Insurers in Germany Promote Precarious Playgrounds to Teach Kids About Danger

A concept has arrived from Germany about children’s playgrounds and why they should be more dangerous. According to, insurance companies suggest adding “greater risk” to playgrounds such as higher climbing structures, all in the name of teaching kids how to be “risk competent.”

Insurers argue the “safety culture is stunting kid’s risk assessing abilities….”

Gever Tulley, the author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), and founder of the San Francisco Brightworks School, says, “This is fantastic progress in understanding childhood as the right time for children to learn to recognize and mitigate risk.”

Tulley relates an anecdote about a friend who moved to Germany from New York. She said the school had removed traditional playground equipment and replaced it with four smooth, polished tree trunks. They interconnected the trees with “wide ropes” and “wobbly” rubber bridges.

During the first week after installation, “a girl fell off and broke her arm.” The New Yorker expected outrage, calls to remove the apparatus and lawsuits. At the school student pick-up the next day, she listened to German parents talking about the mishap.

Instead of being upset, parents agreed that “children need to learn their limitations,” illustrating these parents’ mindsets in mishaps like this.

Though there seems to be some progress toward increasing risk on playgrounds, organizations that push for safety standards still behave as what Urban Playgrounds author Tim Gill calls the “fun police.”

Still, according to The Guardian, a 2004 study found “children who had improved their motor skills in playgrounds at an early age were less likely to suffer accidents as they got older.”

The city of Richland, Washington, eliminated swings on its playgrounds. They argued swings were the most unsafe apparatus for children. Skenazy asserted this was because other traditional equipment, like merry-go-rounds, monkey bars, and see-saws, had been removed.

Americans apparently want to adhere to their rubber-coated, wood chip-strewn playground “safe spaces.” However, Tulley also mused that a German insurance executive might call them “a risk-ignorance breeding ground.”

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