Childrearing

Monkey Bars Are A Little Dangerous, And That’s Why They’re Necessary

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monkey barsSlate has a new piece called, “Monkey Bars are a Menace.” It’s all about one man’s daughter, her broken arm, and his personal belief that this supposedly dangerous brand of playground equipment needs to be taken down. But I’m sorry to tell the author, even though his precious baby got a boo boo, monkey bars should be here to stay.

When I was a kid, I always sucked at the monkey bars. No matter how active I was, I never really developed much upper body strength. My pull-up count in gym class was dismal. Personally, I didn’t think the monkey bars were the most exciting thing ever, so I’m not going to base my story on some fond memory of swinging from bar to bar during recess. I was normally playing freeze tag.

My daughter, on the other hand, loves the monkey bars. At four, she’s probably better at them than I was as a fifth grader. She can even manage the ones that wave up and down like a snake. I love watching her attack those bars and struggle to make it across. I love the look of pride she has every time she completes them. And I love seeing her challenge herself to keep at it after she falls off of them from time to time.

Yes, I realize that monkey bars aren’t the most docile and safe piece of playground equipment. And you know what? That’s why I think they’re so important. Kids need something that’s difficult and even a tad dangerous. Playgrounds shouldn’t be easy and safe all the time, not if you actually want children to enjoy them.

My sister broke her foot on our fireplace growing up. My nephew broke his arm jumping off the couch. Broken bones happen because kids are fearless and clumsy all at the same time. Yes, that combination makes for some bumps and bruises. It also teaches them balance, control of their bodies, and that even though something might be scary and it might even hurt, you’re going to be okay. Overcoming something that’s a little bit dangerous is one of the best confidence boosts a child could ever get!

Of course, near the end of his piece, the Slate author admits that kids might need a little danger. Even though he titled his piece to suggest that he wants all monkey bars taken down, then he spent the majority of it sharing statistics to support his supposed hypothesis, the dad comes back and acknowledges that scary isn’t always a bad thing. Then he wonders if he should start concerning himself with making thicker padding for the playground floor.

Listen, you don’t need a study to tell you that kids need excitement in their playground equipment if we’re going to expect them to enjoy it. All you have to do is watch a child at the park and see what types of activities they go for. Look and see how the children are using the equipment. They want it to be a little dangerous. They don’t mind the chance that they’ll take a trip to the doctor’s office. Even better, they’ll probably get back up on those bars after they’ve fallen off. Why would we want to take that valuable lesson away from them?

(Photo: imageegami/Shutterstock)