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Learning the ropes: why Germany is building risk into its playgrounds (2021) (theguardian.com)
283 points by mschuster91 75 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 155 comments

Someone I know designed playgrounds. One of his core concepts was that there's two aspects to safety.

One is subjective. Like when you're high up and you see the ground beneath you, you know it'll hurt if you fall down, so you're more careful moving around.

Then there's all the hidden dangers that kids don't think about or see[1], like a small gap where a cord from the clothing can get attached potentially leading to suffocation.

The point being, the first aspect is something the kids should be able to expose themselves to. It teaches them about risk, but also can give them a goal and a sense of achievement when they finally dare to do something and succeed. His point was that this is an important part of their development, which could have knock-on effects later.

However the playground should be designed such that any accident should not lead to permanent injury or death. Sure they might get a bit banged up if they misjudge, lesson hopefully learned, but nothing permanent.

He was often in Germany to study their playgrounds for inspiration, and this article illustrates nicely why.

[1]: https://www.utdanningsnytt.no/barnehage-grunnskole-leker/her...

There’s a broader lesson here about finding ways to teach kids to handle minor failures in a consequence-capped environment.


The risk to which we expose kids must ramp from "as close to zero as we can make it" for newborns, to "non-permanent injuries are acceptable" during childhood, and, while this is incredibly unpopular, "serious injury or death" needs to start creeping onto the table during the teenage years.

No, I'm not advocating for burying landmines on football fields, which is what safety cultists would have you believe ("You can never be too safe!" is their customary mantra). But teens need to engage in dangerous activities in order to develop fully into adults, meaning that a non-zero number are going to be maimed, crippled, or killed.

And yes, I have kids, and once they're old enough, they're going to do seriously dangerous stuff. Maybe one will break his neck end up in a wheelchair from downhill mountain biking. Or get stabbed and bleed out during a fight. Or lose a hand while working with power tools. Or...

I can and will do my best to prepare them, to train them to make good decisions, but what I can't do is try and keep them locked in a crib for their entire lives, because if I did, they would never develop the skills to handle real-world dangerous, life-or-death situations.

Yep. I like to think of the statement "A controlled failure is often a success".

When teaching kids to juggle, it is useful to say: a touch is as good as a catch

Very interesting, I never thought of safety that way. Thanks for sharing this.

I remember when my kids were younger they always had difficulty climbing onto the cooler play structures. Somehow the first few steps of the entrance are the most difficult. So I just had to help them get on and they would be fine. At first this annoyed me a bit, but later I realized that this must be intentional; if the kid manages to get in/on the play structure in the first place, they'll probably be fine. If they fall when trying to get on it, they fall in the sand so also no problem. Only the kids with some physical ability are able to reach some height, the smallest have to stay on the ground

Came here to post this. I noticed as well, the first step is always adjusted to the target age group. So when he was smaller, my kid couldn't get into the structures that were not meant for him, but year after year more stuff became accessible. There were also structures with multiple difficulty levels at once, and different entrance obstacles tuned to them. Pretty neat I must say.

I always expected this to be the case, everything designed with some sort of safety aspect for kid playgrounds. Until I was in one of those indoor playground companies where you pay an entrance fee. I was climbing around with my three year old daughter when we ended up at the top of the structure. There was a big sign with lots of text that a three year old can't read. It said something about four meter vertical drop slide. There were no hard places where I had to help her up to get up to this point. Luckily I'm not a very trusting parent. This place was later shut down because of lots of safety issues. Their defence was that they are a Café, not a kids playground. Weird even for swedish standards.

Never noticed this, that's fantastic design!

It doesn't look like they are building risk into the playgrounds, as much as they are building the feeling of risk. which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This seems like a compromise that should be seen as better, or at least acceptable to both extremes of parents.

"The maximum fall height in the Triitopia structure’s spiderweb is 1.8 metres." That's not a risky fall, if you're falling onto a rope net.

Also, "The Triitopia tower is encased with boards and netting to ensure no child can take a tumble from a height above three metres." Kids used to climb on the outside and on top of tall playground structures like that. But they're making sure this much more difficult to attempt. This is not a criticism, just my observations.

However they say that some broken bones are acceptable, which are more than just a “feeling of risk”.

