Wow, Who Knew? Kids Should Go Down Slides ON THEIR OWN!

Hi Readers — and thank you for sending this story, “A zzyefiayyr
Surprising Risk for Toddlers on Playground Slides,”
that was in yesterday’s New York Times. And what exactly IS the surprising risk?

Parents! Extremely loving, extremely cautious parents who, rather than letting their kids navigate the slide on their own, put them on their lap and let gravity do its thing. The problem is: The thing gravity is doing is breaking their childrens’ legs.

Yes, “helping” the kids actually makes the slide experience less safe. Kids are getting their legs stuck and twisted and even broken, because (sez the story) “If a foot gets caught while the child is sliding alone, he can just stop moving or twist around until it comes free. But when a child is sitting in an adult lap, the force of the adult’s weight behind him ends up breaking his leg.”

Now, I am of at least two, possibly even three-point-five minds about this story. First off, of course, I am a little smug about the news that helicoptering doesn’t help kids. The fact that kids have been going down slides alone since Danny slid down his Dinosaur should have been evidence enough that modest inclines and moppets are a good mix.  But we live in a culture that loves to demand ever more involvement on the part of parents, so a lot of folks got the idea that GOOD moms and dads are the ones who put down the Starbucks and go, “Wheeeee!” with perhaps more enthusiasm than they feel. Now they are off the hook.

ON THE OTHER HAND (we are now onto Mind #2), this article also makes it seem as if the parent/kid playground combo is the slippery slope to hell, and that slides are even MORE dangerous than anybody had ever imagined. And considering we have already imagined them as SO dangerous that regulations require them to be no taller than the average mound of laundry (or is that just at my house?), this is another blow to playground fun.

And here’s Mind #3: The fact that this issue merited an entire article in the hard copy of the New York Times — space that is disappearing faster than Happy Meal fries  — is just another example of our obsession with every little thing that has to do with parenting. As if  every hour of time with them is fraught with the potential for developmental leaps or horrifying danger. When really what we’re talking about is an afternoon at the playground.

And now for the .5: One point the article made is that, “The damage is not merely physical. ‘The parents are always crushed that they broke their kid’s leg and are baffled as to why nobody ever told them this could happen,’ Dr. Holt said. ‘Sometimes one parent is angry at the other parent because that parent caused the child’s fracture. It has some real consequences to families.'”

In a nutshell (and I do mean nut) here are my final thoughts:

1 – Parents are BAFFLED that NOBODY EVER TOLD THEM every single thing that could possibly go wrong in any situation?  That’s one reason why we are so litigious: We expect every activity to be perfect every time, and if it’s not, we are so angry we want to blame someone (else). Not fate. Someone.

2 – While I can totally see being mad at the parent who broke my kid’s leg, I can also see moving on. Getting over it. Realizing it could have been ME. Lasting consequences seems a bit dramatic for an injury that, the article says, the children recover from in 4 to 6 weeks, without “lasting complications.” (Except, of course, for the divorce.)

3 – And, in defense of the article and the author, whose work I like, maybe the piece actually did perform a public service. Hoopla aside, now you know: Let your kid go solo down the slide.

I think I’m done. Feel free to take up where I left off. – L.

Okay, maybe this slide IS a little dicey, with or without a parent.Â

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96 Responses to Wow, Who Knew? Kids Should Go Down Slides ON THEIR OWN!

  1. Lattejunkie April 26, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    I read the article and thought it was just another way to force guilt on those of us who have taken our wee babes and toddlers down the super high (and dangerous for littlies) slide at the park. I’ve done the 25m slide with my son – from about 9 months as he was too young to go down alone but more than capable of climbing all the way to the top of the hill it’s on.

    He never got hurt because we tucked his feet under him on our laps and we made sure that they stayed there – or the sliding stopped.

  2. kp April 26, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    Of course the slide in that picture is dicey- look at all that hard ground around it! Everyone know playground equipment should be surrounded by a minimum 8″ layer of marshmallows. And I’m sure the bottom of the slide is supposed to be no more than 3-5/8″ off the ground so you can smash your tailbone when you hit the bottom. And that’s not even mentioning the very risky “stranger” waiting nearby to run off with your kids.

  3. Father of 8 April 26, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Once when my twins were little, maybe 3 or so, I took them to a playground and while I was pushing my son on the swing, I pushed a bit too hard and he fell off backwards, breaking his arm.
    Did I feel terrible? Well, of course I did. Was my (then) wife angry with me? Of course she was. (And no, we did not divorce over this particular incident.)
    Yes, there is lasting damage to the parents. But what about the kid who was injured in the first place? My son never played on the swings after that incident, and my daughter wouldn’t until she went to kindergarten. Neither of them remember the incident, but from then on my son associated swings with pain, or for his sister, seeing her brother in pain.
    Why does the article only mention the lasting effects these things have on the parents? We aren’t the ones with broken bones.

  4. Andy April 26, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    Just in case someone tries it: Sending your kid down the slide while swathed in bubble wrap will make him bounce and possibly land in another ZIP code. Also, encasing your kid in a protective block of cement will make the slide collapse under the weight. Removing the tyke’s ones first will just make him or her floppy and no fun at all. Our kids are supposed to come from the Free Range farm, not the boneless one.

    I guess we’ll just have to go back to the old way — let the little bedbugs climb up, slide down, and get bumped and bruised on their own. But first, lets kill all the litigation lawyers.

  5. Andy April 26, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Should read “Removing the tyke’s bones…”

  6. Bastia April 26, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    I always figured parents ride slides with their kids to spend ‘quality’ time with them, not necessarily to make them safer. What’s more, more than a few toddlers simply won’t go by themselves, or chicken out at the top. If you want to see it as coddling, I’d go with emotional rather than physical coddling.

  7. Vinny April 26, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    We learned early on that if we tried to catch our son every time he tried something new and daring at the playground, he usually wound up getting hurt worse than if we just let him alone.

  8. Becca April 26, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    I always figured if they could climb it they could slide it. I did flinch when my 18 month old climbed the huge school old school slide that no other kid at the park will go near, but she slid it no problem and couldn’t get enough.

  9. Constance Ortiz April 26, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    There is a fine balance here. On one hand, our job is to raise children to become independent. On the other hand, we give support to our children as needed. There is nothing wrong in “spotting” a wee one up a slide and making certain they have a safe ride down. Just as there is nothing wrong when performed safely, in taking a little toddler down the slide, while enjoying the delightful experience with them.

  10. Sherri April 26, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    Last summer my five year old went down the giant slide at the carnival on my friends lap because he didn’t meet the height requirement to go on his own. About half way down he flipped over and went head first. He was OK, except for a really nasty friction burn on his forehead. We still haven’t figured out exactly how it happened, but it freaked me out. I think we will skip the giant slide this year.

