Screaming and Laughing: Something You Still Hear?


Voila, vintage footage of the now defunct Ontario kkdyekfafy
Place — Children’s Village
, a giant playground I’d never heard of. Designed by Eric McMillan, it included a “Punching Bag Forest,” as well as an enormous air mattress, and something called a “Snake Tube Crawl.” It was incredibly popular.

What struck me most upon watching this 1973 clip, however, is that the particular din in the background — screams and laughter — is a sound mixture I just don’t hear a whole lot these days. Screams indicate a certain level of fear and excitement that is not necessarily encouraged. If something is thrilling enough to induce high-pitched shrieks, maybe it’s also dicey enough to be shut down.

Or maybe I’m just bemoaning for bemoaning’s sake. Maybe kids are screaming/laughing all the time. So, I’m curious: Is the soundtrack of children at play changing? Please tell me what you think — and hear. – L.



A 1970s day at Ontario Place--Children's Village. (Photo from Allan's Perspective)

Hear here! A 1970s day at Ontario Place–Children’s Village. (Photo from the blog Allan’s Perspective)



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30 Responses to Screaming and Laughing: Something You Still Hear?

  1. andy February 23, 2016 at 3:46 am #

    The laughter was probably added along with music, it was unlikely to sound that consistent way all around the playground. Note how there are no jumps in background laughter as camera jumps from place to place. Also, the kids on background are too excited around parts where little ones pull ropes (it should be boring) or moms rest.

    I think that you get similar sound when there are many kids playing and sound carry well – like in the lake. It does not require that exciting playground, just a place with good sound properties and a lot of kids.

    Most of what is shown on that video is not excitingly dangerous even by todays standards. Bouncy castle, low height cableway, games in water are all normal today.

  2. James Pollock February 23, 2016 at 4:40 am #

    I find that now that I don’t have kids of my own underfoot, I’m far less likely to be around a group of kids. However, a quick visit to the Chuck E. Cheese should dispel your notion that children are quieter now than they were in the past.

  3. BL February 23, 2016 at 5:05 am #

    ” the particular din in the background — screams and laughter — is a sound mixture I just don’t hear a whole lot these days.”

    That’s what Ritalin and other “sit down and shut up” drugs are for.

  4. Shari February 23, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    I live in a densely populated residential subdivision, and there are kids of all ages running around all over the place. Having moved here from Toronto, I had to learn to desensitize myself to the sound of children screaming, because, as it turns out, children at play are constantly screaming. Teens shrieking “EEEK! He did NOT say that!”, kids falling off their skateboards, kids playing with the neighbour’s dogs, yelling at (to?) team members during a game of street hockey. Children make noise. It’s their natural condition.

  5. MichaelF February 23, 2016 at 8:10 am #

    I hear a lot of this everytime I go to my local Elementary School during recess, or we spend a few minutes at the playground after soccer practice. Though I will agree its just not something you hear outside of scheduled events, or school time.

  6. pentamom February 23, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    I think this is overstating the case. I live about a 1/4 mile but not within sight of an elementary school, and if you go out in my front yard during recess (yes they still have it, at least at lunchtime), you can hear this distant din that is obviously children’s exuberance.

  7. Powers February 23, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    “a sound mixture I just don’t hear a whole lot these days”

    That’s because your kids are teenagers now.

  8. Workshop February 23, 2016 at 9:17 am #

    I think laughter/screaming go with children. We take our kids to their cousins’ houses, there’s screaming and laughter and all the noise that accompanies children.

    The water park at a nearby public park has a constant din when kids are there during the summer. The park on a summer afternoon is not a place to enjoy a book.

    Earplugs help tremendously, though.

  9. lollipoplover February 23, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    This is the grooviest video! I highly recommend watching it and appreciating an awesome play area that once was loved by kids, like an extinct playground. I especially enjoyed the water-penis squirting bikes…and the kid who fell fully clothed into a water feature under a zip line. He’s probably the kid that designed water shoes for modern day water parks. This is one very cool park!

    As for this soundtrack still existing in modern day, kids playing i.e. happy noise depends on where you live.
    We have plenty of it, though it’s now teen and tween chatter (heads down in phones) and is sporadic giggling or to enforce game rules and listening to music. On good weather days, especially with windows open, I hear little kid noise: Screaming, crying, and shrieking mixed in with the older kid noise (often the groups join together). I prefer it to the din of lawn mowers and weed whackers of landscape companies or incessant dog barking. We have tons of kids living in our neighborhood and the basketball hoops, swim clubs, tennis courts, and playgrounds are all put to good use. Noise and kids go hand in hand in our suburban neighborhood. If I lived in an over 55 community, this noise level would probably not be welcome (though none of our neighbors make noise early in the morning or after dark, we all are respectful of each other and understand acceptable noise levels.)

