Go kids, run free

By Jane Phare

Trees offer the best views for Noel, 5, Olivia, 7, and Nate, 2. Photo / Doug Sherring
Trees offer the best views for Noel, 5, Olivia, 7, and Nate, 2. Photo / Doug Sherring

Watching her three children climbing trees and swinging on play equipment in a school yard, Felicity McElroy says she is all for free play even if it involves some risk.

She cheerfully admits she and her husband, Nick Smith, run a messy house, designed around their children - Olivia, 7, Noel, 5 and Nate, 2 - who like to play with "gloopy" stuff, make a mess, have water fights, get dirty.

Lots of hand-me-down clothing means McElroy doesn't need to worry about stains and rips in play clothes. After school, and at weekends, her children bounce on a trampoline and play rough-and-tumble or rugby on the lawn with their dad. She agrees that a new generation of children are in danger of being overprotected and that a certain level of risk is not a bad thing.

McElroy would like to see playgrounds, including those at Playcentre, designed to be more adventurous. "Otherwise children get bored if they are not challenged."

Her two older children were dismayed at a recent "upgrade" of St Heliers playground in which play equipment was replaced with a slide and climbing frame designed for much younger children.

Now the Ellerslie family head for a local park with a flying fox or a Western Springs playground which has a range of more challenging equipment. McElroy admits to anxiousness at times. "I do want to keep them safe. At times I have to tell myself to relax, chill out, let them go for it."

- Herald on Sunday

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