  11. Vaughn April 26, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    When I was a kid, the swings and the slide in our neighborhood were set in concrete. I used to jump off. I estimate that I only lost 10-15 IQ points doing that.

  12. Meagan April 26, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    You missed the take on it, with a mom who’s toddler sprained his leg going down by himself, so now she’s only ketting him ho down with her, and now she’s even more freaked out about slides. She concluded that she would have to *teach* her toddler to keep his feet together in the center so he wouldn’t get them caught. I decided not to point out that spreading legs and planting feet on the sides is how small children moderate their speed. *sigh* It’s hard to see your kid get hurt, but kids get hurt. The more you refuse to let them hurt themselves while they’re small, the less feel they’ll have for their own bodies when they get older… Which makes them more likely to get seriously hurt down the road.

    That said, I think most parents who go down slides with their kids do it because the slide is too advanced for the kid’s age level, or because the child is too afraid to go down by themselves. Not because they think slides are too dangerous.

  13. Meagan April 26, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    *letting, *GO

  14. Mike April 26, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    My kids are 4 and 6 and our rule at the playground is that they play and I sit on the sidelines drinking coffee.

    If they’re too small or too afraid to go on something by themselves, they don’t go on it. And frankly that’s a sense I want them to develop – thinking for themselves about what the danger might be.

    I’m nearby to rescue them if they get in over their heads.

    I’m also sick to death of the helicopter parents at the playground running around to stay close to their kids and knocking mine over in the process. My kids have never hurt themselves on playground equipment, but they have been stepped on and knocked down by other parents a few times.

  15. Ms. Herbert April 26, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    My why is this news headache comes from the – THIS IS BASIC PHYSICS place in my brain. I remember as a kid thinking the parents that slid down with their kid were stupid The fact a few flew off the end and landed on their kid was an obvious conclusion to adding so much mass to the slide.

    This is one time I’ll break my if you want to do it you have to climb by yourself rule. I’ve picked up kids and put them part way down the slide and let them slide.

    There is an older park near me with a great long, high, metal slide. When I take my niece and nephew to that park – they grab warmup type pants from their closets. They put them on for sliding down the slide without getting a burn from the hot metal in the Texas sun. The really great thing is they totally thought of this themselves. Their Dad and I at first told them to put the warm ups up because it was high 90’s outside. The kids explained why they needed them.

    The other adults at the park – loved it. One set of kids remembered they had light weight jackets in the car from a movie trip – the got them out and used them to slide on protecting their bare legs from the heat of the metal. (This is NOT a neighborhood park. It is a flood control area that has nature trails, horseback riding trails, picnic areas, sports fields, a golf course, mini zoo, and several playground areas. That is boarded on 3 sides by 5 – 7 lane high speed roads. 4th side backs up to a commercial district on a 7 lane road. So you see parents with kids frequently. You also see parents drop kids off at the playground and the adult go run, play soccer/baseball, or golf)

  16. Mike April 26, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    How about some barbed wire and armed guards around playgrounds, to keep parents OUT. (Yes that was a joke, thank you for laughing)

  17. Selby April 26, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    The whole article is a bore. Your kid got hurt on the playground….oh call a waaaaaaaaaaaaaahmbulance!

    I swear, what this country needs is a good plague or famine….give these whackjobs something valid to worry about.

  18. jenny April 26, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    I’ve gone down the slide with my two-year-old before, but I think that was more because I wanted to have fun. I mean, isn’t that the point of having kids? To play on the slide and watch old episodes of Thundercats and be able to do all those cool things again that you did as a kid without people looking at you strange?

    And my husband took our son to the playground several months ago while I had to work. I came home to find our little one had a black eye from accidentally running into the playground equipment. It’s tough to shrug it off when your kid is hurt, but I just sarcastically told my husband, “Well, he’ll get fat sitting on the couch in front of the TV and won’t have any kind of adventure or physical activity, but at least he won’t get hurt.” It was nobody’s fault and there’s no reason for me to guilt trip my husband for it. We all got hurt as kids whether it was scraps or broken bones, but weren’t we at least doing something more fun than watching TV when it happened?

  19. Leslie Steigner DeSabato April 26, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    People thought I was crazy when I let my barely 1 yr old go up the play structure alone, AND taught him to go down the slide independently. I was talking to an ER nurse (Children’s Hospital), and she said broken legs is very common esp. with a child seated on an adults lap. Their legs often get pinned under or beside the adult’s legs..

  20. Emily April 26, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    About the slide in the picture, it’d be perfectly fine as a poolside slide (definitely in the deep end), or off a dock or raft going into a lake. Of course, you’d need to attach a hose, to get some water running down it, because wet bodies just stick to dry slides.

  21. mollie April 26, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    *LOVE* the image of the crocodile slide. Right up there with the “woven from the fur of rabid jackals” quote. HILARIOUS.

  22. EtobicokeMom April 26, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    As in all things, why are we being stripped of our ability to make judgment calls for ourselves rather than relying on the New York Times? Sometimes I help my kids on playground equipment, sometimes I don’t. Depends on the activity, depends on their mood. Some times they go beyond their skill level and need to be helped, other times they can sort it out themselves. Sometimes they want me to play with them, or help with a new activity they haven’t tried. Other times they want to show off or just play independently. Sometimes I am tired and want to sit, other times I genuinely WANT to slide down the slide with them. Depends on the kid, too. My daughter simply will NOT try anything new until I have done it with her, whereas my son will try ANYTHING, even things he isn’t ready for.

    Why does it have to be all or nothing? Surely if I do more than sip coffee from the sidelines I am not necessarily a helicopter parent? I think I will carry on using my own judgment on when to help my kids and when to let them go it on their own. And I promise not to sue any playground equipment manufacturers when my kids fall!

  23. Lollipoplover April 26, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    I hope these parents never come to our neighborhood park. My son and his friends spray Pam on the slides there to make them more “challenging”.

  24. Jennifer Ball Kunz April 26, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    My son broke his hip because of this- I felt SO SO guilty. In truth, common sense would have told me not to let my 20-month-old go down the ginormous slide at all (which is obsvioulsy not for toddlers), but I thought it’d be safer with me. It didn’t pan out because my heavy mommy body went down the slide but his rubber shoed foot tried to stay at the top. Thankfully kids heal quickly at that age, but still.

  25. Havva April 26, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    I’ll admit to sliding with my daughter. When she was a tiny babe in arms and very fussy, I got the idea that a trip down the slides in the neighborhood park might cheer her up. Of course any new activity out of the house cheers her up… but I like slides. When she got more squirmy, stronger, and more likely to get out of the cradeled position on the way down I quit. It was fun while it lasted and I don’t think it was too much of a risk.

