Outrage of the Season: No Winter Recess, Safety Ground Cushioning “Too Hard”

Hi saytbrstni
Readers! We are so concerned for our kids’ safety, the apparently the safety of our safety precautions isn’t safe enough, either. Read on.  – L


Dear Free-Range Kids: It’s been a beautiful week in upstate New York, with temperatures nearing 60 mid-week. But students in my school district cannot play on their school playgrounds.

In January, the Saratoga Springs School District announced that all school playgrounds would be closed until sometime in April, since the cushioning material under climbing structures is frozen and therefore deemed unsafe.
Ironically, the safety material we installed–and I’m sure it wasn’t cheap–is unusable for up to five months of the school year. According to our district safety specialist, there is no approved playground surfacing material that is safe to use during freezing weather. If a school has outdoor space without climbing structures, they can use that for outdoor time (for instance, a basketball blacktop), but my 9-year-old daughter’s school does not. So that means she has “classroom recess” day after day. She’s given up on trying to find some way to play, and she sits at her desk and finishes schoolwork. They have a brief (less than 5 minute) recess in the gym before lunch, and they have gym class twice a week. But otherwise, they have no outlet for their energy.
After Girl Scouts this week, the adult leaders were exhausted–they couldn’t figure out why the girls were bouncing off the walls, unable to sit still and do an activity. It seems pretty clear to me that the loss of recess is the culprit. I can’t imagine what it’s like in the classrooms day after day, and I feel very sorry for the classroom teachers. If they cannot invent–and supervise–an indoor activity (Zumba videos on the SmartBoard?), their students will be increasingly restless, irritable, and unable to concentrate.
After a difficult discussion at a PTA meeting, our principal has promised to try to come up with alternatives to playground play. But the district will not budge on re-opening the playgrounds while it is still winter. Keeping students off the playground may prevent one or two falls, and I’m sure it reduces liability. But it creates far more risks than it avoids.
It’s time to restore balance to our safety policies. Yours — A Saratoga Mom
Lenore here again: Readers, has anyone out there researched this? Is  standard playground safety cushioning truly  UNsafe in cold weather — like, less safe than blacktop? Or do the manufacturers warn that it is, so no one can sue them if a kid falls down? Anyone familiar with this issue and can give us some insight or solve this district’s problem? 

Since when do we let kids play outside in the winter?!?

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119 Responses to Outrage of the Season: No Winter Recess, Safety Ground Cushioning “Too Hard”

  1. Carrie February 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    I’m no expert on ground cover safety, but we have a similar problem here in New England. Although our school’s handbook clearly states that the students will have recess unless it it below 20 degrees F, my boys almost never have recess anymore. For a while, it was “too icy”, or “not enough students brought snow pants and they might get wet”. We’re having a VERY mild winter up here this year and I find it appalling that they aren’t allowed out EVERY DAY. There are SMALL patches of ice on otherwise completely bare ground here (rare for February, I can tell you). My oldest spends his entire recess reading because there isn’t much else to do, but has been called out in class for talking to his friends of late… is it any wonder when they have no unstructured time to play? My next son has had a letter sent home from first grade saying he “won’t sit still on the rug during group time”. I’m not surprised considering he’s been sitting still for 6 straight hours at this point in the day. This is the same district that sends home BMI notices each year because they are “so concerned about childhood obesity”. My third son’s district preschool (which has the same 20 degree rule) recently sent home a letter saying they won’t be going out again until SPRING. No reason given, although the teachers have confided it’s “too time-consuming to get them all dressed for a short recess”. Thankfully, two mornings a week, my preschooler and his toddler sister attend daycare and THEY manage to get all of their kids dressed and out on the playground each day, as long as it’s over 20 degrees. The first thing my kids want to do when they get home is bounce off the walls, so it’s straight outdoors for them, rain or shine.

  2. Heartfruit February 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    I understand from friends in Northern New York state that it has been an exceptionally mild winter. So it is entirely likely that a) the ground is not frozen now and b) it certainly won’t be though April. I know the ground in Toronto is not frozen. I do wonder what was under the playground before they replaced the surface (sand perhaps) and why that was considered safe in previous years.

  3. writergirl35 February 6, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Get a super long gardenhose,hook it up to hot water from the school, and have the maintenance guy or some parents spray down the matting throughout the day.

  4. Kris C February 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    At my kids’ schools here in NJ they don’t get to play outside at lunchtime reces if the temp is below 32*F. However, when we were stationed in Germany and the kids were at DoDDS (US) schools, the rule was “Dress them appropriately for outdoor play all winter except extreme cold temperatures or inclement weather.”

    I cannot imagine that the soft-surface playground coverings are any worse than a blacktop ground. Short of leaving the country, I wish to be able to find a school that allows for “old-fashioned” (read: when I grew up in the 1970s and 80s with monkey bars, swings and real see-saws and merry-go-rounds) education. Not based on test scores and insurance policies. Although Australia might have its advantages… 😉

  5. Kristi February 6, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    I can think of at least one playground surface suitable for use in cold weather. It’s called the GROUND! Terra firma. Good old fashioned dirt!

  6. Denise February 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    This is crazy! Here on Long Island, our winter has been so blessedly mild that both my kids have had outdoor recess far more often than they ever had in previous winters. That said, there still are issues. In my younger boy’s K-2 school, the principal (who I otherwise like) is notorious for cancelling outdoor recess not for cold temps, but if the ground is still wet from rain, or there’s sand on the blacktop (the kids alternate between blacktop/basketball and the playground). In my older son’s 3-5 school, the principal is more likely to let them out as long as it’s not raining or snowing or under 32 degrees. On those days they are supposed to have indoor recess in the gym, but that doesn’t always work if, say, one grade’s recess period overlaps with another grade’s gym period. In-classroom recess is terrible! It makes me pine for their daycare days, when we parents were told — you make sure you send in proper clothing for all weather, because we’re going outside unless it’s under 30 degrees, raining, or snowing. They bundled ’em up and sent ’em out even if it was to play in partly-melted snow with muddy toys. Kids and their clothes are all washable, after all.

  7. Floyd Stearns, Magalia, CA (I grew up in Warsaw, NY) February 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    I assume that the floors in the gyms in the schools in Saratoga are totally covered with nice soft matts that are 2″ to 3″ thick?
    I’m from western NY and our playgrounds were covered with natural materials like grass. How did we ever survive?

  8. Momofthree February 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    The ground here in Maine is not frozen so i’m willing to bet it’s just fine in New York.

    I am a little bit confused about this post, is there NOWHERE outside the kids can play? A yard, parking lot, anywhere? I can’t imagine the behavior issues that the school would be dealing with due to keeping these children indoors for months at a time. No matter how many activities and games you come up with to fill the void nothing beats letting kids run free OUTSIDE.

  9. Lollipoplover February 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    We have good old-fashioned wood chips on our playground and no freezing issues. We also don’t have weather restrictions (except no playing on the grass when it’s muddy), and the school reminds parents to dress kids properly so they can enjoy their 30 minute recess.

    Indoor recess is an oxymoron. Playing educational board games IS NOT recess! What ever happened to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign for school aged children? This school’s anti-recess rules seem to go directly against the healthy initiatives that our government is trying to establish to raise a healthy generation.