Risk is likelihood X consequence, and there is also the distinction of actual risk vs perceived risk. They are manipulating the four variables; control actual consequence, maximize perceived consequence, maximize perceived likelihood, and moderate actual likelihood.

Both are types of risk IMO, and as children come to recognize the actual risk through experience they will come to recalibrate their perceived risk. Ideally this makes them better at perceiving risk in the future.

I wouldn’t want to fall 1.8m and land awkwardly, even if it might not permanently injure me.

Kids strength-to-weight ratio is drastically improved. My youngest fell that far when he was nearly 3, and was merely annoyed about it. An 80kg adult who gets unlucky falling that distance is headed for the hospital.

As someone who broke their arm as a kid falling off monkey bars, I can say that this is very case by case.

A kid that can get onto monkey bars has a much worse strength/weight than a two year old.

i wonder if it will be discovered as fun to "base-jump" into the net

Not really, as you will notice and learn that the ropes are damn stiff and have metal ties to form the grid.

In the US, my experience with this style of rope structure is that the ropes are actually steep cables encases in fiber or nylon rope sheathing. There is no stretch, so landings are immediate (unlike falling onto an actual rope net).

I think I've seen that too; why are they made this way? Durability? Supporting more people's weight at once?

I was told that the cables reduce the potential for stretch over time, and this is important to maintain safety tolerances (“space x cannot exceed size y because otherwise a child can…”)

Same shit as some commercial residential developments here in Germany have: wrong metrics.

Like, when the builders' metric is "must last for 20 years at minimal maintenance effort and legal risk", you get radically different results (barely fulfilling the legal definition of playground, no one uses it) than if the metric is "out of the X potential users in the 200m surrounding the playground, Y% use it frequently". The latter costs more money in construction and upkeep.

These things are ubiquitous in Berlin: https://stage.berliner-seilfabrik.com/wp-content/uploads/201...

They're not actually that high to an adult, but I have childhood memories of these seeming somewhat tall and scary. On an average one, a young child can fall 4-6 times their own height (but not straight, you'll get buffered by the structure as you go down).

> They're not actually that high to an adult

Not the ones we have here in Croatia : https://fastly.4sqi.net/img/general/width960/57918118_91NXEE...

Then there's this in Zagreb (Maksimir), which wasn't intended for climbing ever, but we as kids certainly did it


Looks very similar to one we have in Karlsruhe, Germany :) https://mein.toubiz.de/api/v1/media/6d3f180e-13b0-4346-b142-...

Is this Bundek? I love the place

Also in The Netherlands, our kid's after-school care playground has one. There is a quite tall one at another playground:


I grew up in a smaller village. We often climbed trees. I am pretty sure that this is safer.

Pretty common in Paris too.

I wish they made versions that were socially acceptable for adults to climb. These things were awesome.

I'm only semi-joking, but perhaps join an obstacle course race, or a gymnastics class for adults. I've done both, and it's been so much fun. The obstacle course is all kinds of weird things you have to climb over and under (I'd avoid the mud variants, unless you like that aspect, though). And even though I never did gymnastics as a kid and am stiff as a stick, it was great fun to play around in a big hall with other equally bad adults trying to do gymnastics, climb ropes, forward rolls, jump into foam pits etc.

Like being a kid again.

I'm in a parkour club, actually. Centr'Halles Park is pretty much the closest you get to an adult jungle gym!

Sounds awesome. A big thing for me would be finding a non-serious group. I just want to have fun.

Nighttime, walking from a bar or whatever in a group of buzzed, happy young-ish adults (bonus points if you're students), climbing these becomes perfecly socially acceptable :D

There are a few in SF. After a night of clubbing, high and drunk we'd fall around on them after dark till one of us spotted a guard and then we'd walk away (the guard not wanting any trouble as much as us).

In any case, the more socially acceptable way is the Spartan Race or a CrossFit gym.

I just climb them regardless when no kids are around.

The town I grew up in the 90s had much bigger versions of these. I'm not sure exactly how tall they were, but based on this photo [1] and my memories they were probably around 10-15m tall.

[1] https://www.dynamoplaygrounds.com/understanding-climbing-net...

