Tag Archives: USA

An open letter to ASTM, and to anyone who wants to see a thoughtful approach to playground safety

The American standards body ASTM International is planning a major change to playground safety standards. This post (including a joint open letter to ASTM from Robin Sutcliffe – chairman of the UK Play Safety Forum – and me) is a direct plea to put this proposal on hold pending a wider review.

The proposal – to tighten up the impact absorbency thresholds for playground surfacing – may sound purely technical. In fact, it is far more profound, as my regular collaborator Bernard Spiegal has argued. What is more, it could have far-reaching consequences, potentially leading to hundreds of millions of dollars of additional expenditure by schools, municipalities and others, the removal of equipment, and widespread playground closures. Its effects could be felt far beyond the USA, given the global push to normalize product safety standards.

Despite its implications, the proposal has so far had almost no debate beyond ASTM. This post, and the open letter below, aim to persuade ASTM to think again, and to open up this important topic to anyone who wants to see a more thoughtful approach to playground safety.

Playground in housing estate

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Seattle blazes a hopscotch trail

Call it fate, call it something in the ether, or call it a sign of changing times, but word has reached me of a hopscotch game that will put ten-year-old Lilly Allen’s efforts to shame (not that we’re being competitive). Residents of Seattle are organising a hopscotch trail that is set to go for nearly 2 miles across the Central District – and it’s happening in a couple of weeks!

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The sorry state of neighbourhood design in America: a mother writes

After my last blog post about German children having more everyday freedom than their English peers, Andrea – a German-born woman who now lives in the USA – got in touch to leave a comment. She had some revealing things to say about the differences between her home and adopted countries, and has agreed to let me share them more prominently. She paints a depressing picture of car-dependence and isolation: a stark comparison with her experiences in Germany. Here is her story.

Road near Bailey School, Minnesota.

Woodbury, MN. Source: Strongtowns.org

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After Newtown, a plea for perspective

In amongst all the words being written in the wake of the shocking shootings in Connecticut, I want to draw your attention to a calm, reasoned piece by my friend and fellow advocate for children’s freedoms, Lenore Skenazy. She reminds us how today’s media removes time and distance, and leaves us all helpless in the face of the raw pain of people we feel we know. “It feels like terrible things are happening to our children all the time, everywhere,” she writes. “Nowhere is safe.”

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News flash: children with disabilities also have an appetite for adventure

Photo of aaron fotheringhamMy city is about to host the Paralympic Games. The prospect of watching the talents of disabled sportspeople has got me thinking about the lives of children and young people with disabilities. Just like their non-disabled peers, they have an appetite for risk and adventure. By way of a demonstration, I would like to introduce you to Aaron Fotheringham.

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Please Kidshealth, give parents (and kids) a break

girl jumping off swingThe US non-profit agency Kidshealth – which claims that it runs the #1 most visited website for children’s health and development – has eight web pages of guidance for parents on playground safety. Page 6 includes the following advice: “Kids should always sit in the swing, not stand or kneel. They should hold on tightly with both hands while swinging, and when finished swinging, stop the swing completely before getting off.” Continue reading

It’s time to take a thoughtful approach to bullying

bully movie logoIn a post on her ‘Free Range Kids’ blog last week, Lenore Skenazy questions whether the US is in the midst of a ‘bullying crisis’. She quotes statistics from a piece in the Wall Street Journal that showed dramatic declines in both the fear of attack (down from 12% in 1995 to 4% in 2009) and actual victimisation (where rates have fallen fivefold). Continue reading