I am going to kick off this editorial with that over used and cliched phrase, “When I was a child.” In this case it is fitting. When I WAS a child there was this wonderful and magical structure known as a playground. A castle made of wood and metal. A megalopolis of imagination and play. Nooks and crannies abound, enough to Make Thomas raise his eyebrows in admiration.
Behind every pillar the chance for intrigue and endless games one can play. Some time between now and then, something terrible occurred. All the monuments of childhood were defiled and torn down. They no longer exist.
This happened because of the chemicals used in the pressure treated wood. Unsafe for children. Instead of replacing the God worthy structures with equally magical ones made with the right kind of wood, yes it exists, they tore them down for much smaller and inferior replacements.
This really hit home when I visited my old haunt and elementary school, Terraset. The playgrounds in Reston were legendary fortresses of whatever you could imagine them to be. The one in Terraset was also special since the parents of the students helped in the building.
Recently I was there, and in its place was a small, boring, not worth describing really, metal plastic contraption. The playground was not suited in size to a school. If they want children to play on it, they should not make it standing room only. I literally wanted to cry. There was nothing in this geomentrically shaped piece of crap that screamed out to me “PLAY WITH ME!” All I heard was a whimper.
I know parents want to keep their beloved children safe, but in the process they have removed the thrill of what it is like to be a child. The smallest things can send your imagination into overdrive. A playground was not just a playground, but a pirate ship in the middle of rough seas. It could be a castle and you a doomed prisoner. Climbining across the monkey bars from one side of the play structure to the other, was crossing a chasm in the snowy mountains.
By making play safe, they took the wonder out of play. When I drive by playgrounds these days, I do not see hoards of children playing, they are empty. Some of this is due to the influx of video games in the culture, but I do not think that is the only cause. In my neighborhood the children play outside all the time, just not on the pathetic playground we have right here, they play in the parking lot. To me that expresses a great deal.
The whole world is a playground to a child, this is good since the playgrounds are no longer their world.
Which would you rather play on?