Playground observations

BlueEyes loves to go to playgrounds these days. And since yesterday the weather was awesome and we had already visited the playground near our house on Saturday, we decided to go to a park a bit further away. We discovered the best playground we found so far, with a separate area for smaller kids and a another area for bigger kids (which is nice, because dreamy BlueEyes sometimes gets body-checked by bigger kids that are running around). Since this little-kids-playground was pretty safe and since Dr. BrownEyes and I were together, I just sat there and had some time to look around. And what struck me was that most of the parents were only a foot away from their kids AT ALL TIMES. And they told their kids which slide to go down from, and what to do next. They even explained their kids what the playground looked like and what all the things were for. And they constantly told their kids to be careful and what a good job they did at sliding down the slide. (In the meantime, BlueEyes liked to go down the slides fast, meaning he gets launched at the end and comes down so hard that even I am surprised that that makes him laugh instead of cry. You can imagine this makes the other parents stare at us with something between surprise and disgust…)
What happened to imagination and exploring things by yourself? I mean, sure you want to make sure your kid doesn’t injure themselves too much, and doesn’t injure other kids, but other than that you can just sit there and have the kid decide which slide to go down right?
In my very limited observation, this behavior tends to segregate with demographics, in that higher income/higher educated parents tend to tell their kids which slide to go down from way more than lower income/lower educated parents, but this has not reached statistical significance yet. Good thing that in the future, I will probably be observing way more playgrounds.


Filed under observations, parenting, playground, toddler

17 responses to “Playground observations

  1. Bashir

    I would not be surprised if there was a significant difference. There are some big effects of SES (class) on parenting.

  2. This started about 20 year ago… Americans born in this era are the most hapless narcissists the world has ever seen.

  3. I think this is one of those things that it does not actually matter.

    I remember being at a playground in a fancy CA suburb and a free-range parent's kid started doing something super dangerous on the swing-set. (IIRC, something that could have resulted in a broken neck.) Every adult there was tensed up and ready to run over, some even moved closer to monitor. Later the kid's mom came up and started talking on the top of her lungs to her friend about how she looked down on people who watch their kids on playgrounds and how angry she gets at people who watch her kids when she's not watching. And so on. And I don't know about the other people on the playground, but I thought, “What a crazy crack-pot bitch.” And thank goodness that there's a village to watch those free-range kids.

    Different parents have different amounts of interaction and free-play. They interact and allow free-exploration at different times. You don't see them 24 hours a day and you don't know how much time they get to spend with their kids. For every person like you judging them for spending too much time based on this small snapshot at the playground, there are other people judging them for not interacting enough. In reality, kids are very resilient and will do just fine even if their parents don't do all the things that you do. No matter what you do you can't win– some woman is going to talk about how you're doing it wrong on the internet, and that's just the way it is.

  4. grey scale is harder to come by this day and age. Everyone seems to be scared of being judged/reported and if the child hurts themselves “a little” it might be percieved as “a lot”.

    I find it interesting since I tend to think that you should hurt yourself a little, defining the borders of what is safe and non-safe, since if you've never hurt yourself you probably end up with something BIG in the end. That said, that's just me an anecdota, nothing real (i've never broken a bone but lots and lots of bruises)

  5. Dr Kalmia

    I think there is a difference between sitting back and letting your kid explore, and the parents that don't even pay attention to their kids at the park. There have been MANY times that we have been at parks playing with our daughter when another kid really wants our attention “look at me, watch me do this…” because their parent didn't even bother getting out of the car. These kids seem like they really need some attention/love/validation and can be bothersome to the point that we leave the park. I have also seen many instances when children are rude, shoving, or knocking over smaller kids, but their parents are either in the car, or on the phone & not paying attention.

    As with everything, there is a fine balance and you need to figure out what works for you. Kids need to explore and get hurt sometimes, but parents need to be engaged too.

    We do a mix of being close vs far. if she has friends to play with, we sit back. if we're the only ones at the park, we are usually running around, climbing and playing too.

  6. I honestly don't mean to be judgmental. I warn BlueEyes too when he does something that's going to break his neck, but not if it's something that just gets him a bruise. I was just genuinely surprised about the amount of explaining parents did for their kids. But you're right, sadly I can't observe these people 24 h a day. Maybe I should become an anthropologist.

  7. I totally agree. I found out the hard way that when you jump off a swing you should jump forward instead of face-down. Didn't ever break anything though *knock on wood* (and I was a lot older than BlueEyes is now).

  8. Yes you're right that there's a balance between being overprotective and just neglecting your child, and that it's probably best to do neither. I guess I just find it very interesting to see how different people interact with each other and their children.

  9. As a parent, I'm really scared of this “being reported” thing. And that's probably the single thing that absolutely drives me crazy here in the US. Like see-saws being removed from all playgrounds, kids not allowed to play alone etc.

    What I find even more amusing is that it happens in the country that identifies itself with freedom, personal responsibility, and where exactly one half of the population thinks that the government shouldn't help those who “weren't smart enough” to buy medical insurance in advance. I mean, I can imagine a folk that thinks all libertarian, and so lets people die if they wish to, but also lets them raise their kids as they wish to. And I can imagine a state that would be the other way around (“We pay your medial bills, so it give us the right to mess with the way you raise your kids”. But a mix of these two? This I can not understand =)

  10. I wish I had photos of some of the playgrounds I used to play in as a kid. I remember 15-foot tall metal slides that swayed back and forth as though they were about to topple over (and burned you if you tried to go down them in the summer). There was a spinning thing that went around and around really fast and you could fall off, get stuck under, or just throw up from dizziness. All the things you could climb on were suspended over cement. There was a metal glider swing that I used to hang off the outside of, which probably could have taken off my hand.

    Modern playgrounds are a LOT safer than what we grew up with, and I think it's good that you're letting your kid learn some things by experience.

    Also, thanks for giving me a chance to look up some of that old playground equipment:

  11. Anonymous

    For some reason there is an abundance of the spinning metal things in playgrounds near Nebraska City! So awesome for nostalgia and for the kids!! We found one awesome one in a small town with peeled paint and a 30 year old rut around it from decades of kids spinning it around.

  12. I think part of what you're seeing is that some parents use a trip to the playground as an interactive activity with their kids, rather than a “let them play while we chat/text/read a book etc.” Sort of like a trip to the Children's Museum or Science Center. Not good or bad, just different.

  13. Thanks for the link, that brings back memories of scraping your knee on the concrete 😉

  14. Statistically, parents warn girl children about how *likely* a fall is, and boy children about how *dangerous* a fall is. Make of that what you will.

    My kids is wild for his age, but tame enough for the playground we frequent (he loves the bigger kids, and has for quite some time). I encourage him to climb pretty high in trees too, which garners some weird looks (he's 3). But I spot for that, and really, he's pretty much the same height he can get to on the metal monkeybars, where I don't spot (also, there's more things to break his fall in the tree- more bruises/cuts likely, fewer real issues).

    Because when I was a boy*, I used to be the one who always looked like he was going to break his neck.


  15. Anonymous

    I don't think anyone has ever “been reported” for not watching their kids sufficiently at the playground. Unless, perhaps, you leave them overnight and pick 'em up the next day on the way to school.

  16. Based on empirical observations of my kids' athletic abilities, I definitely see my daughter as more “likely” to fall off the monkey bars, while my son tends to get himself into more “dangerous” situations. So I'd definitely fall square into your “statistical” study!

  17. Playground equipment has evolved to make things more fun for kids. Wilkins Solutions provides playground equipment in Orlando for schools, hotels, apartments and more. playgorund equipment Orlando.

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