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Making Playgrounds a Little More Dangerous (nytimes.com)
273 points by Reedx 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 262 comments





A recent episode of 99% Invisible: Play Mountain looked at how the playground got to be safe and boring.

"A two-year-old boy named Frank Nelson was climbing a 12-foot-tall slide in a Chicago park when he slipped through a railing and hit his head so hard that it caused permanent brain damage. The park system of Chicago was sued and had to pay out millions of dollars to Nelson’s family.

At that time, in the late 70s, there were no laws, or real industry standards when it came to the safety of playground equipment. Frank Nelson’s fall was one of a number of lawsuits that led the Consumer Product Safety Commission to publish the Handbook for Public Playground Safety in 1981. Then another standards organization, the ASTM, published its own guidelines. Pretty soon these rulebooks were in the hands of insurance companies and parks departments and school boards across the United States. To this day, almost all playgrounds have to be approved by a certified playground safety inspector.

And safety inspectors look for places where kids could fall, or get pinched, poked, or trapped. As you might imagine, all of these rules and regulations make the job of playground designers a lot harder. This is the reason why the playgrounds that you see everywhere all look more or less the same. A majority of playgrounds are “post and deck” systems with standard swings, slides, and monkey bars in one piece of equipment."

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/play-mountain/


A friend of mine designs playgrounds for kids, and is very good at it (his designs win 90+% of the competitive bids he enters).

He's also worked hard to put in place a playground safety inspector certification system over here.

One of his core ideas is that there are two types of safety: subjective safety and objective safety.

For example, kids quickly learn that falling from a height is painful, and experiences such as that teaches them how to evaluate their own safety when say climbing. This is the subjective safety.

However they're usually not going to be able to correctly evaluate the safety of climbing a playhouse where they might get their head stuck between two planks because the opening between the planks were just right for their heads to fit, but not their bodies. Or that the hood drawstring in their jacket can get stuck in small wedges and openings, especially dangerous near slides. Such issues go under the objective safety.

Now, his point is that you can make playgrounds which are objectively very safe, without making them any less exciting. Part of the excitement comes from allowing the kids to explore their subjective safety boundaries, but a lot comes from the design itself.

He often works with one of the major suppliers of playground equipment on their new designs, but a large part of his secret sauce is how he places that equipment on the playground. Many playground designers (which at least here are mostly landscape architects) seem to just put one piece there and another over there, without giving much thought to facilitating the flow of spontaneous play from one piece of equipment to the next.

Anyway, he could explain this a lot better than me. I just help him out with some presentations and such every now and then.


This seems really similar to techniques I've heard about in road design. A lot of safety improvements are pretty well compensated by changes in people's behavior. For example, if you make shoulders and lanes wider, people will feel like they're going slower and speed up to compensate. Even with things you wouldn't expect, like the dedicated/third brake light made mandatory for cars in 1986, there were significant changes in behavior (decreased following time) to compensate. However, there are many safety improvements that are more or less invisible to the end user. The best example is rumble strips -- they're never noticed until they do their job.

Your idea works until you look at something like the autobahn. Having driven on it I can say what I feel the main factor to safety is driver behavior. I see more turn signals used and when someone is going faster the other folks tend to move out of their way.

Its more of a social mindset that creates safe roads than anything IMO.


Driver behaviour on the Autobahn is not some accident. Germany has the most expensive drivers licence in the world due to the number of lessions you have to take to even be allowed to take the exams, with most people opting in to even more lessons to pass the exams. To pass the practical exam you have to drive pretty much perfectly (a small number of people never pass). So everybody knows how to drive correctly and has it drilled into them at least once in their life how important that is. Obviously with routine some things slip, but nobody wants to get rear-ended by a car going 120 mph on the Autobahn either.

So you are saying people are trained to be personally responsible?

I agree with that. The US has been training people to blame others for several decades now. The difference is obvious


It also empowered generations of risk averse people into positions of veto power. Removing them is surely not safe.

>Your idea works until you look at something like the autobahn

Just because there are other methods to achieve safety doesn't mean the ones I mentioned don't work.

The Autobahn still has rumble strips and German cars still have airbags.


This is a really good take on safety and tooling that can be applied to a lot of things. Thanks for explaining this!

Do you have an example of a playground that he’s designed that highlights these principles?


I like the dichotomy, but for me the names "subjective safety" and "objective safety" make no sense.

"Obvious dangers" vs "non-obvious dangers" seems like much clearer language, even if it's the case that there's a way to squint to make the terminology you used make sense. Kids will naturally explore the boundaries around obvious dangers.


I think subjective/objective makes more sense than obvious and not. Subjective danger is things that feel dangerous but aren’t. Objective danger is things that don’t feel dangerous but are.

For example: a rollercoaster is subjectively dangerous but objectively safe. That’s its whole design objective, feeling dangerous while being totally safe.


Subjective danger is things that feel dangerous but aren’t.

That's not what the word "subjective" means. Language is malleable and all that, but "subjective" doesn't mean "feels like but isn't". Not even close.

Objective danger is things that don’t feel dangerous but are.

And wow, that's really not what "objective" means.


Subjective (adj)

1) Dependent on or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world.

2) Based on a given person's experience, understanding, and feelings; personal or individual.

#1 is exactly “feels dangerous but isn’t”. #2 also works because it fits into magicalhippo’s narrative about kids falling and adjusting their safety boundaries.

I won’t bother about “objective danger” because you didn’t either.


Surely your qualm is with the “but isn’t” right? “It feels dangerous” is certainly subjective.

I think you’re not breaking things down sufficiently.

Subjective is how things feel, regardless of how they are.

Objective is how things are, regardless of how they feel.

Should probably replace feel with “are perceived” but feel is more contextual here.


I think it's literally about dangers coming from the objects vs the dangers that are coming from the subjects behaviours.

You want to to eliminate unnecessary dangers introduced by the objects, and those are fully under the designers control. It's not reasonable or possible to try fully control the subjects to eliminate all risk.


+1 on seeing examples of this. I'd love to see what a "good" design looks like so I know what to look for should I become a parent.

Here are some I like in SV:

Magical Bridge in Palo Alto. Caters to kids with developmental disabilities and kids who like to scramble over fun obstacles.

Magic Mountain in Coyote Point.

San Mateo Central Park. I think this one might be older than a lot of current standards.

For a playground that gets it all wrong, there’s a pirate ship structure in Vail, CO near the main base. It claims 5-12, but it ends up being very dangerous, even for adults, for all the wrong reasons. Hint to playground designers: make your slides as adventurous as you want, but give a good run-out before the slide dumps you on your arse two feet above the ground. That hurts without adding any sense of adventure.


Magic Mountain in Coyote Point used to be so different. A giant mound of concrete that we'd ride down on cardboard sheets. This century's version with its metal slides is fine, but not the same.

In South Korea, playgrounds are everywhere. They look very very dangerous on my point of view because I've never seen those kind of design and activity when I was a kid. I've been here 4 years and I have never seen one get injured on them.

That sounds really interesting. Does he have a website or something we could look at?

Does your friend have a website? If not, can you see me contact info? Email in bio.

Yes it would be helpful if you could point us to some resources about playground design.

It’s a little like terrorism. You can have tens of thousands of people die from cars, smoking and obesity. But if a fraction of that dies from terrorists the whole country changes.

If one child gets hurt from a slide or abducted by a stranger the whole country changes to avoid this risk but all the other risks are silently accepted.


Absolutely. I did the math recently to come up with a comparison for how many people heart disease kills. Suppose the Columbine massacre had never stopped. Rather, all day, every day, the same rate of death kept happening as during the 49 minutes of the attack. You would need 5 of those continuous attacks ongoing at all times in order to be equivalent to heart disease in the US.

Does that account for likely years of life lost? If you die of heart disease at 65, that's many fewer years lost than someone getting killed at 15.

As gruesome/horrifying as these sorts of calculations are, I do take your point. We often get overly worried about unlikely dangers when obvious ones are staring us in the face.


To be very honest heart disease is also overreacted against. Especially when people read things like "food x causes % increase in heart disease"

But in the end it is a "natural" cause of death., It's not like people wouldn't be dying of something else

20yrs extra? Sure. 0.5% increase in heart disease for people over 60? Don't waste my time


I have to think a lot of kids died on playgrounds before the late 70s without that happening.

I'd guess that something changed at that time so the country was finally rich enough that this became a problem that got attention from The Powers That Be.


You hit the nail on the head. From the article:

>“Many agencies fear being sued if a child gets hurt,” said Teri Hendy, the president of an Ohio-based playground consultancy, Site Masters. Ms. Hendy blamed outdated federal rules on playground design developed decades ago by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. She favors more flexible guidelines, arguing that playgrounds don’t have to be boring to be safe.

