Is the Obama Girls’ Playset Good for America? (Really!)

Go askeztzskn
outside and play!


Michelle gets to say that now, because as of yesterday afternoon, the Obama girls have a place to go: Their own backyard playset, not much different from a whole lot of other backyard playsets in America…except that when you’re on the swings you can wave to that guy in the Oval Office.

The whole thing looks lovely and even cozy – there’s a tree house (which will probably be protected by a very bored Secret Service guy, but still, cozy) – and a tire swing and a climbing rope, climbing ladder, climbing this, climbing that. And if my kids were the most famous children in America, I’d want them to stick around my backyard, too.

But since anything the Obamas do tends to set trends (think: J Crew), I do have one little worry: This playset is about as generic as they come. And playgrounds are generic enough already.

Ever since the ‘70s when the legal world cast its eye on playgrounds and saw cash in them there broken arms, playground equipment makers have been dumbing down their offerings to the point where  it’s harder to find a merry-go-round than a needle in a sandbox.

“Climbing structures” go so high and no higher. Slides are stunted.  Horsie swings seem to have ridden off into the sunset. It’s not that I’m all for shards of glass under the twisty slide. But there is something to be said for a jungle gym that is taller than dad — a playground with the slightest frisson of risk. And there’s even something to be said for a playground full of stuff you can really go wild with. Boards, blocks, beams, an old pair of boots…

Okay. It’s hard to make a really compelling case for a junk heap on the White House lawn. But let me try.

Such “Adventure Playgrounds” really do exist. They were invented in Scandanavia during World War II. “What did the Danes have to throw away while they were under Occupation?” asks Susan Solomon, author of American Playgrounds: Revitalizing Community Space. “Somehow they managed to find things that were going to be disposed of – whether cardboard or metal, or some paintbrushes that were no longer useful, and rusty hammers. They literally threw these into a cordoned off area and said, ‘Go for it, kids!’”

Ah, there’s nothing like a Dane.

Sorry. Anyway – the Danes did think to add a playground minder to make sure the kids didn’t hammer directly into their playmates. But otherwise, the kids were free to make things: Forts, scooters, sleek modern furniture. And because the options were so endless and varied, these playgrounds attracted a wider range of kids than the simple climbing structures do today. (My youngest, age 10, is already through with the cookie-cutter plastic equipment found in our neighborhood.)

Today, adventure playgrounds are thriving in, of all places, Japan – a country that looked at itself mired in (ahem!) recession and realized: The only way to get out of this is by raising children who are inventive, resourceful, and able to work together as a team. In other words: Kids who think outside the box.

Even if that box is a lovely, all-wood, pre-fab tree house.

Surely the Obama girls will have some creative time in their new digs. They can invent games up there and read and dream. But if some day you see an old tire on the White House lawn, and some plywood and hammers and a rubber boot or two, don’t be alarmed. Think of it as a creativity stimulus bill.



36 Responses to Is the Obama Girls’ Playset Good for America? (Really!)

  1. Anna March 6, 2009 at 2:24 am #

    We’ve made a substantial part of our backyard dedicated for play for my 10 yo son and his friends. It’s basically an open pit, about 12 yards in diameter. They spend *hours* there. It’s an *absolutely awful-looking* eyesore :-), especially when compared to the fancy landscaping at some of the friends’ homes.

    In this spot they can do all sorts of things they can’t do anywhere else. The kids dig about in there, build dams (& flood them), drag in all sorts of flotsam and jetsam (scraps and found objects, like broken bricks, scrap wood, various toys), and otherwise – create! They’ve created all sorts of miniature model scenes, discovered how quite a bit about how dams work (and don’t work), and explore the dynamics of working independently and as a group (sometimes my son’s friends aren’t friends of each other, and there can be turf wars and competition).

