Kids need their playgrounds

Swings, banned. Teeter-totters, banned. Slides, banned. Monkey bars, banned. Jungle gyms, banned.

Swings, banned. Teeter-totters, banned. Slides, banned. Monkey bars, banned. Jungle gyms, banned.

And the prohibition list goes on as the Greater Essex County District School Board in Ontario has taken the unusual step of phasing out traditional school playground equipment and replacing it with “naturalized playgrounds.”

All equipment that children of past generations enjoyed while letting off steam and getting a great physical workout during recess, are being declared off limits in a decision that boggles the mind.

The school board, teeter-tottering on the brink of total nonsense, proposes to replace the equipment with large hills, walking paths and grass mazes at costs reaching as high as $500,000. That’s what the board calls “naturalized playgrounds.”

Instead of occupying swings, monkey bars and other equipment, kids will now be told to take a hike.

Are we losing all common sense by forbidding that kids be kids? Has that school board lost sensibility that exercise is good for body and mind?

The board says playground equipment is dangerous, it’s not accessible to handicapped students, and the upkeep of older, rusting steel equipment is too costly.

At Anderdon school, all seven playground structures are now off limits, surrounded by orange mesh fencing. Only one will be refurbished.

Kerry Green-Durren, Anderdon’s acting principal, says “everyone is geeked” about the naturalized playground — whatever “geeked” means.

“The playground equipment’s nice, and it’s great,” said Green-Durren. “The kids have fun with that, and we’ll leave that to the community parks, and they can do that on Saturdays and Sundays. But for us, we wanted to include more students in play.”

But the idea doesn’t sit well with Jasminka Kalajdzic, a member of the school’s parent council.

“The school board has a duty to make sure kids are safe, and we accept that and we understand that,” said Kalajdzic. “But that’s where their obligation seems to end. They take no responsibility for ensuring that there are enough funds to maintain equipment properly, as far as we understand. And they certainly don’t have the money in the budget to replace the equipment that’s been condemned.”

Hopefully this ridiculous idea does not filter into other Canadian school jurisdictions.

Walking is good for health. But for robust, active children, it will not replace playground equipment that allows them to work all muscle groups in their growing bodies.

Skinned knees, bruised elbows, and the occasional broken bones have always been a reality in the playgrounds. That was to be expected while kids burned off energy and were allowed to be kids.

Is society taking the fun out of growing up by being overly-protective? Are we creating a generation of marshmallows?

There’s a danger this new approach could backfire — physically and mentally. It’s encouraging obesity by prohibiting children from burning off calories. It’s encouraging stress in the mind of a child who needs to vent frustrations through vigorous activities. Walking up big hills and down carefully groomed walking paths will not fill that bill.

And speaking of bills, the Essex County board is looking at $200,000 to implement the first phase of the new playground. It doesn’t have that money, so it’s put together a video promoting the new idea in hopes of obtaining a grant.

A similar playground is being completed at the Dr. David Suzuki Public School in Windsor, Ont., that will cost an estimated $500,000. Principal Judy Wherry says “It’s viable for any school to do this. You do need money to support it, but there are a lot of grants out there you can apply for.”

Forget the grants. Let kids be kids. To deprive a child of good, healthy fun is courting disaster.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Red Deer Emergency Services responded to an explosion at a duplex on Rupert Crescent Saturday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to explosion in Red Deer early Saturday morning

There was an explosion at a Red Deer duplex early Saturday morning.… Continue reading

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — The massive $70 million dollar Lotto Max jackpot remained unclaimed… Continue reading

Most Read