We got to this point because of lawsuits and regulation. Unless we make parents sign waivers for their kids to use the playground, we can expect more of the same. It just takes one lawsuit to ruin it for everyone else, so that's what organizations like these really need to protect themselves from.


The reality is different though.

There is nothing in this world quite so soul crushingly painful as having your child die while doing something that the parent and perhaps people in general, consider to be 'safe.'

For me, it took some time to fall madly and deeply in love with my spouse, and to my surprise I developed that attachment instantly to my children. That same sort of passion that you would do anything to keep them safe, to help them grow up to be the people you want them to be.

When a child dies doing something that "should" have been ok, it creates a searing, wrenching, soul destroying since of loss and guilt and anger and pain. No waiver, no explanation of statistics, no explanation of preventative measures, nothing can salve that wound. And so parents, even ones of limited means, have been known to invest everything they have, time, money, energy, into making someone pay in the hopes it will make the grieving parent feel slightly less pain.

It doesn't make for less pain of course, only time and distance can mute the pain, but that can't be explained either because the desire to do something is irrationally over powering.


Your child could have slipped when getting off a train and permanently injured themselves, or in any other number of ways.

Low probability high severity events trigger a cognitive bias that makes people attempt to make things '100% safe'. There are two problems with that.

1: nothing can ever be made 100% safe so those low probability high impact events still happen from time to time.

2: making things safe hits a steep diminishing returns curve after some point, and the opportunity cost of creating said safety level starts to outweigh the benefits of not creating it.


To put it bluntly, the increased happiness of millions of children is worth a couple children's health, or even lives.

That's a tough sell, but that sounds reasonable (well, I can talk, I don't have children). This is basically the same reasoning Yudkowsky presented with his dust speck vs torture argument argument: a sufficiently widespread benefit, however small, will outweigh a sufficiently improbable horrible event.


Well, I have a dozen kids, and I agree.

Of course, part of the reason for so many kids is to minimize the percentage of my family that would be lost if one did die. My wife's uncle had the postcard family, one boy and one girl in a cute little city house with a picket fence. The daughter died, and the father completely fell apart. He lost 100% of his daughters. It is too late for him to create a replacement.

Most families today are tiny. I think this has affected our perception of loss. The risk of 100% loss has become so great that people can't allow the risk of traditional play.


Of course, part of the reason for so many kids is to minimize the percentage of my family that would be lost if one did die.

I think I just read the most insane sentence I'll read all year.


How is it insane when this is the historic reason behind large families?

I'm not touching, "but it's historical!", because that's a problematic idea in of itself. Lots of things are, "historical", but don't make sense in the modern world.

Say you had two kids, and you lost both. One way to think of it is your lost all the children you ever had. Fine.

Say you had a DOZEN kids, and you lost six of them. Same thinking as above, you've lost half the children you ever had. Ok, but you still lost six kids!. Six kids have to go through life knowing they have lost six siblings. Having that somehow be better is pure insanity. Or at the very least the utmost self-centered thing I've ever heard of - you're hoping that the loss off 6 out of 12 kids is somewhat less of an impact on yourself when compared to losing two kids?

These are human beings, not cupcakes you're bringing to a picnic. If you brought two cupcakes, and hoping to have one yourself, but both were eaten before you could have your own cupcake, that stinks - but you're just out of a cupcake. Then yeah: bring a dozen cupcakes to share, and have yourself your own cupcake.


If I remember right, reducing child mortality actually decrease the number of children per family, so it's not that strange. Of course it's bluntly said and reductionist, but I think it has a basis in fact.

You've increased your likelihood of experiencing tragic loss 12-fold!

Does your stance on redundancy of loved ones also extend to the number of spouses you have?

You might still want to learn how to deal with grief and loss though. If you had 12 kids to avoid the possibility of losing all of your kids or all of one gender of your kids, it might still happen anyway. What if you lose your favorite one? What if you still lose all of them? I don’t wish any of that on you or anyone, but I just have to say that breeding for redundancy to avoid the pain of loss strikes me as being, and this is putting it mildly, a tad immature.

I think that's kind of missing GP's point that, while

> the increased happiness of millions of children is worth a couple children's health, or even lives.

might be totally true, it's borderline-impossible to convince concerned (or worse, bereaved) parents of this in many cases, for human, not utilitarian, reasons.


But is this really caused by grieving parents and not blood-sucking lawyers and idiotic bureaucrats?

I'm in Japan and there's a lot of dangerous playground equipment, hikes, stairwells, rooftop decks, onsens, alcohol that can be bought from vending machines, etc... And yet without all those 'experts'and authorities protecting society from these dangers, here it feels safety is many, many tiers better what we have in America.


But bereaved parents are only a small portion of the people at the time. They alone can't make changes. The rest of society has to agree to them.

> To put it bluntly, the increased happiness of millions of children is worth a couple children's health, or even lives.

I don't think that's an accurate reframing. The opportunity cost isn't just happiness (by making playgrounds boring, presumably) but also safety, and therefore lives, in other areas. When you hit diminishing returns trying to make playgrounds 100% safe, spending the same resources on e.g. road design will save more lives.


No, it isn't.

We can all survive with a little less happiness. If our playgrounds are a little more boring, we can all deal. (though if anything they are a lot nicer than the ones I grew up with) Happiness is a good that can come from many sources, and while it's nice to have, if it is reduced, we can usually adapt to it by finding a new source.

Happiness shouldn't be a reason to trade lives.


That reminds me of the villian robot in I, Robot movie. They don't want to harm human, they just want to keep them in the house, so that there is less crime, and less people die.

It may take away freedom. But freedom should not be a reason to trade lives.

Some may say the playground is about happiness, some may say it's about the freedom to experience.


Another thought that adds to this viewpoint: slightly more dangerous playgrounds teach kids how to play more safely, and they grow into adults who also know how to play responsibly. Kids who never get a chance to develop good balance (with the immediate feedback of bruises and scrapes) will not be as good at avoiding falls and other physical dangers as those who have good balance. They also won't know their own physical limits, and won't know which activities are too dangerous.

That's exactly the point. It's not that playgrounds should be more dangerous for the heck of it, or just because kids think it's more fun that way. It's because learning to deal with danger is an essential life skill and we are now depriving our kids of it.

The discussion is about quadriplegia, not scrapes and bruises.

The discussion began on the topic of playgrounds and safety. All people have the risk of injury and death at all times. Some types of injury are not severe and have few lasting consequences, others are of the converse type. Paralysis is incredibly uncommon when compared to scrapes and bruises, which is why I brought up that subtopic.

> Your child could have slipped when getting off a train and permanently injured themselves, or in any other number of ways.

But thanks to our laws, we don't have to worry about playground sets.

Low probability / high impact events are a fact of life and are a valid cause for regulations. Worker safety laws in the early 1900s were such that people more regularly lost fingers or even limbs in heavy machinery. It still happens today, but safety programs and safety regulations have made such events far less likely.


There's a difference between playgrounds and work environments: as far as I am aware, workers aren't any more miserable in safer work environment. Children in "safer" playgrounds, are.

The value of life is not infinite. It is perfectly reasonable to sacrifice a few to improve the conditions of the many. Funnier, riskier playgrounds do exactly that.

That said, the article stated the "safer" playground engendered more injuries, mostly because bored kids were taking inconsiderate risks. The more dangerous playgrounds actually looked more dangerous, and the kids in them ended up taking less serious risks.

There's a good chance that more "dangerous" playgrounds are a one sided win. They could be better than the "safe" ones even if you disagree with my first two paragraphs.


...you are arguing we should sacrifice lives for fun. Not something particularly necessary, like how many here argue for self-driving cars in that way, but our kids are impoverished because gosh darn it, playgrounds aren't fun any more!

I find it a very poor argument.

The second part..eh, if true than there's merit to it, although I would wager dangerous ones would hurt far more. We did stupid stuff just as much as in the old days as in the new, but iron does hurt a lot more than plastic.


> The value of life is not infinite.

Technically it is[0], but they're going to die in a century or so (if that) anyway, so anything that reduces quality of life enough is morally equivalent to killing them earlier.

0: at least to within measurement error


> The value of life is not infinite.

The whole western civilization is standing on the assumption that it is.


This is observably not the case, in all sorts of situations.

Violence, vehicles, medicine, pollution, etc, etc, etc.

Of course we've gotten to a place where we spend lots of dollars preventing 1 statistical death, but not even tens of millions most of the time.


I don't see how it's observably not the case when my mother is working in a hospital where people are kept alive for decades just for the slight chance that medicine might evolve enough to cure them or they just wake up one day; when they are spending extraordinary amounts of money and time of dozens of researchers and doctors on experimental treatments, etc.