  10. SG February 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    I’m 30yrs old and when I was in grade school, outdoor recess wasn’t called off until it dropped under 10 degrees. I went to a Catholic school and unless you brought pants to wear under your uniform, you went outside when it was 15 degrees, bare legs and all. We had no “playground”, just a big black top parking lot with jump ropes and basketballs. We fell on the ice and legs got smacked with jump ropes (the old kind that had plastic beading, OUCH!)….but guess what… everyone lived another day! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some sort of scab somewhere from falling. Wasn’t that the sign of an active kid? Now, we didn’t have these massive palatial swing sets or jungle gyms to fall off of either….but who would ever dream of sending a kid outside today without huge prefabricated entertainment (note sarcasm, that’s a whole other issue!) Well, rest assured that the kids in my area (northeast Ohio) will be properly protected from the elements. I have to send my 5yr old to safety town this summer, it’s 1 week in June, from I think 9-11:30am. Due to concerns from parents about sun exposure, it is now being held in an air conditioned building! I feel like my 80yr old Grandmother as I sit her shaking my head saying “I have never heard of such a thing!” …

  11. Brandi February 6, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    My three year old goes to a German pre-school with a great outdoor playground attached. I often find the kids outside when I pick her up, and it has been near 0 Fahrenheit here. I don’t think there are mats under the toys … I never had a closer look, actually. If anything, there are probably woodchips.

    Are German kids (or, in our case, a German-American kid) more robust than their counterparts over the ocean. I doubt it. Parents, get loud and get ugly about this absolute bullshit!

  12. pentamom February 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Apropos the headline, I suspect that the issue is not that it is too hard, but that it gets too slick. Being more porous, I can see why that would be, even compared to blacktop.

    But yeah, spray it down, salt it — there are lost of possibilities. Besides what Momofthree said — THE GROUND IS NOT A PERPETUAL SHEET OF ICE ANYWHERE THIS YEAR! Our bay on Lake Erie has had ZERO ice fishing this year because *there is no lake ice.* So even if it’s a few degrees colder on average up in Saratoga Springs, It is not impassable from now until April. The very *least* they could do is empower the principal to walk outside and say, “Oh, look, it’s 45 degrees and there’s no ice anywhere in the city limits. We can have recess today.”

  13. Misti February 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    This is interesting and sad. I live in Canada and if we enacted some ridiculous rule as this our kids would only be outside 3 months of the entire year. My daughter ( in grade 4) is required to have appropriate outdoor gear and the children go outside for a 45 min recess regardless of the temperature or if it’s raining or snowing… There are days when it is -38 C with the windchill and even the kindergartens are outside. They even have a skating rink and if they want to skate or run around on the ice during recess go for it!! They just have to wear a helmet for skating. We are raising a generation of weakness. It’s sad!

  14. Cecilia February 6, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    At my kids’ school, the only person with the power to call off recess is the school nurse, and she’s only done that if a severe weather alert has been issued (severe cold/heat/wind/storm). Or if there’s lightning sighted. Otherwise, rain or shine, these kids are out on the terra firma playground for at least 30 minutes twice a day.

  15. anon February 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    our climbing structure playground is closed too (in Toronto) and was well before we got to freezing weather. We do still have outdoor recess on the asphalt, and it’s pretty much in any weather unless it’s pouring. But I don’t get why they can’t just say “no going up on the climber”? And still allow kids to run under and around it??

  16. Rachael February 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    This is why I love my daughter’s preschool (I live in Rochester, NY). They have the 3-4 year olds out in almost any weather and they aren’t just playing in a playground, they are innertubing on the hill next to the school!

  17. Pam February 6, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    In Ontario, I think it’s province-wide that the play structures are closed in the winter months. Luckily, my kids’ schools have always other areas to play in, so do get recess in the winter.

    This is the same province that ordered all of the “unsafe” play equipment (swings, slides, etc) torn down a few years ago, only because they had upped all of the standards, not because the play structures were old, falling down, etc. So if a school couldn’t come up with the money to upgrade on short notice, they had to tear down the play structure. And the kids did without.

    I think the lawyers are running things up here! “Must eliminate the risk.”

  18. Bee February 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    I can’t imagine indoor recess at -6C (20F). I live in Northern Alberta, Canada, and here, it’s outdoor recess until at least -15C (5F). After that, it depends on the age of the students. I remember working in one school where they had had 36 consecutive days of indoor recess due to -30C temps so the minute it was above -25, the principal bundled them all up for 10 mins and sent them out. Even that amount of time made a difference.

    Maybe they come to school better prepared for cold up here, but you don’t need much to protect from -6C. And if they don’t get dirty…they’re not playing hard enough. That’s kind of the point, in my opinion.

  19. LRH February 6, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    The weather thing, especially regarding temperature, really has become a thing lately with some people. Someone we know fussed about her grandkids playing outside because it was “too cold.” It was 63’F, and we saw lots of kids playing outside. Another time, it was “too hot.” It was 85’F.

    Given that we have tons of 95’F days in the summer, and a number of days in the 40s and 50s in the winter, that doesn’t leave much for play, I would say.

    Since when did we get this way as a society?


  20. Lisa C. February 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    My daughter attends school in West Des Moines, Iowa. The outdoor policy says that if the temperature is above 0*F, the children go outside. When there is a lot of snow, the children are required to have snow pants/boots to play on the playground. If they do not have these clothes, they still go outside and play on the blacktop instead of the playground. We have had a very mild winter and I think they have had 1 indoor recess and that was from rain. Not cold temps or snow.

  21. Lianne Deren February 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    These schools could take some inspiration from this blog of Teacher Tom’s in Seattle whose cooperative preschool spends the majority of their time in their OUTDOOR CLASSROOM, rain, shine, snow, etc.! http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/. I’ve been reading through his posts the last few days – what an incredible gift to those children to honestly spend their days learning through PLAY and exploration!!

  22. Suze February 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    I can’t believe this. I live in Canada in the central part of the province of Ontario. We don’t have any “protective matting” underneath any play structures on school playground. And I can’t even get my head around the fact that kids in some parts of the states aren’t allowed out because they can’t deal with snow on the ground or the temperatures !!! The rules here are they won’t let kids out for recess unless its colder than -20C (-4F) There’s ice, snow and slippery sections all over playgrounds here and no one would even bat an eye at not letting kids out for recess because of this. Unbelievable… really. And we have conditions like this for usually December until the end of March !!! I’m sure these school administrators in the states must think we are akin to child abusers allowing our kids to play in such “unsafe conditions” and let them out in such FRIGID weather. Please, give me a break @@@@@

  23. Uly February 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    Wasn’t it just yesterday that somebody here posted a link to a video on an outside kindergarten (that is, what we’d call “preschool” plus what we’d call kindergarten) in Norway?

    At a staff meeting, the teachers talked about how to keep the kids safe outside every day in winter… in Norway, where there’s not much sun all winter long. Headlamps for everybody, apparently!

  24. Jennifer February 6, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Somewhere between my childhood and now, many people seem to have decided that playgrounds are for summer use only. I live in Minnesota, and the temperature often gets down below zero (fahrenheit) in the winter. Our neighborhood homeschool group goes outside to the parks in almost all weather, and we rarely see any other kids there (and we meet after school hours, so you’d think there would be kids coming from school). You do see kids outside at the parks for sledding after a big snowfall, but not often at other times.

    I often think that part of this is that people’s houses have gotten bigger and so they let their kids run around inside and don’t care if they’re wild. We live with 5 people, two cats, and two dogs in a house that’s less that 1000 square feet. If I let the kids run around in here they would break something, step on an animal, or hurt themselves or someone else. I’m kicking them outside all the time, just as I remember my parents doing. But few people seem to do this anymore.

