Sunday’s Column – Let Kids Play

Jul 7, 2013 by

Not long ago, I visited a local playground. The exact location will remain anonymous to protect the fun-crushers.

It had the latest fencing to protect the precious little ones, or keep undesirables out. I’m still not sure which. The playground equipment was high tech, no rough edges to cause a boo boo. And the perfect ground cushioning was in place, so no one’s snowflake would get an owee.

And then there was the sign. After reading it, I was in a funk for days.

1. There is to be adult supervision at all times. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Yes, children are always the cause of the world’s problems. We must protect them from each other. Put a bunch of kids together and all hell always breaks out. They just can’t have fun without adults around.

2. No jumping from swings in motion.

Isn’t that the point? I mean, it’s all about who can go the highest. Who can jump the longest?

3. No climbing except on the climbing wall.

Did you even have a climbing wall on your playground? I thought the whole purpose of playgrounds was to climb on any and every thing possible. Hanging upside down from whatever is a rule of playgrounds.

4. No jumping from any playground equipment.

And how, pray tell, can we play Superman?

5. No throwing of mulch or rocks from the playground.

I guess this means we are to use imaginary missiles during our wars or to fight off the bad guys. The question remains as to how one knows if one is hit.

6. No touching of someone ahead of you on the slide.

I don’t even know where to go with that one. Everyone likes a little push for extra speed.

7. No climbing up the slides the wrong way.

Anyone who has not raced up a slide “the wrong way” to see if they could make it, please raise your hand. Still waiting.

8. No climbing, pulling or leaning on the fence.

The purpose of a fence is to climb it. And has anyone ever leaned on a fence while talking with a friend or neighbor?

9. No wrestling, pushing, grabbing, kicking, or using any other physical aggression with each other.

Okay, I’ll let the kicking part slide. But it’s a playground. No tackling the man with the ball? No king of the hill?

And that was it. At least it wasn’t a Top 10 list, only nine. I remember reading that thinking there were a lot of “no’s” and “don’ts.” There wasn’t a single “yes” or “do.”

And the word “fun” was never mentioned. Ever.

Why? Because we are all about rules; about not being sued because some precious snowflake actually went outside to play and got an owee. Our “play” is becoming as structured and regulated as everything else. We are too legalistic and ready to sue at a moment’s notice. Coffee too hot? Sue them. And yes, that happens.

I read that sign and looked at all the shining and, yes, cool, playground equipment. I saw the ground padding. And I thought to myself how can anyone have fun. Too many rules. Too many “don’ts.”

As parents, we try to protect our children from harm. But it seems more and more we are protecting them from fun. And yes, during fun time, one can get a scrape or a scratch or sometimes even a sprained or broken ankle from taking the whole Superman thing a little too far. It’s called life. It’s called the ER, where the SONs of Thunder have a running account.

I thought up my own rules. Yes, there are a couple of “don’ts” but I think the tone follows the whole “have fun playing outside” as it was meant to be.

1. No electronics of any kind. NO EXCEPTIONS. 2. It’s called dirt. It won’t kill you. You can clean up later. 3. Be nice. 4. Wait your turn. 5. Share. 6. Only those kids actually playing in the playground can make up the rules for various games and contests. 7. If you get a boo boo, we have bandaids. 8. Drink plenty of water. 9. Have fun.

Let the kids play. Let them play and follow their own rules.

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