    Every time I am tempted to clean that area up and reclaim it for a more productive or attractive purpose, the boys find something else cool to do there, and I let it go for a bit longer. It won’t be too much time before they abandon that sort of play, and then I can beautiful that area. In the meantime, I think what looks like a junk heap in a dirt hole is an incredibly productive enterprise, indeed.

  2. Delia March 6, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    My kids spent many more hours in our abandoned barn and with the 100 years worth of junk the previous occupants left behind than they ever did on the play set in our backyard. An added benefit was that I couldn’t see them in the barn, so I didn’t know what they were doing or worry about them getting hurt. What I don’t know won’t hurt me.

  3. AmyAnne March 6, 2009 at 3:34 am #

    Much to my husbands dismay I recently procured a used swing set. Gasp. It is all worn out and a little raggedy, needs some boards replaced and yada yada yada. What I see in this eyesore is something NOT new and totally free to be morphed into anything we want. I’m so excited. The girls are excited too. We have plans. PLANS baby. We are going to add onto that thing until it doesn’t even look like a swing set anymore. To make it even better I stuck it right on the dg in the middle of our mini suburban orchard full of trees that only randomly give fruit. I have boards piled up and nails and hammers. This will be the project that never ended.

  4. Pearl March 6, 2009 at 3:55 am #

    Oh I just loved this, particularly the idea of Danish children constructing sleek, modern furniture out of rubbish.

  5. Anna March 6, 2009 at 4:10 am #

    Years ago, my dad turned our hand-me-down rusty swing set into a greenhouse, using all sorts of repurposed items and plastic sheeting. With the correct sun exposure from the south, bales of straw and bags of leaves insulating on the north, he was able to raise lettuce in there in the dead of the Northeastern winter.

    AmyAnne, go to town with that thing!

  6. beanie March 6, 2009 at 5:03 am #

    You know, I agree with a lot of the things you say here, but I’m not sure that the Obama girls having a commercially-produced playset is necessarily a harbinger of doom for American childhood. Let’s face it, the White House lawn doesn’t necessarily have a cool old barn to mess around in.

    Now I’ll temper that by saying that I have a playset in my yard that looks, remarkably, like the one the Obama girls have. We bought the really tall one (tall enough that even Dad has fun on the slide.)

    The kids play on it *constantly*.

    Why? Because we don’t stress about having it stay absolutely pristine. They drag old boards up in the “treehouse” and pretend it’s a fort. They rig up the dog’s run line to the ladders and string blankets across to use as extra tents. Or use it as an erzatz volleyball net. And sometimes (often, actually) they just play make-believe with what’s there. The fact that it’s not cobbled together from spare car parts and an old wine barrel doesn’t seem to be constraining their minds or bodies.

    I guess what I’m saying is: there’s plenty of stuff to rail against on the subject of childhood wussification. Not sure this one is really a big deal.

    I hope the girls have fun. I know I would.

  7. AnotherSuburbanMom March 6, 2009 at 5:24 am #

    Hey at least they are playing outside! I would hate to think of the issues involved with them having a simple outing to a park.

  8. Rick Mason March 6, 2009 at 6:36 am #

    I just got back from Amsterdam and saw so many cool modern and old-school tree-fortesque playgrounds.

    Here’s a picture of some equipment in one park. Didn’t get shots of the others.

  9. Compostwoman March 6, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    I wish they were setting trends with a Forest School setup!,index

    I don’t know if you have this kind of thing in the US, but it is really good…

    and in this controlled, litigeous time it is probably the nearest thing to playing in the woods a lot of children will get….

    I am a trained Forest School Leader in the UK ( as well as a wild play playworker) and can vouch for how wonderful it is! I have a site in my own woodland as well as working as a freelancer with schools in their grounds…and it is a magical experience for childen! ( and adults…)

  10. Aaron March 6, 2009 at 7:31 am #

    Your article reminded me of slides that were so tall we had to dare each other to go up (and then only when parents weren’t around). Great times.

    I hope that the Obama girls use their playground. Anything is better than nothing.