  25. onemusingmama February 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    My first grader gets 20 min recess tops. Fortunately they do go out most days, not sure the temp cutoff, but this mild winter they’ve been out nearly every day except for rain. I think there would be a big outcry here if the schools tried to cancel recess in the winter. There is a pretty good playscape on the playground and in the last two years I know at least one person each year has fallen off the bars and broken an arm. Neither time did someone sue! And the kids are still allowed on the bars!

  26. Mary February 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    @onemusingmama – are we in the same district? That sounds just like my daughter’s school (broken arm and all).
    Here in Minnesota we are having a very mild winter, but our kids are allowed outside as long as it’s above -10 F. They have wood chip mulch under the play structure that freezes and I just asked my daughter if it hurts to fall on that and she said (incredulously), “No, we have our snowpants on”. Alrighty then. I asked her about the kids who don’t wear snowpants, are they allowed outside? She said “Yes, but they have to be more careful”.

    Thank goodness for schools who have kept their sanity.

  27. pentamom February 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    “Headlamps for everybody, apparently!”

    Well, I can’t find stats for December, but a quick Google reveals that in late January in Oslo, they get just shy of 8 hours of from sunrise to sunset each day. Very few people live significantly farther north than that, so it’s not quite *that* bad. 🙂

  28. Kimberly February 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    Seriously tragic. I think the kids would have been alright – they don’t have padding in their yards at home I’m sure. I think if the adults are wimpy about being outside that’s more likely why they cancel recess. But if the adults enjoyed being outside too probably recess would be there – even in the winter.

  29. Kimberly from vogelJoy February 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    Seriously tragic. I think the kids would have been alright – they don’t have padding in their yards at home I’m sure. I think if the adults are wimpy about being outside that’s more likely why they cancel recess. But if the adults enjoyed being outside too probably recess would be there – even in the winter.

  30. Suzi February 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    My son’s turning three this year and I’m finding it frustrating that very few of the preschool classes (mornings 2 days a week) have an outside component… I guess it’s just the start. 🙁

  31. Debora February 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    That’s obviously ridiculous, I’d be miffed too. I’m constantly disgusted by my daughters school, which only gives the kids one 15 minute recess per day, at 10am, and they aren’t allowed to go outside after lunch (which they eat at 11am…???) So, they get there at 7:45am, 2 hrs and 15 minutes later they get a 15 minute recess, and then have one class, eat lunch (20 minutes) and for the next 3 hrs and 40 minutes they don’t get any breaks at all. Dang, even I couldn’t pay attention that long! Her school goes to great lengths to keep each grade level separate from the others….since when was it not okay for 5th graders to play or eat lunch in the same cafeteria as 6th graders? I give up trying to understand it…and lean more towards home school as each day passes!

  32. Susan February 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    Perhaps this is the time when I carefully and somewhat timidly point out the unpleasant fact that sending a child to a government school is voluntarily giving up much that is positive and enriching in the education of that child. Yes, I know that many feel they have no choice, have to work, can’t afford private, but it is and will be worth rearranging your life to better accommodate what is best for your child. There’s a great big wonderful world out there, and your local school system does not intend to properly introduce it, or prepare your child for it. There is NO Free Range mentality in modern public education. None.

  33. Freedom for Kids February 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    “UNSCHOOLING” ROCKS!!! 🙂 (Yeay Susan!)

  34. Christine February 7, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    My son’s school ROCKS!!! The kids are outside for recess everyday-rain, sun or snow! In fact, they make a luge during p.e. and let the kids slide down on sleds. Not only that, the kids slide down the slide on the playground with snow/ice on it.

    Many days, my son has come home with wet clothes and socks stuffed in his bag to be washed because they got so muddy/wet at recess. We live in New England and he goes to a school that honors a free range childhood.

  35. pentamom February 7, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Susan, I too homeschool, in part for the reasons you state.

    But the fact that you are entrusting your child to someone else does NOT mean that you can’t point out when their policies are dumb, and ask for and work for change. It’s true you give up “control,” and have to accept that some things will go the way you don’t like, but it doesn’t follow that you can’t object to the fact that the control they are exercising is being exercised stupidly and/or hold the people in charge to a standard of reasonable behavior. Public schooling *is* after all a public service and the U.S. *is* still a republic in which the way in which the public is served *should be* responsive to that public.

  36. BMS February 7, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    @SG – I think we went to the same school. Catholic school, blacktop parking lot for a playground, no equipment, just balls and jumpropes, and we would be out there unless it was a blizzard. I have fond memories of a cousin of mine playing king of the mountain on big piles of snow. while on crutches, because he had broken his leg doing something else stupid a month before. It had to be a freaking monsoon before we had indoor recess.

    Incidentally, the worst blood I ever saw was in first grade when we had indoor recess. We all had clay to play with and the teacher stepped out for a bit. Two kids made clay guns and chased each other around the room, causing one of them to fall and split his head open on a desk. His mom got called, he got stitches, and they both got in trouble for running around when the teacher’s back was turned. Ah, those were the days.

  37. Bob February 7, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Susan, you are absolutely right. Whenever I read horror stories like the one above, it gives me one more reason to be thankful my daughter doesn’t go to school.

  38. Marcela February 7, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    I suggest the parents try to organize a “running club”. At my kids school I have been doing this once a week- in this case all they needed was one parent to volunteer for an hour (extra eyes for the back of the school). The teachers use a simple form for kids to log their laps so they can keep track of how far they’ve run (MATH!). Kids that don’t want to run can of course walk with their friends, and chit chat on their own. It’s amazing to me, though to see how many of the children RUN almost the whole time with huge smiles on their faces!

  39. Tracy February 7, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    Ironically, my 7-year-old broke his arm falling off an icy piece of playground equipment onto a ground surface that that had also frozen solid. While I do think that maybe THAT DAY only, they might have kept the kids off the playground equipment, I do not in any way blame or intend to sue the school. And, I had more parents express concern first for my son, and second that there would be new restrictions on the playground. It was just an accident!

  40. Sarah C. Sell February 7, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    This is the opposite problem I’ve been having with that new squishy matting. I prefer my daughter to go barefoot as often as possible, and have found that, in our area, even the blacktop does not get too hot to walk on. Not so for the ‘safety matting’! That material heats up even more than the concrete and asphalt, making it necessary to constrict children’s feet in shoes if they want to play on the swings! And forget about crawling on their hands and knees, or rolling around, or lying down…

  41. Hugo Cunningham February 7, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    Perhaps the school could appease their liability lawyers by tying canvas over forbidden climbing structures, but leave the kids free to run around, play ballgames, or throw snowballs.

    Unrelated point:
    Our First Lady has spoken out against childhood obesity. Could someone lure her into speaking up for childhood exercise, especially at schools where it would do the most good?

