Maybe it’s my journalistic background, or maybe these are questions on every parent’s mind. In any case, I did some research to answer questions that have been on my mind as I venture out to the playgrounds this spring.
What are those strange new swings that seem to be popping up everywhere this spring?
This is the question that inspired this entire blog. It’s called the Jenn swing, and while I’ve never seen them before, they seem to be in every park I go to this year…across neighborhoods and even state lines. According to their website, the company has been in business for 20 years, and the swing was made by the grandmother of a special needs child who was unable to use the regular swings. This solved my question of what the swing was, but I still wanted to know why after 20 years I was first seeing them now. Was there a new law/mandate that parks needed to have this equipment? I emailed Jenn swing, and the VP of sales actually called me. He said there is no new regulation that he’s aware of, but the company itself is re-launching and he is newly hired. The strange thing is, what I’ve seen in at least one park is a competing brand that has an over the head harness instead of the one shown in the picture above. Whatever the reason for the appearance of these swings, anything to help special needs kids is great. By the way, these swings can be used for any young child, but if you are using them and see a child with special needs waiting, it would be great to let them use it since it is really designed for them.
Where are the seesaws?
It wasn’t until I did see one at an elementary school in my neighborhood that I realized none of the other parks I’ve been to have them any more. I was always afraid of them, and apparently for good reason. According to http://www.bobdorigojones.com/2011/04/29/seesaws-a-vanishing-part-of-america/, seesaws began to disappear in the 70’s and 80’s. I guess before having a kid I didn’t notice, although I was a kid in the 80’s. The reason for the disappearance: lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits. The article goes on to say playgrounds don’t challenge kids any more, and states the lack of seesaws and other such equipment has helped lead to the childhood obesity epidemic. I don’t think I agree with this. I know at the playgrounds I have visited, there are plenty of other items that challenge kids physically (while terrifying me.) From real rocks to climb on and play sets that allow kids to dangle upside down from dangerous (in my opinion) heights, I think there are still plenty of playground items that are potential hazards and lawsuits, while also providing kids with physical challenges. At the sandbox at my local park, there is a digger that I have seen kids get hurt on every single time I am there. It’s fun for me to sit on, but kids can get seriously hurt on them. I wonder why, then, the seesaw has been targeted as a dangerous item and not the others. My memories of the seesaw are of being left very high in the air while an older brother, parent, or playmate laughed while sitting on the ground. Maybe I shouldn’t be wondering why they are gone!
Are sandboxes safe?
I never actually thought about it until another mom sitting by my side in the sandbox mentioned her concerns. It does make sense, and may be the reason you don’t see them any more in big cities. In my small town and others I have visited, they still seem to be in every playground. The fears are numerous: Junkies leaving behind their needles, animals burrowing at night (with potential diseases), and even the sand itself which releases cancer-causing toxins with long-term exposure. With my limited research, the conclusion among experts seems to be that the amount of time a kid spends in the sandbox is not long enough to cause harm, as long as they don’t have exposed wounds. There is another part of the playground that seems to be causing more concern among doctors…
What’s the proper way for an 18 month old to go down a slide?
One relative says baby should go down the slide only on the lap of an adult with their legs and hands tucked in. Another relative says this is dangerous and they should slide alone. First relative says sliding alone is dangerous because their shoes can cause friction and cause them to get hurt. Who is right if either of them?
To see for yourself, watch this news clip of a mom whose child got injured: http://www.clickondetroit.com/lifestyle/family/playground-danger-child-on-lap-going-down-slide/32711712
Or this clip of a doctor explaining the dangers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EzJL3qp-eI
It seems the injury happens when the child’s legs are to either side of the adult’s legs. I’m no doctor, but I think the way I’ve been sliding with my daughter is okay…my legs together with her legs on top, so really no part of her body is actually touching the slide. I just don’t feel comfortable letting her go down the slide herself yet, and I don’t think she should be denied this part of the playground that she loves. I’m also not a fan of holding a child’s hand while they go down themselves…I can just picture the arm being ripped from the socket. But, as with everything, use your judgement, and do what you think is best.
Any other burning playground questions? Let me know and I’ll try to find the answer for you!