The difference I've seen between these in Paris (and elsewhere in France) and the few I saw in Berlin was that nearly all the French playgrounds have that spongy artificial ground, while the German playgrounds more often have a natural surface---sand, wood chips (as in the photo), or dirt.

Climbing gym :)

IIRC there's one in San Antonio that isn't explicitly just for children

They're very common in America, too.


Cayuga Playground in San Francisco: https://aparkadaybayarea.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/chay...

Junipero Serra Playground in San Francisco: https://aparkadaybayarea.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Juni...

Childhood memories! Our playground had the same version shown in the linked image.

You were considered cool when you dared to jump off the highest possible standing position. The wood chips softened the fall :-)

I think common in whole germany, but maybe not ubiquitous. I certainly remember them well and in my imagination they were giant!

We have a lot of these in Australia too. Some actually are quite high, two or three times bigger than the one in your picture, but they kind of have a rope net base area 1.5m up to fall onto so you don’t hit the ground.

I know at least two in Berlin that are pretty high even for adults. One is at John-Foster-Dulless-Allee in the Tiergarten the other next to Fritz-Schloß-Park in Moabit.

We've got these in many newer playgrounds in Canada. They're awesome and always full of kids.

I left Chicago a few years ago, but that’s one of the things I miss. About 10 or 15 years ago they they started rebuilding playgrounds with this stuff. All the metal parts had stampings indicating that they were buying it from those same German manufacturers.

I wish we had stuff like that when I was a kid.

Not ubiquitous, but certainly common in Australia.

To add to the submission: I think there is one huge part why this is possible in the first place compared to the US, and the article just barely scrapes onto it: insurance.

Like, when a kid gets injured here in Germany, mandatory healthcare insurance picks up the cost, and even if the maintainer can be held liable it's a few thousand euros in damages ("Schmerzensgeld") at most.

In contrast, in the US healthcare insurances try to avoid paying up however possible, including shit such as forcing people to sue their family for healthcare cost. A paranoidly risk-averse society is the only thing that this can end up.

>and even if the maintainer can be held liable

and thats a big IF. i dont think i ever heard of something like this happening in my circle

>Like, when a kid gets injured here in Germany, mandatory healthcare insurance picks up the cost, and even if the maintainer can be held liable it's a few thousand euros in damages ("Schmerzensgeld") at most.

I am not so sure about this. It's true that the health insurers come up for the cost. But at least in cases where injury is due to a fight, they come after you for the money ("Durchgriffshaftung"). I would assume that if the maintainer failed its duties in a negligent manner, they (indirectly) would be held liable.

I don't know, kids these days. You should have seen what we had to contend with in the 60s - huge lumps of flesh mangling metal, swinging at terrifying angles, throwing small children off in all directions. And no wimpy rubber mats to catch them. Sometimes, I wonder that I survived.

maybe it's just my old man memory but when I was young in the 70's there was always one or two kids in a cast, usually a broken arm -it was a bit of a badge of honor and something for everyone to sign. Now I almost never see a kid in a cast maybe medicine has gotten a lot better and things seem to have had the entire danger aspect removed from them. I wonder if play today is boring or there is so much safety that kids don't think anything about doing something stupid since they can't get hurt.

I won't judge how the risk and injuries has changed. But medicine changed. The strict tied cascing is done less and for shorter periods these days. There are lighter and smaller orthoses these days, which can be worn under clothing and allow some flexibility.

As a 2000s/2010s kid, I would word it the same way you did: “there was always one or two kids in a cast.” If your wording is accurate to your experience then I don’t think much has changed. If you don’t physically work in a school then it’s a tough pattern to monitor.

I'm looking at a grade school right now, I watch kids come and go all day long but yes I don't have backing statistics.

I heard a researcher speaking on how litigation against playground owners in the 1970s in the USA over injuries and in one case a child fatality drove the more stringent playground regulations. However, the unintended consequence was an increase in children's long bone injuries, and her research suggested that this is due to kids not learning to navigate risk on the "safer" playgrounds and eventually getting injured elsewhere where the ground isn't forgiving like all the artificial playground surfaces.

Take you kids to play in the woods!

