Admittedly, I don't ask my kids to follow many rules when they're playing on slides or climbing structures. On the rare occasion when I get a dirty look from another parent at the playground, I'll tell eight-year-old Isaac and five-year-old Gillian to not climb up the slides and watch out below when they're catapulting themselves off the monkey bars. Rather than nagging or referring to the posted rules, I prefer that my kids use their common sense and physical abilities when they're playing outdoors. To those who aren't familiar with my kids or my parenting style, it probably looks reckless, but letting them test their limits is something I've always done, even when they were toddlers.
Not all parents are as relaxed about playground free play as I am, and that's OK. To exercise caution, some parents opt to sit their kids on their laps when speeding down slides, like a Winnipeg family did at a popular children's attraction in 2014. However, when 18-month-old Riley Walker was going down the slide with his mom, the toddler's shoe got caught under his mother's leg, fracturing his left fibula. Riley was in a full-leg cast for six months.
His dad, Nathan Walker, had never heard of this happening before, but when they visited the hospital for X-rays, the doctor told him that this particular type of injury is common. According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 352,700 kids younger than six kids were injured on slides in the US between 2002 and 2015.
Dr. Lynne Warda is an emergency room doctor at the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital and warns parents against the practice of sliding with their young children. “The ones we see in emergency had absolutely no idea this could happen or that it was related to them holding them,” she told Global News Winnipeg. "It could have been prevented by them going down on their own."
In 2009, Dr. John Gaffney, a paediatric orthopaedist at Winthrop-University Hospital, published a study that examined the causes of fractured shin bones among toddlers. After looking at cases in his clinic over the course of 11 months, out of 58 broken shin bones in kids under 18, 13 occurred when a toddler was sitting on another person's lap while going down a slide. “If a toddler is riding by himself and gets his leg stuck against the side of the slide, he can stop himself pretty easily," Dr. Gaffney explains in his study, "but with the parent’s weight added in, you have greater velocity and momentum and it’s harder to stop.”
“You think you’re doing right by going down the slide with your kids to protect them, but you’re actually causing them more harm,” Walker said in an interview. “As hard as it is on the kids, it’s just as hard on the parents to know that they’ve injured their kids. That’s the last thing you want to do.”
As the mom of a kid who broke his bone on a playground slide, I know that freak accidents like this happen and that, despite our best intentions, broken bones will continue to happen. I'm quite familiar with the Manitoba Children's Museum, home to the slide that young Riley was injured on, and I have to say that it's probably one of the safest pieces of playground equipment in Winnipeg. I've even slid down it with my kids on my lap. This isn't to dismiss the warnings against sliding with your kids, but broken bones are, unfortunately, a rite of passage for some youngsters. If your child is nervous about slides and insists on being a passenger, remember to mind your child's leg position or suggest a safer activity, like the monkey bars. It works for me every time.
Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences of giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.