Doorknobs in my book are still wily little devices, but monkey bars? Evidently, letting a child test her skills and assess her own ability ten feet off the ground was just the thing.
“Risky play mirrors effective cognitive behavioral therapy of anxiety,” the article states, quoting an article by Dr. Ellen Sandseter and Leif Kennair that was published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.
The psychologists conclude: Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.
One object that has been a casualty in the controversial attempts to make playgrounds safer, the article notes, is the classic jungle gym. And its absence is what I noticed most when I returned to the playground scene with my own kids after a twenty year hiatus. Decades of transformation had driven my favorite feature to near extinction.
Not only had there been “parental concerns, federal guidelines, new safety standards set by manufacturers,” but there was also what Tierney describes as the “most frequently cited factors—fear of lawsuits.”
I decided to take a look at the playgrounds in my area in a quixotic search for the Mount Olympus of my youth, an old fashioned jungle gym. Perhaps someday we will make a pilgrimage to one of the few parks in New York City whose classic jungle gyms have been preserved, but in the meantime, we took advantage of the heat advisory and dearth of activity at the playgrounds to capture some early morning images.
Along the way, we discovered one place of play whose potential for risk and adventure has remained untouched.