Paranoia can only get you so far, and then you get into the absurd.

Is this sign designed to keep kids safe or protect someone from litigation?


If you can’t read this, here are the rules that are posted on this sign.

Rules of the Playground

Follow the Rules – Play Carefully

Do not use equipment when wet

No running, Pushing or shoving

Do not use play equipment improperly

No bare feet, wear proper footwear

Do not use equipment in this playground without adult supervision

Do not use equipment unless designed for your age group


Do not climb down unless area is clear. Watch Carefully to Avoid other climbers

Do not climb without using both hands. Use correct grip, fingers and thumbs for holding

Do not push, shove or crowd. Wait your turn


Do not climb up sliding surface

Do not slide down improperly. Slide sitting up, feet first one at a time

No pushing or shoving. Wait your turn. Wait until the slide is empty before sliding down


Do not jump off or on a moving whirl. Hold on with both hands to handrail

Do not lean back over edge. Hold on to handrails with both hands

Do not stand close to a moving whirl. Keep a clear distance.

First of all, lets looks look at the individual rules.

Do not use play equipment improperly.  What is improperly? What is improperly to a five-year-old?

No bare feet, wear proper footwear. No bare feet is easy. However, what is proper footwear? Wingtips, are Nike’s ok or do they have to be a specific brand?

Do not use equipment unless designed for your age group. What is my age group? Is the age group listed on the equipment? There is none listed on the sign.

Use correct grip, fingers and thumbs for holding. What is the correct grip? Am I allowed to wedge my hand into a crack? Should I be taped up before climbing? What if I don’t have some fingers or a thumb?

So some of these rules are absurd, even for adults. If an adult cannot understand the rules, how is a kid?

Rules as a hole?

Slides appeal to kids of all age groups. So unless you have reached the second or third grade (age 7-8?) you can’t read. You are walking along the street, see a playground and go running to the slide. Do you stop and stare at something you can’t understand?

Do you stare at something built at a height way above your head? Do you even slow down as you pass the sign? Do you really think that this is going to prevent a kid from getting hurt?


Maybe a sign like this has some legal value, but I would think that anyone would blow that issue out of the water. How can you expect someone who cannot read to obey the rules.

If you really want to stop injuries, you better design your playground so that on one can get hurt. Or better, you figure that kids are going to figure a way to get hurt, no matter how low to the ground and how padded.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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3 Comments on “Paranoia can only get you so far, and then you get into the absurd.”

  1. Sorry my cynicism got the best of me. I thought it was just stupid to post a sign with dozens of rules, needing to be read for 5-10 year old kids, (the age that frequents playgrounds). Do you really expect kids of that age to read rules? Obviously the playground manager does.
    Or were the signs put up to argue in court the playground could not be liable because they put up the proper warnings.

    The bigger issue is we sue when a kid is hurt on a playground. The definition of kid is young person recovering or about to be injured. Kids get hurt.

    I support playgrounds. I support kids. I’m condemning a system that thinks a sign is going to keep kids from getting hurt.

    Sorry my cynacism got the best of me.


    • Shannon MIKO Mikus says:

      I agree that there seems to be a system tailored to profit from injury, not actually prevent it. This system is separate from the one that is actually conducting research for, doing the designing of, and implementing construction of “safe” playgrounds. I think that this Accident Profit System (the APS) has grown because the designers, school administrators, US Dept of Education, park managers, city government, ASTM, CPSC, neighborhoods, AAP, AMA, ABA, parents, and play researchers have failed miserably at stating a combined case for children’s health and realizing how each profession can contribute to that goal. In the absence of unified professional interest, each profession is out for its own enrichment and is unaware of the consequences that its actions have on the system, the goal, as a whole.
      The rules on the sign tell how to use the equipment properly. Since the equipment has been designed and modified based on safety regulations (resulting from previous injuries) its purpose has been “specialized” and it is less suitable for more general use. Using it in ways it was not designed for can really be dangerous. The slide is designed with standard side rails of a certain height and create a standard butt-width and a landing (flat, terminal area) of specified length is also a part of the design. These features necessitate a forward-facing, straight-legged, sitting use. A belly slide is uncomfortable, a sideways slide puts one’s body beyond the area for support, and one cannot fathom sliding like one would roll down a hill. This limits the play experience in practical terms. (“Sorry, kids, you’ll have to wait for military training to experience a belly slide”). Kids will slide down it once as prescribed, get bored, and look for a way to make the next trip exciting…it’s what they do.
      I argue that the sign is an indicator of a national policy failure because there is no unified policy regarding playgrounds. States that have taken the leap to follow CPSC guidelines are trying to assure a good childhood experience, but may be hemmed-in by broad standards that don’t apply to their regional character or local mentality.
      The UK recently is undergoing a playground explosion after decades of watching child health and test scores decline and propensity for playgrounds to turn into vandalized lots. The UK’s national children’s administration adopted EU standards for play, which meant also teaching their constituents to think like the “continentals” especially where the idea of risk is involved. Officials and citizens now must accept that well-designed playspaces with LOTS of play value contain elements of risk, not danger, mind you, but risk. What looks risky to a German kid is seen as plain dangerous by American parents, but American parents have been taught to associate and equate risk and danger, and these two must be divorced, and it starts on the playground. Look at the Beauvoir School Playground in DC ( It is exciting, risky, German designed, private, and has LOTS of play value. Every playground in DC should look like that, but it doesn’t, because there is no national policy to support high-value play to support municipalities who want to engage their children with constructive play. Such a policy would give support to the CPSC and ASTM to look at playgrounds with a different goal (one of safety rather than risk elimination), and that would help designers by supporting their vision for high play value (which includes risk) environments, which would help schools by making recess a time where children are occupied with constructive play (rather than being bored and looking to make some excitement by acting out) and this would make their minds sharper and give them emotional balance which would increase their study capacity and eliminate the need for standardized testing since kids would stay in school and graduate with knowledge and skills and no parents would ask the School Board “what the hell are they teaching our kids in school?”
      In Chicago, where recess has been systematically eliminated in public schools for more class time to “teach the test”, test scores have dropped steadily. In private schools, with recess, the scores are off the charts. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
      So, with each of the involved professions looking to take care of itself, absent from a national policy
      (the US could use one like this:

