“Can a playground be too safe?” – Interesting NY Times article

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums RESEARCH “Can a playground be too safe?” – Interesting NY Times article

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    Jason T. Radice

    Here’s a link to an interesting bit of anthropology regarding playground safety. We can probably extend much of this to our designs as well.






    I am on the side that thinks playground equipment (and many public spaces) are too safe, sanitized spaces leaving little room for imagination.


    I dont know about all the psycho-babble..there may very well be long term psychological consequences to ‘hyper-safe’ playgrounds, but I guess my point is that there are more evident ways in which we can quantify the devaluation of public space. We have a majority of people who lack any form of creativity, imagination, or critical thinking skills. I would directly correlate this to the standardization of our built environment among other factors.


    I was lucky enough to grow up in Maine, where everything is 15 years behind..so we had rickety old play equipment and an expanse of readily available forest at our disposal. I think these things are critical in the formation of a well-rounded human being–not that I am one 😉

    BZ Girl

    Great article. This is one of my chief frustrations when i am designing children’s play spaces…all of the over-sanitized, super-safetyfied ‘rules’ have completely eliminated all the risk and wonder and excitement that should be in a playground!! Child psychologists have been saying for DECADES that children need to take calculated, measurable risks in order to foster healthy development, and that without reaching this developmental milestone there will be life-long implications into adulthood. I’m not saying we should throw out all the rules and go back to 10 foot high slides on top of concrete pavement, but I would be delighted if we as a society (and as designers) could get away from outdoor environments designed with fear-of-litigation in mind!!

    Jon Quackenbush

    Man, the stuff I played on was truly dangerous and high risk, yet I am alive and well… no small feat.  I believe kids need to fall off of things occasionally and skin their knees, get bruises and even break a couple of bones, or at the very minimum bear witness to such silly behavior.  It is the only way they will ever truly learn to not do dumb shit.

    With all the wood chips and structured play equipment this is very difficult.  My playgrounds had gravel on them… GRAVEL!  We would skin our knees & palms and then need to perform minor surgery on ourselves to get the chunks out… guess what?  We learned it is better to not jump off of the swing or jump off the top of the slide.

    Now safety standards in the broader landscape irk me even more.  I think if someone is not present in the moment or their faces are in their latest iGadget to notice that the seat/step wall is there, they deserve to fall on their ass.  Seriously, we need to design our landscapes for the lowest common denominator and that is just sad.  We are slowly taking the wind out of the sails of the Darwin Awards!

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