Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids

Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids

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When you imagine a playground, chances are
it looks something like this. There’s usually a slide, a bridge, and a
high point with a domed roof. That’s what makes this a playground, and
this, and this. But what about this? This isn’t a junkyard. It’s called an adventure playground. Here, there are no plastic play structures
– just things like old tires, wood planks, hammers and nails. Places like this represent one of the most
debated ideas in play architecture: that playgrounds should be designed to let kids take more risks. Now, this nightmare for helicopter parents
is the hottest new thing in American playgrounds, because there’s growing evidence that play
like this is a whole lot healthier — and safer — for kids. They can play with very dangerous
tools, they can take really dangerous risks and overcome
them. And this fills up a tremendous sense of self
confidence in themselves, which is really quite fascinating to watch. That’s Marjory Allen. She was a British landscape architect and
children’s welfare advocate around the middle of the century. In 1945, she visited Copenhagen, where she
met an architect named Carl Theodor Sorensen. Two years earlier, during the German occupation
of Denmark, Sorensen noticed a problem: kids in his neighborhood weren’t using playgrounds. In fact, they were playing just about everywhere
else — even in construction sites and bombed out buildings. So in a housing development in the suburbs
of Copenhagen, Sorensen closed off an empty lot and filled it with building materials,
discarded objects, and tools. Here, kids could dig, build, and invent on
their own. The play structures were ultimately designed
by the kids themselves. Sorensen called it a junk playground — and
kids and parents loved it. When she returned to England, Marjory Allen
started opening similar playgrounds across London. And she renamed them: from junk to adventure. From there, they became a global phenomenon. They spread to Minneapolis, Boston, Toronto,
Tokyo, Houston, Berkeley, Berlin. And to create these playgrounds, designers
had to introduce a critical element: Controlled risk. In this context, a risk isn’t the same thing
as a hazard. When you’re climbing a tall tree, a rotten
branch is a hazard: the threat is unexpected. But how high you climb is a risk: it’s manageable,
and requires you to actively make a decision. You can break the elements of controlled risk
down into six categories: heights, speed, tools, dangerous elements, rough and tumble
play, and the ability to disappear, or become lost. And a good adventure playground includes a
mix of these. Designers also focus on separation of space. To give kids the feeling of discovering things
on their own, parents have to stay out. That can mean installing a physical barrier
— or providing things like restrooms, cafés, and seating, so that parental experience isn’t
an afterthought. Finally, designers fill it with loose parts. These are the manipulatable objects — the
planks, barrels, bricks, and tools — that fuel risky play. The idea behind all these design elements
is that kids respond well to being treated seriously: if they’re presented with risky
items with a serious functional purpose, they’ll respond cautiously and conduct more experimentation. But if presented with an overly safe, static
space, they often wind up seeking dangerous thrills that the built environment fails to
provide, which can result in higher injury rates than risky play at adventure playgrounds. In the US, a culture of lawsuit-proof playscape
design means that overly safe playgrounds are the norm. And design philosophy has focused on how to
reduce height, movement, and hard materials. That hasn’t made playgrounds better. When Marjory Allen visited American playgrounds
in 1965, she called them “an administrator’s heaven and a child’s hell.” But adventure playgrounds have recently begun
to catch on in the US — perhaps due to an effort to introduce more unstructured play. And their construction comes with a fair share
of criticism. “They’re making kids play with hammers
and nails — that’s not adventure, it’s just work. They’re tricking kids into building their
own playground. Adventure playgrounds do have downsides: They’re
pretty ugly, they require a lot of space, and they need resources to staff and maintain. And as with any playground, there is opportunity
for injury. But the underlying philosophy of risky play
can help kids live better lives. For one thing, riskier playgrounds encourage
more activity. A study comparing playgrounds in London, where
risky play spaces are popular, to those in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York found
that children using London’s playgrounds were up to 18 percent more physically active. The London playgrounds were cheaper and boasted
fewer injuries, too. And multiple studies have shown that children
who engage in risky play have better risk detection, creativity, and self esteem. The playground is one of the only kinds of
architecture designed specifically for children. And if the standard model we’ve decided
on is seen as boring by its users — that’s a problem. Better design can fix that — even if it’s
a little risky. I had to look through so many pictures of playgrounds for this story that I decided to use Wix to create a website collecting all of the ugliest and saddest pictures of playgrounds that I could find. And now I have a perfectly curated arrangement of pictures of playgrounds next to graveyards and slides leading into dumpsters and whatever these kid-friendly statues are. If you’re looking for a simple way to share your passion about broken infrastructure or whatever it is that you’re into these days, you should absolutely head to Wix. To create your own website just like this, click the link below. Wix does not directly impact our editorial, but their support makes videos like this possible. So check them out.

100 thoughts on “Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids”

  1. I got this great new playground idea

    It’s a plastic rectangular shaped device with a screen that can show images at fast rates. This can be used to play games or watch videos

  2. I agree with this completely when i was a child me and my friends would go to ditches u could walk in a make secret bases rather than going to a playground
    A dead body ended up being found in it and we had more information about it than anyone.
    Because near us there was this shed and teenager's had parties there every week and we knew the guy murdered was with them aswell.