    She is almost 15 months old now, and has been obsessed with slides for the last few months. She amazes daycare (and supposedly makes older kids jelous) with her speed down their tiny 2ft tall slide. If only they could see her on the 6 ft tall twisty slide. She loves that thing! And she has been doing it herself since early spring. Our neighbors are agog when they see her, and always ask her age. Only critique so far from a mom of 3 with a slightly older boy: “Humm… maybe I should introduce him to the slides.” And she did.

  26. JAshby April 26, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Some other parent will say this too. I’m one of those parents that rides down the slide with my tyke. (Ah, but why, you helicoptering nut, are you on this site?) The article, using only one parent quote and example, completely misses a major motivation: my kid demands it. I love it when he goes down alone — tall, short, twisty, bumpy, anything except those super slender metal one (but he’s three. Give him some growth, and coordination, and I’ll be trying to get him on those too.) I loved it when he learned to slide down on his belly at 18 months. But he’s cautious — he typically wants to ride down with me a few times first. Then he wants to go on his own. That said. In general, I like the article — I like the reminder to keep an eye on where his legs are before we head down next. I also like Lenore’s take on the .5 mind.

  27. Heather April 26, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Wow! I feel like a stupid fucking loser for spending time with my kid when she was little and I took her to parks where there weren’t any other kids. And OHMAWGAWD I slid down the twisty slide with her because she was afraid to go by herself. Because I’M NOT HERE TO REASSURE her that the world isn’t so scary or anything like. I’M JUST SUPPOSED TO SIT ON MY ASS while my kid figures out everything by herself.
    I started following this blog, because I know the basic message of the free range thing is a good one, but all of your posts are just as knee-jerk reactionary and judgemental as the people you point your finger at- just in the other direction. And while I do appreciate the, again, basic message, you seem to miss the point that everyone has to decide what is right for themselves and their own children. I can’t do everything the way you would have me do it, because my situation might be different than yours. There are extremes in the overbearing parent world, but back in the glorious fifties a lot of terrible things happened to a lot of children and those children couldn’t tell anyone.
    I guess I’m just trying to say there are good things and bad things about the way our society is developing, but it doesn’t mean everything is going to hell just because some people like to go down slides with their two year olds.
    Give me a reason to continue following your blog.

  28. Jennifer April 26, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    I went down slides with both my kids when they were young, partly because it was fun, and partly because if I went with them the first time they were much more willing to try it themselves. I wanted to encourage them to try new things, and going with them the first time was a good way to do it.

  29. Tsu Dho Nimh April 26, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    There’s a reason for the old playground rule of “only one person on the slide at a time,” although it could be a little clearer about “and that means you too, Mom.”

    The same thing happens with sledding in the winter … parent unwilling to let toddler do it alone, the sled wrecks and the poor kid ends up losing to gravity and an adult body. Some of the injuries are the same mechanism: a body part hangs up in the snow and the weight of the adult keeps the sled moving.

  30. bmommyx2 April 26, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    I didn’t read the article, but this happened to a friend of mine. Keep in mind parents go down the slide with kids on their laps for reasons other than helicoptering. My son was very fearful & wanted me to go with him & sometimes it’s just fun to do things together. I would have never thought it dangerous till it happened to a friend.

  31. Sherri April 26, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Heather, who is your anger directed at? I didn’t see anything in either the original article, or Lenore’s article, or the posters comments that would elicit that response. No one said not to reassure your child. It just pointed out that sliding with a toddler on your lap can cause injury to the child.

  32. Erin April 26, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I think about you often. I haven’t commented in a while but I just wanted to say go me! And go William! He’s my 15 month old who climbs up the steps on his hands and knees on the “big kid side” play structure and then goes down the tunnel slide on his belly, head first! ALONE! He loves it and giggles all the way down. Then I go down the steps, watch him turn himself around and get off the slide feet first and then follow him back up and he does it over and over again! Yeah for fun!

  33. CrazyCatLady April 26, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Heather, I went down the slides a couple of times with kids. But only with the ones that I could sit up in and did not twist. Straight metal ones would be least likely to catch a kid, these new plastic tubes and twists, well, not made for adults. I guess that is why the signs say 5-12. Which I suspect most of the adults taking the kids down are ignoring for both themselves and their toddlers. I know I did.

    Most parents do, at some point, probably go down a slide or two. But when the kids are older (say 4-5) and mommy still needs to hold their hand when going down, for a kid with no disabilities, there is something not right there. Unless it is into a pool, which adds a whole other set of fears.

  34. Krista April 26, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    But, isn’t breaking legs extremely rare, considering how many parents slide with their kids? Aren’t we supposed to take the statistical amount of risk into consideration when figuring out what to do with our kids? I mean, this is a pretty alarmist post. OH EM GEE! Better not slide with your kids or you’ll break their legs!!! I mean, really.

  35. Havva April 26, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    @ Heather. Please slow down and sort out those “3.5 minds.” Yes Lenore expressed a preference for letting the kid do it themselves. But she also said that the article playing up the danger “is another blow to playground fun.” And regarding parents angry at eachother over an injury. “While I can totally see being mad at the parent who broke my kid’s leg, I can also see moving on. Getting over it. Realizing it
    could have been ME.”
    there is more to the post than the shock-jock headline and the final punchline intended as a sardonic stab at the types of parents the article was suggesting (who would expect a warning label and can’t get over a single broken bone.)

  36. skl1 April 26, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    I had heard this before. To be honest, it had not occurred to me on my own, and I do think it’s good to point out the risk to parents.

    What I did not like was, at least in the article I saw on a mom blog, the way they played with the story to buid it up to be some kind of fearsome, shocking thing that’s going to make you lose sleep until your kid is 18. The legitimate purpose could have been served quite well by just pointing out that there is a risk of this type of accident when engaging in that activity.

  37. socalledauthor April 26, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    The only good thing about the article on slides is the awareness (reminder?) to make sure the child’s legs are positioned correctly should a parent ride the slide with their kid. Everything else is alarmism at its best.

    I do want to point out that we have a correlation here (more helicopter parents and more leg fractures from parents riding slides with kids) we do not inherently have a causation (that helicoptering is the reason for the tandem slide riding.) More parents are playing with their kids in ways that would have made young me very jealous. I think it’s great for parents to actually play with their kids… in moderation. Personally, as much fun as I have playing with my son, I love reading a good book more (which also means I force him to learn to play independently. Win-win!)

