Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids

Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids


When you imagine a playground, chances are
it looks something like this. There’s usually a slide, a bridge, and a
high point with a domed roof. That’s what makes this a playground, and
this, and this. But what about this? This isn’t a junkyard. It’s called an adventure playground. Here, there are no plastic play structures
– just things like old tires, wood planks, hammers and nails. Places like this represent one of the most
debated ideas in play architecture: that playgrounds should be designed to let kids take more risks. Now, this nightmare for helicopter parents
is the hottest new thing in American playgrounds, because there’s growing evidence that play
like this is a whole lot healthier — and safer — for kids. They can play with very dangerous
tools, they can take really dangerous risks and overcome
them. And this fills up a tremendous sense of self
confidence in themselves, which is really quite fascinating to watch. That’s Marjory Allen. She was a British landscape architect and
children’s welfare advocate around the middle of the century. In 1945, she visited Copenhagen, where she
met an architect named Carl Theodor Sorensen. Two years earlier, during the German occupation
of Denmark, Sorensen noticed a problem: kids in his neighborhood weren’t using playgrounds. In fact, they were playing just about everywhere
else — even in construction sites and bombed out buildings. So in a housing development in the suburbs
of Copenhagen, Sorensen closed off an empty lot and filled it with building materials,
discarded objects, and tools. Here, kids could dig, build, and invent on
their own. The play structures were ultimately designed
by the kids themselves. Sorensen called it a junk playground — and
kids and parents loved it. When she returned to England, Marjory Allen
started opening similar playgrounds across London. And she renamed them: from junk to adventure. From there, they became a global phenomenon. They spread to Minneapolis, Boston, Toronto,
Tokyo, Houston, Berkeley, Berlin. And to create these playgrounds, designers
had to introduce a critical element: Controlled risk. In this context, a risk isn’t the same thing
as a hazard. When you’re climbing a tall tree, a rotten
branch is a hazard: the threat is unexpected. But how high you climb is a risk: it’s manageable,
and requires you to actively make a decision. You can break the elements of controlled risk
down into six categories: heights, speed, tools, dangerous elements, rough and tumble
play, and the ability to disappear, or become lost. And a good adventure playground includes a
mix of these. Designers also focus on separation of space. To give kids the feeling of discovering things
on their own, parents have to stay out. That can mean installing a physical barrier
— or providing things like restrooms, cafés, and seating, so that parental experience isn’t
an afterthought. Finally, designers fill it with loose parts. These are the manipulatable objects — the
planks, barrels, bricks, and tools — that fuel risky play. The idea behind all these design elements
is that kids respond well to being treated seriously: if they’re presented with risky
items with a serious functional purpose, they’ll respond cautiously and conduct more experimentation. But if presented with an overly safe, static
space, they often wind up seeking dangerous thrills that the built environment fails to
provide, which can result in higher injury rates than risky play at adventure playgrounds. In the US, a culture of lawsuit-proof playscape
design means that overly safe playgrounds are the norm. And design philosophy has focused on how to
reduce height, movement, and hard materials. That hasn’t made playgrounds better. When Marjory Allen visited American playgrounds
in 1965, she called them “an administrator’s heaven and a child’s hell.” But adventure playgrounds have recently begun
to catch on in the US — perhaps due to an effort to introduce more unstructured play. And their construction comes with a fair share
of criticism. “They’re making kids play with hammers
and nails — that’s not adventure, it’s just work. They’re tricking kids into building their
own playground. Adventure playgrounds do have downsides: They’re
pretty ugly, they require a lot of space, and they need resources to staff and maintain. And as with any playground, there is opportunity
for injury. But the underlying philosophy of risky play
can help kids live better lives. For one thing, riskier playgrounds encourage
more activity. A study comparing playgrounds in London, where
risky play spaces are popular, to those in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York found
that children using London’s playgrounds were up to 18 percent more physically active. The London playgrounds were cheaper and boasted
fewer injuries, too. And multiple studies have shown that children
who engage in risky play have better risk detection, creativity, and self esteem. The playground is one of the only kinds of
architecture designed specifically for children. And if the standard model we’ve decided
on is seen as boring by its users — that’s a problem. Better design can fix that — even if it’s
a little risky. I had to look through so many pictures of playgrounds for this story that I decided to use Wix to create a website collecting all of the ugliest and saddest pictures of playgrounds that I could find. And now I have a perfectly curated arrangement of pictures of playgrounds next to graveyards and slides leading into dumpsters and whatever these kid-friendly statues are. If you’re looking for a simple way to share your passion about broken infrastructure or whatever it is that you’re into these days, you should absolutely head to Wix. To create your own website just like this, click the link below. Wix does not directly impact our editorial, but their support makes videos like this possible. So check them out.