  42. EricS February 7, 2012 at 1:35 am #

    I don’t think this has anything to do with how well the safety measures in place are…well…safe. This is a another product of worse case thinking by an institution. What it all boils down to is, they DON’T WANT TO BE SUED. In a way, I can’t blame them. They are covering their own asses. BUT…at what cost? Adults are so freakin selfish that they put their own needs above that of their children. No, you aren’t protecting your kids, no it’s not about their safety, and no you aren’t smart at all. Smart people don’t make dumb decisions. They don’t get all paranoid because a pin drops. When they here of some isolated, rare and remote incident that happened on the other side of the world, they don’t run for the hills with kids in tow (or at least that mentality). They only way to stop this idiotic way of thinking, is to start making changes. Or should I say, start reverting back before these changes started happening. Revert back to when it WAS about the kids. Schools stuck up for children and their right to be children, and parents supported them. That the very, very few people at the time that had lawsuit in mind, were always trumped when they petitioned to close a playground, or stop certain activities for kids. Where they were laughed at and chastised. Only for them to realize they just made their own kids unhappy, and changed their attitude. The more people give in to all types of paranoia, the more our society crumbles. And believe it or not, the more authorities can control us. From civil servants to government. We need to take back our sanity and our lives from this perpetuating ignorance and madness. I for one will never give into this day and age’s paranoia and distrust. And will make sure that my own family will never either.

  43. Christina February 7, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    We live in Chicago, and while it’s been a very very mild winter this year, in the usual course of events, my kids wouldn’t be able to go outside for recess from October – April if their school followed this principal’s logic. Thankfully, the school sends them outside in pretty much any and all weather. If it’s pouring down rain, or the snow is blowing horizontally, the kids go to the gym, otherwise, outside they go. Fortunately, the boys’ school has lockers, so we can keep extra shoes, gloves, hats and changes of clothes at school in case of cold, wet or hijinks.

  44. EricS February 7, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    @ Susan: I disagree. I know some private schools who have or have more restrictions when it comes to their students. After all, they PARENTS are paying for their kids to attend these schools. So it’s in the best interest of the institution to make sure the PARENTS are happy. And these days, parents are parents. A paranoid parent who have kids going to a private school, is no different than a paranoid parent who has kids going to a public school. As for home school, I personally don’t believe in it. Not saying people shouldn’t do it, that’s really up to them. Whatever works for them and makes them feel better. But, IMO, we can’t spend every waking day with our kids, and not allow them to be among other kids to socialize. There are times when, unstructured, unplanned, “whatever happens, happens” is necessary for a child’s development. Mind you, it’s still up to us to educate our children to be able to deal with most things that will come their way. So that should anything happen when they are on their own, they are well equipped to deal with it. Kids have for thousands of years. It’s only in the last 20 years that kids have been a little more…well…let’s just say, ill equipped to stand on their own two feet. And that would be no fault of their own. Since they are only taking lead from the people they trust most…their parents.

    It all starts at home. The mentality of the parents are passed right on to their kids. Parents’ negative thoughts, become the child’s. That’s just fact. However we raise our children, the most important thing that should be on our minds is what will benefit them, now and in their future. NOT, what will benefit and make US feel better about our decisions. Let kids be kids, like kids before them. It’s worked for countless generations, why try and change and age old tradition that has worked, for something that only quells the parents’ fears.

  45. EricS February 7, 2012 at 1:59 am #

    @ Bob: What “horror stories”? I didn’t realize kids falling is such an epidemic and a grave issue in the world. Must be a new thing that should concern all of us? News Flash…”Watch out! Your kid may fall!”. LOL “Horror stories”. More like a bad, cheesy “B movie”, that we can all laugh at how ridiculous it is. And yes, my kid has fallen numerous times. After the first 2-3 times, he doesn’t even cry anymore. Sometimes he just gets mad at himself for being clumsy. Sometimes he just gets embarrassed for being clumsy. But he doesn’t fear, because we don’t. He even knows how to clean his scrapes up, put polysporin and band-aid on. And yes, he learns from each fall, so that he doesn’t do it again that way. Whattayaknow, he’s learning how to be a kid. lol

  46. yosteff February 7, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    I’ll just chime in from Minnesota that kids go out for recess as long as it’s above 0 degrees and yes that is Fahrenheit. Happily my daughters school adheres by this guide lines and they even do Ice Skating Club in January where they horror of horrors take the children outside 3 days a week, no matter what the temperature with sharpened blades tied to their feet and attempt to teach them not to fall down. As parents we are expected to send kids dressed for cold weather and the school has a few spare pairs of snow pants to cover those kids who don’t have appropriate weather gear. Growing up here, I remember hating winter recess cause we had to go outside and freeze for 35 minutes whether we wanted to or not, we were excited when it was declared too old to go out and we could play games in the classroom, I can’t imagine having to do that all the time as a kid, or controlling a class that didn’t’ get outside time.

  47. EricS February 7, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    @ Christina: AWESOME! There are some sane people in the world. In America. Sane, smart, and common sense filled people. I hope your community keeps it up. Trust in all. Especially the kids. 😉

  48. Sandy W February 7, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    I live in Michigan and I feel lucky that my kindergartner goes outside almost every day for almost an hour. The only time they stay inside is if it is pouring outside. We have wood chips under the play structure and the rest of the playground is grass. The boys spend most of their time chasing each other around and play imaginative games. This school also allows the kids to wrestle with each other. I send him out of district. The district I live in doesn’t even allow the kids to play tag because there is a no touching rule. They also rarely go outside at that school.

  49. Michelle H February 7, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    I’d be so tempted, if I had the time and this were my kid’s school, to go to the school everyday and take him out for recess myself. And also get a group of parents to do the same.

  50. Freedom for Kids February 7, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    THIS IS FOR EricS, regarding kids and socialization:





  51. Freedom for Kids February 7, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Whoopsie on that last one:


  52. Ann In L.A. February 7, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    This brings to mind the school in Maryland that started a running club during recess, handing out trinkets for a certain number of laps, and created a more-fit, better-behaved, and more-attentive student body. I wonder if the teachers here can run the kids around the playground for 10 minutes at a time, or the outside of the gym during other classes’ gym time, or even around the block or up and down the sidewalk in front.


  53. Bob February 7, 2012 at 3:33 am #

    EricS: The “horror story” I referred to was the one about the kids who are cooped up inside all day long for months at a stretch because their school does not allow them go outside at recess. You completely misunderstood my intention.

  54. Ann In L.A. February 7, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    (Is no one else suspicious that this might have nothing to do with safety, but rather with teachers not wanting to stand outside in the cold for a half hour or more to supervise?)

  55. CrazyCatLady February 7, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    Susan is right. Modern schools (of this and the last century) were not designed to teach kids how to think on their own or to allow parents input into the school system. They are designed to teach kids how to think what the teachers/government thinks. They were designed to get kids to be good workers for the factories, to not question the boss, and to come and leave on time. And while I don’t think this recess stuff is a conspiracy, I do think that limiting recess the logical extension and is certainly good training for keeping people on task for their work in the workplace. The problem is, as many have pointed out, that kids NEED exercise, and it actually works against keeping them on task.

    Modern public schools do very little to help people to be innovative, to think outside the box, to see a need and start a business to fill that need. They teach kids that to learn they need to be fed the information and that they cannot do anything without input from a trained “expert”. And as most of us grew up in the system, we believe the system is right because we know no different method, so when the “expert” says that the ground is not safe, well golly, who are we to question that?

    They should rope off the equipment, take off the swings and let the kids run around at the very least if they are worried about the ground being so hard.

  56. CrazyCatLady February 7, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    Ann, if that is the case, then the joke is on them! I hope they have fun dealing with all the distracted kids and the lowered test scores because the kids are fidgeting too much to learn the material!

  57. JaneW February 7, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    I do some contact sports that rely on open-celled foam padding for safety. (Like, preventing broken bones safety, not preventing imaginary dangers.)

