As a family safety expert and owner of a baby proofing company, Safety Mom Solutions, I’m constantly challenged as to whether parents are too neurotic about their child’s safety when they baby proof their home. I got to thinking about this question even more this morning after reading an article in The New York Times about playground safety. Some researchers in Norway contend that we’re making our playgrounds too safe. They contend that safer playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone. It is their belief that risk-taking helps kids overcome their fears and avoid phobias in adulthood.
OK, if we’re to go along with this logic, then should we also encourage our kids (and ourselves) to drag race, not wear seat belts and do 360’s on the highway? Will this “risk-taking” behavior help us overcome our fear of being killed in a car crash?
The researchers feel that playgrounds have become too tame for older kids and they will consider them boring with nothing to master. The problem is that playgrounds are for kids of all ages. And, unfortunately, if we had more dangerous areas in the playground, the 2 and 3 year-old toddlers would be climbing up to the highest point because their babysitters, nannies and even moms are too busy talking to each other to appropriately supervise them.
Different and safer playground equipment is now being made. Kids can still get thrills but do they really need to risk third degree burns from metal slides and concussions from falling from monkey bars?
Which brings me back to the initial point about baby proofing. Just like safer playgrounds, baby proofing isn’t just for neurotic parents. It’s for parents who want to eliminate serious and potentially life-threatening hazards. We can’t keep our kids in a bubble and yes, they do need to explore and learn the meaning of the word “no.” But we can eliminate those hazards that can cause serious harm. There are ways to allow our children to explore and take risks in a safe manner. Dangerous staircases, open windows and unsecured furniture don’t help our children overcome fear, they lead to injury and even death. Ask any ER doctor their thoughts on this need for “risk-taking” and I’m sure you’ll hear a much different view than these researchers have.