Lawyers ruined a super-fun slide just a few years ago


90’s as well. Lots of casts. I didn’t get one so I’m not sure how to judge the risk-reward.

reminds me of when I was a kid in the UK, there was these places that was called 'funhouses' where kids was supposed to play, I was seriously terrified of dying. I'm unsure if it's my memory and/or if I was just too young

I've heard stories from relatives about a funhouse like that on Coney Island. Supposedly there was a dark maze section with clowns that would walk around and shock you. As I got older I assumed some of it had to be made up. But at least part of the story is corroborated in this article about the Steeplechase Park:


thanks - I wonder how many unrecorded near deaths or injuries there where - I'm assuming back then if you complained you was classed as a coward - different world!

don't know about funhouse, but playgrounds were very scary. the most scary one, which would intimadate a brave man (amongst whom i was living - RAF pilots) was called "the boat" (if i remember correctly) which was a steel plank (which you sat on), supported by 4 steel struts, attached, swiveling, to a steel frame. it took some effort to get this monster swinging (like sitting on a normal swing and doing the stuff you do) but once it got going the momentum was tremendous. there was limiting mechanism to stop it going over the top. most kids too terrified to ride it to that point (humiliating admission: i was too scared).

the other scary thing you could do with it was to grab hold of the plank on the up-swing, which would boost you high in the air. you had to have a nice touch of judgement on where you let go, if you didn't want multiple broken bones.

I took a steel see-saw to the face on one of those playgrounds in the 1970’s. My little sister pulled her end down, which caused my end to shoot up unexpectedly. Ouch. Ruined my day for sure.

I let my brother (6?) unsupervised for one minute and some much larger kid got on the other side jumped up and when they came back down my brothers face smashed into the metal pipe handle bars splitting his lip wide open, he came right over streaming blood, I was 8, so I immediately went to find mom and dad who were doing champion hunting dog obedience qualifiers and I think I saw dad first who was actually showing the dog at the time and walked into the show area to get him. Immediately to the hospital. Pretty sure dad was non-plussed but also pouring blood.

Literally survivor bias!

"... it’s the strict policing of standards that enables a risk-accepting culture in the first place."

Doesn't just apply to playgrounds.

Where what and how much risk matters.

A kid falling off of a playground -- kids are small, falls don't hurt them as much -- has a lot less risk than changing a traffic pattern and having an F-150 slam into another vehicle. Or having banks get greedy and collapse the economy.

Risks also require safety nets. Otherwise you're just screwing your people over.

> Risks also require safety nets.

Which is exactly what the piece said.

It is hard to explain, but this headline makes me sad, very sad.

Not because german children are supposedly put at risk, not at all...

It is the tone of finger pointing. Risk is what eventually makes us grow.

A totally risk free world/life would be utterly worthless living, and perhaps a reason to attempt suicide.

Good point. Makes me think of the complete lack of suicide in more primitive cultures.

That's simply untrue. Suicide among the Greeks and Romans was at least prevalent enough to have laws written about it (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_suicide) and suicide among samurai was also certainly non-zero.

If those examples are not "primitive" enough, already in 1894 Steinmetz collated an extensive list of at least forty-two documented cases of suicide amongst what he terms "savage peoples" like the "Polar peoples, North American Indians, Bedouins, Polynesians and native races of British India". Many of the terms he uses would be frowned upon today, but the article is available for free at https://www.jstor.org/stable/658295 and clearly documents many cases of suicide even in societies untouched by Western ideas. It's quite the list, from women killing themselves for "unrequited love" to adulterers committing suicide out of fear of repercussions. In fact he concludes that suicide may even be more prevalent in primitive cultures, relative to the size of the population, because some of those societies did not seem to have a stigma or taboo against suicide (unlike western civilizations where it is/was a sin).

I saw some of this German company’s equipment in Memphis, Tennessee—very cool, and quite different from most U.S. playgrounds: https://www.richter-spielgeraete.de/en/playground-equipment/...

Crazy, this is one of their main playgrounds they are responsible for:


The page is an obituary because the designer died in December.

The video is in English.

Really interesting. However, the Black Forest is not in the Bavarian Alps.

Considering our species used to send children into dark caves as a rite of passage and the way things are now, this is probably for the best.

"Parents can try to keep up with their young mountaineers as they ascend through the rope spiderweb, but they might get left behind in the tightly woven mesh."