    Foam does become less squishy below about 40 degrees Farenheit. It is no longer effective as impact padding. However, cold foam is no more dangerous than grass or dirt, and probably still safer to fall on than blacktop or gravel. (Sand is probably safer than foam in cold weather, though.)

    So, if the kids are training for the circus, this is an issue. If they are running around and playing on equipment just a few feet high, the worse reasonably likely outcome is a few more bruises than warm padding would deliver.

  58. Uly February 7, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    Well, I can’t find stats for December, but a quick Google reveals that in late January in Oslo, they get just shy of 8 hours of from sunrise to sunset each day. Very few people live significantly farther north than that, so it’s not quite *that* bad. 🙂

    Except that insisting the children wear headlamps was the staff’s suggestion, not my little quip.

    Point is, even when it’s extreme enough to require a little extra help to keep the kids safe (and those situations DO happen), they’re still sending the 3 and 4 and 5 year olds out.

  59. Ellen Castelbuono Vitale February 7, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    Sad. Obesity is a real problem for American kids.

  60. Susan February 7, 2012 at 4:53 am #

    @Eric, et al; I went to public schools, I taught at public schools, my own kids went to public schools, and I can honestly say from all those experiences that public schooling just isn’t what it used to be. I do not believe that modern education can be fixed, it’s going to have to implode and let a new and better way of teaching children emerge. Education cannot be a cookie-cutter approach; all kids cannot, and should not, learn and experience exactly the same things. I hope today’s parents of young children will go out and find the situation that will give their children the education that they need and deserve, not the one that our bloated government committees, far removed from kids and the classrooms, devise.

  61. socalledauthor February 7, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    While homeschooling is a good option for parents who are educated adn involved (and want to do it), there is still and always will be a place for public education, imho. And, I think someone still has to fight for the children who cannot fight for a good education or those whose parents will not fight for them to be able to get a good education. Just like in the Free Range Movement, most of us, I think, want not just for our own children to be Free Range, but for others to benefit as well, so we share the ideas, some fight against the absurb policies, etc.

    That said, having worked in the school system, one BIG thing that I think has changed/ is changing (even since when I was as student)– something that cannot be fixed by more regulations, and may even be effected by helicopter or other well-meaning but misguided parents– many students take their educational opportunity for granted and, furthermore, do not have any motivation to LEARN (and it’s often that they don’t have motivation to do the work, even without learning what’s offered.) Even the most engaging class with the most wonderful teacher cannot make a student want to learn– the fun projects I did, the open-ended learning I tried to expose my students– none of that matters if they sit there, glassy eyed and demand to know what the minimum they need to do to pass is. While it’s often the worst by the time I get the kids, many do start young.

    And, I’ll admit that I’m biased, I think that poor administrators are also a big problem in the school environment. They get the worst-first thinking and make stupid policies. They are afraid of parents and too lazy (or afriad) to do the paperwork required for dealing with bad teachers. Like any place, the administration sets the tone– is it all about policies or all about helping students? Is it fear and “safety-first” or realization that children learn through play? Administrators (and the parents they cater to) are a big factor in this. IMHO.

    Like this silliness about the “safety material” on the ground. Dirt and grass are JUST FINE. Luckily, it looks like most of my area has survived this sort of silliness… I blame the country way of thinking that still pervades inspite of the encroachment of suburbia.

  62. Dave Reardon February 7, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    61 comments, most of them about the lazy kids, or lazy teachers, and not a one of them thinks that maybe – just *maybe* – this sounds just a little fishy? My daughter heard this story and did something nobody else here bothered to do – find out if it’s actually true. I won’t ruin the surprise.

  63. hineata February 7, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    I just think you are all very impressive, having kids play outside in the snow. We got snow here for the first time in 40 years last year, and I just gave up trying to control my 5 year olds. We spent most of the day either standing outside trying to eat it or standing at the windows watching it (when it was more like hail, coming down really fast and hard). SOOO much fun! And no one had the clothes for it, of course, so I kept having to take kids in and get dress ups.

    We often have to close the playgrounds for rain, because the grounds get soaked and then get ruined for sport (not a problem for moi, as a committed non sportsperson, but the coaches complain bitterly). A real pain, because unless there’s a southerly, it’s usually not THAT cold.

  64. Maureen February 7, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    The fact that people are wasting money on “surfaces” for playgrounds just boggles the mind. Mother Nature has the perfect surface – it’s called the ground, AKA dirt.

  65. Lollipoplover February 7, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    What idiot installed this type of material in the first place? If it is prone to freezing temperatures and not usable for a bulk of the school year, somebody made the wrong choice. I wonder what if these school administrators would accept an elevator installed in their office building that was only in working order for a few months of the year…

  66. Christi February 7, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Dave- you insinuate that this story is not true. Below is a link to a newsletter from Greenfield Elementary in Saratoga Springs which states that play on equipment has been suspended at the recommendation of the Saratoga Springs City School district because the regulating agency told them that the material is less effective at freezing temperatures. It does say that there is ample space for the kids to play besides the playground, and it does not mention April, but it seems rather in line with the story posted above. Perhaps there is more than one elementary school– one with ample space and one without? The newsletter is dated Jan 5, 2012… Where did you get your info??

    Here’s a link… you do need to be able to log into GoogleDOCs to view it.. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Fvn7lM_92d8J:www.edline.net/files/_YFDgG_/1e59bd5ae9af2d6c3745a49013852ec4/Winter_Edition.pdf+saratoga+springs+school+district+playgrounds&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESj50Stg52kHMK7oyU2Uu37ga9CDr2D-6Aik775hBP5HRXjFPv9B4mBght4HZ66dpB0MM5etRdxDzXaXPqLCCjL3EnOt6h4woSNfU9goP545rdH9lTqwggIBL53T6-Q4MibyOPxE&sig=AHIEtbSeWwML42akKiW_x_qgIf8njH7BdQ

  67. deb February 7, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    our school doesn’t have a frozen surface, just mulch, but the teachers find any reason to stay inside in the winter: too cold, to wet, too windy. my daughter has adhd and climbs the walls. it’s awful. her preschool had a policy I saw in another comment: dress the kids appropriately for the weather: gloves, hats etc. Sunscreen also. why was it ok for a 4 year old but not for an 11 year old? this is not to mention all the other rules about no running around the playground equipment, no running on the black top, don’t swing too high, no tag, no dodgeball. gee, i think the only thing left might be drugs!

  68. Jenn February 7, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    In Canada (land of the frozen snow), we go outside year-round. The safety guidelines for extreme weather by Health Canada is -25C with windchill and -18C without. Some schools close their playground (but not the school yard) November to March (all depending on when the ground freezes/thaws) because the ground is too hard (due to freezing) to protect the kids should they fall off the play structure. Also, ice tends to collect under some structures. The students at my school have been outside pretty much every day this winter (it’s been unusually balmy), exception being a couple of rainy days. If it was my choice, they’d be out on rainy days too (it’s not like kids are like the Wicked Witch of the West and will melt if they get wet).

  69. pentamom February 7, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Sorry, Uly, I misread that.

  70. Laura February 7, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Pardon my ignorance, but don’t you all have snow and puffy winter coats to cushion falls? Snowball fights keep kids busy and warm. Don’t the Norwegians have a saying about there not being weather too cold, only inadequate clothing and equipment. My parents were expected to provide this since we walked and rode the bus through the cold Cleveland winters, and we played in our “playground” a parking lot, no matter what time of year. Though I seem to remember having a gym for dodgeball and other inside games at that time of year. Nothing like getting moving to keep you warm. Wish the grown ups would let the kids be kids.

