Skip to comments.Are handstands really a danger to children?
Posted on 07/27/2002 4:19:50 PM PDT by Pokey78
They have been favourite childhood pastimes for generations. Now, handstands, games such as tag and even daisy chain making are vanishing from Britain's playgrounds as safety-obsessed schools and councils declare them "too dangerous" for today's children.
A report to be published by the Children's Society this week will reveal a growing trend to ban such forms of play. It believes that such excessive caution is harming - rather than protecting - youngsters, making them over-reliant on adults, less confident and more fearful as they grow up.
The charity says the curbs are also contributing to childhood obesity. Its report will list some of the "ludicrous" restrictions imposed in recent months. Among cases cited is that of a London primary school that stopped pupils making daisy chains because of fears that they might pick up germs from the flowers.
Another school stopped pupils from making hanging baskets for the same reason. Other primary school pupils were banned from doing handstands after a girl injured her elbow, while teachers elsewhere halted tag because of the risk that children might hurt themselves as they chased each other.
In some parks and playgrounds, the society says, children have been prevented from playing in bushes, which have been deemed "too dirty", or climbing trees, in case they fall. Some authorities have banned playing with balls to prevent youngsters from throwing them onto nearby roads and then running out into traffic.
The report says many councils have removed climbing equipment, banned bicycles and stopped children playing with water. One school outlawed yo-yos, fearing they might cause accidents.
Bob Reitemeier, the chief executive of the Children's Society, said he was disturbed by the trend and urged the Government, councils and schools to allow youngsters to be more adventurous.
"By over-protecting our children from risk we are actually depriving them of a major part of their personal development," he said.
"When you ban climbing frames or don't allow children to make daisy chains because of germs, then we've gone too far. Why can't they be allowed to have fun? Children need to be able to enjoy themselves and they need to take reasonable risks to help them learn."
The report by the society - which runs projects assisting about 40,000 youngsters each year - is based on complaints sent in by parents and staff in schools and parks, and on the results of a survey of 500 children in which most said that playgrounds were too boring.
Forty-five per cent of the children questioned said they had been prevented from playing with water, while 36 per cent had been stopped from climbing trees in parks and playgrounds. A quarter had experienced other restrictions, including bans on skateboards and the removal of climbing frames.
Although concern over possible litigation is often given as a reason for restrictions, the report says legal action is not common and that the danger of schools or councils being sued is exaggerated.
Penny Hedge, a mother from south London, said that her 10-year-old son Laurie had faced innumerable curbs at school and in local parks.
She said: "In the autumn, there was a big kerfuffle at school because the children were banned from playing with leaves that had fallen off a tree. A dinner lady said they might get diseases, and when they questioned it they got into trouble for answering back. There are no yo-yos, no conkers, and my son has also been stopped from playing 'crabby' [moving about on all fours] because his hands might get dirty.
"At the local park, there were some trees with low branches that were good for climbing, so they cut them down to stop it.
"The playgrounds and the schools seem to be clamping down. Parents are concerned, but somehow it's not filtering through to those in charge."
Tim Gill, the director of the Children's Play Council, a charity which represents organisations including the NSPCC and Barnardos, said that he and his four-year-old daughter Rosa had encountered similar problems. He believed that the effects could be harmful.
"If children feel that somebody is always going to step in and help them or protect them, they are going to grow up less resilient, more fearful and less confident of their abilities," he said.
"Trying to guarantee absolute safety is not doing the best for children. The real world is not risk-free."
Ditto. My mom smoked (as do all three of her sons). I never wore a bicycle helmet till I went to college. As kids, we would roam the neighborhood with our pellet guns (a serious no-no today) and would shoot off Estes rockets (which I'm not sure you can even buy anymore). We built models. (Now you have to be 18 in many parts to buy paint and glue --gets you high, you know. Can't have that!) Played in creeks, built treehouses, lit firecrackers, and on and on.
What we didn't do was sit around and watch tv all day (only soaps were on in the afternoon anyways) or play video games (Atari 2600 got real boring real fast).
Childhood obesity affected maybe 1 or 2 kids in a 30-student classroom and they usually grew out of it. Now it is pervasive. Pretty pathetic.
Incidentally, and related to this article, I went to college with a girl who was paralyzed after falling from a swing as a child. Accidents like this are rare but they do happen.
Britain bans these games out of safety concerns. America bans them because the slow fat kid might suffer from poor self-esteem.
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