Like Instagram and TikTok, but with real safety guarantees.

> Considering our species used to send children into dark caves as a rite of passage

Is this a reference to Victorians sending kids into coal mines to die of back lung, or something else? As a bonus, the tunnels didn't need to be so large.

I was talking about prehistoric ages.

“We are not trying to avoid every broken leg possible.”

Spoken like someone in s country with an affordable healthcare system.

>A sign urges parents to take off their children’s cycle helmets in order to eliminate a strangulation risk.

That's ironic - PPE that becomes dangerous in a different environment.

Helmets in particular have tremendous specificity, which is fascinating. Bicycle, ski, and motorcycle helmets have MIPS. Motorcycle helmets have chin guards. Bicycle helmets have side impact protection. Climbing helmets have puncture resistance and top impact protection. Ski helmets have puncture resistance and coverage close to a motorcycle helmet, but less cushion. I’m sure the list is long for hard hats as well.

Kids helmets have started to show up with breakaway neck straps- the strap only need be so strong to prevent the helmet from slipping off in a crash.

Another common example: don't wear safety gloves when working with rotating equipment, as they can catch and drag one's hand in

Another example: there's a reason the security briefing on airplanes tells you to not inflate the vest while still inside the cabin.

Also helicopters.

There used to be a gentleman who gave the mandatory safety briefing before taking guests from Lundy Island by helicopter (the only travel option in winter months) who would make the point that if one person inflates their vest, the other passengers would lemming-like inflate their vests and then you suddenly find the cabin is filled with 5 or 6 inflated people that have no chance of getting out of the door. He always used to joke that the whistle was to amuse yourself until the coastguard arrived.

For workplace protection helmets there are two European norms: EN 12492 for climbers and mountaineers requires >50kg holding force on the chin strap, to not come loose in case of a fall. EN 397 for industrial hard hats (on the ground) require chin straps to open on <25kg, to protect the wearer from strangulation in case of a fall.

There were some comments in a 2021 submission, among them one with links to a manufacturer’s website that has good pictures of playground structures. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28978056

Until recently we still had a concrete-made children slide [1] here in Romania, built in pure brutalist style back in the '60s. There was also one built in my home-town, and I guess in other towns throughout Eastern Europe.

There's no way anything like that could ever get built again, and yet, we managed to don't kill ourselves as kids when we were sliding on them.

[1] https://www.cotidianul.ro/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/19/tobo...


Germany is building risk into its playgrounds - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28978056 - Oct 2021 (6 comments)

People speak as if risk is a positive. It isn't. It's intrinsically bad. The issue isn't risk avoidance, but excessive risk-avoidance. The issue is paying too high of a price to avoid risks. A top level comment mentioned climbing trees. This is an example of a somewhat risky activity that is well worth continuing.

Why is that? The big benefit as I see it is that it is natural free-form play. That's freedom. It's also a play as old as time, letting them connect with our ancestors. It teaches them to interact with an environment that doesn't care about them one way or another, it isn't designed to be safe, it isn't designed to be fun or engaging. Trees are just out there for their own reasons. Exploring that, playing with that and respecting that, it seems like it should be very healthy and teach the right lessons and intuitions and prepare them for the rest of the world.

Building risk into playgrounds so that no adult German ever takes risks and has insurance for every case :)

how do you think Allianz got so big? ;)

They are lowering the long term risk of too little short term risk, an unsafe excess of safety. This is a kind of behavioral hormesis. The dose/response curve of a potential toxin is seldom linear, including for jungle gyms.

All well and good, but the children in our local playground in Germany climb the nearby trees overlooking the risk-engineered playground, reaching heights of around 5 metres while standing on branches less than 1cm thick!

My favorite example of a classic super dangerous and fun park: Dennis the Menace park in Monterey, CA:


There was a full size real steam locomotive that kids could climb inside, under, and through, and strange spinning things made of steel that were far off the ground that you could old get on by jumping off a concrete wall onto it.

We've had a couple of playgrounds like this near where I live here in Virginia for a number of years. They're not very old, but certainly older than 2021.