I don't understand how vehicles or pollution change anything. I never said there are no bad actors, there are in every civilization, and there are compromises you need to make but that doesn't mean you would not do anything to save someone. Awareness about pollution and its effects is just starting to exist. We didn't think it's bad a few decades ago.


Assume this is true. The NHS is in the UK and run by the government. The NHS has a maximum spend on a single person.

The UK is part of Western Civilization. Therefore it rests on the assumption that life has infinite value. Therefore, the UK will spend infinite money to ensure a person lives.

A contradiction.


OK, that's the UK, I'm not sure why it split off; thank you for pointing it out.

Any continental EU country will spend an unlimited amount of money to save someone. Even Ukraine will. Get your shit in the UK back together, I'd suggest.

Suggesting a maximal spend in my country would immediately lead to a revolt and change of government.


While there may be no explicit limit there are practical limits on what will be done to help a single person. Unlimited is not the same as infinite.

The concept of a micromort [0] argues that people often to put a value on their life, at least probabilisticly.

Valueing life is also not unique to western civilization. Yes, it values individualism highly, but confucian values are also highly concerned with humaneness and the value of life.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromort


But it also means that we're neutering some really important mechanisms of human development. It seems very costly to squeeze out those teensy little bits of extra safety.

> Worker safety laws in the early 1900s were such that people more regularly lost fingers or even limbs in heavy machinery.

If it's regularly happening, it isn't a "low probability" event.


“The reality is different though. There is nothing in this world quite so soul crushingly painful as having your child die while doing something that the parent and perhaps people in general, consider to be 'safe.'”

Actually there is and by several orders of magnitude more painful, and it is this: Watching these same parents scream safety, proclaiming the presciouness of their children while simultaneously condemning entire populations to death by their implicit support of wars, racism, and the governments responsible. Granted it may not be as immediately appearant of a reaction than say watching your child suffer, but while experiencing the death or suffering of a child may heal with time, the systemic effects of these masses of “concerned parents” lingers on with us forever.


Please do not take HN threads into political or ideological flamewar. This is egregious, regardless of our opinions about the politics of war.

"Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

nemo1618 10 days ago [flagged]

Ridiculous. The two are not even remotely comparable.

Please do not take HN threads further into flamewar, regardless of what another comment said.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]

nemo1618 10 days ago [flagged]

Your original comment claimed that merely watching the (alleged) hypocrisy of grieving parents was more painful than losing a child. That is very different from claiming that the collective suffering of millions outweighs the suffering of one parent. The latter is trivially true.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and send your comment five years into the future, to your 2024-self, via https://futureme.org. I guarantee you'll cringe, or your money back.


Playgrounds are still really fun for kids and they aren’t maimed as often. I think this is fine. Even with modern safe playgrounds it is stressful keeping young kids from hurting themselves.

But that's the point - you're not supposed to keep them from hurting themselves. You're supposed to keep them from hurting themselves too much.

And IANAL but it's not clear that waivers would even help. Anyone can still file a suit and, presumably, a competent lawyer would argue that negligence on the part of the playground owner/operator contributed to whatever the accident was.

It’s a really tricky balance. On the one hand we should have rules that don’t allow building unnecessarily dangerous stuff (eg covering toys with lead coating) but on the other hand we shouldn’t expect 100% safety because the only really safe thing is something that doesn’t exist. It’s really difficult.

I would say there's a significant difference between the chemical/biological danger from touching a material which appears basically identical to other safe materials and causes toxic exposure over time, and the physical danger from falling or being cut.

I want kids to learn that concrete is hard, and the harder you hit it, the more it will hurt. It's an easy lesson to learn, by trial-and-error, and transferable to many other situations. I don't want to make kids try to learn about lead poisoning by trial-and-error. They're not going to succeed at that. Even adults took 50 years of research to stop putting it in gasoline.


I don't want my daughter to learn about diving into the concrete floor of a pool, or smashing her head into a concrete play structure, by trial and error.

Delicate balance is the word I would have used. As a scoutmaster (BSA in the US) It seemed to me that many of our youth have no comprehension of their own mortality. I used to try to impress upon them the necessity to stay more than one mistake away from disaster. I recall two incidents that demonstrated this.

At a winter camp out the scouts were explicitly warned not to sled on the side of the hill that had trees. One scout didn't heed and hit a tree. He left the campout in an ambulance.

Another scout - luckily at the bottom of sandstone bluffs - decided to see how close he could get to the pot formed by a waterfall. He lost his footing and went into the pot which still held water. He was not injured but had to walk the rest of the hike in wet clothes. It was about 45°F so he was pretty uncomfortable. (At this park several people die each year because they make the same mistake at the top of the bluffs.)

These are just the actions that resulted in a problem or serious injury. There were many times when the youth got too close to the edge - often literally - and were lucky enough to escape unscathed.

On a visceral level I agree with not being overprotective, but being underprotective may not always have the desired effect of instilling a desire to be aware of hazards. Moreover, are we willing to accept the occasional death or maiming of a young person so their cohorts can learn about danger?


why do people sue? Because of the ridiculous cost of healthcare. At any given public school, how many of those kids' parents have $15k - $50k to cover an orthopedic injury, ambulance/ER/surgery/overnight hospital bill ?

It's the same for the zero-tolerance fighting policies. Kids aren't allowed to fight back because the insurance company figured out that 4 hands throwing punches are worse than 2. The hospital bill is the same price whether the person with the broken nose is the bully or the victim.


>why do people sue? Because of the ridiculous cost of healthcare. At any given public school, how many of those kids' parents have $15k - $50k to cover an orthopedic injury, ambulance/ER/surgery/overnight hospital bill ?

It's not always the parents. Sometimes the insurance company will sue to recover costs.


> A majority of playgrounds are “post and deck” systems with standard swings, slides, and monkey bars in one piece of equipment."

This is not true where I currently live. It's a recently new suburban area (less than 15 years old) in an Australian city with a great number of parks scattered through it. Nearly every park has a playground and they are all different and all very high quality. Indeed, I'm quite amazed at how much money has been spent installing playgrounds. There is a great variety of what is on offer - some have latticed rope climbing nets, some have climbing walls, some have flying foxes, plus many other very imaginative features. They all have soft surfaces under them to cushion falls and most have a shade cloth over them. I am frankly envious of what is on offer to children these days - it is vastly superior and more exciting than what I had as a child.

Trees and other outdoor features still exist that are 'undesigned' and can provide significant risk and thrill to the more adventurous child who climbs up and on them. But I applaud the increased safety built into the modern playground. To me it appears to have spurred innovation and imaginative design, not hampered it.


Yeah, but you're not part of the US legal system, which OP was talking about.

I am and noticed that almost every playground I take my nieces and nephews to has some unique feature that sets it apart. They're not nearly as standardized as McDonald's play places or adult fitness centers. Someone is either marketing variety or designing it.

It would be interesting to compare it to playgrounds in other countries/jurisdictions.

There are probably already websites devoted to this...


So the reason they look the same is because designs became standardized to make it easy to meet requirements AND cost. There are still some really great things at some playgrounds. A park near me built a new playground and it has a post and rope dodecahedron that must be 15 feet high. Kids climb and sit at the top. Falling could be pretty bad, but it looks cool af and kids like it.

And yet, if you look, dangerous still lurks. Sharp metal, no failsafes if a critical part fails, “V-like structures which could snag an arm, etc. Now, to be fair, when a critical part fails, the systems are sturdy enough that the whole thing wouldn’t normally come crashing down.

Maybe it's okay though? Is there real evidence to back up the sentiment that kids have less fun (or get less exercise, develop less physical skills, etc.) in modern "safe" playgrounds?

THIS!

The playgrounds my kids played in when they were little were a thousand times cooler than the crappy playgrounds I had growing up


The only anecdote I can share about this comes from the time my family was touring a local day camp. On the tour, they showed us everything: archery, fishing, swimming, ropes, and everything else you could think of. At one point, we came to a massive, 10 foot high pile of dirt. The kids immediately ran for the dirt pile and the parents' reactions were a 50/50 mix of "Awesome" or "What are you building here?" I knew this was the camp for my kid when they explained, the pile of dirt was just that. A big pile of dirt for the kids to play in. It complemented the big pile of rocks that they also had.

probably my favorite childhood memory: my grandfather ordered a large dumptruck of sand for our tiny hand dug pond in our backyard, in an attempt to make a beach.

needless to say, as a younger boy, seeing a towering (maybe 8-10ft. height) pile of sand was amazing, I put on my swimming trunks, sunscreen and grabbed a bucket and shovel.

i spent hours just digging holes and making sand castles in the hot sun of a kansas summer, I think my parents were relieved that I was off the computer for a significant portion of time.