  11. Jen Connelly March 6, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    I can honestly say I don’t know what it’s like to have a play structure in our yard. We did have a pool growing up (the only house in the neighborhood with one). Our yard is too small for a swing set now…but we still have a pool, lol.

    Anyway I remember going to visit my aunt in Grand Rapids, MI and spending the days at John Ball Park. They had the most fascinating playground. There was this giant climbing apparatus that looked like a domino, 3 tall concrete blobs that you were supposed to attempt tp climb (the tallest was impossible to get up without help), something that looked like a cannon and another that we said was a rocket ship. The only normal playground equipment were the swings. I have never had more fun at a playground. I’m not sure if the stuff is still there or not but I found a park near my house in Chicago that has a few throw back items that remind me of John Ball Park.

    My kids have had the pleasure, though, of playing on those death trap metal slides while living outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Most of the parks we went to still had old metal slides, see-saws, swings with wooden seats, jungle gym (the old dome styled one) and merry-go-rounds. I was in playground heaven, lol. My middle daughter even almost fell of the rickety old slide at our local park. They also had a modern plastic and wood contraption but my kids favored the old slide that was leaning to one side.

  12. Moses Clark March 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Way to tell the truth L, World War II and author Susan Solomon are good correlations to this media solecism…I kept asking myself, why even tell the media about this personal decision? This will only make the hard working Americans’ more bitter, along with the other 1800 people who applied for unemployment last week. What a mental mistake here.


  13. Amber March 6, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    Maybe it’s because I’m in Canada, but we have a local playground that’s brand spanking new and it has a merry-go-round. It’s not a traditional merry-go-round, it’s more like a spinning climbing structure, with a rope exterior. The kids can fit on the inside, or hang off the outside, or climb up to the ‘net loft’ second level doo-ma-hickey. My daughter loves it, and so do I, since the bigger kids do all the spinning work so I can just sit back and watch. 😉

  14. Mommy Myth Buster March 6, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    Last summer we were in the backyard playing and my 4-year-old was loafing around the playset bored and lackadaisical. I said to him, “Let’s build a pirate ship!” I had no idea how we were going to do it or what materials we would use, but boy did his eyes light up! We went into the garage and found “everything we need”: some 2×4 boards, a couple of footstools, and a stack of small orange cones. ( 4-year-olds don’t know what materials it takes to build pirate ships.) We stacked up boards. Made planks and bridges that extended across lawn chairs and foot stools. We put up orange cones like an obstacle course. In actuality, it was a “dangerous” mess of heavy boards and miscellaneous scattered and stacked around the backyard. In our imaginations it was a fierce pirate ship. We even made the 2 year old walk the plank. That was one of the best days of summer.

  15. BMS March 6, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    Our yard is definitely not going to win any Good Housekeeping awards. The best part is ‘the dirt pile’. We got a bunch of dirt delivered a few years ago for planter boxes. The extra dirt got piled in the back of the house, until we figured out what to do with it. It became the most used play area of the yard. They build rivers, subways, dig, and spend most of the summer looking like something out of Lord of the Flies. Their dad built them a play house which they have modified, trashed, cleaned up, and trashed again. My yard is full of random boards, rocks, interesting pieces of metal people have found on their walks, and God alone knows what else. Sure, I sometimes get tired of the chaos, and knock it back to an acceptable level. But mostly, I enjoy the ability to kick the kids outside on a nice day and have them occupy themselves for hours.

  16. Cagey March 6, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    First off…….. can we have a respectful moment of silence for merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters, and large curly Q slides?? RIP, guys. I hardly knew ye.