  38. Jenna April 26, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    I think the problem with this article for me is that they’re pointing out another stupid risk. I slide down with my kids all the time because IT’S FUN! I’m not a helicopter parent and my kids go down more often alone than with me, but I like to go down with them. I’m not stupid enough to leave limbs dangling though when I’m holding them. Their leg would have to be sticking out pretty far to get caught like that. Or maybe it’s because I’m small, so small in fact that my 8-year-old only has about five more inches and he’ll be as tall as me. There’s a difference between a parent who enjoys playing with their kids and sliding down versus a parent who is sliding down with them to protect them from injury.

  39. Jynet April 26, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    I’m so grateful that my daughter got to go down the slide at our local historical park before they took it out. When I was a kid it was the best part of the trip (never mind that history stuff!!). It was over a story high, because there were two story buildings around and you could see in the windows from the top of the slide.

    After that slide being in use for over 50 years – generations of children – they removed it… because the parents wouldn’t obey the sign that said no tandem sliding. They were all sure that it didn’t mean THEM it meant those KIDS! Like some how gravity doesn’t work on adults? Sigh.

  40. James April 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Parents need to let kids be kids. Stop worrying about them getting a booboo. Let them play! Kids will get booboos, that is how they toughen up and learn to deal with stress. If parents would let kids be kids, there would be less teenagers needing Xanax to cope with normal high school experiences.

  41. thechaoticflame April 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    Here’s some perspective: This study briefly described the tibia fractures that a single pediatric orthopaedic surgeon observed over 11 months. Of the 58 fractures he treated, 10 occurred on playgrounds. Of those, 8 were the result of a child riding on a parent’s lap. The mean age of these kids was **20.7 months**, with the eldest being 32 months.

    Here’s a fantastic quote from the original article:
    “A common practice for parents is to place a young child on their lap and go down the slide together. Although going down the slide with a young child on their parent’s lap may seem like an enjoyable moment for both, it can lead to unexpected injury.”

    It’s not obvious, but the original article is definitely not a free range piece.

    As a grad student, I happen to have access to the journal that published the original scientific study, here’s a link to download the .pdf for anyone also interested:

    It’s worth mentioning that the conclusions of this article are very subject to sampling bias as the patients of a single doctor were included.

  42. Kathryn April 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    I heard about this when my daughter was young. I don’t remember if I read it or if someone told me about it, but the point that was made was that if I were to slide with her, I needed to be aware of how we were positioned and make sure that she was sitting entirely on top of my lap, with her legs on top of mine. There is an inclination to either seat the child between your legs, or with their legs straddling yours, and that is when the risk is greatest for their leg or foot to catch and for your weight and momentum to then cause injury.

    That felt, at the time, like a reasonable warning, and I appreciated being able to incorporate that awareness into how I played with her. (Sometimes I went down with her, more often I encouraged her to go by herself.) The approach that I remember was not at all alarmist.

    Anything can be dangerous. Anything can be more or less dangerous, depending on how you approach it. Walking with scissors can be dangerous. Does that mean never walk with them? Never let children walk with them? No. But is it a good idea, perhaps, to know the risk for tripping, falling, and injuring yourself with them depending on how you are carrying them, and then to make a point to walk with them hanging blade pointed downwards? That is reasonable and mitigates the risk.

    I think it is good parenting for parents to be aware of the risk and to know how to best mitigate it (position the child on your lap in a way that minimizes potential for this type of accident, or encourage the child to slide alone), and I’m glad that the article is perhaps a step towards greater awareness.

    I do think it is maybe a bit of an overreaction to encourage parents never to slide with their children, when there are reasonable ways to mitigate it, if they want to make that choice.

    I think it would be a gross overreaction for slides to be pulled out of playgrounds. I personally have been very disappointed at the slow extinction of teeter totters from american playgrounds over the last several decades, and to see that merry go rounds seem in some places to be headed in the same direction.

    Personally, as life and play both go, I would like my children to be aware of possible risks and how to best mitigate them, to make informed (but not over-reactive) choices, to understand that even when you make informed choices you will sometimes still get hurt, and to pick up and carry on. I believe is important to be aware of potential for risk and to take some precautions, but to be aware of trade offs in terms of experience and quality of life, and to be able to find middle ground that protects those as well.

  43. JustADad April 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Hmm, i don’t recal if i ever went down the slides with the weasels of death, but my oldest did fall off the top off one and broke his arm, (not a playground one, a backyard 4 ft high one, and no we didn’t sue).

    Enter, parents and slides in the youtube search window, then watch the fun, the number of parents that end up falling down on top of their kids is amazing.
    and for the record weasels of death is trademarked 🙂

  44. Selby April 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Reading the comment from the woman who is a “Playground Safety Educator”, who’s written an entire book about playing and playground safety, and suggest the National Program for Playground Safety as a great place to start your education. It just starts there. It might never end because the amount of danger lurking on playgrounds will only continue to grow…

    Cue the laughter from countless grandmothers and grandfathers….

  45. JustADad April 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    Selby, I was supposed to read a book before i let my kids play at a plyground, well crap, no wonder they had so much fun at them, I was doing it wrong, should have been more regimented with their playtime i guess.

    small wonder some kids today cannot play on thier own without an adult there to direct them.

  46. Danielle F April 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    So when my daughter was not even two at a playdate in my home, with no less than four adults standing right next to her she fell off my couch (less than 3 feet) and broke her collarbone. For the record, I am not mad at a single adult present, or myself. She fell, kids do that. Who on this earth could have predicted that this time when she fell (she’s fallen more than a few times in her short little life) she would hit just right to break a bone?? Certainly not the ER docs, or the orthapediest. They all laughed with me to lighten the mood, and reassured me that these things happen. And gave poor lil bit as much candy as she wanted while there 😉
    At the playground she goes up and down all on her own. I am of the same mind as some other posters, if my kids aren’t comfortable with something they don’t do it. I can often be heard at playgrounds saying “you got yourself up there, now get yourself down” or “If you don’t want to go down the slide, go back the other way so you don’t hold up everyone else” My son can most often be found ON TOP of most of the playground equipment, and I’ve gotten several “how old is she?” comments about my 2 year old, as she’s climbing up some precarious ladder or apparatus. Mine are still little, so I am never too far. Usually standing a few feet away telling the mom I’m with how adept they actually are… and I again agree with some posters, if I tried to get on the equipment with my son, who is 4, he would probably tell me to GO AWAY!