  71. Jenny Islander February 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    My grade school kept a box of loaner clothes: not only snow clothes, but also pants for kids who accidentally dumped their milk in their laps, etc. It was made up of unclaimed lost and founds, donations, and some things from the thrift store. It all got washed with the cafeteria aprons and towels. Why can’t people do this now?

    Oh, right. Because every single fracking minute must be spent teaching to the fracking tests.

  72. Lisa February 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Don’t your schools have an indoor play area? – I would have thought if you live in a climate where it is too cold to play outside for big chunks of the year then some sort of indoor gym area would be provided. We have just had a week of torrential rain in Sydney and I can tell you we (the teachers) are desperate for the kids to get outside and play. They all really need that time to burn off energy and socialise. They are bouncing off the walls and are bored silly being inside all the time. As for summer days when its really hot the rule is “no hat no play on the grass”, stay in the shade, close the basketball courts, encourage quiet games under the trees and if it is extremely hot 37 plus then we would keep kids inside in an aircon room. Believe the decision to keep kids inside is not made lightly, everyone recognises the need for the kids to get outside and play.

  73. JustaDad February 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    I guess it just depends on the area you live in, my middle schooler still gets 1/2 outside at lunch, the highscoolers no, but there is not as much need. The middle schooler is going sking for the day on friday, with the school, i think it has to do with fears of lawsuits over kids getting hurt on the playground.

    I posted before that my son broke his arm on the school playground, did we sue? no, because he was doing something against the rules. I f the middle schooler gets hurt skiing, will we sue, probably not, because it is a risk oriented activity we agreed to. I would much rather see my kid outside in the cold and snow than being bored inside, and like most middle school kids if he chooses to not dress properly for the weather, than he can deal woth the cold ears toes and feet, how else are they gonna learn?

  74. Nicole K February 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    That’s strange, given that there is a gym. When I was a kid, we went out unless it was raining. If it was raining, we’d have gym recess in the gym.

  75. ShadowL February 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Does anyone else remember the comments that the Presidents girls made when Washington DC closed because of snow the first winter they were there?
    “In Chicago, not only would they not have closed school for this weather, but we would still go outside for recess”.

    I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and from K through 12 I only had 3 “snow days” and they were all utility related (broken water main, power outage, and flooding).

    Now I live 200miles from the Canadian border and we are told, in out student handbooks, that Recess will be scheduled for any day that it is above 10 Degrees and that students will need to be dressed appropriate for the weather or they will have inside recess and a note sent home.

    Our school playgrounds have wood chips as ground cover, not some fancy rubberized surface but a layer of scrap wood that is refreshed 1-2 times a year.

    I STILL had hyper boys after school even with gym class 3 days a week and 1-2 recess periods a day.

  76. Connie Dye February 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    Kids will fall off monkey bars and swings and skin their knees. It’s a natural consequence of play. I fell off the swings during recess plenty of times and lived to tell about it. My parents wouldn’t have dreamed of suing the school if I came home with a bruise. How can we expect kids to make decisions on their own, even if the consequences aren’t always pleasant (run too fast down the snowbank and you’ll fall and hurt your bottom) if we don’t let them have some freedom to be kids?

  77. pentamom February 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    “The middle schooler is going sking for the day on friday, with the school, i think it has to do with fears of lawsuits over kids getting hurt on the playground.”

    LOLOLOL I sense a dissonance here. Not picking on Justadad, but isn’t it funny — the school sponsors ski trips (presumably involving not only skis, but a long bus ride), but is afraid to let kids play on the playground in winter because someone might get hurt. We are so good at picking and choosing what is too dangerous based on what we REALLY want to do!

  78. JustaDad February 7, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Akkk Pentamom, that’s not what I meant, I just reread what i wrote.

    the kids in my area go outside for recess no matter the weather. I meant to say that the post about the playgound being closed because the matting was too cold was to avoid lawsuits. Heck I never have heaard about the playgrounds here being closed, or recess being cut out due to weather, only in severe rain do they do that.

  79. Beth February 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    So glad there’s a dad out there who has tasked his daughter with determining if writers to this blog are lying!

  80. Jo February 8, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    My kids are older now, but when they were both in elementary school, the only guidelines for not going out to recess or lunch were extreme lightning storms and the temperature had to be at least -35C with the windchill. There were a few times when the temperature fell to – 50C and I still made my kids walk to school – they were dressed appropriately and the school was a half block from our house. On the few occasions that there was no recess, the school gym or designated classrooms became the playground because, let’s face it, the kids are getting cabin fever and no teacher or parents likes to deal with that.

  81. Donna February 8, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    As a person who DETESTS the cold, I’m not all up in arms about not going outside in it. Hated winter recess as a kid and would hate it even more as an adult supervising. But upstate New York is cold, and has always been cold, in the winter. This is not a new “global warming” trend. If the school district doesn’t want kids going outside for a large portion of the school year due to weather then its schools need to be built with inside recess areas or the gym schedule needs to be arranged so that each class can go into the gym for recess every day in the winter. This is not an occasional rainy week that can’t be anticipated so everyone just needs to struggle through. This is a large chunk of the school year that they KNOW is coming every year and should be taken into account when building schools and setting schedules.

  82. DH February 8, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    “I suspect that the issue is not that it is too hard, but that it gets too slick. Being more porous, I can see why that would be, even compared to blacktop.”

    Actually, I wonder if the issue is that it gets brittle and thus more BREAKABLE when frozen. A lot of those soft plastics do. The park across the street from my parent’s house put in that soft top stuff, and after a couple of years it has to be replaced because it’s completely broken apart.

  83. J.T. Wenting February 8, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    playground cushioning? Soft?
    What’s happened to the world?

    Our playground was concrete tiles everywhere, noone got more than some scrapes and bruises, ever.
    Maybe under some of the equipment there’d be gravel or sand.

    Noone thought that was dangerous, or should be closed down in winter.

    Of course that was 30+ years ago, when people had backbone and expected kids to develop some too and not be wussies…

  84. J.T. Wenting February 8, 2012 at 2:57 am #

    “Actually, I wonder if the issue is that it gets brittle and thus more BREAKABLE when frozen. A lot of those soft plastics do. The park across the street from my parent’s house put in that soft top stuff, and after a couple of years it has to be replaced because it’s completely broken apart.”

    possibly. Very open blacktop has that problem as well. Ideal for draining rainwater from roads so as to prevent aquaplaning, when it starts freezing it becomes extremely slick as any moisture in it gets driven out and forms a layer of ice on top. Plus it starts breaking up.
    That’s why it’s not used in areas where temperatures regularly drop below freezing in winter for extended periods, too expensive to replace your entire road network every spring 🙂

  85. DH February 8, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    “That’s why it’s not used in areas where temperatures regularly drop below freezing in winter for extended periods, too expensive to replace your entire road network every spring”

    We’re in Northwest Illinois and almost every playground I’ve seen renovated in the past few years has put that soft top plastic stuff down. And in two-three years, it’s broken up and badly degrading, particularly in spots which get a lot of impact (bottom of slides, underneath swings, etc).

    Bark chips seem like the cheaper option to me, since it seems like either option has only a couple year lifespan up here.

