it was not intended for. It is not uncommon to see children climbing on the slide tunnel or climbing the slide from bottom to top, which is actually more dangerous than spinning in a fast merry-go-round or sliding from a tall structure.
But boredom is not the main issue with nowadays equipment – health is. Limiting the height, the speed, and the challenges at the playground means limiting the children’s sensory or vestibular input. Children need speed, change and challenges; they need to slide down fast, spin in circles, swing high up into the sky, and hang upside down from those monkey bars to grow healthy and be able to focus on learning and other tasks. Without these thrills, it is no wonder they prefer online gaming to spending time outdoors. What’s to be done?
Rethinking Child Safety Play Equipment
It is difficult to choose between a child’s safety and their proper development, so the solution is not to make this choice, but to create and install equipment that offers both. Instead of removing merry-go-rounds, install them on playground rubber matting to avoid slipping and falling! Add soft fall for playgrounds monkey bars and slides, and even falling will be fun! Add some kids outdoor furniture, outdoor shade structures, and more to complement this safe equipment.
Sturdybilt can help design and supply challenging, fun and safe park, school and commercial playground equipment. Contact them now to find out more on how they can restore fun, challenge, excitement and health at the playground!