That's what me and my friends used to do when we were young. We had a construction sites that just sat there for years. We'd build entire towns from sand, when playing outside.

I remember when I was 7 years old and my dad was working on our back yard. Up until that point, the yard was just weeds and dirt. But now we were going to get sod to cover it all.

First step was to bring in a mountain of good soil. That soil mountain was piled 6' high for a week, and I spent a lot of time playing on it. (My brother: "You know that pile is half cow shit, right?" ... Me: "Don't care")


The large piles of firewood before it had been stacked were great fun. The hayloft is of course a classic playground. And a gravel pit (the site where gravel is mined) is quite exciting...

Ha. Now you just reminded me of my other favorite playground. The rock quarry by our house. It was private land full of ravines and (in the winter/spring) small streams. In wetter seasons, one of the pits would flood with muddy water.

When we were younger we'd climb the fence and go adventuring. As we got older, it was bolt cutters to get the gate open and ride our ATCs out there. If you saw a truck in the distance, it was time to scatter.

I'm pretty sure the cops/security back then were content with us running away.


> The hayloft is of course a classic playground.

I can feel the itching already.


That sounds like a good camp.

From the kids' perspective, that big pile of rocks would be equally good whether it was stable and safe to climb on, or some 1-ton rock was teetering ready to crush the first child to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's up to the playground designer to make sure it's the former and not the latter.

The playground should feel a little dangerous and let kids climb things, fall off, get bumps and scrapes. It shouldn't contain genuine life-threatening hazards.


Me and a mate used to go out into the local woods, find little streams, and dam them.

That was by far my favorite childhood activity. I must have built dozens of dams on various creeks over the years.

I only fell through the ice once going over our makeshift bridge/dam... great times indeed :)

I am often more excited than my children when we find a good stream to dam.

Very nice. I was also into amateur civil engineering as a kid.

An example from the '00s: We sent our kid to a German school in Menlo Park. He immediately loved it on the first visit because the under-5s' playground was full of old wood with splinters and dangerous tools (hammers, saws etc) and the little kids could cause all sorts of ruckus, like building dams and flooding them.

But the reality of a foreign-language school is that you need more than just "nationals" (people who speak German at home or have one German-speaking spouse in a couple) to make the finances work. And quite a few American parents were and are interested because of the quality of education. But once their kids were enrolled, many of them wanted more safety, more discipline, a less casual attitude to kids getting naked, and academic work assigned to preschoolers which is not part of the German pedagogy.

All of which made me wonder "why did you choose this school? And if you chose it for its results, why challenge the process that gets those results?" But indeed, by the early 201Xs, the playground had been neutralized into the same old anodyne sterility of the public parks.

(Amazingly, Silicon Valley has two German schools within a few miles of each other; one is subsidized by the government, the other is not so you get to pick your ideology. But it does split the customer base).


Heh, you get the same phenomenon with folks who move from a state because the economic and/or legal conditions are no longer conducive to their desired lifestyle — and then start voting for the sorts of politicians who put in place economic and/or legal policies which are not conducive to their desired lifestyle.

Good example! Also people who move to the bucolic countryside and then complain about the pig farm next door.

We have this in Palo Alto: people move to the Cal Ave district and then complain about the noise from the dive bar Antonio's that's been there for decades. Fortunately the city has so far ignored these complaints.


Not having seen said playground, I can only wonder as to the specifics of the dangerous tools. I presume they were kid-versions, e.g. no 2lb claw hammers or razor sharp 16" rip saws.

They weren’t 20 lb hammers, no, but nails (safer than brads actually), small hacksaws and the like — a regular rip saw is too heavy for a little kid!. Things like hot glue guns were plugged in indoors - kids went in and used them on their own as needed.

But also more was expected: I remember nobody thought it remarkable when the after school teacher just decided one day to take 8 or 10 kids aged 5-11 on foot to downtown Palo Alto (3-4 miles round trip) by herself.


In Germany the field trips like this are typical even for kids under 5, though the control types vary. Sometimes it's one teacher, sometimes one in front and one in back. Sometimes they just make the kids pair up and hold hands, and sometimes they give them a rope that they have to hold onto.

This facilitates school age kids in all grades who are capable of riding city buses and trains on their own to and from school. Obviously the lack of child abduction in the news plays a role in parents allowing this.


Hacksaws & kids' glue guns are good choices. Kid's glue guns can still burn but not nearly as bad as a commercial gun, and hacksaws can still cut skin but nothing like a sharp ripsaw. If the kid gets a burn or a cut they can learn & aren't losing a limb in the process.

They could remove digits and eyes but I never saw it happen.

Well, you have to be trying pretty hard to remove a digit with a hacksaw. Speaking in comparative terms, I accidentally cut halfway through a digit in one gentle stroke with a hatchet.

It's a gristly topic and maybe what I'm saying is obvious. I just hope nobody in the pro-risk camp takes the message too far.


I have a zipline in my back yard, when I first put it up it was roughly 80' long, my kids were 4 & 6 and I would manage them because (a) be a parent and (b) they were careless/clueless AF.

I extended the zipline to 200' this spring, it goes over about 50' of water. They're 6 & 8 now, they hook themselves up and do all the safety checks I showed them once. Literally once.

They also have full access to my workshop, they respect it and ask before cutting off their fingers.

I think we underestimate the young mind's respect for responsibility when we give it to them. Conversely, if you protect your child from everything, they do not develop the skills that ask inherent questions such as 'how can this thing I'm about to do grow wrong? What is my plan if it does go south?'


I hated it at the time, but while growing up my dad made me help him with a lot of his side jobs. These jobs often involved power tools like various kinds of saws, chain saws, log splitters, etc... There was also minor electrical, plumbing, and engine work often involved. My dad would point out what to do and how not to get hurt. Obviously he would do anything beyond my ability or strength, but I learned a lot just being part of the overall process.

Fast forward many years and I'm thankful for the learning that came out of those times.


Kids have a respect for responsibility, but they also test limits and are still developing their sense of risk & consequences. So IMO it's the parent's job to permit reasonable risk & educate the kid, and permit further, greater risk as they prove themselves.

History is absolutely full of young people who did not survive due to but a moment's inattention or foolishness.


I was a stupid kid that fell from a high slide. My parents apparently made a sizable donation after I landed with no harm other than a scare because of the special tiles laid under it. Rather than paying for lawsuits, I'm happy to be able to tell a story to the contrary of many in this thread, with a happy ending and money going to the playground. My parents are great and I hope to live up to this one day.

My second worst accident as a kid, was on a "safe" playground, when my finger got stuck on a hinge of a swing.

My most daring stunts, were on "safe" playgrounds too, for example trying to make swings do a 360 (yes, I tried that, never succeeded).

Both times what was going on my mind is that I wanted to do something fun, and the equipment looked like it would work for what I wanted... Ended once even accidentally disassembling a swing (it had a "hook" shaped hinge and I swung it too far and it detached).

But the most fun I ever had... was playing on an uncle storage closet full of boxes and old stuff, climbing on trees, learning to cook, making my own sword when I was 16, and so on.

"Safe" looking stuff make people (even adults) do unsafe things (see the other article about road speeds, mentioning how wider lanes make people speed more and crash more often).


> "...trying to make swings do a 360 (yes, I tried that, never succeeded)."

ha, my childhood friends and i used to try to do that too. we settled on swinging as high as we could and doing backflips out of the swing. i don't know how not one of us got injured that way.


A 360 on a children's swing can definitely be done. I've done it as a child and as an adult. It usually needs to have a much longer rope/chain on it to get the momentum up.

Wouldn't you be limited to going 180 degrees? any more than that and you'll start falling straight down on the backswing instead of swinging.

You're definitely right. I wonder if he's thinking of jumping off of the swing and doing a 360 in the air.

Apparently it can be done if your swing has rigid bars in stead of ropes: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6KvBn7QvzaI


I loved this from one of the article's comments by Deb:

"The coup de grace, though, came the day I went to pick a student up from the playground and as the child was running to greet me, the preschool teacher sang out ‘Remember the new rule, Kai! No running on the playground!’

No. Running. On. The. Playground."


This is a real thing. Playground monitors are often little Hitlers. My old co-worker and his wife have been dealing with this with their son. Playground monitor woman makes them line up against the wall, has outlawed running, no shouting or loud sounds, the list goes on. By all accounts, she's an extremely bitter unpleasant human being and all round miserable wretch so she just takes it out on the kids, robbing them of what little free play time they have.

Luckily my ex co-worker's wife is a bit of a trouble maker and has taught her son to organize. He successfully organized a bunch of kids to protest the unfair rules and draft their own set of rules they thought was reasonable. Last I heard, they succeeded. Unfortunately that worked with a Napoleon complex is still around but she's been somewhat neutralized.