      or this:
      the situation isn’t getting better.

      Are we tired of the headache? Perhaps it’s time to stop hitting our heads with a hammer?


  2. Shannon MIKO Mikus says:

    I find it difficult to understand the author’s point since the article ends with “If you really want to stop injuries, you better design your playground so that on one can get hurt. Or better, you figure that kids are going to figure a way to get hurt, no matter how low to the ground and how padded.” With childhood obesity, diabetes, poor physical performance, etc. consuming the childhood years of so many, how does the author claim that it is “even better” to create a playground with no play value? Is that the goal? The victory has been had, then. Millions of child diabetics and hundreds of thousands of obese 3 year olds are your prize. Whoever “you” is. Whose goal was it to create an environment where people felt threatened in putting up a place for kids to play? Certainly one should not do this without realizing the risks of children playing, and take proper, informed steps to mange those risks. Incidentally, it has been my experience that most people “really want to stop injuries”, fewer people than that can actually deal with those injuries, and no one actually can stop them so people’s time is best spent focusing on managing the damage that comes, both personally and for society.

    Is he criticizing the owner/operator’s intent in putting up a sign? The sign is probably the better of two possible reactions that one could have in the face of the legal situation that a lack of clear guidance and clear policy have created.

    Option 1: tear down the play equipment and install only a very flat ASTM-approved surface and ensure that it is fenced-off (only if one is “really” serious about it).
    Option 2: let responsible people know that there are rules for play, and that they should be responsible people and let the children know what those rules are. That is to say, post a sign.

    What other option is there? Look here for a suggestion:

    Is the author saying that because the playground consists of more than a lonely, flat, ASTM-approved surface, the owner/operator has taken action which will ensure injury? It sounds like the author is condemning the owner/operator for building a playground because it isn’t 100% guaranteed injury-free. Playgrounds are not guaranteed injury-free. Childhood is not guaranteed injury-free. Even life as an adult is not guaranteed injury-free, and all the signs are written for adults!

    The author started to make sense, at first, because it seemed like he was supposing that the sign was meant for the users, who are children, and that some children can’t read, so the sign was basically ineffective. Indeed, the sign is ineffective as a tool for preventing injury, but it seems to be the owner’s attempt to relieve himself from the certain litigation damage that follows playgrounds like wet follows rain. It seems that the author is implying that the owner/operator had the evil intent to build a child-maiming device, aka-playground, so deserves to be sued even with a sign (quick, someone go sprain an ankle, here’s my card!).

    I miss the author’s point mostly because it seems to condemn the idea of a playground. It seems to say that if a sign can’t prevent injury, then the activity ought to be removed, and shame on the owner/operator for putting a playground where children can reach it.

    What is missing from the article is some practical advise, given from the face-side of the human body. If the sign isn’t sufficient to avoid liability, since boo-boos and litigators with parents in-tow are sure to follow, then what is? Where would the author draw the line? How would the author provide a useful play space for children and also provide that the owner/operator isn’t needlessly sued? That is the advice that needs to come forth from the author. He pointed out a problem, and now should offer a solution.

    Perhaps a look into specific policy shortcomings where litigation is possible but shouldn’t be, could be a more constructive use of time? Sound legal advise on how to pull this nation out of a deadly spiral of childhood healthlessness is needed. A good place to start is taking a look at

    Thank you, Shannon MIKO Mikus


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