  47. Cathy April 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    I’ll admit last summer when my daughter was 16/17 months old I walked her to the slides. She wanted to go down them, but she was afraid of climbing the steps on the jungle gym alone, being new at walking and all. I definitely wouldn’t go down with her though. The slides at our park are way too narrow for my fat butt. Or any adults really…or so I like to think :p This summer we plan to take our girls to the park often. Our 12 month old just started walking. Not sure if she will be ready for slides, but I am sure my oldest will love it. She’s become a very outgoing adventurous kid this past year and I look forward to watching her play and do more on her own in the warm weather. Honestly though going down a slide with my kid always seemed like more work and less fun for all. Once my kid starts going down a slide I trust gravity will get them down. The small chance of them getting hurt on the playground doesn’t worry me. Maybe because I can remember falling off the monkey bars and hitting my head off the metal. I think I bled a little. Had a small knot on the back of my head. That was in elementary school during recess! No one freaked out. Not even sure if I told a teacher, I recall telling a friend what happened as we walked back to class. My mom just shrugged when i told her after getting home cause it was obvious I was okay. I learned to use more caution when playing. I definitely think parents who hover over their kids while they play cause more harm than protection.

  48. Beth April 26, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    @Mike, I love your rule (“My kids are 4 and 6 and our rule at the playground is that they play and I sit on the sidelines drinking coffee”)!
    That was pretty much the rule at my house when the Barbies came out. I despised playing Barbies!

    And @Heather, free-range does NOT mean we don’t like to spend time with our kids and have fun with our kids. It would have been nice had your read more on this site before reaching that very common, and very wrong, conclusion.

  49. thalassa April 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    I don’t know many parents that slide with their kids because they think its safer…most of the parents that slide with their kids (or play with their kids) at the park do it because they are *playing with their kids* (or because they are trying to encourage their kids to do something they aren’t comfortable with on their own yet, or are still learning how to do (like pushing a kid on the swing)
    Holy carp! I would have *loved* to have parents that played with me. But at least I had a grandma that took me on the big slide at the park when I was a little girl and scared of the 20 foot high climb to the top (and no idiotic study to suggest that its *so dangerous* she shouldn’t bother). She only had to do it once, and after that, I was fine on my own.

  50. Brian April 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    My take was that the story really illustrates the problem that we as parents often try to push our kids to do things that they are not ready to do. Ann 8 month old might be just as happy, if not happier, hanging onto the rung at the bottom of the jungle gym. Maybe there is no need for a kid to go down a slide until they are ready to do it themselves? Maybe we shouldn’t always push our kids when they are scared or shy to try something they aren’t ready to do. I catch myself doing this all the time and try to let my kids play the way they are ready to play.

    I equate it to people who read books beyond the child’s age. When you push something so early you rob the child of the joy they get when they do it at the right age. Frog and Toad are great but its really a story that deals with 5-7 year old issues, morals, jokes. Toddlers can hear the stories but they don’t “get” them. The story is reduced to its plot, the depth is lost. Then when they are 5, the book is a “baby book” and they don’t get the joy of reading it when they would really “get” the book. This also goes for Shakespeare in Jr. High–the point of Romeo and Juliet (plot spoiler alert) isn’t that they both die.

    The same thing applies to a slide. It is quite an accomplishment when you figure out how to do it yourself, but less so if you have already been going down that slide for a couple years with your dad.

    It’s a hard line, because there are things that we do need to push them on (potty training, helping around the house, eating, manners, etc. etc.). We always need to challenge our kids and help them to explore new things but sometimes I think we do it to make them “first” instead of because they are ready for the new challenge.

  51. Foxmom April 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    We didn’t need any slides for my (then) 1yo boy to break his leg. Just a couch for climbing and a counter to reach for… and miss. I never have been able to understand why people stop being adults just b/c they have kids. Except for the swings (they’ve not yet learned how to pump their own legs yet) I sit with a book while we’re at the park and let them interact with it on their own.

  52. Neighbor April 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I read this the other day. I was struck by this quote:

    “I was surprised at how easy it was for a young child to break their leg on a playground,” said Mr. Dworkin.

    Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding based on the short quotes, but it looks awfully like Mr. Dworkin still doesn’t get it. It’s not easy for a young child to break their own leg on the slide. It’s easy for a parent to break his child’s leg on the slide.

    It’s good the paper published this, because it will probably save many children from having their parents break their legs.

    As far as heavy things that might fall on and crush a child at the playground, I’m well at the top of the list at about 245 pounds. My girl weighs around 22 pounds now at 16 months. The weight difference is like having me go down the slide on the hood of a car.

  53. Tsu Dho Nimh April 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    @Jenna – “Their leg would have to be sticking out pretty far to get caught like that.

    No, just dangling far enough that a non-skid bit of clothing can contact the surface of the slide and stick … even briefly … while your combined weight continues to move forward.

    The physics of bone breaking is that bones subject to a lateral (sideways) force are not very strong.

  54. Renee Anne April 26, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    I’ll admit, the first few times, I went down the slide with Little Man. We were at a water park and the water was about chest-high on him (by the slide I wanted him to go down – there were other slides attached to the same structure that came out where the water would have been over his head – yes, he had a life vest on because of liability but that’s not the point)…we found the really small kiddie area later and I let him go down the kiddie slides to his heart’s content.

    I’m trying so hard to be a bit more free-range but there are just some things I can’t quite let go of yet (like Little Man climbing his happy butt onto the dining room table the other day).

  55. Jenne April 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    I read the original journal article a while ago, and found it helpful, because that way I could encourage my son’s other parents to let him go down the slide alone, since it was safer that way, despite their fears. Also, it gives me a reason why I won’t ride the slide with him.

  56. Jenne April 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    P.S. I have to admit that I also think we as a society have gotten way too hysterical about simple bone fractures in children occurring as part of active play. Kids break bones, they heal. I take possible head fractures and twisting fractures more seriously because they are more serious, but the news talks as if breaking your arm was the same as suffering permanent brain trauma!

  57. Becky April 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    I am totally in favor of parents who put down their Starbucks, go down a slide and say, “Wheeeee!” However, I don’t think they should be holding their kids while doing so. 😉

  58. Sunne April 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Next time you look at a catalog sporting kids playground equipment, take note of where and how close the parent is in every shot – catching the kid on the slide, spotting the kid on the monkey bars, etc. I never noticed it until I started following this blog but it’s kinda comical.

  59. Whitney April 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    I know someone this happened to, and of course she felt terribly guilty (it was more about fun with her son than protecting him from the slide, by the way). The doctor told her it was quite common.
    She would be over it, though, except that her in-laws won’t seem to let it go. Of course, they’re only “joking” when they bring it up every time they’re all together.

  60. jdmitch April 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I have agree with the “the kid broke a bone, big deal” comments. Why all the guilting of parents over what are fairly common child injuries? I have long said I WANT my boys climbing trees, falling out, breaking limbs, cutting their hands, and in general getting scraped and bumped around.

