Why The Obama Girls Need A Junk Heap As Well as a Playset

Wheee! The Obama girls just got a new playset. It looks lovely. All it needs now is a tarp, some old tires, a rusty can, a boot… Yes, I’d like to make the case for a junk heap on the White House lawn. “Adventure playgrounds” – the nice name for kid-friendly junk heaps -- really do exist. They were invented in Scandanavia during World War II, says playground historian Susan Solomon (yes, playground historians really do exist, too). “What did the Danes have to throw away while they were under occupation?” she asks. “Somehow they managed to find things that were going to be disposed of – whether cardboard or metal, or some paintbrushes that were no longer useful, and rusty hammers. They literally threw these into a cordoned off area and said, ‘Go for it, kids!’”There’s nothing like a Dane.Sorry. Anyway – the Danes did add a playground minder to make sure the kids didn’t hammer directly into their playmates. But otherwise, the kids were free to make things: Forts, scooters, sleek modern furniture. And because the options were so endless, these playgrounds attracted kids of all ages. Unlike today’s cookie-cutter plastic equipment, which my 10-year-old, like most 10-year-olds, already disdains. Today, adventure playgrounds are thriving in, of all places, Japan – a country that looked at itself mired in (ahem!) recession and realized: The only way to get out of this is by raising children who are more creative and resourceful. Yes, kids who “think outside the box.”Even if that box is a lovely, all-wood, pre-fab tree house. Surely the Obama girls will have some creative time in their new digs. They can invent games and up there and read and dream -- or at least have tea with the smallest possible Secret Service guy. But if some day you see an old tire on the White House lawn, and some plywood and the shell of a Chevy Blazer, don’t be alarmed. Think of it as a creativity stimulus bill. Lenore Skenazy -- Freerangekids.com  

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