Warning: No Cartwheels Allowed!

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My son getting ready to jump on a mini trampoline.

When I was a kid, we cartwheeled all over the place. At my children’s elementary school, girls were cartwheeling around the playground daily. Their second-grade teacher cartwheeled in the classroom much to the amazement of her students. Yes, we all wore shorts under our skirts, so there was nothing unseemly about it. I find it fascinating that all the cartwheeling was being done by girls. I wonder why boys don’t find it as much fun? I used to try to string a bunch of cartwheels together and keep in a straight line across the grass. Recently, I tried to cartwheel on the beach, but alas, it’s a skill I no longer have–and it hurts!

Now, I read that a principal in a Canadian school has outlawed the cartwheel. That’s right, cartwheels are not allowed on the school grounds. The main reason? Because they are fearful of lawsuits if a cartwheeler were to get injured or injure someone else. Not that there has ever been a single report of a broken bone or sprain due to cartwheels.

Here are some excerpts from articles about the new cartwheel ban:

From CBC news:

‘Let them cartwheel’: northern Ontario mom speaks up about proposed ban

A mom in Callander, south of North Bay, Ont., says she is outraged that her daughter’s school is considering banning cartwheels on school property.

Stephanie Balen says M. T. Davidson Public School has the rule listed in its draft-form student handbooks. That document will be voted on by the student advisory council in early October.

Balen’s nine-year-old daughter Grace goes to the school and wants to be able to do cartwheels on the school grounds during recess.

Balen says it’s important to stop the ripple effect before it gets out of hand.

“What if they try to do something else? What if they say you know, you’re not allowed to run, you’re not allowed to breathe, you’re not allowed to laugh,” she said.

Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles wrote for The Nugget:

Cartwheels banned from school playground

Cartwheels have been banned at M.T. Davidson Public School in Callander.

Cartwheels are not permitted on school property in the playground rules section of the school’s draft handbook for 2017-18. The rule came into effect this school year even though injuries have not been reported, principal Todd Gribbon admitted.

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” he said.

Gribbon said the school handbook is in draft form and the safe school advisory committee will meet Oct. 2. to review the document.

However, the 14-page document doesn’t offer an opportunity for feedback. But parents and students are required to sign the code of conduct sheet and return it to the school.

The Nugget checked a few other North Bay schools’ code of conduct and didn’t find cartwheels banned elsewhere. They are, however, not permitted at some schools in Britain and Australia.

A Toronto school made news recently when it banned all balls from its premises after a parent who was hit by a ball suffered a concussion. A few schools in the U.S. have banned footballs, soccer balls, baseballs and lacrosse balls.

imagesLenore Skenazy of free-range parenting fame wrote on Reason.com:

Canadian School Bans Cartwheeling, Because We Can’t Be Too Careful

Risks? What about the risk of never taking a risk?

True—any activity, including a cartwheel, can cause injury. Walking down the stairs can cause falls resulting in concussions, neck, and wrist injuries. Walking outside can get you hit by a car. Swimmers can drown. Bakers can catch their hair on fire. Those brave enough to consume solid food can choke. Students sitting still too long can get embolisms.

The precautionary principle—why do something that could cause harm?—seems prudent until you realize it often doesn’t distinguish between a calculated risk and what if something terrible happens? Recall that just the other day, a New York Times reporter said it was a bad idea for a kid to mow a lawn, even if it’s the White House lawn, because there could be an accident. Really, we are idiots when it comes to risk. We think that there’s risk vs. no risk—so why would any ever choose the former?

In the real world, it’s always risk vs. other risk. The risk of walking to school seems too great to many people, who forget there’s a risk in being driven. There’s a risk in doing cartwheels that is offset by the risk of not doing cartwheels. Kids playing, loving the outside, running around, being active, learning balance—all aspects of cartwheeling—may heighten their risk of wrist injuries while lowering their risk of obesity, heart disease, and school-hating-syndrome. The risk of learning to take a risk decreases the crippling fear of risks. The crippling fear of risks (also known as “insurance brain”) leads to faulty risk assessments.

Which leads to no cartwheels.

In “Time to remove the bubble wrap” by Brynna Leslie of Ottawa West News:

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” principal Todd Gibbon told media outlets. He confirmed, however, the rules were not being implemented in response to an actual event. In other words, no one had ever been harmed during a cartwheel on the schoolyard.

It’s the latest in a slew of ridiculous rules imposed by organizations to prevent kids from taking risks of any kind.

Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research at CHEO, says he was disappointed but not surprised when he read the news about the cartwheel ban.

“This fear of litigation and the sterilization of play that has permeated our society, I’m not sure anything would surprise me anymore,” says Tremblay.

He notes, however, that despite best intentions from school authorities, community organizations and parents around “keeping kids safe,” we are doing more harm than good by restricting children’s access to free, outdoor play.