    As long as we live in this house, we will not have a playset – we live so near to several parks and schools that we don’t need one here – within walking and driving distance, we have at least 10 different parks available within a 5-10 minute radius. However, our kids get ample use out of our backyard. I let our kids dig in the dirt, scatter leaves, etc. – yes, they have killed a corner of grass, whatever. It will grow back when they are in college. I also have a thing that they can do water play in. We also tons of shrubs and small trees that provide great sticks and leaves

    The part that cracks me up is when folks are shocked we let our kids play outside in the back by themselves – son is 3, daughter is 19 months. We have tons of windows, so we can SEE them when they are out there. Isn’t that best part of childhood? Exploring by oneself? Could they break a bone or get poked? Sure, and I do not want that to happen, but I also don’t want to stunt their MENTAL growth.

    (Sidenote: Don’t even get me started on our FRONT yard. Folks constantly make comments how we let them play on our sidewalk even if we are not within arm’s reach. I get all sorts of passive-aggressive comments from folks passing by who “kindly” tell my children they should get nearer to the house by “mom and dad”. Bah. It does not take a village, it takes ME and my husband. )

  17. Marie March 7, 2009 at 1:22 am #

    As kids, my brother and I had the most amazing swingset It was about 8 feet tall. at one end was a ladder that led up to a catwalk across the top that led to the longest, steepest slide! It was great! While most metal swingsets had lawn swings(where two bench seats face each other)our seats faced in the same direction(one was the front seat)which meant that one could not resist launching themselves out of it at full swing. There were two chain swings a trapeze, a push me pull you swing that resembled a teeter totter and my favorite, a carousel horse swing. It was once a pretty blue and white, but is rusted now. We swung so hard the whole thing would sway and the feet would sometimes come off the ground! We were the envy of the entire neighborhood!

  18. Katie March 7, 2009 at 6:12 am #

    1. The Obamas purchased this themselves. Not as a White House “necessity” or “perk.” And while they are playing under the watchful eye of dad and Secret Service, I think this swing set looks like a ton of fun! The kids I used to nanny for have one, and rarely if ever did they use it as it was intended. You’d be amazed how much fun it is to play “don’t touch the ground” on it or how much air you can get from the rope swing or the numerous pirate and super hero adventures we had in the tree top area. I just don’t see the Obama children having trouble growing up in a creative environment, even with a prefab swing set.

  19. Sandy March 7, 2009 at 6:51 am #

    Well, I’m glad the girls have something to do that’s outside. I was worried they’d end up holed away in all at the indoor activities available there.

    On that not though, I think we shall stick to our Pirate ship Playhouse 😉

  20. Shylo March 7, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Obama girls aside, I’m glad you brought up the adventure playground. I first heard about these when I watched the first installment of the serial documentary, “7 Up” by Michael Apted. I thought it was awesome!

    A bunch of folks are working to revamp the somewhat outdated/neglected playground in our local park and while I know that it’s not going to end up being as awesomely random as an adventure playground, I really want to advocate for a space free of rubberized this and insulated that.

  21. baby carriers backpacks March 7, 2009 at 8:21 am #

    Atleast the littl girls can play outside 🙂 Ive read your blog and the articles you wrote amazes me..

  22. Alana M March 7, 2009 at 12:25 pm #

    Not all play structures are so horribly conservative. I found a great park today for my boys 9 and 6. There were four different rope structures. The highest was 18 or so feet in the air. Of course they had to go right to the top. They had a great time for 2 hrs in the light rain. I sat under an umbrella 50 feet away and read the whole time. They don’t need me – except as a way to get there and back.

  23. kirsti March 8, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    what amuses me is how the word ‘adventure’ got to go with ‘playground’….I would have thought that there was something completely free and unconstrained about adventure, which makes it almost oxymoronic when combined with playground….I recently helped write a grant for a geodesic dome for a mixed age preschool and what a laugh it was when considering the recommendations for particular ages, as if children are all the same size, so instead we, as some of the readers here have done, remembered those jungle gyms of old and we took the tallest teacher in the room to gauge what would be a good size for a 5 year old…. it was enlightening….here’s to letting our kids play, and camp, and do it without us sometimes!

