When Helping Your Kid on the Slide Is the OPPOSITE of Helpful

A mom, a toddler, a slide. A mom named Kara ebbzekiabt
wrote this on the CityMoms blog about a day she was spending with her 18-month-old at the park:

This was not the first day we had gone down the slide together, either. I had done it before at other parks and probably several times at this particular park as well….Then one uneventful trip down the slide and I heard some crying. I looked up and realized my son’s leg had gotten tucked up under us from the force of gravity going down the slide. He screamed. A lot.

As you might guess, this was not ordinary crankiness.

Several hours later my fears were confirmed: he had a broken tibia. He would require a cast from his toes to his hip bone for 4-6 weeks….  I couldn’t shake the reality of what had happened:

I had broken my son’s leg.

Turns out, as The New York Times reported a few years, this is not uncommon.

The doctor could tell how upset I was. Then he said something that really caught me off guard. He asked me whether his injury happened on the slide. I confirmed it did. He proceeded to tell me that my son’s injury is an extremely common (albeit preventable) injury that happens to children during the warmer months. He said he sees this particular injury all of the time. He told me that well-intentioned parents place their children on their laps when they go down the slide and experience the same thing that happened to us. I was shocked.

Two of the five comments on Kara’s blog post said, “The same thing happened to us!”

So I agree with her:

The moral of the story is this: kids should navigate the slide on their own.

As they have done…forever. I have a feeling that sliding down WITH your kids is pretty new. (Is it? Does anyone remember sliding down on their parents’ laps? I don’t.)

The other moral is actually the name of one of Kara’s other blog posts: “A Bad Moment Doesn’t Make You a Bad Mom.” Let’s hope everyone remembers that: Parents themselves, cops, CPS officials, orthopedists and, of course, those ready to cast the first stone. – L.

I got this, mom!



, , ,

48 Responses to When Helping Your Kid on the Slide Is the OPPOSITE of Helpful

  1. Vicki Bradley June 2, 2017 at 7:11 am #

    I don’t ever remember going down a slide sitting on my parent’s lap, as I’m pretty sure any adult at that time (’70s) would have felt ridiculous doing this! And these weren’t the puny slides they have now – they were tall, long, made of metal (so really hot in the summer), and you could go down them really fast!

  2. Jessica June 2, 2017 at 7:45 am #

    I read that article in the times years ago, and thought “This is just fear-mongering. This never happens!” And then it did happen to a friend of mine! He went down the slide with a nanny and broke his leg; he was 2 and in a cast for weeks. It didn’t stop me from sliding with my son, though, because I loved doing that. But it definitely made me careful about it!

  3. SKL June 2, 2017 at 8:06 am #

    I read about this a long time ago.

    I can understand going down a traditional slide with a kid when the kid doesn’t know what to expect yet. Otherwise wouldn’t it be kind of scary? But at least make sure the kid’s feet are sitting on top of yours the whole time.

    Nowadays you usually can’t do this because of the way slides are designed – for better or worse.

  4. Liesbet Coppens June 2, 2017 at 8:07 am #

    18 months old. Well, to be honest, up to about that age my baby/toddler WANTED to go off the slide, but fell backwards every time I tried. So yes, I went up and down WITH them. From 1,5 – 2 years onwards, they could slide alone, even if they sometimes needed help with the ladder. So yeah, at that age, I just had to chose between refusing them to go on a slide, falling backwards on their heads every single time (oh! and flying off at the bottom too!) or going with them. I chose to go with them…

  5. Liesbet Coppens June 2, 2017 at 8:08 am #

    I always put them BETWEEN my legs, by the way. Never ON my lap… I can see how that could make a difference in terms of security…

  6. BL June 2, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    “kids should navigate the slide on their own.”


  7. pentamom June 2, 2017 at 9:01 am #

    In fairness, most people wouldn’t remember sliding down in their parents’ laps, because it mostly happens with toddlers, and most people don’t have many memories of being that young.