Mari Copeny is Trying to Save the Planet | PRINCESS ALLIANCE: POWERFUL KIDS

Mari Copeny is Trying to Save the Planet | PRINCESS ALLIANCE: POWERFUL KIDS

– [Narrator] Welcome to Princess Alliance Powerful Kids, where some of the best young superstars this side of Etheria proveRead More Mari Copeny is Trying to Save the Planet | PRINCESS ALLIANCE: POWERFUL KIDS

100 Replies to “Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids”

  1. I feel like kids get hurt way more on safe ones than adventure ones. Idk if it was just me but climbing all over the roofs and tunnels led to a lot of falling and broken bones.

  2. Kids are literally made to run, invent, create. I would love an adventure playground. So what if we get a little bruised we'll heal. A few scrapes? No problem we'll grow and learn from them. Listen to the people you are designing for. Make some for older kids at least. We thrive of off this stuff. Finding, searching, building, hiding, running, yeah it needs more space, we need space to be kids! You can't tell me that any kid wants to just run around in a front yard sized space! Let us wreck havoc on something with no rules. Lut us make the rules, learn the risks, and be in charge.

  3. It’s pretty great how literally doing almost nothing can be more beneficial than specifically engineering something for a certain purpose. So if we let kids run loose in a nuclear wasteland will they become extra smart? Guess we have to test it 🤷🏻‍♀️

  4. My mom trusted me as a kid and let be take dangerous decisions. Today i am confident and i can literally beat the pants of everyone.. Cash me outsideee, how bout that!!! ✊️👊

  5. lol, even with the safe playground stuff us in elementary school interacted with them dangerously.
    5 year old me:*swings really high, stands on top of the swings, me and my playmate try to get each other off that spring seesaw*

  6. When I went to a playground when I was little. My bother and I would swing as high as possible and jump off as soon an we were at the top it was super fun. Also we would be unsupervised in the back yard a lot so we would big a hole about 1 or 2 feet beep, and its still there.

  7. There's a playground in my neighborhood and me and my friends used to go went dumpster diving and basically made out own for system behind some bushed areas

  8. I was fortunate enough to have spacious backyard and neighbors to play with. We climbed trees, made our own zip lines, tried to bungee jump, and used jump ropes in every way except how they were supposed to be used. I would play outside pretty much all day. Playgrounds seemed quite boring. And I’m 15

  9. As a kid i used to go outside and run around but i never went to the play ground i went on the roofs of houses and climb trees because there was more fun to be had. Watching this i knew i was scammed as a child

  10. Am I the only one who prefer the ”plastic” playground ?
    Maybe I'm just traumatized by getting a wood splinter in my fingers but I still like ”plastic” one more.

  11. Our school had like 6 or 7 swings lined up next to each other and we used to play this game we called "wipeout". Basically, while the swings were filled, kids would take turns running through the swings to the other side. The teachers tried to stop us but it never worked.

  12. I used to jump around with my siblings in my grandfather's store room where he stored his stocks for his shop.
    We would jump across rice bags and pretend to shoot each other with guns it was extremely dangerous, I got a leg wound from falling off bags of flour.
    Remembering this makes me smile :33

  13. The city museum in St Louis is a 5 story adventure playground. I'm an adult but had a great time going through the mazes and almost getting stuck in places

  14. I grew up on my family farm (we rent a house on a two house lot) and we'd usually have building supplies and whatnot left around after finishing up small enclosures. Neighbour kids and I would climb fences and weave through blackberries to the very middle of the patch and we made a clearing- made all the "furniture" ourselves out of planks, bricks, logs, and cinderblocks. I was reminiscing about it a few weeks ago to my mom and apparently… our parents… never knew we did that??? RIP whoever has to clear out the blackberry patch when this place finally gets torn down cause those tires are doomed.

  15. Me: * is almost 14 *
    Also me: "make that playground bigger and I'd still play in it."
    In my city there's literally no playground and the streets are lined with stores, plus it's unsafe. I literally sit in my house 24/7 during the holidays.

  16. We didnt have "adventure playgrounds" but we were raised in a very free environment wherein we were allowed access to the shallow rivers, the streams, the meadows and even some parts of the forest. We were carrying hammers and nails as well, constructing our own makeshift tree houses from fallen branches. We dug up dirt and sand to make miniature wells that will be filled with water. We ran around the forest collecting insects and flowers and small berries.

    I think kids these days lack actual interaction with the environment. Back then, when you fall from a branch of a tree, you get small cuts and bruises and that teaches you that you gotta be careful next time.

