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Is it time to melt down the monkey bars?

After his daughter broke her arm, a dad asks whether it's time to melt the monkey bars. (AP file photo)

When Dan Kois sent his daughter off to kindergarten, he didn’t give much thought to the dangers lurking on the playground. He even praised her when she showed him the calluses she was building from swinging on the monkey bars. He was one of those parents who scoffed at others who worried about all the potential risks. Then she fell.

“I sure had that opinion challenged when it was my kid who had her arm broken,” says the Slate columnist in an interview with The Dori Monson Show“.

Now, Kois is questioning whether it’s time to melt the monkey bars.

“Is it worth having a piece a piece of equipment on the playground that any X-ray technician in America will tell you is responsible for almost a quarter of the broken bones that he or she sees in any given day?” Kois asks.

Kois admits he’s conflicted. In researching his story, he says he talked to an X-ray tech at Phoenix Children’s Hospital who told him 15 to 20 percent of the fractures she sees are monkey-bar related. But he doesn’t want to be an overprotective parent who imposes his will on everyone else.

“In general, I don’t think most parents want to take away opportunities from other kids just to protect their own kids. In the end, I think that’s how things are going to be settled at my school,” he says. “I’m going to gently suggest to my daughter that she may not quite be ready for the monkey bars yet and maybe she needs to practice more with adults before she tries to go along them on her own after she gets her cast off.”

But Kois says he doubts she’ll listen. And he found some researchers who think that’s not such a bad thing. He says there’s an entire school of thought suggesting many playgrounds are too safe.

“So playgrounds encourage kids to play at a level that is below their physical abilities and do not encourage them to take the kind of risks that lead them to grow up into adults that are willing to embrace uncertainty in their lives.”

But he admits as a parent, it’s hard thinking his daughter getting hurt is such a good thing.

“One of the real tests of being a parent is how you respond to your child being in real pain and real difficulty,” he says. “And I think many parents, though they in the abstract embrace the notion of kids embracing risk, when it comes right down to it if there’s a way to avoid their child actually breaking an arm they’d be interested in avoiding that.”

Kois’ interview struck a chord with Dori and his listeners, all of whom are critical of the suggestion it’s time to melt down the monkey bars.

“We can’t childproof the whole world,” says Dori.

“Really!? What’s next…No swings? Slides? Let’s have them all just play shadow games in a well groomed patch of grass…” wrote George Gosztola on the Dori Monson Show Facebook page.

Deanna Yasuda Fisher writes “My daughter (3rd grader) comes home at least once a week to show me the calluses she’s building up on her hands from the monkey bars on the playground. Why are we trying to rob kids of their ability to play??”

“Wussification. Kids can get hurt on anything. I used to climb on top and never broke a bone. It’s a chance you take. I used to ride horses all the time as a kid thru my mid-twenties and many, many times nothing happened, but on flip side there was a few times I got injured so badly helmet and all I was lucky I didn’t have concussion or break my back, etc. and three specific occasions a miracle I didn’t get killed,” writes Erika Rummell-Romero.

What do you think?

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