  8. Jessica June 2, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    Thank you, pentamom. Yes– it’s like when people see a 2-year-old running crazy around a store, and they say “My dad would have whipped me for that!” Yes, at age 7 he would have, but you have no idea what happened when you were 2!

  9. M. June 2, 2017 at 9:23 am #

    This happened to a woman I know. In fact, this story is so similar to hers that I initially wondered if my friend had written this under a pseudonym, until I reached the pictures of the injured child. Her child’s doctor said the exact same thing, that this is an increasingly common injury among young children.

  10. M. June 2, 2017 at 9:27 am #

    For what it’s worth I don’t think sliding with your kids is necessarily helicoptering…sliding is fun! I like to race my son when there are side by side slides or a slide wide enough to fit us together. My 2 year old loves to slide by herself, but she also often asks me to go with her because sometimes things are just more fun with a companion.

  11. Anna June 2, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    Nope, definitely never went down the slide with a parent – in fact, I don’t remember my parents ever being present at the playground with me.

    In my opinion, it’s safest for even tiny kids to navigate ALL playground equipment on their own. “Helping” messes with the kid’s own ability to assess what they can do. And also gets them up things they can’t get down from.

    Oh, except swings, since playgrounds hardly have any non-baby swings hung low enough to be used by someone under 10 these days.

  12. James June 2, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    I’ve always wondered at the parents who go down slides with their children. I’m not sure how I’d FIT in some of them–the corkscrew ones with closed tops (which my boys named Noodle Slides) won’t accommodate even my bony, gangly self! I guess on the large, flat slides a parent could (or on the huge ones at amusement parks), but then I wouldn’t take a toddler on one of those. Neck issues run in the family, and I’d wait until their vertebrae were a tad more ossified before letting them go on one.

    ““Helping” messes with the kid’s own ability to assess what they can do.”

    I’ll hold my 2-year-old up to the monkey bars and let him “use” them (really just hold on as much as he can, with me supporting the rest of the weight). But I draw the line at anything more than merely spotting/carrying the kid. Too much potential for injury. A kid can feel their body, and even a little kid knows that if something hurts you don’t keep pushing. In contrast, an outsider (even a parent) doesn’t have that immediate feedback, and often doesn’t know something has gone wrong until it’s gone seriously wrong.

  13. tchaf June 2, 2017 at 10:03 am #

    but it is also *fun* to go down the slide together… (if and when kid and parent are playing together, and not just looking after another)

  14. Workshop June 2, 2017 at 10:08 am #

    I have helped guide my sons down a slide, standing next to the slide and holding them so they knew what to expect. If they were too small to hold themselves upright, then they got the “I’ll hold you” treatment on small slides.

    But it never occurred to me to slide down with the child.

  15. James Pollock June 2, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    The exact same thing didn’t happen to me.

    Our case involves a school playground. Their climbing structure featured a slide wide enough two (maybe three, if they were elementary-school aged) people to slide down side by side. It was also only about a 4-foot drop… just perfect, I thought, for my little one. So, we climbed up, and I sat down at the top and waited for her to navigate the climb. She sat down next to me… and yelled and jumped. You see, this slide was old enough to be made out of metal, and it was summertime, and the slide surface faced south, making it a solar-energy collector. I had on a pair of jeans. My daughter had a pair of shorts on. The burn wasn’t severe, but she was leery of sitting on things for the rest of the day.

  16. Backroads June 2, 2017 at 11:25 am #

    I am a bratty mom. If you need my help to do the majority of the activity, it is too much for you and I wont help.

  17. Andrew June 2, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    I don’t recall ever being carried down a slide, and I don’t recall ever doing that for my children. If they are not mature enough to navigate the slide safely themselves, they should not be on it.

    I fell off a slide when I was four and broke my arm. Not one of these puny modern slides: a big tall old-fashioned metal one, 15 or 20 feet tall. But I had been copying some older children climbing up it the wrong way, up the slide rather than the steps, and overbalanced, so I really only had myself to blame. Quite a learning experience: don’t do that again!

