The War on Tobogganing.
Come on, is that really a thing? According to a recent article in the National Post, absolutely. Several cities in the United States have recently banned one of my favourite childhood activities because it is deemed to be too dangerous. But that’s just the U.S., they don’t appreciate that glorious winter pastime like we do up here, right?
Hamilton, Ont. has restricted sledding for almost 15 years, while a bylaw in Toronto has pushed kids off the slopes of a hill that was determined to be too dangerous. Edmonton and other cities have issued warnings when conditions are particularly icy.
Now, within reason, I don’t hate the idea of restricting tobogganing because it inherently does pose some risks. Certainly I wouldn’t advocate using a non-caloric, silicon-based kitchen lubricant on the bottom of your flying saucer. Clark Griswold showed us the dangers with that.
But to ban it outright? Isn’t a big part of being a kid to be able to discover some of the risks yourself? A few scrapes and cuts, even a broken bone or two, are all part of growing up in one sense, aren’t they?
When I was six or seven years old I was dared to jump off the top of a jungle gym while attending a summer camp. Instead of landing on my feet, I landed directly on my left arm. My arm was broken and I was subjected to a cast from my shoulder to my wrist for the rest of the summer. No more soccer, no more swimming, and certainly no more jungle gym acrobatics. Bummer.
But you know what? I learned a few things from that incident. For one, gravity is real and it is very powerful. I also learned that falling sucks, and that I was not indestructible, that I could actually get hurt. A kid will sometimes touch a hot stove, but just once and never again.
Later in life I worked at a summer day camp in Mississauga, Ont. When the temperature reached above 30 degrees, we weren’t allowed to take the children outside, supposedly because it posed too big of a health risk. Instead of walking 10 minutes to the swimming pool, as was the norm, we’d get in vans and drive there and back. Instead of playing on the playground outside, the kids would stay indoors and colour or play with Lego. At a summer camp, we were frequently banned from the outdoors because it was “too hot.”
Meanwhile, new housing developments are going up all across Canada with postage-sized backyards and gigantic swathes of indoor space, which is only compounding the problem of obesity in today’s children. Video games are now what road hockey used to be. But hey, no one’s ever taken a slash to the hand or a tennis ball to the groin while playing Mario Kart, right?
Being protective of children is great, but there is a fine line. Kids still need to be allowed to make the occasional mistake, take a bump on the head once in a while, and most importantly, be kids. Unfortunately over-protection is happening in playgrounds, day camps, and even on toboggan hills all over our country. Being a kid is supposed to be a time of education and learning, but especially a time of fun.