    And you know my reaction when they do something “dangerous” or “stupid” (at least that’s what modern society would call it… I call it daring and adventurous) and fall down and get hurt? Most of the time, I control myself and, instead of running to check on them, I start cheering and tell them how awesome that particular face plant was.

    Part of growing up is learning that their bodies will heal and should the time happen (and I pray it doesn’t) that SOMEONE needs to be a hero to defend / help / save someone else, my boys won’t hesitate because they’ve already learned that “Bones mend, cuts heal, and chicks dig scars”. If they haven’t been hurt and learned from it, they’ll be irrationally afraid of getting hurt.

    BTW – I’m very familiar with the guilt involved in accidentally hurting one’s child. I managed to break my 6 month old son’s FEMUR (yes, the single strongest bone in the body)…

  61. Bubbletrouble April 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    Maybe people will think I’m being alarmist, but I saw a couple people mentioned their kids sliding down tunnel slides on their bellies and I just had to chime in. Tunnel slides are designed to go down feet first ONLY. When my cousin and I were younger, she broke her elbow and I broke my collarbone within weeks of one another because we went down tunnel slides headfirst. Our doctors said it wasn’t uncommon to see kids injured that way. When kids (usually older kids) get enough velocity, they can go somewhat airborne and slam into the top of the tunnel; in this case my cousin did so with her elbow and I did so with my head and the impact snapped my collarbone. I’m all for free-range parenting, but I’m also for teaching kids to use playground equipment safely, in the way it was designed. Broken bones are a normal part of childhood, but they do make you miss out on other activities as you heal, so I don’t see anything wrong with taking precautions to avoid them.

  62. Nerd-faced Girl April 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    I let my 10-year-old go down the big slide with her toddler sister in her lap. They slid down faster than expected and ended up rolling a little. Little sis’s face hit the side of the slide what looked like really hard, and both of them ended up in a pile at the bottom of the slide.


    What? I thought little sis got hurt? She even had a little bruise on her cheek!

    I guess sliding down the slide with sis was more fun than dangerous and painful, even though someone got hurt!

  63. K April 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    I love to play at the park with our kids… but, I don’t ride with them. Our rule, “If you are not big enough to do it on your own, you aren’t big enough to do it.” When they don’t do it, they gain some sense of risk assessment… when they do, they gain independence. WIN-WIN

  64. Diane S. April 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems common sense to NOT ride down the slide with your kid wearing sneakers? I remember when I was about 6, my sneaker caught on the side of a slide (a high one) and I wiped out & fell off. We used to just take off our shoes and slide. Bare feet will catch too. And @lollipoplover – don’t use the Pam on a hot day – run a hose & use dishsoap 😛 works great. Especially for human bowling (2 l bottles with a bit of water in them to make them stand up well)

  65. Nicole April 26, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    I’m sure I did this when my kid was little. He’s an only child, and we’re both early birds, so there were many summer mornings when we were the first two people on the playground. So I did play, and quite likely slide, but more for companionship than for safety. Once there were other kids there, he’d happily dump me for them.

  66. Author MelindaTripp April 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    You just never know….it is hard enough making the calls with your kids, grand kids, come next.
    My granddaughter 1.5 on her tenth time down, (nana first, she following) decided to stop, back up and out the far side, which was a firepole opening… So before my eyes in two second she was up, backing, and falling. Yikes!
    Easily could broken her neck. So here is Nana with all 3 grand kids and the little one seems fine, but have to make the dreaded phone calls to the kids. They choose to leave work and her to Dr. Darn, darn…..Nana is beating herself up, she is a safety educator for crying out loud!
    They check her out and watch for brain trauma,
    Have to watch her 24 hrs.
    Oh yes, I really do like slides, now to teach the kids we always go down them. Sigh!

  67. Julie April 26, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    My son was an early walker/climber. When he was about 15 months, we climbed to the top of the big kid play structure (with me behind him) and then he decided he wanted to go down the slide by himself. It was a very tall slide, but I let him go and I watched him from the top.

    As he goes down, some lady comes running full-out–seriously, this lady was booking it (as we used to say as kids in the South)–and she plants herself at the end of the slide with arms outstretched to catch my son. This particular slide levels out quite a bit at the bottom and my son didn’t have much mass, so he came to a stop probably a foot and a half from the end of the slide and had to inch himself off. So he scoots, scoots, scoots off, runs past the women who still had her arms still outstretched and he runs back to the play structure to do it again.

    Lady then looks up and sees me at the top of the play structure, and then calls out, “But…he’s SO SMALL.”

    Yes, he was. Admittedly, he was very young and on a very tall slide. And I do appreciate that she was trying to help my boy, probably thinking I didn’t know where he’d gotten to. But I had, in fact, assessed it and deemed it okay. And he loved it. He’s now 7 and still climbs EVERYTHING.

  68. Brus April 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    Gravity affects children? Who knew?

  69. Amy C April 26, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    This reminds me of an incident about 2 years ago with my then 5-year-old daughter. We were at a park/petting zoo where they had an old-school metal slide. My daughter went down it once with no problem. She went up again and touched the hot slide with her skin and it hurt (it didn’t leave a burn, but it was uncomfortable), so she was at the top, not wanting to come down. Instead of going up to help her, I stood at the bottom, trying to explain to her how she could go down the slide without burning herself. While I was doing this, a woman shoved her way past me and ran up the slide to “rescue” my daughter. I was livid and my husband actually thanked the woman. It wasn’t that he felt my daughter needed to be “rescued” or that I wasn’t handling it, but he thought he should thank her because she meant well. That just made me madder.

  70. Plinko April 27, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    This is a tangent, but I always hate the parents that hover over the play area and nag all the kids not to go UP the slide. You know what? It’s fun to go UP the slide! And you know what else? I have found that 99 times out of 100 the kids work out the down/up collision potential themselves. The don’t need hover-mommy to get involved. Kids almost always play just fine together, they don’t need a slide monitor hovering over them.
    Sorry to rant, but this always gets me whenever we are at the park.

  71. Danielle F April 27, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    @julie I have similar things happen with my two year old daughter. She didn’t walk too early, but she is a tiny thing and wants to do everything her big brother does. I watch, but not annoyingly closely. I have had “well meaning” parents actually pick her up, and then look around anxiously for me, all the while I have been standing right behind them saying “she’s fine. Please leave her, she can do it” I know that these people are just trying to help her, and I absolutely do not think they are trying to harm/snatch her, but I really want to scream at them to keep their hands off my kid! I am not ignoring her, I haven’t lost her. I am right here, and they don’t “hear” me telling them to let her do it by herself because they cannot fathom the idea that I am talking about this tiny child. I’ve said this here before, she is actually very agile, and doesn’t do things she can’t. She’s extremely cautious and doesn’t give me a moment of fear. Her brother on the other hand…. LOL.

