April 13, 2011

Infantilized playgrounds

Sometime later I'll write up a more in-depth history of the movement to prevent kids from having fun on playgrounds, or even having recess at school, which started when the violence level began plummeting after 1992.

But in the meantime, here are some pictures of what a contemporary playground looks like, for those who haven't been to one in awhile. My poor nephew who I took here had no monkey bars, tire swing, merry-go-round, or teeter-totter to horse around on, these subversive devices having been more or less banned by the government, under pressure from the helicopter parent majority.

The first major addition from when I was little is one of those annoying follow-the-experts labels that tells you between what ages your kid must be to read the book, play with the toy, or even use the playground. (Click to enlarge)

In reality, this playground was designed for children who are negative two years old.

But really, you can't trust the idiot parents to follow your initial warning about how the playground must be used, so you have to hammer them over the head with even more graphic warning signs:

I guess a skull and crossbones would have been too frightening. And anyway, as a kid I choked to death when my drawstring caught on the slide, and I turned out all right.

You can guess what the rest of the crap looks like if you've ever passed by a park in the last 15-20 years, although the new-and-improved swings really deserve a closer look. Better start converting the bike racks to stroller stations at all the country's high schools.


  1. Ages 5 through 12? Let me tell you, even when I was much younger than 12 I'd have sooner drank Clorox than be seen on that ridiculous swing set.


  2. I was born in 1988. It was tragic seeing all of playgrounds I enjoyed becoming ever more sissified as I aged. Whenever a stupid kid injured himself, whatever equipment set he was injured on would be dismantled. It was like being a Native American when the buffalo were nearly led to extinction.

    I can't imagine how bad generation Z has it. They will grow up without even the memory of adventure, without even the possibility of danger and excitement.

  3. If you think that's bad, on the news I heard something about 12 year olds having to sit in a carseat now.

  4. "I can't imagine how bad generation Z has it."

    Yeah, this is probably the one area (maybe video games or kids' cartoons too) where the older Millenials, like born from 1986 or 87 through 90 or 91, probably remember pieces of the wilder culture, since playgrounds weren't geared toward teenagers.

    There's another playground not far from the one in the picture that was renovated around 93 or 94, and just barely made the cut-off. It has a tire swing, monkey bars, and a zip-line of sorts.

    That was such a sight for sore eyes, and obviously the one that I took my nephew to most of the time -- and getting there by walking through the woods, including straying off of the paved bike path.

  5. I'd like to add that friends around my age and I joke about how we were at the twilight of good TV shows. Sure, we had plenty of crappy shows like Rugrats, but we at least have memories of goodies like Transformers and GI Joe. There were still plenty of reruns through the 90's of fun cartoons. Kids nowadays won't even have that.

    It should be interesting to see how Generation Z will develop. It's easy to say they'll be very domesticated, but it's worth noting that the Baby Boomers born in the 1940's were in similarly tame circumstances before they hit puberty.

  6. Agnostic,

    Where do you put someone born in 1980? Relative to this post, but also in the context of your broader commentary on generational differences. Personally I see this year as either the oldest Millennial or the youngest Gen x - straddling the line. It's an awkward position to be in. The people I meet born 1985+ consider me "old" but I feel too young to associate with those born in the 70's or earlier.

  7. I am glad I managed to grow up with the "Adventure playgrounds" from the 60's/70's. Blisters from the monkey bars were a great thing.

  8. Hm, the signs may seem silly but some people who are in charge of kids actually need those reminders.


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