3 Jun, 2019

Studies counter against overprotective parents and suggest ‘dangerous’ playgrounds for children made of wooden toys, tires, stones, logs and sand are the most recommended for children’s development

Renata Cafardo, O Estado de S.Paulo June 1, 2019 | 3:35 p.m.

In times of super protective parents and mothers, research has shown that the development of children is much better when they are at risk. It’s not about letting the child hang in the window or cross the street alone. But encouraging the children’s willingness to climb tall toys, climb trees, and head down on the slide helps to form people with safety, resilience, social skills, and even better learning. International studies have even recommended the construction of “more dangerous” playgrounds.

Child plays in park of the School Project Life School, in the Green House, North Zone of SP.Photo: VALERIA GONCALVEZ / ESTADAO

Experts disagree with environments with padded floors, plastic-only toys, protected tips, ball pools. And they recommend, on the other hand, that playgrounds and school yards have sand, logs, rocks, tires. Toys should be constructed of wood, tall enough to pose challenges, with stairs, ramps, and raised bridges to stimulate balance. The above descriptions, however, terrify most parents. The great fear is that children get hurt. But a large Canadian study, which analyzed 21 studies on the subject, concluded that there is no relationship between increased falls and injuries and height of toys. And children who risk more actually hurt less. They end up developing physical abilities and understanding their limits. “Today, it is understood that taking good care of oneself is super protection, but in fact parents are taking the opportunity of their children to develop,” says Laís Fleury, Child and Nature program coordinator at Instituto Alana.

“What message are you passing on to children by saying” stop “or” care “? That they are not capable of taking care of themselves, of making decisions and that the world is a dangerous world for them, “Mariana Brussoni, of the University of British Columbia, who authored the study, told the State. According to her, parents need to learn to deal with their own anxiety and insecurity to know how to assess what a real danger is. “I always suggest you count to 17 when you want to say ‘stop.’ It’s usually enough time for the child to play and the father to see if it really should have interfered. “The research concluded that there are more positive health effects for children by engaging in risky play than by avoiding it. It improves creativity, resilience and social interaction – and does not increase aggressiveness.

Study shows the importance of risk in the development of children.Photo: VALERIA GONCALVEZ / ESTADAO

The study is one of those endorsing a worldwide paper prepared by the International School Grounds Alliance. Through it, the organization, present in 16 countries, calls on parents and educators to encourage policies for school yards to have “at-risk” activities. “The world is full of risks, children need to learn to recognize them and respond to them by protecting and developing their own ability to assess them,” the manifesto says.

In New Zealand, another study encouraged eight schools to leave the playgrounds “more dangerous” and to end rules such as not being able to play in the rain, for example. They were compared to others that have not changed at all. After two years, the students in the schools with interventions said they were happier, they played with more colleagues and had fewer problems with bullying. “Children need to be experiencing a bit of risk as they age. Or, in the future, they can make terrible decisions when they are in control of their lives, in the face of alcohol or driving a car, “one of the researchers, Professor Rachael Taylor of the University of Otago, told the state.


Last week, Amelie, 4, experimented with various ways and, finally, she managed to pile up buckets, boxes and buckets to serve as a bank. She and her friends went up in the not-so-stable structure to look across the wall of the school where she studied at Pacaembu, the Jacaranda. The three teachers in the courtyard did not interfere, and one of them only stayed in a distance where he could help them in an eventual fall. At school, even babies crawl on the stone floor, and by the age of three, everyone can climb on tall toys.

‘Children need to be experiencing a bit of risk according to age’, says expert Photo: NILTON FUKUDA / ESTADÃO

“Children are adapting and organizing the movement in the environment they are in. The body is the basis of psychic, emotional and cognitive development, that’s how they learn, “explains the school’s pedagogical coordinator, Vitória Reges Gabay de Sá. “Little bruises are also learning. It’s not that we’re going to cause injuries or frustrations, but life is like this. ” At the Grão de Chão School in Água Branca, children make a bonfire, are free to climb the trees and play in facilities made of tires, stones and wooden blocks. In arts classes, with the help of adults, students of at least 6 years use serrotees and hammers. “Our concern is with the child who does not want a challenge, who just wants to be quietly drawing or with a toy,” says director Lucília Franzini.

Children play at school Projeto Vida, in the north of the capitalPhoto: VALERIA GONCALVEZ / ESTADAO

For parents, there is the anguish of finding the balance between protecting and encouraging challenges. “I do not want him to cry, to hurt himself, but I know he will return when he exposes himself to the risks. So, I spend all my time wondering how far I can let him go, “says 35-year-old publicist Tatiana Tsukamoto, Max’s 8-month-old mother. “I already thought about sending my son wearing a helmet to school because of a tall toy,” says Ana Elise Valente, a 43-year-old dentist, mother of Gabriel and Miguel. Today she says she realizes the absurdity of the idea. “We always have to explain to parents that we can not round all the corners of the world,” says Monica Padroni, director of the Vida Project School, which sits in a northern section with a tree house and huge slides. Nine-year-old nurse Aline Marques says her 3-year-old son needed therapy and speech therapy to start talking because of over-protection. “Not in the sand would I let him play and so it did not develop.” After the mother changed the attitude, he says, he became another child.

Playing in nature is a good way to expose children to beneficial risksPhoto: VALERIA GONCALVEZ / ESTADAO

Nature helps in exposure to risks

A good way to expose children to beneficial risks, according to experts, is to let them play in nature. The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics has recommended that children have “daily access for at least an hour” to environments such as parks, squares and beaches to “develop in full physical, mental, emotional and social health.” The handbook, drafted with support from the Alana Institute, also calls on parents and schools to allow children to engage in risky activities. “The challenge is intrinsic to nature, the terrain is not level, there are several differences in height and texture,” says Alana Child and Nature Program Coordinator Laís Fleury. The document is intended to combat over-exposure to screens and confinement of children, who only play indoors.