Recently I brought my five year old god daughter to a playground, and the first thing that struck me was a notice at the entry gate which read.
No running No shouting and No physical contact.
I immediately thought ‘well that rules out Kiss Chasing’, which was a favourite of mine when I was a pre-teen. Depending who was doing the chasing I was either as quick as a gold medal sprinter or as slow as an arthritic riddled octogenarian. It also reminded me of another game we played as children, ‘No laughing, no talking no moving!’ The person who was ‘on’ would turn around three times with their eyes closed while reciting slowly ‘no laughing, no talking, no moving’ when they stopped and opened their eyes the rest of the gang playing would have to remain totally still, if you moved you were put out of the game. Is that what our playgrounds are becoming? A place where the only game played is No Laughing, No Talking, No Moving??
While I’m all for safety, and of course we want to protect our children, have we taken it a step too far? The playground had a safe surface, if a child did trip while running they wouldn’t even graze a knee. A far cry from the tarmac surface on the playground in Bushy Park. I remember picking bits of loose tarmac out of my knee many times. The playground equipment in Bushy Park in the ‘80s was a little like Total Wipe-out, except it was metal and wood on tarmac, instead of rubber and padding.
We grabbed onto a spinning metal pyramid, hanging two feet above the ground moving at a rapid speed. We sat on a wooden roundabout and got splinters in our thighs. We stood on the swings, and swung so high, hanging onto the metal chains, and when we couldn’t go any higher we jumped off while in full swinging motion. And yes there was blood spilt regularly and the odd sprain or occasionally a broken bone, and we always envied the one in the hard cast. It was like a rite of passage. We compared scars and stitches and boasted the sized of our bruises. And it was all such fun!
Surely there is a middle ground. It is great that playgrounds all have safe surface, and the playground equipment nowadays has a lot to offer children by way of fun and activity. But seriously, No Running? That can’t be right. No shouting, how else does an eight year old boy communicate? And what’s with the No Physical Contact. Of course we don’t want children pushing or shoving each other, and certainly even in my day some types of contact are unacceptable, but should we have a rule that stops children from holding hands, hugging each other, lifting a smaller child, even God forbid wiping a nose for a friend. I guess we don’t have to worry about them not being allowed to mop up each other’s blood.
We give out that children now have sedentary lives, that they spend too much time in front of the TV, Xbox and computers. So when we do coerce them to go to the playground the least we can do is allow them to run around, make noise, play together and just be children.