Call Me A Helicopter Parent, But The Playground Is Terrifying
Taking your kids to the playground is supposed to be fun for both you and them. They get to run around, use their outside voices and make new friends, and you get watch from a nearby bench and maybe check your email or make small talk with other parents. But even though kids are designed to withstand the occasional tumble and fall, and new playgrounds seem safer than ever, I still find myself unable to relax. I keep a closer eye on my children while at the playground than I do when we are at home because the playground is inherently dangerous.
The modern playgrounds of today certainly appear to be more child friendly than those around when we were kids. Shredded rubber tires has replaced the concrete bases we used to scrape our knees on, the swing chains which used to pinch our fingers and hair are now coated in rubber, and the metal slides that scorched the back of our thighs all summer long are no longer, having been swapped out for plastic slides that cause massive hair static instead of first degree burns.
These brightly colored playscapes seem safer than the playgrounds of our youth, but if you still find yourself hovering over your child like I do, you’re not being overprotective. According to the CDC, over 200,000 children under the age of 14 are taken to the emergency room each year for injuries sustained while on the playground. And only slightly less than half of them, around 45%, are serious injuries such as broken bones, dislocated bones, concussions, internal injuries or amputations.
I’d like to think that my desire to stay within arms length of my children is partially because they are only two-years old. I tell myself that surely once they are in grade school they will be less likely to get hurt on the playground because they will understand not to walk straight off the opening that leads to the ladder or will be able to go down a slide without falling backwards and hitting their head. But the CDC claims children between the ages of five and nine are at the highest risk for playground injuries, meaning my dreams of sitting on a park bench making new mom friends while my kids play may never happen.
I know that sustaining and surviving the occasional scraped elbow or bruise is an important part of growing up. Learning how to cope with physical pain and the proper first-aid treatment for a minor cut or scrape are important life lessons. Surviving small accidents will help kids learn the delicate balance between taking risks and being safe. Children also need to explore how their bodies are capable of moving and it’s important to me that my children grow up with the view that movement and exercise are fun, not a chore. Unless I keep my children in a plastic bubble, accidents can and will happen no matter where we are and how vigilant I am. But I still plan on being that mom chasing her kids around the playground and cautioning them to be careful, at least for a little longer.