    I broke it again a few years later when I fell off some equipment in the school gym. No one was sued. These things happen.

    Apropos: here is a recreation of a slide from the 1920s: a plank of wood with no sides! Or one with holes to trap your legs: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4560526/Replica-world-s-slide-complete.html

    (Ignore the claims for this to be the world’s first playground slides: there were earlier ones.)

  18. Mindy June 2, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    I know at least 3 toddlers who this happened to! This is an avoidable injury.

  19. The other Mandy June 2, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    A friend of a friend went down the slide, but it wasn’t engineered for adults. He got too much speed, flew off the end, and broke his leg in multiple places.

    Maybe we should be smart enough to know our limits. The way we let kids learn their limitations is by letting them do things themselves.

  20. Diane June 2, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    Sadly, I’m a bit too wide for some of the slides, so I might get stuck! I have found myself in a few situations where I thought I was doing the safer thing with my kid, only to realize I was putting them at more risk; it’s an awful feeling!
    Regarding the slide. When mine were very little I taught them to go down on their stomachs, feet first, so they wouldn’t topple over and hit their heads. After a bit they would copy the other kids and go down on their bottoms.

  21. Kirsten June 2, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

    I’m not familiar with the practice of going down the slide with one’s child. If I did that as a toddler I certainly don’t remember. I do remember not feeling ready to go down the slide yet at one point and my mother gently encouraging me to try it.

    It’s kind of amazing how many people just on here alone know someone this has happened to.

    I wonder if all the giant metal slides we played on when I was a kid have all been removed now. I would love to see one still standing.

  22. Dan June 2, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

    When I was of an age that I needed helping with the slide then it was generally somone (usually mum ) at the top to set me off and somone else (usually my grandmother) at the bottom to catch me

  23. AmyP June 2, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    This happened to my son when he was around a year. The sad thing was he had just learned to walk and although he had a walking cast, refused to walk on it, so it delayed that portion of his development as he went back to crawling. Did not make the same mistake with my other two.

  24. Joe F. June 2, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

    I could see the urge to go down the slide with your kids, especially if the closest park doesn’t have a toddler/younger kids area and they are scared to go down on their own. I think I am lucky that this has never been an issue with my twin girls. We have one of the play sets with a small slide that they have been using almost since they can walk, so when they see a bigger slide, they almost never have a problem. If they go a little too fast and fall off the end at the bottom, they mostly pick themselves up. One of my daughters likes to take one of the slides at the park head first!

  25. lightbright June 2, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

    Honestly, in the age of “safe” parks, most slides are those lame, plastic, twisty ones. I routinely see children go halfway down, stop, look around as if something else fun is supposed to happen, and then begrudgingly push themselves to the bottom. Trust me. They really don’t need our help on those things.

    Park injuries can happen in unexpected places, too. One day at a park, my toddler got in a fight with his big sister over a ball. She’s a lot bigger than he is and yanked the ball–and him–off the curb. When my little guy stood up, his leg wobbled, and a visit to the ER revealed that he had fractured his tibia. I was baffled. The pediatrician told me that counter-intuitively, a kid falling six inches off a curb is a pretty common injury.

  26. Jennifer C June 2, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

    @Dan–Same here. I remember my parents offering to catch me at the bottom of the slide when I was nervous, but never riding it with me.

  27. SKL June 2, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

    I have heard that kids fall off of those twisty plastic slides because of how physics works. So again, injuries in the name of safety.

  28. Puzzled June 2, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    When I was a child, there was a park with huge slides (well, they seemed huge at the time), and a town worker who would hand out pieces of waxed paper so you could go down faster. I can’t see that happening nowadays.

    Actually, it wasn’t supposed to happen then, either, as I learned years later when I got a job working for the parks department. Apparently the woman had suffered brain damage in an accident, and for some reason the town feared legal action if she was fired, so she just did what she wanted and no one stopped her. This included sending voluminous complaints every time we responded to her park, although they’d also be filled with praise. It also included, after I became Chief of EMS, calling my office and screaming at me if it took more than 2 minutes to get an EMT to her park for a call, even if it was for something less than urgent, such as a splinter. (She once called 5 times in the span of 5 minutes regarding a splinter while we were working several emergent calls.)