    So yes, these sounds still do exist- just without this amazing playground.

  10. Shawn D. February 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    My house (in Alpharetta, GA) backs up to a condo complex, with about a 40-yard distance to their pool and tennis courts. In between are some sparse woods which a handful of kids regularly play in. They do their fair share of screaming.

  11. Shawn D. February 23, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    Apparently, other kids do a lot of shrieking/screaming, if this missive is to be believed:

  12. Vaughan Evans February 23, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    The truth IS that children have NOT changed(Just like adults haven’t changed.)
    -In 1978, when I talked about teaching ‘Run, Sheep, Run! to the children of Lord Roberts School, people thought I was on Cloud 9.
    But events proved wrong.
    People felt that what children did not know, they did not miss.
    But 18 months later, when I told this woman that the WHOLE of the school was playing it, they remarked,

    “They’re missing an awful lot.

  13. HKQ451 February 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    Agree with Andy that the screaming and laughter was probably added. But here in the UK if you go to a soft play, which will generally have that sort of density of children playing, then you will here a lot of laughter and screaming. If there is a change it may be more that you don’t get such densely packed playgrounds as much any more so possibly there are fewer children at parks and a higher proportion of adults mixed in there making sure their children aren’t going up the slide and are well hydrated (just to play up a stereotype!). But really I think kids playing on playground type equipment sound much the same today.

  14. Dave February 23, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    Andy – as a former filmmaker, the soundtrack was created by recording a suitably long audio track with a Nagra or similar audio recorder, then mixing it with the narration and music on tape in the studio, and recording it onto the final cut of the film. This was shot in 16mm film and the finished film much later converted to video.

    All that said, I would have had a ball on a playground like that one, and so would my son and grand kids. I can see why it no longer exists though, and it has nothing to do with the current safety mania. It just wasn’t durable enough to stand up to regular aggressive play, a fact the narrator discusses. I’m guessing it didn’t make into the 80s.

  15. John February 23, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    Might be a bit off topic here but is that kid in the bottom picture wearing a speedo bathing suit? Gosh, you don’t see boys in America wearing those anymore! Speedos were very common in the 70s and if you wore a swimming suit that came down to your knees, you would have gotten a good teasing. Now, however, it’s the complete opposite and on some military basis, boys and men are prohibited from wearing speedos while using the swimming pool. But I think speedos are still worn in Europe albeit not as much.

  16. Elizabeth February 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    I think when you have enough kids together you hear a sound similar to that – you certainly do at my son’s daycare. But I rarely see more than a handful of kids at our local playground.

  17. C. S. P. Schofield February 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    I live near Doylestown, PA, and regularly go to a local recreation area named “Central Park” (which bears to stunning resemblance to the on in New York City, and isn’t especially central to Doylestown, but never mind). In that park there is an installation called The Kids Castle. It is designed to children between the ages of 5 and 12, and makes to accommodation for interfering adults. If they want to keep close to Little Iodine, they can get used to being squeezed.

    Plenty of shrieks and laughter, on any reasonable pleasant day.

  18. VG February 23, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    I don’t hear it in my neighborhood, although I wouldn’t mind if I did. (The person in my house with zero tolerance for kids and their noise is, ironically, my teenager, who seemed to go straight from being a kid herself to being a cranky 70-year-old.) But I’ve heard plenty of it on elementary-school playgrounds, at birthday parties, and anyplace else where a lot of kids are together.

  19. EricS February 23, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    I remember this place! Loved it when I was a kid. And those “screams” were shrieks of joy. In fact, I recall those very same joyful sounds in almost every playground in the city of Toronto. Now, every playground I would come across, was pretty quiet. The only thing I hear over children’s joyful sounds, were parents yelling “don’t do that!”, “you’ll hurt yourself!”, “don’t bother them!”. Don’t, don’t, don’t. No wonder children are so subdued these days. They aren’t allowed to be kids anymore. Their basically just ornaments for parents show off to other parents. Just so they can be praised.

    Sadly, Ontario Place shut down back in 2011. It’s a ghost town compared to what it once was. I can still hear the echoes of yesteryears, I see empty playgrounds. The few kids I see here and there, don’t look like they are having a lot of fun. Probably because there’s no other kids to play with. Unlike 20+ years ago, there was no shortage of making new friends, or at least being able to play with a lot of other kids. No play dates, no scheduling, no paranoia. Just kids playing, with the handful of parents that chose to hang out at the park. It was like 1 adult for every 6 kids, and they weren’t hovering. They were usually chatting up with the other parents in the park.

