Why Kids Need Delightfully Dangerous Playgrounds

If Risk-Averse Parents Insist on Safer Slides and Swings, Their Children Won't Learn How to Overcome Fear

California doesn’t make playgrounds like it used to.

The trend has its advantages. Fifteen years after the state legislated compliance with national safety standards for new and renovated public playgrounds, I can take the Three Stooges—my three impish and ever-brawling sons under age 8—to parks around California confident that I’ll see the same reassuringly safe equipment: low swings, low slides, plastic bridges rather than wood or metal, ubiquitous guardrails, and either super-soft rubbery mats or at least 12 inches of sand or wood chips to cushion falls.

But all that safe sameness …