There is good evidence that the rubber "safety" matting that's common on new playgrounds causes significantly more long-bone injuries (broken arms and legs) than previous surfaces like wood chips. Kids test the limits and play up to the point of pain, so they'll leap off structures onto rubber matting in a way that they wouldn't do onto wood chips or pea gravel. In the name of "safety", we're using surfaces that prevent scrapes and road rash, but have higher risk of more significant injuries when you account for the change in kid behavior.

I suspect the bone injuries come from the traction you get on those mats more than perceived safety. In the gravel if you put your arm out to catch a fall, it slips (and you scuff up your palms, learning not to do that next time), whereas on rubber mats it sticks and can end up taking the whole force of your fall.

Why not use rubber mulch then? Lots of playgrounds already use it, and it offers the cushioning of wood chips and the "softness" of rubber matting.

I think he means wood chips hurt, so kids don't jump off things from so high, so its less likely to break bones.

My understanding (not an expert) is that it's a combination of less high jumps/falls because "wood chips hurt", and reduced long bone injuries for the jumps/falls that due occur due to differences in the way the material responds to the impact. Wood chips slide and absorb some of the kinetic energy, while rubber matting (and probably rubber chips?) stay in place and rebound the energy back.

As a kid there was gravel under the monkey bars. Not sure if it taught you not to fall (I did fall, a lot!), but it definitely hurt when you did!

I visited a playground made of some kind of rubber mulch, maybe chippered tires. The sun was out in force (hot summer day, 10k ft). You could see the haze of chemicals hovering over the chips as they offgassed, as well as smell them.

I'd like to see that evidence.

I was watching some kids in our local playground climb pretty high in some of our local trees and wondering whether this a good idea, and came across this writeup on risky play: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201404...

Modern parents who keep up to date on the parenting zeitgeist will have been exposed to the complementary idea to risky play that instead of saying "Be careful!" to a kid, you can instead ask "Do you feel safe?", helping emphasize what it is that you actually care about and helping your kid develop their gut feeling for what is/isn't a good idea. (See one writeup of this at https://rhythmsofplay.com/get-outside-connect-climb-a-tree/ but a Web search for ["do you feel safe" "be careful"] will find lots of people saying essentially the same thing).

I wonder what the zeitgeist will say in 10 or 20 years - given what everyone is thinking now, where will they be in a little while when we've had a chance to reflect on what we've tried and how it's gone?.


Kids feel safe when they don't know what the dangers are. My kid would feel safe sticking his hand in a pan of boiling oil

Once, but they won't do it again.

I wouldn't recommend starting with a pan of boiling oil, but my five-year-old loves helping to make pancakes, and it took exactly one glancing touch for him to learn that the edge of the frying pan is hot.


These are the small dangers we rob our children of.

My kids (11,6, 3) are so lame they are scared to play outside by themselves. I bought 100 acres with a creek so we would have a place to hike, camp, explore, build forts, shoot guns etc.

My kids have been so coddled, they cant even play in the yard for long before they want to come in. Over the last year they are getting better, but when they have friends over, many of them wont even go into the forest and will only stay close to the house.


Why is that? Did you make the mistake of teaching them to code?

Why is that a mistake?

I think starpilot is trying to make a joke off of the stereotypical "I taught my kid to ___ and it was a horrible mistake!" articles, especially the ones where the gist is "I taught my kids to code and now they sit in front of their computers all day".

Could be wrong in that assessment, but that's how I read it.


Perhaps you could show them what they're missing out on. Have you been able to talk them into camping yet? With 100 acres and a creek you've got to have a couple of nice spots.

right, you have to lead by example. don't even need to start with camping. just go out for a few hours and explore your property. map the borders, follow the creek.

somewhere out there, build a tree-hut, show your kids what fun can be had there.


My kids are about a year behind yours, but are quite adventurous despite growing up in the city. My parents live at the edge of the metropolis and have a similar sized property with forest and stream and a small lake. It’s quite often that the older two simply vanish on a nice afternoon at grandparents. What’s disturbing is my own panic at not knowing where they are when they’ve gone off exploring the same land that I did as a child.

fyi, I think age has a lot to do with it. my kids were 8 and 6 before they started playing outside (0.83 acres) no neighborhood kids to speak of.

if you don't mind me asking, when you say your kids 'have been so coddled', well... by whom?

our fault for living in a sterile suburb. All yards were fenced off so they got used to playing in a cul de sac close to the house.

One of the reasons we moved was to give them more direct access to nature.


This is my question... must be the schools fault, right?

This, this, a thousand times this.

Life is about evaluating risk. You need to learn it at some point. A playground is as good a place as any.

By all means, make them safe enough that kids won't get maimed or killed - but keeping kids from ever falling far enough to feel any real pain is probably counter- productive in the long term.

Sigh. My eldest kid's kindergarten advertised themselves as an outdoor experience thingy, then proceeded to cut down every tree on their premises as kids climbed them (the horrors!) and occasionally fell down (Aaaieee!) - so better make the playground look like any generic McPlayground.


> By all means, make them safe enough that kids won't get maimed or killed - but keeping kids from ever falling far enough to feel any real pain is probably counter- productive in the long term.

There is no room between "overprotection" and "freedom", that guarantees safety from harm. Serious accidents have to be accepted before they even happen.

A scary prospect for many parents, I am sure.


I'm not giving my seven year old the freedom to operate a chainsaw. I don't think that counts as "overprotection", and I think it confers considerable margin of safety from harm by chainsaw.

> I don't think that counts as "overprotection"

Rest assured, I don't think anyone else does either.


My son's school was in the city and went to a local playground. The main play structure was so high (about 20-25' at the top) that it took a couple months for my kindergarten-aged son to muster the courage to climb it. Even though it's been almost seven years, I still remember his immense pride at conquering that fear and climbing to the top for the first time.

I sympathise with your comment about the trees being cut down. Trees are natural, 'undesigned' features that are good for thrilling and risky climbing activities. And yes, good for learning to evaluate risk, something I did a lot of when climbing trees as a child (I used to go very high).

But I don't agree with accepting risk in a designed playground. Safety for the children using it should be a very high priority, because it is being expressly made for children to play on and therefore the designers have a responsibility to design for safety. And life is more than just evaluating risk and so is play. Play is also physical activity and building co-ordination and strength while having fun. Playgrounds can provide this without including risk. Risk is available elsewhere and the adventurous kids will easily find it if they seek it out (e.g. by climbing trees, if they haven't all been cut down).


"Grown-ups have taken all the fun out of being a kid just to save a few thousand lives."

https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2017/04/06/george-carlin-you-a...


Tell that to the kids who died playing in unsafe conditions.

One can certainly argue that we've gone too far in the direction of removing all risk of injury. But saving lives? Absolutely the right thing to do! One preventable death is one death too many.

The goal here should be "controlled risk". Not no risk at all, but controlled risk in well-understood conditions to ensure that kids can still experiment and have fun without risking death or permanent injury. This article mentions kids having access to hammers and nails and planks to build stuff. That's controlled risk; they could hurt themselves, but they're not going to kill themselves (at least, not by accident). But you wouldn't give them a nail gun.


>But saving lives? Absolutely the right thing to do!

I'm suddenly reminded of the game SOMA and every other "the ends justify the means" AI story where unspeakable horrors come from mottos like "save all lives at all costs."


>One preventable death is one too many

The problem is right here, what is the society acceptable definition of preventable? Keeping all children in hermetic bubbles would prevent all child deaths due to disease, but weaken their immune system so much that the minute they come out they would get sick and die as an adult. In effect all these safety efforts are creating mental hermetic bubbles that fucks their future mental state when they finally achieve independence.


>Keeping all children in hermetic bubbles

To me that's kind of a facious slippery slope argument. Of course it isn't worth it to completely lock down a person's life in the name "safety" or "their own good", but when you can take measures that guarantee a greater degree of safety with only a thin, marginal reduction in freedom, "living", or whatever you wish to call it (if any reducation at all) - of course it is worth it.

To me this would be something like restricting people's right to drive on public roads when we have a fully autonomious network of vehicles (however long that will take). Sure people are a bit more restricted in their freedom to man a vehicle, but on the other hand you could (and this is what I am wagering) completely eliminate the ~95% of vehicle accidents and deaths caused by humans.


> One preventable death is one death too many.

When are we banning cars?


It's more along the lines of 'When are we banning seatbelts'.

Kids might have more fun in the car not wearing seatbelts, for example. I know as a kid I was especially resistant to putting on a seatbelt because why should it restrict my movement? But I would hope we can all understand that seatbelts are a necessity for safety.