“In any other aspect of our lives — take finances for example — we would do a cost-benefit analysis before making any decisions,” says Tremblay. “But when it comes to something like banning cartwheels, we only look at one side of the equation, which is the potential risk, without balancing the positive.

“What good might come out of kids doing cartwheels?  Maybe they’ll have fun, maybe they’ll have an opportunity to develop better motor skills, maybe they’ll get stronger.”

Tremblay notes that in our efforts to keep kids safe by keeping them indoors, we are inadvertently having a negative impact on their physical, social and emotional health.

“The physical health impact is extraordinary,” he says. “First, and intuitive to most people, if kids aren’t moving as much, their hearts, muscles and bones aren’t as strong.”

Tremblay notes that while organized sport has emerged to take the place of free play, far more injuries occur within structured activities, yet without the holistic health benefits of free outdoor play.

By keeping kids indoors, always structured, often on screens, we are conditioning them to be risk-averse or paranoid of the basic things in life, he notes. As screen time displaces social time, we’re also severely limiting interactions with other humans. By restricting kids’ opportunities to find and solve challenges, we are raising generations of adults who have difficulty managing emotions, are prone to anxiety and other mental disorders and are often incapable of problem-solving.

“The more we restrict and confine what people can do in the outdoors, the more we restrict the possible learning that can be done, the experiences children can have, the tools they can add to the tool box to be creative, problem-solving adults,” says Tremblay.

 

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An old-fashioned merry-go-round.

The question I need to ask is have we gone too far with this cartwheel ban? I think so! I remember when my kids were really little and we had all this fun, but “dangerous” equipment at the park. There was a stagecoach that I climbed in with my kids to pretend we were getting away from the bad guys. There was an old-fashioned merry-go-round made out of metal and a tall scary slide, that made me more than nervous when my three-year-old son climbed to the top–out of my reach. The city replaced all the equipment with the new modern plastic stuff on a spongy surface–and my kids lost interest in the playground once and for all.

As for cartwheels, my girlfriends and I practiced them for hours–along with the impossible flip. I never could master that one. And you know what? None of us got hurt one tiny bit.

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My daughter at age two with her first swim instructor jumping off the diving board.

What do you think about banning cartwheels and what does it have to say about our society today?

 

 

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From Play-Dates to Play-Groups, Just Let the Kids Play!

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I saw a blogger on TV talk about “banishing the play-date.”  You can read his post here.

I reminisced about my childhood. I played in and out of neighbors’ backyards, rode bikes from dawn to dusk — with no adults bothering me.

imgres-2When I had kids, I found they didn’t have freedom like we did.

I went to Mommy and Me with my son Robert at the Palm Springs Pavilion. We learned to sing songs together and play “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” with a dozen other moms and babies that apparently needed the coaching.  Each week, we took turns bringing snacks of grapes or string cheese. I look back at this as a training ground for the proverbial play-date.images-5

Play-dates developed from the Mommy and Me group. We had a park day, which was actually fun and healthy. Moms sat together on quilts on the grass and talked for hours while our kids played on the now-banned steel playground equipment — a super tall, steep slide, a merry-go-round, and a stagecoach that they could climb into, on top of and jump off of. Sometime during their early childhood years, our city tore out the dated, dangerous equipment and put in rubber ground and safe equipment. My kids never liked to play on the brightly-colored equipment and our park play-dates vanished.images

One day, I got a phone call from a friend. She homeschooled her daughter and hand-picked her friends for a weekly Friday Play-Date. She hired a teacher to run play-group, and each week included a lesson, a theme, craft and snack, followed by 10 minutes of unsupervised play on her backyard swing set.imgres-1

I felt honored to be in the select group. My kids had made their mark. Months later, she took me to lunch at CPK and told me she had some big news. She was uninviting one of the boys. I hardly saw this is earth shattering, but perhaps there was more to this luncheon. Maybe it was a warning!

imgresYears later, when my kids were in high school, they reconnected with friends from play-group. NOTE: This wasn’t just a play-date, it was play-group. They remembered it as if they were fellow Mouseketeers, having survived a bizarre childhood experience.

By 7th grade, I was homeschooling my daughter. Every Wednesday, I picked up her best friend from school, and brought her to my house to play until her mom got off work. This was another sort of play-date. We moms thought it was an ideal way to keep their friendship going. Since my daughter loved arts and crafts — homeschooling allowed her to try ceramics, mosaics, and quilting — I said that the two girls could do an art project each week.

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But that didn’t happen. I was tired from supervising my daughter’s activities to the half hour, and my daughter just wanted to hang out with her friend. So, I retired to my room and left them alone. After a few weeks, the friend didn’t want to come over anymore. She said she was promised an art activity and she was disappointed that they weren’t doing anything.

That makes me think about our kids and their overly structured lives. I love having quiet time. I hope my kids do, too. We need to unplug, unschedule, and let our kids regain their creativity and inner peace. They need us to leave them alone and let them be kids.DSCN0116