  3. 台灣父母甚至禁止小孩手上沾到泥土,看到bugs就逃走…
    不可能接受這種點子 🙁

    小時候亂用遊樂器材被打的舉手XD ///

  4. The concept of controlled risk playgrounds are interesting, and space from adults is good, but giving the kids hammers and nails does sound a bit extreme as Iwould have totally sword fought with a hammer ad a kid or jokingly hit someone only to accidentally actually hurt them. Finding the right balance here seems important.

  5. I grew up playing in 80s like playgrounds. My parents would look around for the most dangerous places for me to play – and yeah a few times I got gashes, but I LEARNED.
    I've fallen out of trees but I learned how to climb better.

  6. Yep!!! I'm in ECE and most of my classes stress how important play is for children. These more risky playgrounds are rich for development and learning for kids!

  7. This looks cool but I really dont trust a kid not to hit someone with a hammer. Sure most kids wouldnt intentionally but there is always that one evil kid who would.

  8. There used to be an adventure playground near me when I was younger, it was completely made out of wood and it was huge, and had tons of hidden tunnels and passages where you can hide and chill out. Then they tore it down and replaced it with a boring plastic one..

  9. My friend who is risky he’s has climbed very high and showed me fun things to do at playgrounds and there all dangerous

  10. When i was a kid i used to always climb the roof but when they decided to expand it so that the kids stop doing that i just thought to myself cool more roof to climb on

  11. I think one baby dying is too many. I’m ok with my kids getting a “safe” playground in our neighborhood if it means one less child being critically injured. They can play in the dirt or climb a tree or build stuff in our backyard.

  12. An empty lot full of kids running around with skrewdrivers and boards with nails in them . . . . . . . a playground you say?

  13. I undoubtedly wish I had access to places like this as a child. This is an important concept well worth giving careful consideration.

  14. I actually grew up with risky playgrounds, at my school we could build anything and invent anywhere we wanted. We had so much fun.

  15. I think the best formula for a playground design is to put as many thrills (even risky ones) in as possible while still accounting for when it all goes sideways.

    Not to mention kids will break every rule possible on a feature.

  16. Vox: "Controlled risk"
    Also Vox: "There are N A I L S free to be used here"
    Muricans: Well guns are safe so that must be safe too

  17. When I was younger, near where I lived there was a playground that was a adventure playground that looked a little more like what we consider a normal playground. I used to go there often because it was fun, until one day they closed it off. A few years later where that playground used to be is a aMaZiNg HuGe CoLoRfUl SaFe PlAyGrOuNd!

  18. For me fun is climbing on the dirt pile , standing on the tire swing ( which was really old before we had to take it down) and looking for my cats in the hay loft

  19. my school had a place where you could climb up and then go through a tube to a slide and me and my friends always climbed on top of the tube and one of my friends fell off and sprained his heel so yeah safe playgrounds aren’t that safe

  20. There were two playgrounds my parents took me to that were all wood and a little dangerous looking back and those two were the best. This video reigns to true

  21. People need to stop bubble wrapping their kids, I broke my arm on a Play ground, but guess what bones heal.

  22. My place used to have a adventure playground.

    Now it's just a safe playground. I used to love that adventure playground.

  23. There was one massive one near my school and it was great everyone loved it people would get hurt but no more than usual and it’s just part of growing up

  24. I live in a English village, playing in fields and forests was the norm for us it was only until I started watching YouTube and American to I realised that playgrounds like that were a thing. We had a metal slide down a hill some swings nailed into a oak tree branch and a square thing that had chains and a log hanging on it that went back and forth then untied the hill the old mine shafts, not the deep and dangerous ones, they had like hollowed out spaces we made into houses and shops it was like a kid city. Best play area ever.

  25. In Berlin we have nice playgrounds. I am glad we don't have these plastik playgrounds.
    Ouers are out of wood and other stuff.And water pumps big swings and stuff i youse to love it.
    If you want to no what i man type berlin zoo playground.

  26. British playgrounds are the best I love how fun and risky they are. We learn here by getting hurt and going oww let's not do that. If u from the uk do u agree????

  27. As a kid we used to play in small rock quarry, we had shovels and and tools and a few Large(six feet tall) spools from heavy cable. We smashed rocks, fell down and got hurt enough to know our limits without needing a hospital.

  28. I think that the adventure playgrounds are a bit too dangerous.

    What if a kid might get hurt by a nail or a kid might get hit by a hand. I think that people should just build BETTER playgrounds instead of using adventure playgrounds. Also if you want to make a better playground they you should add more things for the kids to do

  29. Adventure playgrounds are great, the one I went to had a massive tire swing and you jumped off into straw!

  30. Um i never got bored of a normal playground tbh our playground was more better than most playgrounds but still

  31. Kids try to make safe playgrounds unsafe by climbing on top of it whilst kids at “non-safe” playgrounds are a lot more cautious

  32. I'm not worried about kids hurting themselves*, I'm worried about kids with aggression issues or kids too young to have developed empathy hurting *each other

  33. When u went to the local adventure playground after primary and in secondary 😎 seeing who would fall from the walkways

  34. So in Mexico my neighborhood had a lot of kids. They made a "safe" playground for us… we would jump off the roof and somersault from the swings. A kid broke his wrist. It ended torn up. So then we started playing in construction sites for new houses, making "tents" out of plywood and walking across planks between deep trenches for plumbing. Aside from a few cuts and scratches, no one ever got seriously hurt.

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