We accept that cars in the US are necessary for our daily lives, and take action to prevent as much death or injury as we can. This is why we have regulations on speed, stop signs, lights and more. We've created an entire regulatory system for the sake of making driving safer.

In this case, is it really any different from regulatory agencies ensuring that playgrounds don't have things that could cause clearly preventable injuries?


This feels like a really unconvincing argument. A few thousand is a lot of lives. A few lives would feel like a few too many.

This may sound callous, but in a US population of 300 million, a few thousand of any lives is on the order of 0.001%. One of the realities of living in a world of billions of people is that risks of incredibly low precentage still end up happening due to just the sheer magnitude of people

To put it another way, lightning strikes are one of the rarest forms of death in the country, and yet still kill more people in the US than the size of my family's big holiday dinner


A few thousand per month would be a problem, sure. But how about a few thousand per decade? There are four million babies born in the US every year (130 million worldwide).

What's the risk threshold you'd be comfortable with?

1 in a 1,000? 6 in 10,000? 13 in 10,000? 1 in 100,000?


There is more than a grain of truth to this; a couple of years ago it's was brought to my attention that since the 1950s, children being killed in traffic in Norway was down by a couple of orders of magnitude, even though traffic had increased by a couple of orders of magnitude in the same time.

Drowning? Also down by a similar ratio. Generic accidents? Same, same.

Sure, there has never been as safe a time to be a kid as today. Big question is, does being wrapped in cotton throughout your formative years make for a safer life as an adult, or did you miss some lessons in risk assessment which makes you more prone to getting it good and hard later in life?


To answer the last question, unless rates of adults dying by car accidents/drowning/etc went up the same amount it went down for kids, no. And it's still better to not die as a kid anyway.

Tell that to those few thousand parents.

I was lucky growing up in Kentucky, behind my parents house was roughly 20 acres of woods that couldnt be developed due to flooding. Was a great place to play at all ages growing up - playing cowboys and indians, paintball, setting up a ‘bmx’ course. We got hurt a lot of course falling out of trees breaking arms and legs or landing in rocks and needing stitches. But it was a ton of fun!

Well, why not. It's a lot of fun to be playing with, climbing over and exploring garbage like what is shown on the photos.

I'd just not kid myself. It will come with more injuries, hopefully not debilitating.

I got several unpleasant injuries by playing freely with anything available. I threw a metal rod through my feet. Jumped on a 4" nail while running, securing my shoe to my feet, quite well, cut half my thumb off with my favorite knife. :) All these things and more I can see kids be able to achieve in such an environment.

I suspect that had my parents have to do more than just drive me to the emergency, they'd be more involved in ensuring I don't do these things again.

I wonder if free public healthcare like in many EU countries vs whatever is in the US has an effect on what parents let their children do.


I grew up going to the city of Berkeley's Adventure Playground (https://www.cityofberkeley.info/adventureplayground/), which has been around since 1979.

It was one of most memorable and fun places I remember going as a kid. I did once end up with a nail in my arm (which I still have a scar from), but even after that happened my parents let me keep going back.


That place is hilarious. One time when I was there some kids were trying to cut through a piano with a back saw, which makes an unbelievable noise.

Same can be said for a lot of other things/activities many of us enjoyed during childhood.

E.g. I remember playing with real chemistry sets with chemicals that could be potentially harmful if ingested, alcohol burners, glass tubing we had to flame-polish ourselves. Those are long gone; just replaced with "safe" but incredibly dumbed-down kits that are little more than dyes/food-coloring.


Thankfully you can still get stuff at the hardware store. The plumbing supply section has copper sulfate, sodium hydroxide, and sulfuric acid. The pool supply section has 10 molar hydrochloric acid. The garden section has sulfur. The paint section has xylene, acetone, and methanol.

For example, you can purify garden sulfur by recrystallizing it with xylene. This is plenty dangerous, since xylene is almost like gasoline (a bit less volatile) and you'll be heating it up nearly to boiling. The aromatic ring structure is required; most other solvents produce deadly hydrogen sulfide gas.


Something from a similar set of values:

"Why I’m Sending My Child to Forest School and not Kindergarten" https://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/why-im-sending-my-c...


Unfortunately in California "forest school" and other play schools attract mainly anti-vaxxers and other weirdos. It might be a good idea, but the self-selecting clientele are a problem.

This is essentially how I grew up. Was free to use just about any tool I wanted. We dug holes, built tree houses ourselves, you name it. At one point we even built two different sheds, just us kids without any adult really helping.

I don't recall if any of us even got hurt doing this.

I also think cities moving towards higher density with little to no yards for full homes isn't helping.


I got hurt plenty as a kid with quite a few scars to show for it. None of the injuries were life changing though. Some of the dumbest things we did would probably trigger a SWAT team today. Bottle rocket fights (do they even sell bottle rockets anymore?). BB gun fights. They always lasted until that one kid would pump his up more than once. We also lived on a river and started taking the John boat out around 12 or 13.

I have a very vivid memory of being between 8 and 10 years old and building a play house unsupervised with a friend. We used all sorts of power tools and materials. It was a blast and the play house came out awesome.

When I was a kid, my elementary school had an elaborate playground. The standard swings, slides, and monkey bars -- with sand underneath for a soft landing -- were supplemented with numerous structures built out of old tires, including tire geodesic domes to serve as spaceships or houses and a tower built out of giant tractor tires packed with sand and a wooden spire in the middle to serve as a watchtower, ship's mast, or Decepticon base. Central to this tire wonderland was TireTown, a huge two-story fortification with many rooms, tire bridges to two smaller tire outposts and poles to slide down for a quick escape.

But of course, this is southern Connecticut, where people have their lawyers on speed dial. TireTown and its accoutrements were a lawsuit waiting to happen. When I surveyed my old school on Google Maps a few years ago, they were all gone, replaced with a much smaller standard playground.


That reminds me of my elementary play ground. We had lots of wood structures and wood chips to "soften" a fall. Those wood chips were brutal when they would freeze together in the winter!

If you like unsafe playgrounds check out this place in Berkeley https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventure_Playground_(Berkeley...

Almost stepped on nails a few times. Only took my kids once. Felt a little too unsafe.


In high school I remember walked through the primary school and noticing both jungle gyms were gone. Another friend said the big metal jungle gym at his elementary school were gone too. Only the overhead monkey bars remained.

I suspect kids probably go hurt on these (they are solid metal bars that go up pretty high after all). I've seen them return to playgrounds, but today they're all made of rope and above softer material like sand or recycled tiers.

Sure kids are safer today, but that element of danger is gone. I recently though about that when I read "The Coddling of the American Mind," where the authors talk about how kids are 'anti-fragile' and how trying to make them safe actually keeps them from learning how to deal with tough situations in life. I think they mention these types of playgrounds in the book.


I think some of this falls into the category of obvious risk versus hidden risk. When I was a kid, I was playing in the park with some other kids who were dropping through the bars of a dome-shaped jungle gym. I tried to follow, dropped through, and found myself hanging by my head, which had gotten wedged in the bars. I dangled there writhing around until my dad lifted me out about 10 seconds later. I had giant welts on the front and back of my head, and tore all the connective tissue in my forehead, I could wrinkle it up like a Klingon for years afterward. I think that particular jungle gym was removed after that.

How many extra lives are lost to obesity because children never learn how fun it is to move outdoors? Everything is so safe and non-fun. Of course the deaths 3 decades down the line are not attributed to overly safe playgrounds and overprotective parents and nobody gets sued. So there is no need to fix this...

> How many extra lives are lost to obesity because children never learn how fun it is to move outdoors? Everything is so safe an non-fun.

I've yet to find a kid that doesn't find a flat field of grass outdoors to be fun, so if there's a problem here, it's parents keeping kids indoors, not playground safety being too good.


Hills are known to promote mentally stimulating play.

Can we get the spinny-thing-of-death back?

The Merry Go Round?

Not the Merry Go Round.

https://playgroundology.wordpress.com/2018/06/29/whats-in-a-...

A glorious, if occasional, feature of my childhood. We did refer to it that way, I think organically (perhaps just looking back and not at the time - I can't recall). I found the article about it by googling the phrase!

I'm not sure how I'd feel about my own child on it, to be honest. I'm more bummed that he isn't allowed to climb any of the disused locomotive engines that are still present (but now fenced off) at a number of playgrounds.


I think he might be referring to the slide with 20 ft drops made with two pipes...as in the Darwinian versions shown here....

https://clickamericana.com/toys-and-games/dangerous-old-play...


Along these lines, Bay Area folks might be interested in Camp Tipsy, the crazy campout run by Chicken John where people build boats from junk and try (not) to sink them. Lots of opportunity for kids to get in (the right amount of) trouble.