  20. John February 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    As a child that grew up in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and worked at Ontario Place for one summer in the early 90’s, I can honestly say that the Children’s Village or CV as we called it did have lots of kids that yelled and screamed as they played on all that equipment. CV was an awesome place to play and I remember being upset when I was finally told I was too big to go on the air-filled equipment. I made it to 16 years of age before they said I was no longer a child (but still weighed only about 120 pounds). Even when I worked at Ontario Place a few years later, I loved walking by CV and hearing all the kids yelling and having fun and remembering the memories that came from there. There was also a concert stage at Ontario Place and of all the concerts that played there for both adults and kids at that time, the stage staff said they hated the concert for Sharon, Lois and Bram (children’s performers) because the children were having lots of fun screaming and yelling but the parents were cranky and irritable because they kept trying to tell their kids to be quiet. CV along with Ontario Place is closed as the Ontario Government which owns the parks looks at changing and redeveloping the property due to declining visitors.

    As the parent of a active four year old girl, we try let her run and yell outside but even as fans of free range parenting, its surprised my wife and I how much we discourage fun vocal outdoor activities when we are in public settings with our daughter. Society now gives parents “the look” if your child is not behaving to bizarre expectations. We have now moved to a much more rural location and while we no longer get the looks, its surprising even here to see kids outside only at pre-arranged social events and not hearing them in their backyards or in the parks.

  21. Jetsanna February 23, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    Vaughn says, “People felt that what children did not know, they did not miss.”

    I have a sister-in-law who felt that way about all kinds of things. I wasn’t allowed to take my niece and nephew bowling or roller skating, for example. Because then they would want to do it again and she had zero intention of ever taking them. But she took it even further, banning them from watching “Glee”, because she didn’t want to explain homosexuality to them.

  22. Leslie LeClair February 23, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    I actually played there a couple of times in the ’70’s. I can’t honestly say I remember the loud laughter/screaming……but I sure do remember the fun. I also do not remember my parents hovering close by. It was a check in at ___(insert time frame)____at___ (insert destination), safety plan. We were really left to our own devices. I am not from the GTA, we were visiting from a rural farming community. Coming to Toronto was a big deal….going to Ontario Place was the icing on the cake (really only happened if we had relatives with children close to my age visiting from out of province). Thanks for the memories.

  23. Andy February 23, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    We have a few parks around where I live, and the sound of kids yelling is wonderfully deafening.

  24. Diana February 23, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

    Water play will get them screaming “Marco Polo”.

    Neighbors have a pool and the kids laughter and shrill screaming can be heard all over. I was upset to hear the neighbors on the next street complain, and the kids’ mom hush them down.

    I truly believe we are back in the era of “Children should be seen and not heard”, or worse. “Children should be neither seen or heard.” Or worse, “Children should stay indoors except when in school cramming to get into Harvard or Yale.

    Whose country is it anyway, if kids can’t be kids, and parents are forced to police them 24/7?

  25. Amanda February 23, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

    On my street (which is a dead end) the traditional herald of spring is the pree-teen girls screaming and chasing each other and the boys on their bikes or scooters. And to be fair, I have to admit I’m one of those screaming and laughing moms when it’s the middle of summer and we’re washing the car and my 4-year-old turns the hose on me. 🙂

    We frequent a couple of different public parks and they’re reasonably noisy, although there is an age group that seems to do more of the screeching and screaming. The little kids parks are more quiet, mostly because the toddlers and preschoolers don’t seem to put as much energy into their vocalizations. I think the screaming and laughing is still there, but at some point they do seem to grow out of it. Until you get them in water. Then they go crazy.

  26. Caleb Shaw February 23, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    I run a Childcare focused on the out-of-doors, and the sort of childhood that was normal more than a half century ago. I did it for the reasons the fellow in this video expressed. “What I as a child would like to do.” I need to state I’d never get away with it if my wife wasn’t constantly on guard, and an amazing diplomat, when it comes to dealing with the needless worry of parents.

    I think you’ll get a chuckle out of this post from my childcare, though I do come across as a male chauvinist who deems responsible woman like my wife as “schoolmarms”.

  27. Sandi February 23, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    Not to worry, Lenore. My back yard and basement playroom sound like this all the time! 🙂

  28. sexhysteria February 24, 2016 at 5:08 am #

    Great video. I’ve witnessed kids today scream on exiting school, but they weren’t screams of fear or excitement, they were screams of rage.

    Most girls in the past wore skirts, even short skirts, but most girls today are terrorized about the dangers of nudity and sexuality, so skirts are rare, and short skirts virtually non-existent.

  29. Mark Davis February 25, 2016 at 12:27 am #

    Was great to hear a young Bruce Cockburn’s “Going to the Country” as the soundtrack.

  30. James Pollock February 25, 2016 at 1:36 am #

    “Most girls in the past wore skirts, even short skirts, but most girls today are terrorized about the dangers of nudity and sexuality, so skirts are rare, and short skirts virtually non-existent.”

    This is either regional, or recent.
    During the (extremely brief) period when my daughter was susceptible to peer pressure, she refused to wear pants to school because girls wear dresses.