Childrearing

Another Reason To Stop Hovering: Going Down The Slide With Your Kid Can Break Her Bones

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playground dangerPicture it: You’re at the playground and your 18-month-old wants to go down the steepest slide she can find. She even manages to climb way up to the top and place her little bum down on the plastic. That’s when you shout, “HEY, WAIT FOR ME!” and bolt up there so that she can slide down in the safety of your lap. It’s a familiar scene – lord knows I’ve been there myself – but here’s a surprising little fact: your kid is safer going down the slide herself. Actually, having her ride in your lap can lead to some serious injuries, including broken legs.

A recent article in The New York Times looked into this whole phenomenon and it’s quite shocking. They reference a study at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., which found that nearly 14 percent of pediatric leg fractures over an 11-month period involved toddlers riding down the slide with a parent. And, in general, orthopedic specialists say they treat a number of toddlers and young children each year with broken legs as a result of riding down the slide on a parent’s lap.

Ironically, it’s actually safer for a child to go down the slide by himself. That’s because when he slides down while sitting in his parent’s lap, there’s a chance his foot will get caught on the slide of the slide – and the force of the adult’s weight behind him will end up breaking his leg. Apparently, this is more common than we think. The NY Times piece featured several parents whom this happened to and not only were they appalled, they also felt extremely guilty (obviously they had good intentions accompanying their children down the slide).

Dr. John Gaffney, a pediatric orthopedic specialist at Winthrop, told the NY Times that as soon as the weather warms up, he starts to see these types of playground fractures: “It’s so common, but parents say: ‘How did I not know about this? I thought it was doing something good for my child by having them sit on my lap.’ ”

In other words, these types of injuries are preventable. It just means parents need to take a step back and let their little ones explore on their own. That said, it’s difficult for most parents – even non-Helicopter types – to give their children free reign at the playground. I can remember the time last summer when my then 2-year-old jumped from one of the highest point of a jungle gym onto the pavement below, soaring over seven or eight steps in the process. Miraculously, he landed on his feet and found the whole thing hilarious. My husband and I were totally freaked out and you better believe we became the hovering types – at least for the rest of the day.

Yes, kids need to play and explore on their own – and that includes getting the occasional scrapes and bruises – but there’s a point where the injuries could be far worse. Which is why I personally think there’s a fine line between hovering and simply being responsible. With regards to this whole slide situation, though, the stats are startling and I’m glad it’s being brought to light; most parents think they’re doing what’s best for their child by having him or her ride in their lap – but in fact it’s having the opposite effect. So next time you’re at the park with your little one, don’t feel guilty about relaxing on the park bench while she has the time of her life on that mammoth, windy slide. Chances are she’ll be just fine – and certainly safer than she’d be if you hopped on with her.

(Photo: hunta/Shutterstock)