It's coming up in a few weeks: http://camptipsy.com/

(I'm not involved, just a frequent attendee - it's fun)


I can't find it, but a few years ago one of the leading members of RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, <https://www.rospa.com>) came onto BBC radio 4 and argued their job wasn't to prevent all accidents, that some were unavoidable and society shouldn't try for perfect safety.

It was a pleasure to hear.


I lived near and went to Action Park in New Jersey a couple of times. I was too young to ride the water speedboats and motor go-karts though... bah! Those were the days.

The issue is one of scaling risk as the knowledge and responsibility of the child increases. It's not surprising we have sued things down to the lowest/safest common denominator.


For those who aren't familiar with Action Park, the story is incredible.

This 14-minute video has some of the highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKDx_piZvsg

This oral history is pretty fascinating too: http://mentalfloss.com/article/536412/action-park-water-park...


I'm all for these, but I do find it somewhat ironic that we've 'productized' the junk yard, making it just safe enough for us to be comfortable with our kids roaming 'free'. If it is a step towards liberation of youth I'll take it, but it is still a half measure.

In a similar vein, a big park/playground recently opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They had some inspiration from playgrounds outside the US.

https://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/2018/12/06/the-surprisi... - mentions how some parts were designed to make it easy for kids to go to certain places but hard for parents to follow.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/arts/design/tulsa-park-ga...


In my primary school we had some poles in the shape of a right triangle (with one of the legs being formed by the ground) with different slopes, all of which were 5-6 metres tall. The slope of the steepest one was nearly 80 degrees. The ground was tiny pebbles/gravel which made small falls somewhat less of an issue. They served no purpose other than being climbed, it was built to explore one's boundaries and to be brave. Most of us were scared to climb them but some who were really good climbers had no problems and got instant street cred by doing that.

As a kid we would visit some elderly relatives who lived in a much older neighborhood than our home's new suburban sprawl.

The park there had slides made of steel which towered above the area homes. It was awesome and made those relatives my favorite to visit until the town modernized the park and got rid of all the remotely risky stuff in the process.

But shortly after that I discovered skateboards and stairs, and the joys of evading the local community college police. Maybe it's OK that the parks are neutered, we can still find risk if we want it.


One "dangerous" playground. Neptune Park, Saratoga Springs, UT. You have to see a picture of the pyramid.

https://www.google.com/search?q=neptune+park+utah#imagekey=!...


For anyone in the bay area, I found a playground with adult sized monkey bars a few weeks ago. You know, the old school steel pipe structures from the good old days.... Some kind soul even place-marked it on Google Maps. I present, the Kennedy Middle School (Cupertino) Monkey Bars:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/KMS+Monkey+Bars,+Cupertino...


My kids love that playground. Sure you hold your breath when you see them from afar (no parents allowed in) messing around with a sharp saw, but it's worth it. A great space.

My yard is an adventure playground. My kids' favorite toys are things they dig out of the dump each Saturday morning (and which I sneak back into the dump the next weekend).

I’m going to a festival next weekend where they have a building area for the kids. They give them wood, nails hammers and saws and set them free. It’s just awesome.

My kids were in a makerspace last year. It was adult supervised, but they had access to power tools, laser cutters, and so on.

Do you have a link or a name? I'm interested in hearing more.

Elderflower fields in Sussex (England). There’s not a whole lot of info at the below link, but it’s one of the great many things going on - which is basically kids stomping around in the woods having a lovely time.

https://www.elderflowerfields.co.uk/2019/woodland-tribe/

Edit: better link of the people that organise it https://www.woodlandtribe.org/


This came to my mind about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seWHLTt3oNQ First, I was surprised, then I read the comments.

What do the comments say? Only one is in English and that's the only language I can read.

So, I remember in preschool, we were allowed to play with hammers, nails, and pieces of scrap-wood.

I tried to build a miniature wrestling ring with four nails, some rubber-bands, and a square piece of wood. I hit my thumb alot.


I love it!

This is basically the environment I grew up in for a good portion of my life (and I'm so happy for it).


Ok I'm in Denmark, so also in the EU - can it really be that in our socialist paradise playgrounds are more dangerous and less boring than in the US?

I can't remember the playgrounds from the US very well anymore but thinking about it yeah most places I went to were pretty cookie cutter, but I'm also old so I think the boring part is maybe not directly correlated with safety.

Here is a company that makes playgrounds in Denmark http://monstrum.dk/en/ I have several of them in my area. I just wonder if there is really less of a focus on safety in Denmark of all places. And if so, why?

on edit: fixed typo


why do all of the photos look fake?
umvi 10 days ago [flagged]

You're right - anything that provokes fear or outrage gets instant attention. Everything else doesn't.

North Korea imprisoning a single idiot American who crossed the border = national dialogue because it's outrageous

School shooting where 3 people die = national dialogue on gun control because it's outrageous.

DUI accident that kills a family of 5 = small blurb in local news because it's not outrageous (even if it should be).

Thousands of people dying from obesity-related health issues = crickets because it is not outrageous.


This seems to be the pivot point at which the thread went into flamewar. I'm sure you didn't intend to cause a wildfire, but combining inflammatory material with inflammatory rhetoric has that effect. So would you please not post like this to HN in the future?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19923668 and marked it off topic.


> School shooting where 3 people die = national dialogue on gun control because it's outrageous.

I'm sorry, what country is this? The one I live in its just "thoughts and prayers" when that happens.


That would be USA. Nothing much is happening on the federal level, because of the deadlock there. But there's plenty of new legislation on state level.

Do you live in a blue state? Folks are in a state of apoplexy here in Maryland. If gun ownership wasn’t written into the Constitution the overreaction would have been complete long ago. (Same thing with free speech.)

It really depends on whether said shooters fit a profile that is conducive to the agenda. Most of the time, they don't, and are otherwise problematic villains, because they tick the wrong census boxes or a cursory search of their social media history reveals that they have the wrong political and social opinions. And so after a day or two the story is memory-holed.

I do not understand the attack on "thoughts and prayers." There are plenty of people sending "thoughts and prayers" who also support gun control. I get that it calls out the hypocrisy of Christians who don't support gun control, but it also seems like an overly broad attack.

What does someone who both believes gun control is necessary and wants to send "thoughts and prayers" do? I think the idea of gun control is a target at a solution while thoughts and prayers are meant to console the individual.

Anyway, it's just something I found super annoying. I had someone who I know lost a loved one (not due to guns) and I struggled with what to say. It's a simple thing, but I realized I didn't know how to attempt to console someone anymore.


It isn't the "thoughts and prayers" part by itself, it is the "thoughts and prayers" offered by politicians and then absolutely nothing else. Even Christians can find it hypocritical:

> "Prayer that doesn't lead to concrete action toward our brothers is a fruitless and incomplete prayer. [...] Prayer and action must always be profoundly united"

- Pope Francis. (grabbed from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoughts_and_prayers)

Otherwise, that to many people the phrase has become synonymous with willful inaction is just collateral damage.

It doesn't even call out the hypocrisy of christians that don't support gun control. They can believe in other ways forward, like arming all kids with guns and having them practice lots of active shooter drills, or whatever, but it is the "it is not that bad, let's not worry about it" attitude that makes people angry. The original comment I was replying to talked about a "having a national dialogue on gun control", which simply hasn't happened.


I want to clarify something, I'm not attacking you or your comment. I'm really asking for clarity. I appreciate what you've stated.

It's funny, we assume everyone uses the same definition of a phrase or slogan as we do and just by reading through the comments on this I see that's not the case.


The attack is against high profile politicians who regularly act to block or dismiss gun control measures, but also reliably jump to announce that they are sending "thoughts and prayers" to the victims of gun attacks. I don't think this would be relevant in the case of an individual interaction. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/20/us/thoughts-and-prayers-flori...

> hypocrisy of Christians who don't support gun control

I don't see how the two equate to hypocrisy. A friend of mine (a Christian) is strongly opposed to gun control. He has a concealed carry license and carries everywhere, because he wants to have the means to protect himself and his loved ones from an active shooter, if necessary. He cites "if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns," and feels personally affronted by gun control legislation.

That, and he prays regularly for others. I for one would not accuse him of hypocrisy on that basis.


You are correct, I should have been much more clear on that statement. I've heard very good arguments against gun control that are not hypocritical. My statement was my attempt (a failing one) to ask my question with the least amount of bite possible. I actually wanted counter opinions, not to incite a flame war. It seems to have gotten good responses, and that's what I was looking for.

> hypocrisy of Christians who don't support gun control

That's a gross oversimplification of what it takes to be a hypocrite. I've met people who fall into the hypocrite category on both ends, but I what I didn't understand is how this "thoughts and prayers" thing was being used.

