By Kylie Stamper
When I was in elementary school, I played tag on the playground, messed around on the teeter-totters, and hung off the monkey bars in a way that probably wasn’t safe. I remember when they took out the teeter-totters because they were too dangerous and kids kept falling off and getting hurt.
Next to be taken away was playing dodgeball in gym because it was too violent. That was the first of a downhill battle with this new mission of keeping kids safe.
I recently read about a school in Long Island that banned any hard balls. The school requires adult supervision when kids do cartwheels or play tag. The whole point of being a kid is learning how to get up, shake off the dirt, and keep playing. These kids are only allowed to play with soft Nerf balls so nobody gets hurt.
The school’s reason for the restrictions is construction that is taking place right next to the playground. Officials decided it is too dangerous for kids to play unstructured games so they banned footballs, soccer balls, and baseballs. Apparently, they just want to keep the kids safe.
Kids today are the victims of overprotection. My generation grew up learning to fall, figuring out how to pick ourselves back up and keep playing. My parents and teachers always said, “If there’s no blood or no bones showing, don’t worry about it. Keep playing.”
To the Long Island school, I say, “Put a sturdy fence around the construction site. Bring back the hard balls and games of tag. Let the kids play. Let them learn and have fun with each other while they can, before they are sucked into the monotonous life of middle and high school. Let them experience the feeling of being hit in the face with a ball. Let them fall and scrape their knees in a rough game of tag. Let them fall off the monkey bars and teach them how to laugh it off.”
It is getting harder and harder to send kids outside. These kids are growing up with technology. They are accustomed to iPads and iPhones. Part of me wants to think they are just spoiled brats. But the other half understands that this is how they are being raised and it’s not entirely their fault.
Before I started college, I rode a bike again for the first time in years. I realized how fun it used to be to just go outside and play. Jump on a bike. Kick around a soccer ball. Play jump rope with some friends or even do something as simple as drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.
I’m sure nowadays even chalk can be harmful for kid’s health but I say, “Just get over it.” I grew up not wearing a helmet when I rode my bike. I used to skate in circles around my garage just because. We played soccer and volleyball in the street in my neighborhood. We got dirty and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to have fun.
Eight or nine years ago, my neighborhood always had kids out playing in the street. Most of us were the same age so we always found something to do. Now, it’s empty. Everybody is busy and nobody really has the time to play.
There are still plenty of kids around my neighborhood. I just never see them because they are always inside. Some of them might even be doing their homework. But they are rarely outside. If they’re not on their phones, they are participating in a sport or activity that their parents forced them into.
Even as college students, I believe we can set an example to get out and play once in a while. Play ultimate Frisbee with some friends. Find a ball and toss it around. When it snows, have a snowball fight. Play in the leaves and get dirty.
Show kids what they are missing. This was our childhood—this is how we grew up. Playing with hard balls and falling off the monkey bars made us who we are today.
One day, I want my kids to have the opportunity to play in the street and to learn how to have fun without using technology. I want them to laugh, have fun and make memories that they can tell someday just like I am right now.
Get out there. Get hurt. Teach somebody to play a new game. And have fun.
Kylie Stamper is a freshman majoring in communication. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.