    And while I am commenting, all the “these parents are just “playing WITH their children” comments are not just a little but a LOT offensive. I play with my kids all the time thank you very much! We build forts, play cars, pirates, fairies. We read books, play with play-dough, paint, color, and today we MADE silly putty. And at the playground we play chase and “you can’t get me” and tag. But taking them to a playground isn’t about playing with me. Its about getting out, playing with other kids, doing all those gross motor activities I don’t want them destroying my furniture with. So if I want to sit, drink my coffee and get some adult convo in while they play cops and robbers, or pirates with the other kids, everyone wins! Please save your judgement for someone who deserves it.

  72. Againstthegrain April 27, 2012 at 2:25 am #

    It doesn’t take much knowledge of physics to anticipate that a much heavier adult might slide faster on a slide and potentially injure a small child. But too many “educated” folks either aren’t learning basic physics in the first place or they are so distracted by their notion of what makes a good parent that they are leaving their brains at the playground entrance.

  73. Buffy April 27, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    Yay Diane! I find those comments offensive too. People don’t get to assume they know everything about my relationship with my kids based on what they see at a park.

  74. Heather G April 27, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    Heather, not sure what got you so angry as nothing in the article, Lenore’s post or the replies seems to point to your reaction being reasonable. I don’t know how long you’ve been poking around but Lenore posts her thoughts and then lets us all converse among ourselves. Sometimes we all agree with her, sometimes the majority tell her she’s out in left field, sometimes giant debates ensue and sometimes the conversation goes on to a completely different topic than what Lenore posted. Any way the conversation goes Lenore hasn’t, that I’ve seen, pushed her opinion beyond posting the original post. It’s a diverse group of people from all walks of life and cultures around the world. Sometimes the only thing we all have in common is the most basic priniciples of FRK and honestly sometimes we don’t even have that much in common. If that kind of open conversation sparked by a single person’s thoughts appeals to you, stay. If not, go. I doubt Lenore or anyone else is going to put a lot of effort into giving you a reason to keep reading the blog.

  75. Neighbor April 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    It’s pretty natural to want to help a child. Some people go over the top, but with most it’s just misplaced kindness. My little 16 month old (who has been going down slides solo since she was crawling up to them) is avidly practicing her climbing, walking, and running now, and naturally she falls down a lot. I must look like the lamest dad in the world sometimes, sitting fifteen feet away drinking my coffee calmly as she teeters down the stairs. But as frustrated as she gets when she falls, she gets much more frustrated when someone tries to help her. She’s made it clear that my job is limited to picking her up and dusting her off when she has a truly painful faceplant. She’s viciously independent.

    I’ve found the phrase that’s the most accurate and helpful is “She really doesn’t like to be helped.”

  76. Britt April 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    @Becky, if I just bring my own cofffee, in my own travel mug, to the park (instead of Starbucks), would you be less judgmental?

  77. Rachel April 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    I blogged about this yesterday, too. Plinko -I love what you wrote about hovering over kids not to go up the slide. I agree! My guy loves going up, but I feel like other parents get mad when I let him, even though, like you say, the kids always work out the up/down conundrum by themselves and have more fun doing it that way. The obsessive rules-following is not only tedious, it’s unoriginal, inhibits creative play. Love all these like-minded parents reading Lenore’s blog!! I sometimes forget that I’m not alone in my free-range tendencies. (I feel like I’m often the black sheep.)

  78. Jennifer April 28, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    @Rachel @Plinko I’ve got to disagree with you about going up the slide. We tell the kids that it’s fine to climb up if there’s no one waiting to come down, but that people coming down have the right of way. Sometimes the kids solve the conflict themselves, yes, but I’ve seen them solve it by having several big kids block the entire slide so no one else can use it. I’m all for kids solving their own problems, but I’m also all for discouraging the “might makes right” type of solution.

  79. Sherri April 28, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    I’m with Jennifer. Children can be free-range and creative, but still follow guidlines. Free-range isn’t “do whatever you want, whenever you want”, but here are the rules, “do whatever you want, as long as you’re following the rules”.

  80. librarymama April 28, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    I am totally on the freerange wagon and my kids always play on the equipment with minimal interaction from me. However, I did go down the slide with my one year old once. It was a big slide, she wanted to go down and I thought, why not? Only after I nearly broke her leg and took her to the ER did I find out that this is a dangerous thing to do and a super common injury. The pediatrician said his son had the same injury, going down the slide with his grandpa. What did I take away from it? Well, maybe if EVERYTHING wasn’t so ‘dangerous’ when things actually ARE dangerous, people would take it seriously. Half of the super dangerous activities are such overkill it’s hard to weed out what IS actually dangerous.

  81. linvo April 28, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    I had to think hard to remember what I used to do when my daughter was that little. I do remember she could go down a slide by herself at 18 months and even walked up them the wrong way. But I did often go down with her because she loved it. So I agree with lots of other comments here that often parents will go down together with their kids just for fun.

    I never liked the winding ones though. But then we only seem to have little ones here. And we soon got to the point where I was breaking too much on the high, steep ones! I am always amazed at the speed and I’m just getting too old for that.

    So I don’t think a warning about making sure feet are tucked in is necessarily bad. But telling parents never to go down with their kids is overkill, in my opinion.

  82. linvo April 28, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    Duh, *braking! That was a bad and definitely unintended pun!

  83. Emily April 28, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    My favourite dangerous slide was the huge three-storey metal twirly slide at Centennial Park. Sure, at least one or two kids fell off it and died each summer (statistics courtesy of my paranoid mom), but that was how I learned how to take turns and not push and shove–important lesson, because on sunny days, especially in the summer, there was ALWAYS a line for that slide. Of course, they took it down years ago, and replaced it with a plastic slide that’s not nearly as cool. The wooden pirate ship (also a favourite) is now plastic, with no precarious mast to climb up, and while there are some cool things, like saucer swings and a spinning rope climber cone thing, I miss the old dangerous playground–the new one is pretty lame by comparison, and I don’t think it’s quite as popular.

  84. Emily April 28, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    I also miss the dangerous twirly slide at the Lion’s Pool at the YMCA. It was plastic, and just a normal-sized slide, but some big man sat on it when it was still cold outside and the plastic was still frozen (from Canadian winter), so it snapped. Then the diving board was taken down (because the deep end was too shallow–you need at least 12 feet of water underneath, so under the “grandfathering” rule, they weren’t allowed to fix the diving board when it broke), and then they got rid of the outdoor pool altogether.

  85. themommypsychologist May 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Whoa. This is really ridiculous. I just posted about how I practice free range parenting at the park despite all of the dirty looks I get.