To me it felt like an attack on Christianity, which I didn't fully understand. I feel like I get it a lot better now though.


If there are no guns then outlaws wouldn't have them.

That's not what he said. If guns were OUTLAWED, not if there were no guns.

[flagged]


Our gun industry produces more than 11 million guns a year. Sure, many of those wind up in Mexico and Central America via the drug trade, but that's still a lot of supply being sustained through the system.

Guns wear out, simply cutting production would do a lot to reduce the number of guns in the system (outlaw or not).


It will take a long time for guns to wear out such that simple and possibly deadly armed robberies, bank robberies and church and school shootings would be possible well into a few hundred years. Beyond that in this political climate, even if you pulled that off, you would literally have tens or hundreds of thousands of citizens making their own (not from 3d printing, but actual metal working). Then assuming they can reclaim half, you still have a hundred million guns in the wild.

We'd save more lives by forcing car manufacturers to install ML based drunk detection systems in the driver seat.


China is the perfect example of where people are making their own guns, they aren’t that great and lack economy of scale. Besides, China has a death penalty in place for illegal gun production.

Guns will wear out eventually, heck, they can also run out of ammunition. Industrialization is an incredible enabler for gun use (one the founding fathers obviously didn’t have to worry about), and taking that away causes the system of mass gun violence to fall over quickly.

Simply taking 11 million units of production offline will make guns much more expensive worldwide, let alone in the USA. That crazy person who has an idea to go shoot up a school will have to find some money to pay up if they don’t have one already. Let’s also not ignore what happened in other countries that banned or severely cut back on gun use: none of what the pro gun crowd would predict what would happen.

> We'd save more lives by forcing car manufacturers to install ML based drunk detection systems in the driver seat.

Why do that when Uber/Lyft have already mostly solved the problem and self driving cars will do so even more? If gun advocates actually believed in gun control at all, we could talk about technological solutions in that space. But their position is that any gun control at all is useless, and ironically enough implies that only a ban would be worth considering. (And yes, I’m all for taking away your manually driven car when self driving car technology is ready, it just makes so much sense from a safety and traffic perspective).


[flagged]


Racewar comments are unacceptable here and will get you banned, so please don't.

Also, accounts that use HN primarily for political or ideological battle eventually get banned here, and when people keep doing that, we eventually ban their main account as well. Why? Because HN is subject to all sorts of forces tearing it apart, and those forces win by default, so we have to protect it. If you'd review the site guidelines and take that spirit to heart and help protect it, we'd be grateful—and it's in your interests to do so, since that's the only way HN stays interesting in the long run.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Or what about people who feel bad that these things happen, but believe it’s the cost of living in a free society? Every system has trade offs. You can be sympathetic about the system having downsides while still believing that the system is better than the alternatives. There is absolutely nothing inconsistent about it.

To use a less charged example: developers might feel bad for novice users who get computer viruses on Windows or Mac OS. They might even help people out. And that’s entirely consistent with those sample people opposing locking down Windows and MacOS like iOS in the name of security.


My (non-US) understanding of the outrage is that they feel that the person saying it is not actually going to actually keep the victims in their thoughts and prayers...

Even if they did, what good would it do?

Unless your a friend or immediate family member there is sweet fuck all you can do to console someone in a time of grief.


I felt that a similar thing happened with those thai kids stuck in that cave. An international effort was made to rescue them. What if this year one of them is dying because their parents can't afford healthcare? Would that create an international effort?

At the same time, I too felt compelled to help them when they were stuck...


I don't think it's as much an outrage thing as it is a control thing.

Sure, cars are unsafe and thousands of people die on the roads every year, but I am a good driver and I won't have a bad accident like that. If I do it's my own fault.

Yes, eating too much is bad for me but it's my own fault - I could just eat less.

(side note - if I believe it would be my fault if I die of something, I'm going to believe if you die of that thing it's your fault)

Kids getting shot at school - not their fault and there is nothing they could do to avoid it.

Being blown up by a terrorist's bomb? Nothing you could do as an individual to avoid it.


[flagged]


"Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


My apologies. I shouldn't have done this.

See, here's the thing: a neural tube with the same number of neurons as C. elegans isn't the same thing as a human being.

I can see how some folks can get confused, though.


Please don't break the site guidelines by taking a thread further into flamewar, regardless of how provocative some other comment was. TimTheTinker shouldn't have gone there, but you fed it with at least 10 flamewar comments, and that's egregious. Regardless of strongly you feel about choice, nothing good could possibly come out of what you did here, and meanwhile it damages the commons, which is already fragile.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Comparing snapshots of organisms isn't that useful. C. Elegans is never going to turn into a conscious human being.

Well, if we're talking about potential, most pro-lifers make exceptions for cases of rape or incest. However, if it's one's "sincerely held belief" that a ball of cells is a human because it has the potential to become a conscious human being then such exceptions are the equivalent to killing an adult who's only crime is to have been conceived as a result of rape or incest.

Personally I am pro-choice, but if you are really pro-life you cannot morally allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest- unless of course your stated agenda isn't the same as your real agenda


I'm pro-life and wouldn't make any exception in case of rape and incest; there's already been a crime, no need to add another (innocent) victim to the tally. But I think that we would need to also put into place to help women with unwanted pregnancies too.

Pythagoras thought beans were people.

I don't. And?

He thought that because he was good at triangles that he was right to violently impose his wrong beliefs on his countrymen. It didn't go well for him.

The parallels are pretty obvious, and they do not require a ruler and compass to construct.


Well, I don't.

And neural tubes aren't people, but women are.

Yes and yes. But embryo are also people

[flagged]


You'd have to do better than that. 'cause lol no ain't that gratifying to one's intellectual curiosity.

I’m pro-life, and I think killing an unborn baby for any reason is abhorrent — as you said, it’s the same as murdering an adult. (Although there are cases where the mother’s life is in danger - but that’s always about “who to save” in the middle of a surgery or something - that’s different.)

I don’t know who you’ve heard that viewpoint from (abortion is wrong except in cases of rape/invest) but I don’t believe that and I don’t know anyone who does. I think it appears as a political concession and rarely (if ever) as a sincerely held belief.


A neural tube isn't a baby.
burfog 10 days ago [flagged]

Say what??? A neural tube doesn't instantly transform into a baby at the moment of birth.

The unborn that are getting killed can typically move about, feel pain, and respond to injury. They react in agony when being torn apart or injected with brine.

They have brainwaves, which is the usual standard (varies by state law) we use to draw the line at the end of life, with the loss of brainwaves meaning death. Obviously we don't need to check dusty old bones or a person chatting with the doctor, but we do check in the difficult cases.

Consistency demands that our standard for one end of a lifetime be as similar as possible to our standard for the other end of a lifetime. That standard for death, subject to minor variations in state law, is brainwaves.

Conveniently, such a standard eliminates the rape excuse. There is plenty of time prior to brainwaves.


All those same things apply to house flies. Look, you believe what you believe because a priest or a guy wearing khakis and a sports jacket named "Pastor Skip" told you so. Don't pretend that your opinion came from anywhere else, or that all of the tortured logic in your post is anything other than a post facto justifiction of that religious opinion.

What do you have against unborn babies? I’m interested to hear your side of the argument.

... so far, it’s sounding eerily like reasons people used to use for enslaving Africans in the 18th century.


This is off topic and unacceptable on HN. Regardless of how strongly you feel about the unborn, no internet flamewar is going to improve or resolve anything, ever say anything new on the topic, or ever make any new connections between people. All you're doing is helping to destroy this site, which is fragile enough as it is. Please stop.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


My apologies, Dan. Thanks.

A human zygote is a person, and so is everything that follows. From the moment of fertilization, there is a single developmental progression of a single organism. There isn't any other meaningful scientific or logical distinction that can be made. Before fertilization, you have the gametes from two separate organisms. Afterwards, there is a new, unique organism (a human being) who has a separate identify.

And yes, that means I think common in-vitro fertilization practices (including making multiple zygotes and throwing some out) are morally wrong and equivalent to abortion.

If anyone disagrees, I contend it's because of the moral implications, not any lack of soundness in the scientific or logical arguments.


You are welcome to your wrong opinion, just like Pythagoras.

Why not? So what?

I think the commenter is just pointing out a potential fallacy -- comparing things that are fundamentally different to force a conclusion that is nonsensical.

Like how you compare a live woman with a history and thoughts and dreams with a few micrograms of cells that a body may or may not spontaneosly eject via well-characterized biological processes?

[flagged]


Please don't do this here, regardless of whether someone else started it.

This would be laughable if the moral implications weren’t so dire.

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