Friday, May 28, 2010

Road blocks to active living

*Sigh* well it has finally come down to it. I feel outright compelled to post a complaint. Sorry in advance.

Time and time again we have hit road blocks trying to raise healthy kids. These road blocks are put in place by well meaning adults. They say it is for our children's protection, but it is really about money and fear.

Very slowly the playground equipment from our neighbourhood park has been removed piece by piece and so there is less and less to do there. First the tire swing was taken, "In accordance with the CSA’s national guidelines... where play equipment requires repair, yet doesn’t meet current CSA standards, the component cannot be repaired and the subject piece is to be removed/dismantled," city workers informed us. Great! One of the rocking horses went next and finally the swings were taken. We heard from the city that someone was teaching their dog to chew on the swings so they removed them to repair the damage.

Well, the swings just got replaced but they only put back up 1/2 the number - again in accordance with new CSA guidelines. There are now 2 toddler swings and only one swing for older children. So this means no children over 3 can swing together at the park.

Ok, I can talk to the city about it and all of the park equipment is (wastefully) scheduled for replacement in 2012 anyway. Why the complaining blog post? You might ask. Well, this is a straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back of sorts. Several kids' athletic programs have also slowly been becoming more and more expensive due to rising insurance costs. This causes both less people to wanting to run them in the first place because of scary liability issues and expensive start up costs, and/or more people having to cancel them because they don't have enough participants who can afford to sign-up. 

Where have you CSA/insurance people been?! In case you haven't noticed, we have an obesity epidemic in North America!

CSA guidelines for park equipment is getting stricter and stricter and park equipment is gearing more and more toward toddlers (i.e. becoming less and less fun for the majority of children). At the same time rising insurance costs are preventing kids from accessing extracurricular active programs. No one wants to be held liable when a child is seriously injured and no one wants to have to face the resulting financial crisis.  Sports and active activities are "riskier" by nature and this fear of financial ruin is downright encouraging kids to live sedentary lives in front of screens.

Now here, I should explain that I am not condoning children getting needlessly hurt or risking their lives. I am also not blaming the city workers at all; they have no choice but to obey the legal guidelines. We are really quite lucky to have our neighbourhood park. It is one of the best around. Our park is bordered on one side by a caring neighbourhood and on the other by a beautiful river.  I am even grateful for some changes made to truly, senselessly hazardous playground equipment. But, at the same time, children need to live in the world. They need practice navigating difficult landscapes. If you lock them in a dark room until they are 20, yes they will survive, but you can't convince me that they've lived. 

It makes me wonder which has actually harmed kids more: falling off a tire swing/climber or not wanting to go to the boring park because sitting hours on end and experiencing adventures virtually is actually more exciting? There may be less broken arms this way, but then with that comes increased life-threatening obesity.

Thank goodness nature doesn't have to follow CSA guidelines or pay insurance.


  1. You are right to say that this is more about money and fear, than child protection. The local authorities in the UK make the most ridiculous rules, fearful of being sued for vast sums of compensation by increasingly litigious/greedy parents.

  2. Thanks Martin.

    I'm sure kids do get hurt at playgrounds. I'd probably get faint of heart listening to those stories. But my instincts tell me that the numbers are far less than those hurt by sitting around inside too much.

  3. Natasha and Griffin LOVE their park!!!!!!!!!!! What's up with the city????
    Who invented litigation and told everyone about it? I'm sorry the parks and rec people are going the route of all recreation areas in Ontario. Our school has very few swings, but the climbing apparatus is very cool and so is the splash pad. Children seem to adapt to changes better than we do. Nothing lasts forever. Outdoors IS the healthiest place to be a child. I agree!!!!!!!! =D

  4. You let your children CLIMB TREES????!!! This is shocking. I don't know where our tax dollars are going, if they aren't being used to chop down dangerous non-compliant pointy high things (covered in bacteria!), or fill in slippery, drown-prone rivers. And all that GRASS - why, there should not be enough grass that a child could get sick if they ate it. Not to mention sand, my god. Plus if there are any flowers or clover this will attract bees, which are life-threatening. And where are the anti-bacterial wipes for the playground equipment? What are our councillors THINKING? Actually, if kids are even allowed outside, they might stare at the sun and go blind. Keep 'em in bed.

  5. I am very much with you. Recess at my school is a tough time - we have a relatively small area to play, and of course the kids want to do all the most fun/dangerous things. No matter what play equipment you get, kids will find the most dangerous ways to use it, because the WANT to live life to the fullest! And I'm sure there are plenty of parents like you, who are prepared to deal with scrapes their kids might get into... but there are just enough who will freak out if their child is hurt that we have to cater to that. It's frustrating.

  6. How to kids learn to deal with life if they don't do dangerous things? They'll be banning fairy stories next or did they already do that and I missed it? I hear some Nursery Rhymes have already been rewritten in keeping with creationist principles.