I have just seen this article from Edmonton, Canada where children are being required to wear helmets to play in the playground... I am hoping that this is a hoax... but sadly I fear it might not be...
How on earth have they thought that wearing a bike helmet would be a good idea when playing in a playground... there are several reason I can think of... without even needing to take time to reflect...
1. helmets present a serious choking hazard when worn on play equipment... the strap under the chin can get caught and thus exposing the child to danger... not risk but DANGER. Children can be left hanging in a position that can strangle them.
Wearing a helmet while cycling or sledding protects a child's head when travelling at speed if they fall or crash into something. Playgrounds are designed so that the crashing into hard things is a risk rather than danger.
2. it can give children (and adults) the feeling of fake safety. Ie the more helmets, knee pads etc a child wears the less likely they will hurt themselves)... the problem is that they might not understand what danger and risk is... small hurts are an important part of learning about risk in order to prevent the big hurts.
3. that adults have a serious problem understanding how helmets work, how the equipment is designed, what risk taking is about and a total lack of understanding about the competence of children.
But this article really concern me, that the need to control risk so much has exceeded common sense and is now putting the children in danger... but I suppose these children will never be allowed to climb.
There is plenty of research and articles out there to explain the benefits of risky play... so it surprises me every time that there are people that choose to ignore the research and prevent children from playing with their whole being, the chance to truly learn through play... to be exposed to appropriate risk (NOT danger) and to be able to apply their own risk assessments - something they will need for their entire lives!
Of course in some countries medical care is not free for children (or anyone) so there is a financial concern when it comes to bumps, bruises and fractures that some injuries will incur a cost. This I think is so incredibly sad. That finances are restricting children's right to play. Surely children should have access to free medical care around the world? So that they can learn and are not being prevented from a full childhood experience because of the fear of medical costs... surely bigger accidents later in life due to the lack of risk assessment is worth the investment of covering ALL children's medical care? Or am I asking something unreasonable?
We need to combat this thinking that children need to be protected at all costs... at the cost of their freedom, at the cost of true play, at the cost of developing a healthy relationship with risk... we do not want it to become the norm... and in those places where it is already the norm... then we need to challenge this as inappropriate for children's natural and healthy development... physical, cognitive and emotional development - risk is an essential part - not danger. People need to enter a dialogue about what IS danger, what is a risk for being hurt (not seriously injured, or death - but just the normal scrapes, bruises, cuts, bumps and fractures/breaks that are a part of childhood) As you will read in the links below my own children have had their share of fractures, concussions and cuts etc... did I stop them skiing, or skating or riding a bike? Absolutely not... did they repeat the injury - no!!! (well except one of them - bumped her head two years in a row while skiing, wearing a helmet - but hasn't since then).
Competent children. They can climb. They can jump. They can make mistakes, and learn from them. They take risks (because that is a thrill too) - they trust that the adults will keep them safe from danger... but give them the freedom to play.
after the photos there are some links...
sadly more and more playgrounds are putting up signs to say children are not allowed to climb like this on the tunnels... because of the fear of accidents