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Will Litigation over Playground Injuries Create a Generation of Neurotics?

Posted Nov 20, 2012 9:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The argument goes this way: Litigation and strict safety standards are making playground equipment so safe that kids never learn to take healthy risks, making them more susceptible to anxiety, phobias and neuroticism.

The Wall Street Journal makes the connection in an article chronicling research on outdoor play and featuring new playground equipment designed to look risky, even if it isn’t. The story quotes Ellen Sandseter, an associate professor at Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education in Norway, who believes eliminating risky play could increase neuroticism and phobias.

"It's important that play environments are as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible," Sandseter says. She added that broken arms and legs shouldn’t be considered serious injuries.

Among the studies supporting risky play:

• A study in Norway found that children who never climb trees are more likely to develop a fear of heights.

• A study in the journal Pediatrics found that strict safety standards in day-care centers discouraged kids from playing.

• Disadvantaged youths given more free play time had fewer work suspensions and arrests in their 20s than kids allowed little free play.

Some playgrounds are adding new equipment that increases the perception of risk, including: playground zip lines that are just a few feet off the ground, a 30-foot high pyramid of climbing nets that limits falls to six feet, and a cradle nest swing that holds several kids at once.

Hat tip to Pat’s Papers.

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