The Downward Slide of the Seesaw


NY Times:

The Downward Slide of the Seesaw

The two young brothers seesawed in Riverside Park recently, testing and tormenting each other, absorbed in a playground ritual familiar to generations of children.What they did not know was that they were in one of the last places in New York City where they could seesaw. Once ubiquitous in the city’s hundreds of public playgrounds, as they were around the country, the seesaws adults remember have largely vanished from the city and much of the nation because of safety concerns and changing tastes.

The old wooden seesaws that pivot on a central fulcrum have survived in only one city park, park officials believe — the Classic Playground at Riverside Park at West 74th Street. And just north of there, at River Run Playground at West 83rd Street, are three metal fulcrum seesaws that were installed at the community’s request in the 1990s. They are lower and safer, rising only 32 inches off the rubber play mat at the highest point.
The history of New York City playgrounds is intertwined with the seesaw. Charity associations gave seesaw demonstrations when playgrounds were introduced at the turn of the 20th century. They were standard fixtures in the more than 600 playgrounds constructed between 1934 and 1960 under the direction of Robert Moses, along with monkey bars, sandboxes and slides, according to the city parks department.

But federal safety guidelines for playgrounds, which were created in 1981, began to limit their use. The older seesaws were wooden planks that often hit asphalt directly, leading to occasional tailbone and spinal injuries, falls and pinched fingers, not to mention splinters. Children could slam each other by dismounting suddenly. Playgrounds that retained old seesaws were exposed to lawsuits.
Current federal guidelines state that fulcrum seesaws can be installed safely if car tires are embedded under the seats and adequate space is left around them in case of a fall. But they are not recommended for toddlers or preschoolers, and they take up a lot of space. So the reaction to the guidelines in New York City, and many other places, was just to phase seesaws out.

:frowning: :mad:

Why can’t we let kids be kids?


Because some parents are fuddy duddies that sue organizations that make their insurance companies or the taxpayer pay the costs that cause legislators to find ways to limit the liability of insurance companies and taxpayers.

Blame the parents, not the legislators. The legislators are only responding to what they are pressured.


No chance to get hurt anymore.

While I think much of the safety changes are ridiculous, the one difference I appreciate is the broad use of safety helmets in biking, skiing, etc.


Of course, a helmet won’t save your head if you face-plant into a tree at full speed, either; but those who take up skiing are aware of danger. Children of seesaw-using ages generally are not, and so we as a people strive to protect them.

Still. Riding bike with a bare head. Travelling in cars having no safety seats, airbags or in some cases, seat belts. Playgrounds having structures made of rusty metal with exposed joints. Drinking unfiltered city water from garden hoses. Gee whiz, does anybody wonder how we of the 1900s survived our childhoods???



A lot of you didn’t survive. And most adults over 50 I know well enough have some faint scar received in childhood. Quite a few people kids broke bones on the school yard back in my days (late 80s). Today, all of that has been replaced.

EDIT: The real question is what is proper amount of danger to exposure children too. IMO, it’s vitally important for boys to learn to sense and mitigate danger, whether environmental or otherwise. It’s a life skill that is always important.
I’m not sure if any of that is relevant to girls growing into women as I’ve never been one or raised one.


No great loss to me. You only have to be on the end that slams into the ground when someone hops off once, to not ever feel safe on a see saw. :rolleyes:


Glad to know I am not the only one who doesn’t like teeter-totters/see-saws. Add a tendency towrds motion sickness and you can imagine how much fun childhood can be. Not.


Because our adults are still kids.


And I thought I was cynical.


How did any of us survive childhood?:slight_smile:


Many didn’t.
They are now empty, angry, and bitter.

So they feel compelled to fight any semblance of childhood fun.


It is not very charitable to ascribe mean motives to those who are ostensibly trying to protect children from harm. It is much more straight forward to assume that efforts to restrict dangerous play come from an honest desire for the overall best interests of children.

In all decisions concerning risk vs. reward, it is proper to take into account both the risk and the reward. In the case of seesaws, there is a small, but definite, risk. And there is a small reward. There are other play time activities that are just as beneficial to kids, without the risk. One of those activities is to play on a seesaw with the minimum of safeguards in place, such as having a soft surface underneath, and a limited maximum height it can achieve. So not much is lost by excluding old non-conforming seesaws. Therefore there does not need to be a tremendous risk to justify the restrictions.


I remember the playground equipment where I went to Elementary school was horrendous, had jagged metal edges all over it, but I never recall anyone getting seriously injured or if they did, parents or the school never made a big deal about it, at least not enough to get a new one or stop kids from playing on the dangerous one.

With that said though, todays kids are probably the most sheltered of any. There is HUGE difference between what was accepted/ tolerated when I was in elementary/ middle school, compared to today.


I don’t think it’s a completely new development, re the see saws. I grew up and lived in one of the outer boroughs of NY city. I remember a playground was renovated about 20 years ago, and there weren’t any see saws.

The newer trend are the cool climbing gyms, with ladders, bridges and poles to slide down from and slides. Those are fun. I think I would have like those better than the see-saw.

Speaking of see-saws, remember Bobby and Cindy from the Brady bunch trying to break the world record for being on a teeter-totter?


Probably what happened was, unscrupulous people figured out they could sue municipalities for supposed injuries suffered by children on the playground (or there was a fear this would happen) and the municipal governments decided not to chance it.


There was one in a park across the street from the Catholic school I attended. Regular teeter-tottering was too boring for us in 4th-6th grades and we often used it as a catapult until forbidden to do so by teachers. It was a temptation, so a few catapult events still happened now and again. I have a vague recollection of a few near misses on teeter-totters because the other person would hit the ground to hard and I would nearly fly off. It wasn’t even a matter of being mean or careless; some people didn’t know how to control the momentum and absorb some of the inertia with our legs. It’s fun if you have two people who are dong that; not so much fun if one doesn’t get how to do it or is mean.


I rest my case! :wink:


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