  24. Lara Starr March 8, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

    We have an Adventure Playground in Berkeley – it rocks! And, they encourage you to drop off your kids (over age 7)

  25. Mark March 10, 2009 at 7:51 pm #

    Back in 1972 (I was 6), I fell off of one of those tall slides, and broke my wrist. Though I survived, and took many other risks in my childhood on a playground that by today’s standards would be deemed unsafe.

    My daughter, around age 4, was walking around our house in a pair of silly, plastic, Barbie shoes. She slipped, fell, and broke her arm.

    Now, falling off the top of a slide and breaking an arm or walking around in plastic shoes in the family living room… Either way, bad stuff can happen.

    Parents, schools, lawyers, etc who want to eliminate risk are hurting kids more, because what they’re really doing is removing chances for kids to learn to take risks and their putting a low ceiling on what kids might achieve.

    I think about the picture of workmen eating lunch on the 69th floor of the GE Building during the construction of Rockefeller Center.

    I bet those guys had fun on their playgrounds when they were kids!

  26. crossgirl March 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    I own one of those old see-saws. The metal kind that whumps you on the ground real hard. The kind that’s no longer seen in playgrounds since they prefer the kinder, gentler spring loaded kind now. So far, none of my boys have been hurt but they’ve had a lot of fun.

    There’s a playground in our city that cracks me up. They’ve made a hill for the kids to slide down and kids are encouraged to remove their shoes and enjoy the feel of the grass. Of course, this grass is astroturf type stuff. There are also “rocks” to climb that go over a “stream” for them to wade in. I’m waiting for someone to add a fake tree to climb. I like that they’re trying to return to nature and it’s lovely I suppose for the city kids but we have an elevated septic at our house so there’s always a grassy hill to slide on and a creek down the road and plenty of trees. Weird times we live in.

  27. roberta March 12, 2009 at 4:58 am #

    My daughter and I lived in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn when she was playground age and the playground we used was pretty adventurous. The climbing structure is tall enough, and I did appreciate the rubber matting underneath–no need to break a bone if you don’t have to, and the kids were definitely more adventurous than they would be if they had to worry about falling on concrete. No shortage, ever, of kids climbing up the slide; they worked it out with the kids that wanted to slide down. Of course there were parents who didn’t like the big kids climbing on the outside of the tunnels while their toddlers were inside, but so it goes.

    I think the American public is wise to give the Obama family as much privacy and freedom from judgment as we can possibly give them.

  28. Kate March 13, 2009 at 1:22 am #

    On my blog, commenters on the Obama swingset seem to go both ways — some think the family’s not entitled to such an elaborate play set; others point out that the girls can’t exactly go to playgrounds off campus very easily. If it allows them to play somewhat independently and get some exercise, can’t be too much of a bad thing…

  29. Devin March 17, 2009 at 8:33 pm #

    At one of the elementary schools where I work in Japan, there’s this cube-shaped climbing structure three meters tall. It’s just lots of metal bars jointed together into cubes. My first thought when I looked at it was, whoa, that looks dangerous — if you slipped at the top in the middle, you’d bounce off a dozen metal bars on your way down, and there’s only dirt at the bottom. But I’ve yet to hear of any of the students getting badly hurt on that thing. They’re careful.

    More students prefer jumping up and down on the Double Jumps — lengths of plywood suspended on horizontal beams at each end so the board is a handspan above the ground. They bounce you high enough to swing a jump rope twice under yourself for each jump, if you’ve had some practice (I still can’t do it, much to the amusement of my students). With an adult on there to add momentum, a first-grader can really catch some amazing air-time (personal experience talking here — I got one six-year-old up to my eye level that way, and boy did they ever hound me to jump with them after that!). It’s like a super-cheap version of a trampoline, and safer than a trampoline as well — no springs to trip on, and even if you fall off, it’s not that far to the ground. Each elementary school I work at has about ten of them for a population of 300 students, and I’ve yet to see one break. I have a suspicion that the sixth-graders make a new set each year, since they learn woodworking anyway and it would be a good simple project for kids to take on.