I remember when I was a teen I started noticing how the nanny state had managed to remove all the old swings I used to play with and replaced them with some tiny and safe swings that no one even uses anymore. Children even started wearing yellow safety vests to school all of a sudden. I'm glad there's at least some backlash to this nonsense.

> Children even started wearing yellow safety vests to school all of a sudden.

Given how many accidents happen on the way to school ("Schulwegunfälle", yes we have a dedicated word for it), it's absolutely necessary. 62k accidents in 2021, and 16 dead kids [1].

A large part of the cause is how absurdly car-centric our cities are - and yet, we're harmless compared to the US.

[1] https://www.dguv.de/de/zahlen-fakten/schuelerunfallgeschehen...

accident is not the preferred term considering people intentionally drive the way we do


> 16 dead kids

of course every preventable death is too much and we should be aiming at zero...but 16 doesn't seem that much? I would have guessed more for sure.

In the last few years, the residential street where I live had multiple accidents caused by inattentive or plain racing drivers. One child ended up in hospital for weeks after being run over by a speeding car, a woman ended up dead after being run over by a lorry, and from my window I can see dangerous behavior from motorists alllll the time. Not good if you have three schools, (at least) two kindergartens and a sports area used by all of them.

The problem is, the street is fucking wide - it used to be the supply road for a beer factory and only got developed into pure residential and schools zoning two decades ago, and that seems to invite people to not give a fuck.

It does seem a little hypocritical to follow up 'should aim for zero children dead from being ran over by vehicles' with 'but 16 is fine'

If we aim for zero (no matter what) society grinds to screeching halt. Not even considering constitutional aspects.

Especially the Western societies should get back to a healthy risk perception. In my opinion (I live in Germany) we've gone overboard.

I don't think so. I would have said the same about other statistics. In the end it defies my intuition, which is interesting given that the possibility of getting run over is pretty present in every day life of many children. You have to keep in mind that zero is pretty much impossible because the risk is present all long as we drive, so we should aim for zero but won't get to zero.

Then we are not actually aiming for zero. I don't think it is wise to engage in such blatant sophistry when discussing public policy.

of course you're aiming for zero. But you can't just wish it, there are constraints that arise from our reality. It's all a story of risks and costs, from crossing the street, driving a bicycle to using electricity. You can even die from the flu. In the end dying is unfortunately part of living and in some way unavoidable. A little bit of risks repeated a lot goes a long way.

Calling my comment sophistry is a little bit dramatic I think ;) especially considering you started this argument by twisting my statement about 16 dead kids being fine

public policy should be rational and evidence based

16 is sad and very unfortunate.

There is a massive outcry and countries passing anti-constitutional laws aimed to protect women that are victims of domestic violence with similar casualty rates.

Maybe we should let kids vote so politicians pay some attention to them.

It's getting better, at least in Berlin.

Besides, the quality of the drivers in Germany is far better than in the US in my experience.

'Dedicated word' in German is a bit of a tricky concept:

'Schulwegunfälle' => schul + weg + un + fall = 'school' + 'way' + 'bad' + 'happening'.

Technically it's a single word, but composed of separate, composable parts which make logical sense when combined together.

"Absolutely necessary" is your personal opinion. I, for one, disagree with that.

> Children even started wearing yellow safety vests to school all of a sudden

Ban cars around schools. Ironically, the danger to kids walking to school is other parents driving their kid to school (a bit stressed, over the limit and probably on their phone).

Things only gotten safer over the last 50 years and every kid walked to school in the 60's,70's & 80's but now the majority are carted in very large SUVs. Something changed and it's not safety. I'd also add that they walked to school without parental supervision pretty much from kindergarten forward. I think most parents today would have a heart attack if their 2nd grader walked to school alone (even though they likely did)

What state manages playground equipment?

Many, if not most, public playgrounds are maintained by the city or municipality in Germany. Here in a larger city they are checked and cleaned weekly.

So not the state?

Depends on your definition of state. If you really want to dig into it:

The country, Germany, or a federal state like Bavaria, likely not directly but indirectly, due to how our tax system works. Different entities collect different taxes, but the cities and municipalities get a certain percentage of wage and sales tax for example. Often those taxes are not bound to be used for a certain purpose.

But also we have city-states liked Berlin or Hamburg, and those directly fund and maintain their playgrounds.

