Why I Don’t Help My Kids On the Playground

Thanks to Natalie for this wonderful guest post!

You know when you see little kids, who have just learned to walk, being held up on climbing structures by well meaning parents? I don’t do that. I completely understand why parents (and grandparents) do that. We want our kids to enjoy the full playground, all the levels, the climbing, and the slides. Here’s why I rarely help my kids out on the playground.

First, one of the easiest ways to injure your child is to hold them while sliding down a slide. I didn’t know that until recently, either! A child’s leg can fracture with just the right amount of pressure, if caught between the slide and an adult. It is truly best to wait until a child wants to slide down a slide herself and is physically able. I am guilty of doing this a few times with our kids, before I gained this knowledge, but I now strongly encourage people to avoid it.

Next, as a respectful parent, trust is an important thing to give to your kid. I trust that my children will learn to climb and slide down slides at their own pace. When they were younger, I would absolutely hover while they were climbing up a playground ladder. I would encourage them to do the climbing themselves. Why? The chances are higher of them being able to climb back down by themselves if they first climbed up.

Of course, I always rescue them if they need it. This is after saying, “You can do it! You can figure it out!”

After the rescue, “I know you can figure out next time! You climbed all the way up there by yourself. That was brave!”

A child climbing up a slide.
On empty playgrounds, we climb up slides.

One of my best lessons was watching my older child climb a tall playground ladder from afar, while I was helping out my younger child. We were playing with a family of 3 and my little guy was following the older boys. When my son reached the top of the ladder, he slipped.

My heart was in my throat.

And he caught himself, dangling on a ladder about 8 feet or more off the ground, and climbed onto the structure, completely unfazed. My son was able to handle the situation. Since then, he’s fallen off playground ladders a small handful of times. Surprisingly, those falls haven’t resulted in tears. We’ve had other situations where tripping has caused a lot of tears, but those high falls were surprisingly insignificant to my child.

I’m not suggesting that you let your children play unsupervised. Of course not. However, I’m suggesting that parents be aware that children have amazing abilities when we relinquish a little control and start observing. Our children have amazing minds for solving problems. With a little encouragement, they can figure out a solution. Especially if they know you are there to help them if they need it. It’s okay to be their safety net.

I am aware there are certain conditions and diseases that can cause unseen physical problems and the parents can’t let their kids do certain things. This article is intended as food for thought for parents whose children have typical development. 

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