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October 7 2014

Killer Swings and Other Playground Myths

Julie Gunlock

A school in Washington State is banning...wait for it...swings.

Ummm, huh?

Yeah, swings. You know what swings are, right? Those small, flat seats typically supported by chains, on which a child sits and is pushed or bends their knees to make the device move through the air.

They are also known to Washington State school officials as CHILD KILLERS.

Because...obviously.

A local news station reports

Swings are being phased out of Richland schools.

The district says pressure from insurance companies over the liability is part of the issue.

Swings are blamed for the most injuries of any play equipment.

Richland School District already removed them from some campuses and will phase them out of the rest.??

A scardy-cat school official helped the reporter paint the terrifying picture for readers, saying:

"As schools get modernized or renovated or as we're doing work on the playground equipment, we'll take out the swings, it's just really a safety issue, swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground"

And predictably, the reporter added this ominous statistic: "Each year, about 200,000 children go to the emergency room for injuries that happened on a playground."

Well, I looked at the CDC numbers and according to the agency, the majority of injuries on public playgrounds occur climbing equipment while it’s on home playgrounds that swings are responsible for most injuries. So, when the school bans the things on which kids can climb—rock walls, stairs, slides, bridges, ropes, etc.—what’s left to play with? 

Oh, I know…balls, they can play with balls the type of games that use balls like Dodgeball…oh wait.

And, of course, the reporter managed to find that nervous mom who is more than willing to back the school for this insane move:

Muge Kaineoz's daughter will be starting school next year. She's in favor of the decision to remove swings. "When she starts elementary school, those swings can get crazy!"

CRAZY! Just crazy. I mean swings go back and forth and high in the air. There are no straps keeping the kids on the seat. There isn’t a net to catch the kids if they go flying into the air and for goodness sake, they do this swinging thing in the open--there's no fence placed around the swingers to protect kids who might walk by and not notice the human wrecking ball flying through the air!  OF COURSE THESE KILLERS SHOULD BE BANNED. So really, everything should be banned because everything is potentially dangerous, right? EVERYTHING CAN KILL.

Well sure, but as for keeping kids from killing themselves on the playground, this used to be the job of parents or paid members of the school staff. Yet, today, we're all too dumb to protect our children and so we should simply remove any potential risks. Fortunately some parents are still doing it. And it doesn’t appear to be that hard. In fact, I witnessed it  just a few days ago. My friend Lauren and I were at a playground with our (6 in total) kids and while we probably would have preferred swapping chicken recipes, discussing where to get cheap snow boots, and debating who’s the better lover—Quinn from Homeland or Don Draper from Mad Men (it’s Quinn, by the way), we had to take a break from our conversation now and then to caution our kids from doing something dumb or slightly dangerous.

Shockingly, my friend even got up and ran to her four year old son who was walking too closely to a DANGEROUS swings. She dealt with this terrifying situation by simply kneeling down beside her son to remind him of the last time he'd come in contact with a child’s violently swinging rear end. And then she told me he’d been hit pretty hard last time (and she chuckled because she’s awesome and she didn’t see this as a near death moment). My friend simply viewed this as a normal part of her job to remind amnesiatic children of their past bad judgments.

One wonders what other things this school will ban. My boys don't play on the swings anymore. They play in an adjacent field of tall grass where they find sticks to use as swords. It's a nail biter watching them sometimes and we've come away with some bumps, bruises, cuts and hurt egos but that's the way my boys play and nothing I say or do changes that.

Should the school ban sticks?

My boys have learned to navigate the school playground area well now and I trust them to know their limits when they  climb trees or go so far I can no longer see them from my seat on the playground.  

Should the school do away with wandering? Tree climbing? Should the say the grassy areas are off limits because of tics?  

There’s another, less often discussed, problem with these sorts of policies--it discourages healthy and fun exercise.  I recently sat on a swing next to my son to show him how to pump his legs. After about 30 seconds, I was huffing and puffing like I'd just ran a marathon. It was tough and a pretty good 30-second workout (which was enough for me that day!). By taking away these joyful types of exercise, we are increasingly teaching kids that exercise is something different and not part of the normal part of a day. Rather, it's a chore, a thing one does in Physical Education class, a thing mommy goes to after dinner or early in the morning. It's something Dad does on the weekend when he runs around the block a few times.

The best way to help kids stay active and get exercise is to let them run and have fun and do entertaining things that burn calories. As we make safety a priority over fun, we're harming kids by robbing them of important life lessons while making it harder for them to be active and to develop good exercise habits.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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