  29. Rebel mom June 2, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

    I’ve seen similar odd behavior from parents that ‘help’ their kids climb a tree. Most kids don’t know how to even start (where do I grab? how do I get up there? Is 8 feet off the ground too high? And on and on). . The sad thing is those are better than the other 70% of parents I’ve witnessed forbidding their children to even TRY to climb a tree. Bonus awful points to the moms I’ve heard scaring their children with horrific injury stories to kill any future desires. 🙁

  30. SKL June 2, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    Yeah, kids used to wax the (metal) slide sometimes when I was a kid. Not a great idea.

    There was a little boy in the neighborhood who had a metal plate in his head because, as a tot, he climbed up the slide ladder and somehow fell off the top, onto the blacktop. I mean sure, he probably climbed it many times without falling on his head, but … I’m not sure having a kid fall off a tall slide is something to brag about.

    Of course, in those days, my folks used to say that they should never have changed from when the playgrounds just had dirt/grass on the ground, or sand, or gravel, vs. blacktop.

  31. M June 2, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    I teach my toddlers to go down feet first on their belly. It works really well, and by 18 months or so they can go down pretty much any slide on their own.

  32. Nicole June 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    I am in my 40’s and have a home movie (no sound kind) of me sliding down a slide with my Dad. We are having a blast together. Do I remember it no. As others have said no one would remember because we would be too young. I think it is less about helicopter parenting and more about having fun with your kid. The movie is from our play structure in our own back yard.

  33. Beth June 2, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

    “Yes– it’s like when people see a 2-year-old running crazy around a store, and they say “My dad would have whipped me for that!” ”

    I always wonder when people brag about/celebrate the old days when fathers whipped their kids.

  34. Mike June 2, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

    The next time you hear of a parent doing something overprotective like that, ask why they hate their children.

  35. Renee Anne June 2, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

    We have friends a few towns over that had that happen to their youngest son. To be fair, the kid was teeny tiny for his age (still is) and was behind on a lot of his motor skills (extremely stubborn – did not lack physical capability but just did not want to) so this happened when he was about 3 years old. Broken leg, cast, the whole thing. And it’s not that uncommon.

    And today, I let my 2.5 year old onto the “big kid” playground at my 6 year old’s school…the one made for the 5th-8th graders. He was fine but I also made sure to be herby when he climbed (not holding on, just under him if he fell through the bars or behind him if he slipped on the climbing wall). He’s been going down big slides since he could climb up there. He’s a monkey and it works for him.

  36. Mark June 2, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

    Those “lame, plastic twisty slides” are a great deal of fun if you use them right: Stand on the top of the slide, and run in place for a bit. Then dare anyone to get within reach of the incredible electrostatic charge you’ve built up.

  37. Jill June 2, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

    As a mom of two playground loving kids, could we also stop telling kids not to climb up the slide. I’ve watched at our playground and literally EVERY kid, from toddlers to the bigger kids, will slide down the slide then immediately try to climb back up. Why stop them? If the next kid knocks you flat on their way down, that’s the risk you take, in my opinion.

  38. Vanessa June 2, 2017 at 10:36 pm #

    I actually have a picture of myself at about 18 months old, going down a slide on my mother’s lap. This would have been around 1973, so it’s not a completely brand-new thing. That said, all my personal memories of playing on slides are of doing it on my own, so I doubt she slid with me once I was old enough not to randomly launch myself over the side.

  39. Crazy Ca tLady June 3, 2017 at 12:19 am #

    Ooh, the curved plastic slides are GREAT for older kids to climb up the outside to get to the top. Many fall off before they get very far. 😉

  40. Ceci June 3, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    I loved sliding down on my mother’s lap when I was small! We went faster. I also remember talking her into it on a couple of days when the slide was too hot for me. She liked the personal space and down time she could get while I played, but I loved sliding so much she eventually took pity on me.