    BTW, at the schools where I teach English, after kindergarten, only the mentally or physically disabled children are taken to school by their parents. ALL the normally-able children walk or ride their bikes to school, unaccompanied by adults, even in inclement weather. My junior high is a twenty-minute walk from my apartment, and many students live farther away than I do, but they walk or bike anyway — in knee-length skirts with knee-high socks for the girls, no matter how cold it is outside. (Everyone here knows how to hold an umbrella and ride a bike at the same time; the children laugh at my awkwardness when it rains.) The only school bus I have seen in this country belonged to a private kindergarten — maybe rural areas have school buses, but not here just beyond the edge of Osaka. Elementary-schoolers wear distinctive brightly-colored hats, use raised footbridges (which feature lots of stairs and are tall enough to accommodate semi trucks) to cross busy roads, and cannot ride their bikes to school (probably because they have to use the bridges), but those are about the only concessions I’ve seen to their youth. After school and on weekends, I see children as young as eight riding the trains and subways without adult supervision — usually in pairs or groups, but sometimes alone. Thousands of Japanese children take public transportation to cram schools in Osaka after school lets out, unsupervised.

    And the most shocking difference to my mind: It’s considered completely normal to suddenly let the kids out of school early and just let them wander off. A couple reasons the kids at my junior high have been sent home: it rained while they were setting up for an outdoor festival, and since they were drenched, they got to go home, when it wasn’t even 11 am yet; and more than twenty kids in the eighth grade were sick with influenza, so the entire eighth grade got sent home to rest for three days, starting at fourth period that day. They were sent home early several more times than that, but I was unable to understand the explanations why. Imagine if Japanese parents were like American parents and had to see to their children’s complete supervision outside of school — the nightmare it would be to suddenly have to leave work or find babysitters for 300 kids just because they got rained on? Or suddenly having to stay home from work for three days because some other kids — not even yours — were sick?

    I just realized this was a very long comment, but heck, I might as well post it anyway.

  30. tomchaps March 19, 2009 at 1:14 am #

    There are a number of good playground structures in the Bay Area, in addition to Adventure Park in Berkeley. My son loves this one:

  31. BITE ME MARXIST March 25, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    This $15,000 playset was paid for by the TAXPAYER’S. We are suppose to sacrafice but the MARXIST PARTY MEMBER’S AREN’T. CIVIL WAR IS COMING to A MRAXIST NEAR YOU. But all MARXIST RUN and HIDE like ALL TERRORIST. WE’LL FIND YOU JUST LIKE EVERY WAR WE FIGHT!

  32. Alex June 26, 2009 at 8:02 am #

    When I was a kid in Milwaukee, the public museum had this great play area in the front, mildly supervised, with kid-sized real tools (saws, hammers, nails, etc.). The best time ever. THey don’t have it anymore, that I’m aware of.

  33. Alan Sutton June 10, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    Hi All,
    Adventure Playgrounds are alive and well in London and the UK, the government has just funded another 30 in England. They are public goods, founded on the 3 frees principle – free of charge, free to come and go, free to choose activities. Staffed by trained playworkers and fenced when closed, to allow much more “risky play” than public space. For much more detail visit our website –

  34. KyohakuKeisanki January 22, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    @tomchaps: Yeah I’ve heard about that one… they went a bit more retro than what most builders would want to be liable for. Sad when you can specifically recall the names of new playgrounds with that kind of feel. Now, my long post which I have put on many other places as well:

