Playgrounds from coast to coast are getting a wild makeover – literally! Child-development experts say that playgrounds these days have become too blah and don’t interest kids. All because helicopter parents were so worried about injuries – and towns and schools were so worried about lawsuits – that playground builders were pushed to create super safe slides, swings, and monkeybars.
Experts say that, of course, it’s good that playgrounds are designed to be safe, but they essentially offer zero thrill. Which means that children are less motivated to play outside and more likely to turn to exciting videogames and flashing smartphones to have fun.
And that can harm them for life! Studies show that a lack of playground time can stunt children’s emotional and physical development and is a huge cause of childhood obesity. And psychologists say that children who aren’t exposed to risks are more likely to have anxiety and other phobias. For example, kids who never climb trees, for example, are more likely to develop a fear of heights.
So, city planners across North America are teaming up with builders and rolling out new playgrounds that look risky to attract kids. But are still safe. They’re called “provocative playgrounds” - and are already popular in places like Germany, Norway and England. So, what are provocative playgrounds like?
- There are lots of zip lines! Experts say that even if zip lines are just a few feet off the ground, they’re still thrilling for kids to play with.
- Another provocative playground feature? Climbing nets – so kids can safely scale heights, knowing that a net will catch them if they fall.
- Then, provocative playgrounds have a lot of natural elements to them! Like trees to climb – with footholds – logs to balance on, like a teeter-totter, and slides shaped like hills.
- Even swings are getting more exciting! The hot new type is a cradle nest swing. They’re big enough so that a few kids can pile in together, giving kids an opportunity to boost their social skills and teamwork while swinging.