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Editorial: Squeezing the fun out of childhood

We’ll be the first to admit, that we’re years away from the days of being a participant on the playground at recess. Still, the scenes we’ve witnessed as parents during school recess don’t appear to have changed much.

You still have children on the playground equipment, gathering in groups or taking part in various pursuits, like a game of tag. It’s all about getting fresh air, some exercise and, perhaps, blowing off a little steam before heading back to the classroom for more work. Sure, sometimes there were organized activities, but most of the time kids figured out what they wanted to do on their own and were happy to do so.

We suspect that any adult would be hard pressed to find a child who doesn’t look forward to recess, no matter how enthusiastic they are about their academics.

Despite what we all might remember and see right now during recess, times have indeed changed. It seems that too many adults have lost touch with their inner child and are looking long and hard at those “games” that are linked to the playground. And “tag” is one of the latest victims.

Last week, it was reported that Charlotte Avenue Elementary School in Nashua, N.H., is the latest place where school officials have put an end to the game of tag. The school’s principal, Patricia Beaulieu, announced the decision.

“The traditional recess game ‘tag,’ involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to ‘tag’ or touch them, usually with their hand,” Beaulieu wrote in the letter posted on the school website and on a school Facebook. “Seems innocent enough; however the force with which students ‘tag’ varies greatly, and this game, in particular, has been banned in many schools in the United States due primarily to concerns about injuries.”

Beaulieu also said, “We want them running, we want them jumping and releasing the energy, but just in a safe way” and further defended the decision by stating that the school has a recess rule of “no contact.”

Now, we recognize that at times on the playground accidents happen. Children suffer scrapes, bruises, even on a rare occasion a broken bone, to say nothing of grass-stains or torn pants. But banning tag or other playground games is swaddling children in the name of safety. And in the process, they’re squeezing the fun and freedom out of childhood.

The people who favor such bans just might wonder how they survived such school yard risk in their own childhood. But they did — and they should let today’s kids do the same.

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