During the past thirty to forty years, centuries-old freedom to play has evolved into a environments crisis that threatens the health, fitness and welfare of our children.
As the “Greatest Generation” (thank you Tom Brokaw referring to baby-boomer parents) gave way to the technology revolution and excesses of growing affluence, children’s play environments changed in drastic ways. school systems across America joined the rush to over-parenting and over-management, reducing or even removing recess time, restricting physical education, drilling children excessively on standardized tests. And all this has in fact probably interfered with their overall health and development. Cafeteria diets of junk food and sugary drinks abound.
Growing numbers of schools prohibit rough and tumble, chase, dodge ball, and other games allowing physical contact, and some schools even prohibit running on the playground. Excessive safety standards and threat of lawsuits replace adult supervision. As a result many experts say too many children grow weaker, failing to develop the physical and cognitive skills to protect themselves against injury. All of this may prove to be the tip of the iceberg, as neuroscientists and other scholars continue to uncover the devastating effects of deprivation from free, outdoor play on children’s learning, on their cognitive,as well as their social and emotional development. Shouldn’t childhood be more basic, even in these complex times? One solution for parents is the availability of outdoor playground equipment – whether it be at a park, a school, or best yet – in your own backyard.