  86. Elizabeth May 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    I was kind of glad to see this article, just because I never knew it was a risk. This actually happened to my daughter in January. She had just turned two years old, and her aunt came to town to celebrate her birthday. She arrived and we headed to the elementary school playground to let the kids play. On the way there, we joked that now that we’d made our goal of making it to our dare devil’s second birthday with no concussion, we needed a new goal. “No broken bones before three!” I proclaimed.

    The tall twisty slide always makes me nervous. The playground is intended for elementary school kids, not toddlers after all. But Lyra has always been fine on that slide, so I let her do it. And that when day she said “On Aunt Lauren’s lap!” and her aunt obliged her, I felt kind of relieved–she’s only two, and I didn’t necessarily trust her to be careful at the top. The first two times they went down it was fine, but the third time, her foot got caught between her aunt’s leg and the slide, and she cried out in pain and refused to put any weight on the leg. Sure enough, the next day the radiologist found a hairline fracture in her left leg. It was casted, bent at the knee for six weeks. Living with a kid as active as this one who can’t do the things she wants to do is MISERABLE. She couldn’t splash in the bath the way she wanted to or continue to terrify me by jumping off of things (two of her favorite pasttimes). And she moved slowly with a limp for a month afterwards.

    It didn’t scar our family. My sister-in-law felt horrible about it, but it wasn’t her fault. These things happen. Still, I can’t bring myself to put Lyra on my lap on slides anymore. Once she gets a concussion from jumping off the top of one, I guess I’ll just have to pick which is my biggest fear. 🙂

  87. Natalie May 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    I found this to be a really interesting article for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was raised by a trailblazing helicopter parent. I find that a lot of people that you refer to grew up themselves being free-range, but I do not have the experience. I am 26 and my mother was definately a helicopter parent when the issue came to anything about potential safety. She was definatley ahead of the times, because I think in Australia during this time most parents were relatively relaxed.

    As a recipient of helicopter parenting, I can tell you that the dangers associated with this kind of parenting can be just as insidious as any danger children may encounter in the big old world. I have always had issues with anxiety, even as a small child. This was never acknowledged or dealt with by my parents and it is only recently that I have begun treatment for these feelings. While I do not think that this is the only reason I am anxious (as my sibling who had the same treatment is not anxious), there is no doubt in my mind that it is a heavily contributing factor to my issues with anxiety.
    The problem is, that without ever having taken any minor risks during my childhood, I find minor to major risks in my adult life to be quite baffling – it would have been nice to have some practice before I became an adult.
    Having said this, I think once you get to my age, the responsibility is on yourself to get better and not dwell on the past – but it is important for parents to realise the negative psychological impacts that helicopter parenting causes.
    Now to come to letting kids ride on slides. Recently I was watching a sporting game and after the match ended, some of the team mates of my friend were allowing their children to go down the slide by themselves. Now, to me, this slide seemed quite dangerous for the age of the children (about 2 years old) as it was really high and the children could fall. I did not like thinking these thoughts, especially after observing the parents watching the kids, there was no problem. At certain times the kids were doing borderline dangerous things, but the parents were watching and told them when they were being dangerous, and the children subsequently started acting more safely.
    I’m concerned that because I never had any opportunit to experience free range parenting as a child that I will not have the skills to be a free range parent myself – I have no idea what really counts as real risk or not

  88. Momof2 May 4, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Thanks for the chuckle. When I got to the pic at the bottom, I said out loud, “Holy buckets, that’s a slide”…and then read your comment below. Phew. Glad to know it wasn’t a real slide. 🙂

    Every time I read something like this, I think of “Children of Men.”

  89. Kevin A (@kevinsky) May 5, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    I just found this article yesterday. My 19-month-old loves going down slides. Even if I wanted to go down with him (which I don’t I get jammed up in the twisty ones) he’d be back to the top long before I caught up anyway!
    Anyways, this video of him going down the slides by himself has been on my to-do list for a couple weeks, you encouraged me to finish it

  90. Soft Play Areas May 5, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    I like the comment about kids being ‘free range’! Easier said than done though. The number of times my heart gets stuck in my throat when I see my little 3 year old Dylan climbing on frames meant for bigger kids. Children that young think they are indestructible and unfortunately they usually need to find out the hard way by getting a few bumps and scrapes. There’s nothing like the feeling of pride you get when your little one manages to get down the slide on their own for the first time.

  91. Heather G May 5, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    Natalie, I think you raise a few good questions that I would love to see Lenore highlight in a post of it’s own. I think it would help if you had some sort of measure to rate the free-rangeness of the parents around you so you could have some parents in your life whose lead you could follow until you found your stride in assessing benefits and risk logically instead of anxiously. Obviously not all of us rate risks and benefits the same but if you find a few standards that you feel are reasonable and surrounding yourself with other parents with those same standards you might find that your comfort level, and perception of normal, could change over time. Good luck, I hope you find a solution that works for you.

  92. soundscapemusictherapy May 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    I read this post last weekend and decided it was time to introduce my 18-month-old daughter to the slides at our neighborhood playground. The one we chose was a pair of straight side-by-side slides – 5 ft tall maybe? The best part was that a 5-year-old boy came over to go down the other slide next to my girl, showing her what to do. She got braver after that, not holding onto the sides of the slide, and it was super-cool that this boy (whose parents were on the other side of the playground with a younger sister) wanted to help out my little one. Yay for making new friends!

  93. Nynke May 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    When the slide is big enough, I like to go down too (free range parenting at it’s best). My son knows the risks he is taking (at nine, I would expect him to) and I love the speed.

  94. Shari June 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Oh my goodness. I think the “up the slide” controversy is one of the new silent fronts of Mommy wars, and I am tempted to take part (loudly). There is always a Mom who prohibits her children from ever going up slides. I think it stems from excessive, misplaced politeness instead of safety concerns. I stand there watching my children to go up and slide down into each other in heaps and giggles, while the other mother snootily observes my seemingly lax parenting and her child looks at her with desperate, questioning eyes wondering why he is not able to play. I am tempted to shout “Go UP! You only live once!”

  95. Rachel Banzhaf September 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Inspired by this article, I have never gone down the slide with my daughter and prevented grandma from starting that up. At 20 months, she is going down super-steep 6′ slides, spiral slides, and has even started going down on her belly (feet first). All solo. We have someone spotting from the bottom of the stairs because on some slides that’s the only part with real danger potential. Depending on the slide we might have someone at the other end but mostly she’s light enough not to go flying off the end.


  1. Marco Boobio, Agenda 21 Can Stick It, and more news… » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog - April 28, 2012

    […] Lenore Skenazy: Wow, Who Knew? Kids Should Go Down Slides On Their Own! […]