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Playground Ready: Bubble Wrap, Knee Pads and Helmets?

Playground Ready: Bubble Wrap, Knee Pads and Helmets?

Today is my - I  mean our - first ballet class of the fall term. My granddaughter’s and mine, that is. These are the ballet lessons I gave her as a gift for her second birthday last December, only to find out she was too young to go alone. As a result, I spend an hour a week in a dance class where not only am I the oldest among the mother/daughter duos, but also the clumsiest.

I phoned my dance partner’s mother yesterday to make sure all was ready.

“Did you get her new pink tights?” I asked my daughter.

“Yep,” she replied.

“Is her leotard clean, her tutu fluffed?” 

“I’ll check when I get off the phone,” she sighed.

“How about a helmet?”

“A helmet?” my daughter repeated slowly, using the tone she saves for occasions when she thinks I may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s. “What are you talking about?” 

“Haven’t you heard?” I said. “Helmets are the latest accessory to protect toddlers from falls. Lots of people are putting their kids in them.

“I can’t tell you how many of these tiny dancers go down while attempting an arabesque or a passe,” I added. “Wouldn’t want her to hit her noggin on the floor during a dizzying pirouette.”

I was kidding, of course. Dancers don’t wear helmets. They wear buns.

That said, a cutting-edge daycare center in Canada is apparently the first to introduce a “helmet policy” that suggests parents send cranium protectors with their kids each day.

The center claims it is “advisable for young toddlers to wear a helmet while in the playground because they can easily trip and fall."

Tots tripping and falling. The horror.

According to a Global News story, the playground already sounds a little too safe.

“The outdoor space at Cambridge Daycare is small and... safety is the top priority. There are no ladders or monkey bars and the ground is covered with rubber matting.”

Sounds like a fun place, doesn’t it?

Yet until now, the pint-sized daredevils have been venturing onto the rubber mats with bare heads. Absolutely no protection from meteorites or space debris.

That will change with the new helmet policy.

I discovered this latest installment in the bizarre let’s-protect-kids-from-everything movement on the website of Lenore Kenazy, founder of Free Range Kids. She urges parents to let their kids be independent and take reasonable risks.

“The fact that toddlers are BUILT to trip and fall -- that this is a feature, not a bug, of learning to get around, know their body, test their limits, and feel the urge to practice MORE so they can walk, run, and jump BETTER so they trip and fall LESS -- does not occur to anyone looking at the process only through the lens of risk,” wrote Kenazy.

“That lens magnifies the downside of normal childhood activities, and blocks out any upside, including the fact that falling down is the corollary to getting back up -- a nifty and optimism-building process.

“We are getting to the point in our culture where we define almost any negative activity -- a splat, a spat, a boo-boo, a B+, a moment of sadness, fear or regret -- as something no child should be forced to endure. As if they are fragile as glass animals. As if you can build any kind of resilience if there's never anything to, er, resil against.”

She’s right. Wordy, but right.

Look, I’m not advocating a return to concrete playgrounds with rusty swings and splintery see-saws like we had when I was a kid. But children who never learn to climb and who are not allowed to fall and skin their knees will grow up to be the kind of college students who need a safe space when Ben Shapiro comes to campus and the sort of adult who needs to bring an emotional support possum along when they fly.

And don’t we have enough of those already?  

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