Remember the days when you’d swing as high as you could on the swing set before jumping off and landing on the hard ground below, or hanging upside down on the monkey bars without any fear at all? As a Baby Boomer this was probably the norm growing up, but nowadays any playground of this kind would be shut down within a second for fear kids could get hurt.
Instead of concrete or asphalt you’ll find sand or woodchips lining the floor of modern-day playgrounds, meanwhile metal and wooden structures have been replaced with plastic surfaces to prevent injury. This is a far cry from the 1950s and ’60s where you’d remember burning your legs sliding down a hot metal slide, or flying off the end of seesaws when your friend jumped on the other side.
Don’t forget the broken bones or sprained fingers – these were a normal part of play as a kid. The risk of harm only added to the excitement as you ‘double-dared’ each other to swing higher and jump off the tallest beam. Looking back now you probably realise it was downright dangerous, but back then casts were worn as a badge of honour and getting your friends to sign it was all part of the fun.
While kids nowadays still like to push the limits, playing jokes on each other and testing how brave they are, playgrounds are much ‘safer’ places and the likelihood of any serious injuries has been dramatically reduced.
“A lot of the old metal slides that we would have enjoyed as children would have been incredibly high and open,” Tracie Harvison, a park planner in Mackay, Far North Queensland told the ABC. “With things like slides, no longer can little fingers get caught and sliced off in metal rails; height has also changed, so if children do fall their risk of getting seriously hurt is considerably reduced.”
You’ll find no metal or wooden swings in the local park anymore, with specially made plastic versions taking their place – complete with a belt to keep kids secure. And forget about playing tetherball – today that would be considered a recipe for disaster.
When you were a kid hitting a ball at each was all part of the fun of the game. You would have laughed and joked with friends while trying to whack the ball around the metal pole, but nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find anything similar.
And the giant stride has almost disappeared completely from playgrounds – but in all fairness it probably was one of the more risky pieces of equipment when you were a kid. You would have to hold on tightly as it spun around quickly and if you lost your grip even slightly you’d fall off and land on the hard ground.
Going to the playground as a kid was a fun outing with friends and family and the memories will remain for years to come. But now the tables have turned and instead of hanging off the monkey bars you’ll be the one taking the grandkids to the park and letting them run wild – it just might look a little different from what you remember as a child.