    I am currently a 17-year-old boy in Tulsa, OK. Understandably, most of my playground experiences were with the new plastic stuff. Back when I was 4 years old I often went to Whiteside Park, which had a mix of fiberglass and painted wood. I remember a boy named Joe who used to be there many times… he could swing really high on the swings which were still the old chain kind (albeit with a plastic/rubber seat; and they were only 8 or 10 feet tall). AFAIK they still have the same equipment today, including the plastic 10-12′ straight and steep slide (not too many slides are straight anymore). Another park, Darlington, had and still has all-metal equipment (though it’s a really small structure). However, LaFortune is the one I want to write about here. As late as 10 years ago they had old wooden equipment (with metal slides and bars). I remember some very high monkey bars (maybe 8 feet?), a swinging bridge (had to be pretty small… maybe 10′ long tops), and 3 slides, each bigger than the other (top one was maybe 10 feet). Back in 2000 or 2001 or so they changed to new plastic equipment. At the time I was very excited since they had changed from a relatively small structure to two large ones. In 2004 I had the opportunity to visit a playground untouched by litigation-fearful government. My great uncle was about to pass away, and the family took a 1-day trip to Aurora, MO, to see him one last time. Apparently not wanting me to see him in his poor condition, my mom found a playground and told my dad to play with me there (I was 10 at the time). That is an experience I will never forget… there were an old-style metal seesaw, a metal merry-go-round, and a very steep metal slide that had to be at least 15-20 feet tall. Being accustomed to plastic all my life, I was at first afraid of the big slide. From what I recall I eventually got on it and loved it… as well as the other stuff there. From what I see on Youtube some places still have this old-school equipment… but they are mostly in other countries (Germany pops up a lot). After reading this article I realize what has truly become of society today. This is not simply a problem with playgrounds, it extends to all aspects of daily life. The American legal system is becoming too constricting to organizations, often doling out six-figure amounts for accidents that deserve more reasonable payments in the lower four figures (case in point: Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants 1994, aka the Coffee Case). Though consumers may think they are getting a better product from the additional regulations, they are the ones who are really paying for them. Thus the governments force unintended mandatory “insurance policies” upon the people… businesses have to pay more and skimp on the product to meet regulations, and the consumer ends up paying for a few people’s troubles in the form of increased prices or inferior products. Change needs to occur in the law schools before it can occur on the playground.

    If you are older (or have relatives living in rural communities), you may remember the slides and swingsets being bigger than they are today. Many probably tell you that “you were smaller, everything was big”. In most cases they’d be right. However, in this one solitary case, I can confidently say that they are wrong and you are right. While I’ve never (as far as I can recall) seen a 12-16′ swingset, there are [hard-to-find] pictures that prove that they existed. As for the slides, just read my post. Despite the extreme difficulty in finding pictures, I am absolutely certain that they existed (and still do, though straight slides of all kinds over 8 feet are a dying species).

    One particular piece of playground equipment that intrigues me due to its unique history is the Giant Stride. Unlike most playground equipment, these were mostly removed in the 1950s, long before the Age of Litigation began circa 1984 (date chosen on purpose). Google “980 playground equipment” and read the comments on the blog to see more about this intriguing piece of equipment… sure it was probably the most dangerous piece, but it was also the most popular in places that had it. Supposedly Sunrise Park in Paris, Illinois, still has a couple (unless they were removed after the 2008 ruling that any park with one automatically loses any lawsuit related to playground injuries, regardless of the scope of the injury and regardless of what equipment actually caused the injury)

    Here’s a link:

    If they’re still there, anyone care to go and take a video for Youtube?

    Also, just something I’m curious about. After reading many comments on blogs, I get the feeling that kids back then were more resilient than kids today. Kids back then could fall four feet without it hurting much, and eight feet without getting more than a scraped knee, maybe a sprained wrist at the worst (and often these high falls of 10′ or so were from the aforementioned Giant Strides). Kids in the old days used to jump from 10-foot barn roofs for fun, and one particular comment on another blog described kids purposely jumping down 20-30 feet to slightly inclined ground and getting little more than a sprained ankle. I don’t know how they did it… there wasn’t a secretly required Parkour class in elementary schools back then, was there?


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