  17. When I was a kid my neighbors built a tree house in their back woods all on their own. It wasn’t really a tree house, it was just some wooden boards nailed to a fork in a tree that had fallen on another one to create a sort of ramp up to the platform. We tied jump ropes to the side but if they only went half way up the tree. Not to mention the thick under growth under the tree that would definitely leave a mark if fallen into (I’m pretty sure it was full of poison ivy too). It was SUPER dangerous and if my mom knew that the “tree house” looked like that I’m 100% sure she would have banned me from it but still it was really fun. I remember the day I mustered up the confidence to climb the whole tree I was so proud of myself. Yeah that type of play isn’t safe, but kids are a lot smarter and more resilient than you think. Let them build their own fun, even if it’s a little dangerous.

  18. When I was younger I just remember playing for a couple minutes on safe playgrounds and getting bored shortly after and wanting to go home

    Its just not entertaining.

  19. Me and my neighbors just climbed our outdoor dog kennel fence and propped up boards against it so we could walk up it. Much better than a boring old playground at my old elementary school

  20. I’ve been to an adventure playground camp sort of thing when I was little. I just remember all I did during the 6 hour play thing we did each day was sit in the shade with my brother so we could make all the other little kids do the work.

  21. Everyone gangsta until the big bad bully starts throwing hammers and until lil jimmy gets tetanus from a rusty nail

  22. Eh. My kids are happy with whatever playground. Better safe than sorry. Who can guarantee that a bully kid wouldn't accidentally hurt someone badly?

  23. The playgrounds around my homes got so boring that me and my brother got some wood (our dad was a builder) then we built our own little playground in our back yard then we invited friends round often and we never got serious injuries or anything

  24. Im only 21 and spent most of my playtime as a kid in the woods setting up forts with fallen trees and lost junk (coolers, tarps, boxes, pallets, poles, rope, etc.) that was treasure to us kids, and I preferred that strongly to plastic playgrounds. We also had even set up our own trade systems for these treasured resources as a result of this "economy" within our small community of kids, and it really gave me a lot of social experience and experience in nature to do this, plus it fostered imagination and let us learn creativity organically.

  25. Yeah I remember swinging from a vine over one of the sinkholes next to the river behind my house, and I would walk miles up a creek with my friends, literally walking right through it. I do think there is something to this, I think the way I grew up had a positive impact on who I am now.

  26. I’m from the uk, and in my town we have a huge park that’s been evolving and growing for years. When i was about 10, they added a new fort which was made comeplery of wood! it was huge and had proper bridges and even an attack tower that you had to climb up rope with, once one child fell off it, i can’t remember the injury, but after that it was gone. It was the best asset to the park, and now it’s been replaced with a boring and overly safe castle that’s half the size.

  27. This is why I always climbed up the tube slides, even though there's a chance a kid will come down and kick me in the face.

  28. When I was younger I lived at a place that had two playgrounds nearby but also a forest.
    Me, my brothers and the neighbouring kids always chose to play in the forest instead of the playgrounds since the forest had a lot of discarded planks and random metal items that we used to build a treehouse!
    It was a lot more fun because we got to create our own place, create as well as it felt more adventurous because of the less safe surroundings.
    The playgrounds themselves wasn't even that bad since it had a lot of thingd that was not safety checked too but after it got rebuilt so everything was made out of plastic and soft dunes, and the removal of the bushes and trees no kid ever played there anymore except the 2-4 year olds that got brought there by their parents.

  29. In my elementary, we had a "safe" playground and it was very boring for all of us. So we took risks in that playground like climbing on top of roofs, hanging from our feet in the jungle gym, and doing generally dangerous things that the playground wasn't designed for. It was way more fun and gave us a sense of accomplishment and made us learn. Having a controlled adventure playground where it was designed for us to learn and take risks wouldve been safer for us in my opinion.

  30. Adults: this playground is better! And we'll put tools and stuff there!
    11 year old me who watched john wick: you've underestimated me fools

  31. Honestly, i thought of this within a month of being at kindergarten. My entire personality could have been different just to play in one of these.

  32. I remember near my city there was a "Adventure Park", there were like bridges on void and there was the "Angel slide": you were attached to some strings and launched for a 20 seconds journey and you arrived on a net. It ws pretty fun

  33. I remember when my friends and I would think the playground were super boring so we went to the top of the roof of the playground. Long story short one of my friends fell off and broke her arm

  34. The school I go to used to have a playground like this from the 1920s to the mid 50s. It eventually got demolished because kids where getting hurt on the older stuff and it is downtown so they sold off the green space for business.

  35. I have two homes, one in the Netherlands and one in Hungary. In Hungary I always walk on abandoned train railways, climbing in the mountain. In the Netherlands there are only these "save play grounds" and i hated them (I'm 15)

  36. Id rather play at the adventure playground that i can build stuff than the current plastic ones which heats up

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