  86. Hugo Cunningham February 8, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    Congress should, after declaring childhood obesity to be a dangerous national epidemic caused at least in part by lack of exercise:

    (1) set up a nationwide workmen’s-comp-type program to pay for injuries suffered by children from school or day-care activities, recess, or normal play. This would free schools and daycare from any further liability, unless there is a criminal misconduct. (Workmen’s comp pays quickly for actual injuries, but not for nuisance suits or the non-economic “jackpots” that make risk-managers cringe. (Parents could still keep ther kids out of athletic events, recess, and play, provided they signed a waiver that they were aware of the risks of longterm obesity, and of reduced attentiveness by restless kids.)

    (2) Where a school discourages physical activity and has a higher-than-average obesity rate, allow parents of obese children to file a class-action lawsuit demanding reforms to allow a reasonable amount of exercise.

  87. mollie February 8, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    “I often think that part of this is that people’s houses have gotten bigger and so they let their kids run around inside and don’t care if they’re wild. We live with 5 people, two cats, and two dogs in a house that’s less that 1000 square feet. If I let the kids run around in here they would break something, step on an animal, or hurt themselves or someone else. I’m kicking them outside all the time, just as I remember my parents doing. But few people seem to do this anymore.”

    What are the stats on this? The average North American home has, like, tripled in size over the last 60 years or so, I think. So yes, it makes a lot of sense that simply having more indoor space means we are more inclined to cut ourselves off from nature.

    I’m also going with the hypothesis that it is not safety of children, but integrity of the surface underneath the playground, that led to this decision. Really, it makes all the sense in the world. You pay God-knows-how-much to dig up all the dirt and put down this petroleum-based product, then tell everyone to get off of it for fear of mussing its perfectness.

    Like putting white shag carpet in a butcher’s shop.

  88. Maemae February 8, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    We hiked up the side of a waterfall recently. It was muddy and icy and our kids ranged from 5-14. Afterwards, we walked down the semi-frozen creek. We had a blast falling through the ice, gliding down frozen parts, slipping into the freezing water and pulling up huge chunks of ice for photo ops. Our dogs were not impressed with the temperature of the water though. 🙂 How depressing to be locked indoors all winter.

  89. Emily in NY February 8, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    We live in Upstate/Western New York (Rochester), where, yes, we’ve also experienced a freakishly mild winter (we normally have 100 inches of snow each year — this year, we’ve only had 24″…), but our kids are still outside every day. I don’t know about the material that’s on our elementary school’s playground (it may just be asphalt), but our kids are told that they must bring appropriate snow gear to school every single day because, barring wind chills that hit 20 below, the children WILL be going outside. (This year, they’ve been wearing the snow gear mostly to ‘protect’ against the absurd amount of mud on the playground…) Wind, snow, a foot of snow on the ground… The kids are still outside, every day, all bundled up and playing on all the equipment… If they couldn’t play outside when it was cold/icy/snowy, they’d be indoors for half of the school year! The Saratoga Springs “rule” sounds very odd to me…

  90. Rachael February 8, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Oooh! Which school do your kids go to?! Seriously, my daughter is 2 1/2. I would love to know.

  91. ariel February 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    oh. wait. i think i understand:
    a majority of the kids we’re talking about are HeliKids. theyve been sheltered and protected from evil villians like scary playgrounds all their lives, so of COURSE they wouldnt be able to navigate a snowy playground. they have to have indoor “recess”.

  92. ariel February 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    btw, that captioned pic below the article: that giant metal slide must be frozen and iced over pretty well…i would SO GO ON THAT THING!!!!!

  93. Nicole K February 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Took my toddler to the mini-zoo today. Freezing temperatures, winds from Siberia. Bundled her up in her snowsuit and me in mine.

    We didn’t stay long, but it was fun! She loves crunching through the snow.

  94. Nicole K February 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    (2) Where a school discourages physical activity and has a higher-than-average obesity rate, allow parents of obese children to file a class-action lawsuit demanding reforms to allow a reasonable amount of exercise.


    Sadly, this would just result in more structured gym time, which would turn these kids even further away from exercise, as gym class is no fun for fat kids.

  95. Joanne Ehlinger February 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    One little girl at Dorothy Nolan School in Saratoga Springs when asked a question about outdoor activities remarked, “I’m an indoor kid”. Can you imagine such a thing. Is that like an indoor cat?

  96. Nicole K February 8, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    What are the stats on this? The average North American home has, like, tripled in size over the last 60 years or so, I think. So yes, it makes a lot of sense that simply having more indoor space means we are more inclined to cut ourselves off from nature.


    According to Elizabeth Warren’s book on the middle class, the average home has NOT tripled, but grown by an average of half a room, or about 60 sq feet (if I remember right). What has grown is the size of NEW homes. But most Americans don’t live in New homes.

  97. Stephanie Kinch February 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Your new show is now on Danish television and we love it! I grew up in overprotective American suburbia, but now I live in Denmark and play by their rules. My child plays outside for hours EVERY DAY and even slept outside in her stroller through the cold Danish winters as a baby. People leave babies sleeping outside while they eat at restaurants inside. There’s plenty of crime in Denmark, but there isn’t the crazy paranoia that exists in America. We don’t worry about recalls, dirt, or or predators as parents and allow our kids to have the freedom they need and deserve. As a result, Danish children are more self-confident and independent than American children (in my experience) and the rate of accidents/deaths/etc. isn’t any different from that of the US!

  98. kiesha February 8, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    I was sort of an indoor kid. I much preferred being inside, reading a book than being outside where I would get a sunburn or heat exhaustion.

    This only applied to the summer though. In the winter, and particularly when there was lots of snow, you couldn’t keep me indoors.

    I’m the same way now. Indoor activities in the summer, outdoor activities in the winter.

  99. pentamom February 9, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    “According to Elizabeth Warren’s book on the middle class, the average home has NOT tripled, but grown by an average of half a room, or about 60 sq feet (if I remember right). What has grown is the size of NEW homes. But most Americans don’t live in New homes.”

    This is true, but in the echo-chamber world of safety experts, school administrators, parenting magazine journalists, the people who read them, and other people overly concerned about the Big Bad Outside World, I’ll bet the average home size has grown a lot more because you’re talking about a more upper middle class mentality.

    Not “tripled,” of course. But bigger, for sure. My parents’ shiny new home that they bought new in 1951 was 1500 square feet. Few people would dream of building a new home less than about 2200 these days, and that’s for starters.

  100. hineata February 9, 2012 at 3:35 am #

    Wow! Makes my 780 sq ft home sound small…..No wonder I am filled with the urge to send the kids outside all the time!

  101. Jenny Islander February 9, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    800 sf and I only wish I had another half a room to throw the kids into on days like this. It’s raining on top of a thick layer of ice that was condensed from a 32″ snowpack by the last rainfall, plus it’s blowing 40 mph. The girls have a playdate this afternoon and hopefully the toddler will nap during that time. But until then we are stuck with each other in here. And schools pack kids indoors when they could be OUT?

  102. AB February 9, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    When I was a kid in the 80’s when California had smog alerts at least twice a month we just moved PE and recess indoors into the large cafeteria. In fifth grade, the teachers and principal were smart as they just pulled up the tables into the walls of the cafeteria, scheduled each class for an hour and a half of PE and recess ( an hour for PE, half an hour for recess). Then each teacher was allowed to create an exercise program of their own. I enjoyed my teacher’s PE as she had us dancing an aerobics routine to 80’s electronic music ( still listen to those tunes now). If for some reason we couldn’t have recess in the cafeteria, she still had us push our desks against the walls and do our dance routines.

