Why Playing With Fire Is Good For You

Kids are often home or relegated to fenced-in, perfectly manicured playgrounds with the usual monkey bars, swing sets and slides. But a different kind of playground exists: Adventure Playgrounds.

Free-play for kids just doesn't exist the same way it used to in the U.S. Before the last decade or so, many kids were allowed to play in their neighborhood unsupervised. They were free to explore, discover nature, invent new games together, and just be kids. Today, it seems the only place kids are allowed to play outside is at very structured and "safe" playgrounds. The kind with swing sets, monkey bars, and slides, where their parents can keep an eye on them the whole time.

In Europe they've been doing playgrounds a little differently. A man named Carl Sørensen is the inventor of the first ever Adventure Playground. He wanted kids to be able to build their own idea of a playground, mostly out of junk, like old cars, cardboard boxes etc., and be able to play with very little adult supervision. Sørensen's idea sparked inspiration for hundreds of other adventure playgrounds all over Europe.

One of these playgrounds, called The Land in Wales, lets kids build things with hammers, nails, and saws. They're even allowed to light fires. Naturally, there are many people who believe this type of playground is much too dangerous for children. However, data suggests that adventure playgrounds are no more dangerous than regular playgrounds, and in some cases might even be safer. No one has been seriously injured at The Land since it opened in 2012.

Those that support playgrounds like this argue that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Children are learning to be creative, cooperate, and lead each other through very difficult projects, which lays the foundation for superb problem solving and social skills later in life. Unfortunately, this type of play is far less prominent in the U.S. Perhaps due to being bombarded with tragic news, parents feel they have to be extremely protective of their kids. But without the opportunity for independent exploration and creativity, it might be very difficult for the future generation to be self-sufficient.

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NPR: The Value Of Wild, Risky Play: Fire, Mud, Hammers And Nails

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