  41. Rachael June 3, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    This is a sad trend, but where is cps? Don’t the swoop into action every time a child gets hurt?

  42. Meredith Dixon June 3, 2017 at 9:46 pm #

    When I was three I often (not, I think, always) slid down slides, not exactly on my mother’s lap but with her just behind me and holding on to me as we both slid. That had stopped by the time I was five, and probably sooner, though Mother still liked to slide and would do so by turns with me. I was three in November 1965.

  43. Donna June 4, 2017 at 9:43 am #

    Very few people remember anything that occurred when they were toddlers, especially routine things such as going down a slide.

  44. LKR June 4, 2017 at 9:49 am #

    Rebel Mom: Then there’s me – since my son was about 8 I refuse to watch him climb trees. He has excellent balance and of his capabilities and loves to climb trees (even now at 17), but he terrifies me every time he does it, so I don’t look.

  45. Dingbat June 4, 2017 at 11:42 pm #

    I actually can remember a few things from my toddler years (sitting in a corner with a tape player listening to the Jackson 5 for hours, sledding with my brothers, using the phone, etc) BUT I do not remember my parents going down the slide with me. I can remember my dad putting me on a smaller slide and walking beside me as I went down and I can remember him making sure I could get up the ladder ok when I first started climbing it. I can also remember him making me do the monkey bars until I could get all the way across. Army Vet…

    Everyone was expert sliders by ages 4 & 5. My school was old but we were the first students in the brand new kindergarten (and library) building. We had 2 slides and tipi (given to us by the Res.) in our classroom.

    I was not fond of others being on the slide with me. Especially after I attended a birthday at the town park in 2nd grade. As I was going down the tall, metal, cork screw slide I found myself face to face with the birthday girls older brother, who was climbing up the slide. We collided, he fell off, and I did foward rolls the whole way down. Not fun but we lived!!

  46. Dingbat June 5, 2017 at 12:11 am #

    I never heard of kids getting broken legs from sliding with their parents when I was young. This was not a common which would also make me ponder the number that actually uses to slide down with their kids. I remember seeing more walking beside their small children, holding onto them, as they went down the small, skinny metal slides.

    I saw a girl fall off the monkey bars in 3rx grade and break her arm. She was getting too big for them and it wasn’t a large drop. She must have landed wrong. I saw a friend walk into a baseball bat, as another (rather large) classmate was swinging it… Crack! 56 stictches in his head. None of the teachers could handle the bleeding head wound so they left me and another friend with him until help arrived. We were playing doctor and yelling about scalpels and sutures, STAT!!, while holding scratchy brown bathroom paper towels on his head trying to stop the bleeding, when his dad ran in the room. That’s right, they didn’t call an ambulance. They called your parents.

    Nope… no broken bones from slides.

  47. MichelleB June 6, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    “Those “lame, plastic twisty slides” are a great deal of fun if you use them right”

    Especially if you do it when it’s starting to get just dark enough that you can see the sparks.

  48. James June 7, 2017 at 11:42 am #

    “As a mom of two playground loving kids, could we also stop telling kids not to climb up the slide.”

    Seconded. I had this argument with my wife a few times. She pointed out that it wasn’t how slides are supposed to be used. I pointed out that every child I have ever seen on a slide–bar none, including me and all my siblings, cousins, friends, neighbors, etc–has climbed up the slide. What’s the most likely thing to happen? They slip and slide down the slide feet-first on their bellies–somewhat safer than going down face-first on your belly, as kids tend to do! At best it’s a fun way to really hone in fine motor skills and balance, as you have IMMEDIATE feedback if you screw up!

    I still remember how proud I was when I was 5 and able to successfully climb up the slide in my back yard. It was a very empowering moment–I had conquered something! A pretty minor conquest, but for a kid it was huge! I’d hate to take that away from a kid for no real reason.