Are new playgrounds too safe for kids?

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by LEIGH FRILLICI

KHOU

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 22 at 9:41 AM

HOUSTON — With kids’ safety being a top priority, some researchers overseas are saying it’s gone too far—that playgrounds have actually become too safe.

You see, in a move to make the playgrounds safer, the design has changed. A lot of the equipment is lower, like the slides and the apparatus. There’s mulch on the ground, and even landing pads at the bottom of slides.

"They make it so that the younger kids can do it," said Liam Scherer, who was enjoying the playground at Hermann Park.

But experts say kids lose the chance to challenge themselves, take risks and experience the thrill of conquering new heights. They can also get bored more easily.

"That can cause inactivity issues, and in this day and age, want to make sure our children are happy and healthy at the same time," said Dr. Andrew Brams, a psychologist in the Galleria area.

"We grew up with monkey bars and really cool stuff and the big, tall slides—things like that," said Otter Gill, a parent who had brought her kids to Hermann Park. "We’re still here, we survived it!"

If playgrounds are too safe, some experts believe kids won’t reach as far in lots of ways.

"It’s real important we don’t stunt the child’s, not only competence in climbing, but their confidence, their belief in how far they can climb and what they can do," said Brams. "That’s so important, not just on the playground, but their life skills as well."

Brams said a parent’s fear can be limiting, too.

"Sometimes I just don’t watch when they are climbing things, so they are safe and I am comfortable," said Blake Scherer, with a laugh. She, too, was at Hermann Park with her kids.

And what about those bumps and bruises? Brams said they’re a rite of passage

"I think it’s important to take risks and if they have injuries they learn what to do next time," he said.

In the face of bigger equipment, getting over fears may be more challenging for parents than for their kids.

"I’m not a big risk-taker myself so, I don’t need more risk in my life," said Scherer.

According to some researchers, though, taking risks is an important lesson to learn on the playground.

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