Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fear of heights

By the standards of my childhood haunts, the playground at the end of our block is as safe as they come. Age-appropriate structures, parents prowling every perimeter, many helping their children down the tall slide by offering their laps as sleds.

The lone, tall monkey bars, have gone. Replaced by lower, multi-tiered play areas.

Safety factors first.

social climber

I remember taking this picture and holding my breath as Ittybit climbed the chain ladder of the play station, for that's what a was -- a collection of slides and hanging bars that defied labels or definition. A tiny jungle gym for a marshmallow landscape.

Eighteen months old, still so baby-like, and there she was climbing to the grated platform, five feet off the ground, on her way to the circular slide.

I'd overheard so many parents telling their kids to get down, that they were too young, that it wasn't safe. So many eyes in my direction wondering where I'd gotten my parenting skills, no doubt from a Five & Dime that had gone bust?

But I had to fight my inner (paranoid) parent to let her.

So it was with interest that I read this about some emerging research on the benefits of risk on development.

Some of the points I found most interesting was that "safer playgrounds" weren't actually safer for play. The logic being the perception of safety actually made risk-taking seem less risky, and, therefore, injury just as likely.

Another point was that while many parents and some researchers expected childhood falls from high places to produce later psychological effects, such as phobias, the reverse was more true: Children who had engaged in the exploration of heights and endured childhood falls had fewer instances of phobias.

I suppose the obvious question for me is this: How do we, as parents, get over our own fears of emergency room visits?



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