Swings, merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters and other old standards are vanishing from schools and parks around the country, according to the National Program for Playground Safety.
"Kids aren't using them the way they're supposed to," said the agency's director, Donna Thompson, who led a national effort to get rid of animal swings two years ago. "I'm pleased that a lot of these are disappearing."
In Miami-Dade County, public schools don't use a lot of traditional equipment, including swings and sandboxes. In Palm Beach County, some schools have swings, but they're no longer included on newer campuses because there's not enough space.
In their place, a lot of playgrounds now are inhabited with clusters of bright, multi-use contraptions with names like "Ed Center" and "Platform Climber Composite Structure." They're lower to the ground than their predecessors, coated with plastic and engineered for safety.
... the tall metal sign ... warns 5- and 6-year-olds to "not use equipment in this playground without adult supervision" and "do not use equipment unless designed for your age group."
A third of the way down the sign, a stick-figure is pictured running with a red slash through the middle, followed by: "No running, pushing or shoving."
"I don't know if that would mean much to a 6-year-old," Bartleman said of the signs. "How does a child know what's appropriate for their age group?"
The girls tried out the horizontal ladder and balance beam for a few minutes before settling on a game of stacking plate-size dirt chunks into a neat pile.
"Making sand," explained Kristin Gonzalez, 6, as she crushed one in her hands and sprinkled the bits over the pile.
Bartleman, the only board member with children in elementary school, created a subcommittee this year to suggest ways to redesign school playgrounds. Safety is important, she said, but there's got to be a way to make Broward's playgrounds more interesting than dirt.
"I would have never thought about this until my daughter came up to me one day and said `Momma, I hate going to that playground,'" she said.
This is why society never should have stopped beating children. Next thing you know we're afraid to let them fall off a swing set.