monkeys not barred

The children’s playground in the local park was, in the withering assessment of one young friend, “for babies”.

And even they didn’t look like they were having a whole lot of fun on swings designed to tick tock as gently as a grand father clock pendulum and slides it would be quicker to walk up than slip down.

In a well-used family park, the playground was less wonderland than wet blanket and was widely eschewed by children who, given any kind of choice, evidently found it more exciting to collect bark samples.

Where will the children play? Certainly not here.

As an early childhood education conference in Melbourne heard earlier this month we’re doing our kids a disservice by being overly stringent about safety in low-stakes surrounds.

Children who don’t learn to take risks in playgrounds and backyards find it more difficult to make good judgments about what is safe in the broader environment.

Fast forward several months and now the playground is packed. There’s little children, with feet above their ears, hurling themselves skyward on real swings with squeals of glee. Bigger children clambering over timber and rope structures like pirates, children dangling from monkey bars and children … oops … falling to the ground and just occasionally breaking an arm.

My young friend Arial was proud to be the very first. Sporting her cast like a trophy, she arrived triumphant at school two days after the redeveloped playground was opened whereupon her mates fell on her, full of questions.

That afternoon there were even more kids in the playground.

The word had spread it was no longer child-proof.


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