Kids need “risky” play

I’m always glad to see an article promoting "risky" play (if you can call climbing trees risky) because I think we overprotect our children. We put them in carseats, helmets, only certain cribs, only toys that pass safety ratings, only direct supervised play, only …

(Warning, rant coming ahead.)

I don’t know why we’ve become so safety conscious (I think it’s more than just kids) but I think there are four main pressures promoting "safety" for kids:

  1. Social. It’s not socially acceptable to let you kids play with "dangerous" things. You might be a bad parent. I was on a fieldtrip last Friday morning and one of the other moms was taking about how her sister-in-law was letting her kid run around with a straw. She was going to tell her sister-in-law it was a bad idea when the kid poked himself in the eye. So, obviously, running around with a straw was a bad idea. (Even though the eye was fine.) Worse yet, several other people chimed in with stories about toothbrushes going through the roof of a mouth, flutes puncturing lips, etc. So I decided to tell them about the time Caleb was running around with a plastic drum stick and fell hard enough to break it. And I made sure to tell them, "He was fine." I let him continue running around with the other drum stick. (I could imagine bad things happening with almost every toy in his room. My imagination is good enough to come up with bad scenarios for each of them. Should I take them all away?)
  2. Laws. My daycare provider has to buy all new cribs next year because the current ones have slats on the sides and the ends. In 2010 cribs are only allowed to have slats on the sides because the end ones are dangerous. And she has to buy new playground equipment because tricycles, any moving equipment, will be dangerous then too. Tricycles. Next thing you know we’ll be told they can’t play on trikes at home. (They’re already supposed to wear helmets!)
  3. Doctors. My doctor told me Caleb was not allowed to sleep with a blanket until he was 12 months old because he might suffocate. I listened to him but this was hard. We live in Colorado and we turn the heat way down at night. Frank and I actually argued a couple of times about how low the heat could go and Caleb would still be ok! I’d really like to know how many 6-12 month olds have had serious trouble with a blankie. My doctor also warns me about seatbelts, foods that are dangerous, climbing, …
  4. Money. There are a lot of companies making big money from safe car seats, safe toys, monitors, … they’re going to help promote all those laws, social norms and medical advise.

Keeping kids too safe worries me because I feel like there’s so much social pressure to keep our kids safe that pretty soon we’ll have laws mandating all sorts of extreme safety measures. And then it will no longer be a choice. We’ll no longer be able to apply common sense.