“The state” is a generic term that refers to the government, local, provincial, or larger.

I'd suggest it's not typically thought of as including local government. It is a peculiarly overloaded term though, particularly if you live in a country where "state" is a key governmental/administrative division! In the usage here - "nanny state" - I'd agree it can include local government and indeed even organisations operating below that level (it might just be a single school board making "nanny state" decisions).

I think it very much is thought of as inclusive of local government, at least in countries that aren't federal.

I remember playing on this as a child: https://playgroundology.wordpress.com/2018/06/29/whats-in-a-...

Mixed feelings about it being unavailable to my children.

Prague here, happy to have this: https://maps.app.goo.gl/eEcKTe5rfNxr7he77

Was I scared a bit climbing this with my kids? Yes. Was it an awesome day? Hell, yeah, and returning there soon!

Me as a 31 year old I climbed exactly this one with my young nephews.

Berlin Frohnau is a very rich part of Berlin, so finding this quality of playgrounds is not that typical in Germany.

Playgrounds in Germany (and EU) are pretty safe. Child may fall, but there are no sharp corners, and ground is covered with grovel or rubber.

This is nothing new. These exist in Germany since at least 1985, and can be pretty high. Source: Climbed on them. Never fell.

We have these in Florida, USA and I have seen these types in Ontario, Canada where I am from originally.

Especially in Berlin people add dog shit, cigarette butts and broken glass bottles to the playground to increase the risks for kids. I‘m usually against video surveillance, but I believe it is unfortunately necessary to have video cameras on playgrounds, because without punishment some idiots simply don’t stop their destructive behavior.

These people are amateurs: The USA lead the way: https://clickamericana.com/topics/family-parenting/life-for-...

too little too late

Is anyone else like me and just sick & tired of the boomerification of the public discourse? There isn't anything more wrong with kids these days compared to previous generations. Participation trophies didn't matter, foam playgrounds didn't create "soft" kids. Its all non-sense.

"What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?" - Plato

That's not a real Plato quote. Quote Investigator couldn't find any appearance of it before 1967.


p.s. What I'm sick and tired already of is the word "boomerification", and that's the first time I've seen it.

> p.s. What I'm sick and tired already of is the word "boomerification", and that's the first time I've seen it.

Ok boomer.

Please refresh on the HN comment guidelines.

Why is boomer listed there?

Would you dismiss any evidence of generational changes in the way children are raised, in the aggregate?

Or that changes in the way children are raised don’t affect the child?

I would love to see evidence that showed a measurable difference of an adult's behavior or personality based on the playground (or trophy policy) they grew up with.

From what I know there's a fair bit of research linking improved motor skills and social skills with later academic performance. Here are some quotes from a review article[1]:

Research presented in this section indicates that removing play from early childhood classrooms may actually undermine intended achievement-oriented outcomes.

Play enhances attention, memory, self-regulation, and overall academic achievement throughout childhood. In short, physical play is necessary for learning.

Young children’s motor development has been found to be a powerful predictor of cognitive abilities in the elementary years.

A good playground will be exciting and thus promote spontaneous play, a creative process, and it will be challenging which help kids develop their motor skills.

A bad playground will be dull and lack challenges, thus not making kids develop those skills in the same way.

Thus it seems quite likely that the quality of the playgrounds available at their kindergarten, school and local area can have an effect into adulthood.

[1]: https://www.easternct.edu/center-for-early-childhood-educati...

> Research presented in this section indicates that removing play from early childhood classrooms may actually undermine intended achievement-oriented outcomes.

That is absolutely not the same as having an overly safe or "soft" playgrounds.

You wanted research that showed how playgrounds could affect kids later in life. I tried to show that research suggest that indeed overly safe playgrounds can do that.

In my other comment on this article I mention a playground designer I knew, and this was one of the things he worked hard to change. He wanted playgrounds where kids could feel danger, so they could develop and get challenged, but that were still sufficiently safe.

A lot of playgrounds here were built to be as safe as possible, removing any feeling of danger and excitement in the process. This lead to less play and reduced development of motor and social skills.

