What were children’s playgrounds like when you were growing up? Of course, your answer will depend on how old you are and where you grew up.
I remember Australian playgrounds in the 1970s – metal slides which burned your skin on hot sunny days.
There were swings, too. Sometimes they were made of old tyres and rope. Sometimes the seat was made of wood, from which we collected splinters in the skin of our legs, with heavy chains connecting it to the frame.
And often there would be some kind of ‘monkey bars’, or something for climbing. Usually it was like a horizontal ladder with a few ‘steps’ at each side. Then you would swing like a monkey, one arm then the other, until you reached the other end. Or some other climbing object.
And these playgrounds were in parks, or sometimes just a patch of ground somewhere that hadn’t been taking for housing.
The ground was simply that – ground. Earth, grass, sand, rocks, sticks, dog pooh, and puddles in winter.
If we fell off the swings or monkey bars, we hurt ourselves, got dirty, and sometimes tore our clothes.
We sometimes landed with a ‘thud’ at the bottom of the slide. Or arrived with a soft, muddy splash on wet days.
There were other things there, too. Like see-saws, roundabouts and other fun things.
Did you ever ‘fly’ off the roundabout? First you made it go really, really fast, holding on by your hands while running around and around. Pushing it faster and faster until your legs no longer touched the ground and were almost horizontal. Then you let your hands go – and you were flying!
Yes, it usually hurt when you finally landed, especially if you landed on a rock – but it was so much fun!
Moscow – the early days
When I first arrived in Moscow, the playgrounds were very similar to the playgrounds of my childhood.
They were mostly made of metal piping. Basic. With hard ground below to provide the ‘ouch’ when the children fell off. The playground equipment was brightly painted, although I can’t be sure that it was ‘child friendly’ and non-toxic paint that they used.
In Moscow and other Russian towns there are a lot of playgrounds. There are a lot of blocks of flats and the kids need somewhere to play. Sometimes there are playgrounds every 150-200 metres, in the yards of the flats.
So, I enjoyed seeing these old-fashioned playgrounds, because it had been long ago that they had all changed to ‘safety’ playgrounds in Australia – kids no longer have burns from the hot metal slides, or broken arms from falling off the ‘monkey bars’.
But then something changed in Moscow. I don’t know exactly when it was, because I don’t have little kids so I didn’t pay too much attention to the playgrounds after I’d been here for some years.
But they were being transformed. One by one.
The old metal fixtures were removed and in their place, something very different.
There appeared soft spongey material on the ground. Now when the children fall they hurt themselves much less than before. And there are no rocks, sticks or puddles waiting for them at the bottom of the slides.
There are now very colourful ‘rides’ and things to climb on. And they’re much more attractive visually than the old ones.
And safer, too. Everything seems to be lower to the ground than in the old playgrounds. So less height to fall from, which means less pain when you land. And the soft, spongey ground helps in this respect, too.
And that’s good, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s nice that children have fun, colourful, and safe playground equipment to play on. It’s good for parents to know that their children probably aren’t going to break their arm when they fall from the climbing frame.
But I’m very nostalgic for the old style, ‘dangerous’ playgrounds, aren’t you?
Do you think that children’s playgrounds are ‘too safe’ these days? Should children learn from falling and hurting themselves, or should we protect them at all costs? Share your playground stories with us!