  103. hineata February 9, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Wow, Jenny! That’s enough to make retiring to a place like Thailand, where it’s always hot, sound attractive, surely?! I thought our miserable wind and rain was a pain…..

  104. Angela February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Where we recently moved to in Texas, the local school district does not schedule ANY recess into the school day. I found this out when my son came home from school very sad one day and when I asked him what was wrong, he said, “This school is no fun. We don’t have recess, etc.” What?! I was shocked. These poor children are in their classrooms from 8:15 – 3:15. No break at lunch. A neighbor told me they did away with recess about 10 years ago. I really wonder how many boys have been diagnosis ADD or ADHD since the “no recess” policy went into place. They do have gym class but that is not the same. I tried to tell the counselor that when she was concerned my son wasn’t making friends. I told her he had friends at his old school in South Dakota, and do you know where he made those friends? On the the playground, during recess!

  105. Ashley February 9, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    I remember having recess cancelled over rain (downpours) when I was in elementary school. Kids were supposed to stay in the school, usually the gym or the multi-purpose room. My friends and I went outside anyway and got completely soaked. We got a talking to from the teachers, but thankfully they had the sense to not send anything home to our parents – not that mine would have cared!

  106. Chris Weaver February 10, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    It is sad, but I think we will never see a playground like this one in the United States anytime in the near future: http://www.theagitator.com/2012/02/09/photo-of-the-day-337/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+radleybalko+%28The+Agitator%29
    We need them, though.

  107. CrazyCatLady February 10, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Angela, that is sad on so many levels, mostly that your son doesn’t have time to meet and talk to other kids. I hope that they don’t give hours of home work on top of that – kids need a chance to have some time to be kids.

    No wonder on my home schooling boards I keep hearing about parents in Texas switching to home schooling.

  108. hineata February 10, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    @Chris – seriously? Those rope things are really fun and pretty safe, especially with the safety matting underneath. You can do all sorts of things on one of them. They seem to be what is replacing the REALLY fun stuff, like the wooden forts and Tarzan swing ropes.My youngest has fallen from quite a height off one, and barely a scratch.

    If you haven’t even got this sort of thing, what are your kids playing on?

  109. pentamom February 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    “I tried to tell the counselor that when she was concerned my son wasn’t making friends. I told her he had friends at his old school in South Dakota, and do you know where he made those friends? On the the playground, during recess!”

    Somehow, they’re supposed to make friends during all the times they’re supposed to listen to the teacher, and not talk. And then they’re not given any free time to play together. Even adults tend to make most of their friends over play and leisure, rather than structured work (though yes, it happens at work, too.)

    But if you homeschool your kids, they won’t be socialized and won’t have any friends, like they would in school, where they’re not allowed to talk to each other and don’t have any time to play. (rolls eyes)

    (I realize it’s not like this everywhere, I just mean that the socialization argument never takes this kind of situation into account.)

  110. Sabine February 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of “playground cushioning”… I’m 33 and as a kid played at the local playground with a big steel jungle gym, big steel slide that got hot enough to fry an egg on in summer, etc. etc. And the ground of course was solid asphalt. And this was a normal suburban playground.

    I don’t see this as breeding a generation of weaklings, as some would call it, just instilling an unfortunate mindset of fear and compliancy both in children and parents.

    I love this blog but I’m glad I don’t have kids because I don’t think I could raise them the way, err, society apparently thinks I should.

  111. Jennifer February 11, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    @Chris We have several of those in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Some are really tall, and yes, you can fall a long way off them. My kids love them, and we joke about how they got past the “playground police” who want to make everything so safe it isn’t fun anymore.

  112. Dawn Zamanis February 11, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    About 6 years agoin the Brandon News & Tribune, I wrote a column(in response to the countless school shootings),that eventually, schools that require uniforms will also require as part of that uniform bullet-proof vests. Mark my words. It will happen.

  113. Jenn February 12, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    I think the `playground cushioning’ that people may be talking about is called Aliphatic Thermoplastic Monomer (ATP) Rubberized Unitary Surface. It’s expensive to install but has a longer life than most traditional surfaces and less maintenance. Many schools and communities are installing them because it is one of the best surfaces for accessibility for people with disabilities. Plus children who are wheelchair bound can sit or lay on the surface and can `move about’. Many playgrounds with this surface also have features that are intended for children of various disabilities so the surface needs to be softer so that it absorbs the impact should they fall. We have a park in our community with this surface and it’s kind of spongy with a bit of bounce to it. My friend’s son has CP and was able to ride the swing designed for him. When he was getting off, he fell (mainly because with the CP his balance is compromised) but did not injure himself. At other parks he has broken bones, bruised and cut himself because the park is not designed to compensate for disabilities. It’s nice that he can play and not have a hospital visit follow each park play!

  114. Lake Ave Parent February 12, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    I am a parent at this school and also attended the PTA meeting Saratoga mom mentions. Our principal, lunch monitors and custodial staff also attended this meeting to listen to the parents concerns and ideas. Since the playgrounds are off limits per the district the custodians made it a point to clear some areas for the children to play. We now have two small areas for the children to play basketball, two square and jump rope etc… also many teachers are taking their classes out for walk. Is this a perfect and long term solution? NO. But it is a start to solving this issue.

    I am disheartened to hear this parent complain since there is group of concerned parents who are working to address this problem. I would encourage this person to join forces with this group to really find a solution within the Lake Ave community.

  115. Another Lake Ave Parent February 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    I am also a parent at this school. While the winter months have always been challenging to find ways to play outside, the response to this issue by the teachers and staff has been prompt and effective. What has not been mentioned thus far is that this elementary school was once a high school located in the downtown of our small city. It was not originally built to accommodate small children. Parents, teachers and school staff have worked over the years to transform what limited space we have into playing areas for our kids and it is only until this winter season that their use is restricted per recommendation from the manufacturer of the equipment. My children have had many wonderful years at this elementary school. We are very excited this year as Lake Avenue Elementary School has been nominated to be a recipient of the prestigious national Blue Ribbon Award. Clearly this is a special school not to be deterred by an issue with winter recess!

  116. Tsu Dho Nimh February 14, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    Good grief … I grew up in Montana, where below zero F (-18C) was the norm for most of the winter. If we had to wait for the playground to thaw, we would have gone 7 months with no recess.

    Yes, the cushioning loses its cush when it’s cold, but so what? Is the entire city covered in this stuff, or should they be allowed to learn how to navigate frozen slippery areas?

  117. shannoncl February 14, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    I haven’t read all the comments so maybe this was mentioned… I was outraged/aghast that my childs preschool has the same policy. Come to find out, because the school is federally funded, it has to follow fed mandates and that is a fed rule. How? Huh? Who’s the Einstein? I have no idea. But that’s what I was told. (Cause apparently keeping 19 boys and 3 girls in one room all day is supposed to limit injury??? )

  118. Karen February 14, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I appreciate all the responses but does anyone have any medical literature saying why it’s not only OK but better for the kids if they go out? I need to make a case here to present to the Office of School Health– not just reminisce about how great it was when I was a kid! We all know that colds are caused by viruses not from cold air temperatures but that does not seem to be enough to convince the schools to let the kids outside when it’s below 32 degrees!


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