> I tried to show that research suggest that indeed overly safe playgrounds can do that

But you didn't, your post is play vs no play. No one is arguing that no play has zero affect on children and their adulthood. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

Playgrounds for children are a relative new invention, especially for the unwashed masses. The notion that children require a dangerous feeling playground to become well rounded and mentally tough adults is silly.

> But you didn't, your post is play vs no play.

Perhaps I failed to emphasize, but the last bit was important to my point. Studies have shown motor skills are important for kids and can affect later academic performance, and good playgrounds help kids develop motor skills.

> Playgrounds for children are a relative new invention, especially for the unwashed masses.

Indeed... yet somehow you don't think they play any role in how kids develop now compared to before they became common?

> good playgrounds help kids develop motor skills.

Once again, your link doesn't show that. Your link only claims physical play is important, it doesn't mention the type of playgrounds. Yes we all agree a sedentary lifestyle is bad for kids and adults.

If you can't provide a scientific source for your claim that the type ("safe" vs dangerous) of playgrounds matter then just say that.

From the article I linked:

Several programs emphasize the selection of certain types of motor play equipment, based on previous observational studies of children’s outdoor play (Martin, 2000; McCall & Craft, 2004). These authors argue that equipment should be chosen to carry out specific activities that meet motor learning goals. Too often, they suggest, movement activities are planned around expensive pieces of playground equipment that pose few challenges, fail to capture children’s interests, and do not promote the acquisition of important skills.

My link was not meant to be exhaustive, just to show there's research on this. Here's another source[1]:

Even though research on risky play and young children’s risk-taking is a relatively new research area, researchers have, during the last decades, been interested in the possible benefits of risky play to children’s development and learning. This research indicates that risky play can lead to increased physical activity, improved motor/physical competence (Brussoni et al. 2015; Fjørtoft 2000), higher ability to assess risks and handle risk situations in an appropriate way (Ball 2002; Boyesen 1997; Lavrysen et al. 2015) and positive psychological outcomes (Brussoni et al. 2015; Sandseter and Kennair 2011) and general health (Brussoni et al. 2015).

[1]: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10643-020-01074-0

You realize this study's definition of risky play includes riding a bike and playing with sticks, right?

Clearly you're grasping at straws now. I'm out.

For some reason you keep replying to this comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35222791 with links that claim physical exercise is important. In the future I suggest reading your links before posting them instead of assuming other people won't read them.

> Playgrounds for children are a relative new invention, especially for the unwashed masses. The notion that children require a dangerous feeling playground to become well rounded and mentally tough adults is silly.

Prior to playgrounds, children climbed trees and did all kinds of other edge-pushing play. Modern urban/suburban (and even in many cases rural) environments provide less opportunity for that.

I know that climate change is getting bad but trees still exist and kids still climb in them.

At least here, most if not all of the trees are cut down on a property when a kindergarten or school is built. My friend tried hard to prevent this on the projects he was involved with.

There's also the issue with who enjoys climbing trees. I can't recall specifically about trees, but I do know girls prefer different activities to boys, another thing my acquaintance focused on when designing playgrounds.

Anyway, my point wasn't that kids need playgrounds to develop properly. Rather, given that kids are forced to spend large parts of their day in areas where the playground is the main source of physical challenges, the design of the playground has an impact on the kids.

It's not a "kids these days" thing. It's a modernity thing. The first person to make a lot of noise about this was Georges Herbert, a French physical educator who is regarded as the inventor of the military obstacle course, and who was broadly influential in shaping physical education programs, largely throughout Europe and the eastern block in the 20th century.


Children don't know better and getting hurt isn't always the best way to learn because their could be permanent consequences

A friend of mine, PhD in early childhood education, told me the contrary: Toddlers instinctively know their limits and will not "bite more than they can chew", at least with gross motor skills.

My personal experience confirms this: for example, when teaching my young kid of 18mo to climb down stairs standing, I would stop holding his hands and observe his behavior. He would initially try to go down a step on his feet while holding the side rail, then hesitate and ask for my hand. If I told him to do it himself, he would instead sit down and slide down gently.

There could be permanent consequences either way. Children of overprotective parents tend to live less:


I don’t know. Our kid frequents these playgrounds and it’s interesting to see how the usage changes over time. The kid quite frequently signals when it thinks something is too high or a slide to steep or whatever. And most kids seem to be rather cautious.

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