A recent article on the New York Times website features a mother who has formed a group calling for more attention towards the levels of potential bacteria in the playgrounds found at various fast-food outlets. As much as I admire her good intentions, I really think she's missing the bigger picture.
Find the keyword in the above paragraph…found it yet? Yes, that’s right, fast-food! If parents are so concerned about the health of their little ones, why are they still taking them to fast-food outlets? Sure, some of the bacteria present at these playgrounds may cause the odd stomach bug, bout of diarrhea or common cold but in most cases, I doubt a child will suffer from a life-threatening illness or serious health condition.
In fact, a bit of bacteria may actually be good for a child’s immune system. We don’t live in a sterile world so it really annoys me how people try wrap their children up in cotton-wool, trying to delay the inevitable…that their child will at some point get a runny nose, runny stomach or a little cough.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a distinct line between exposing children to everyday living conditions and blatantly ignoring clear health risks. However, in the case of letting your kids play in the playground and children’s parks at fast-food restaurants, I believe it’s not the playground equipment you should be afraid of…it’s the food!
It amazes me how casual and unaware society has become with regards to junk food. We’re exposing our children to probably the worst forms of ‘food’ that’s out there. Childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes, ADD, ADHD and various other conditions have been directly associated with the intake of junk food.
I can only assume that the amount of children who suffer from at least one of the abovementioned conditions far outweighs the amount of children who have suffered serious health issues as a result of playing in a playground.
As a parent myself, I know what some parents are probably thinking right now… “If most of the parents let their children attend birthday parties at these fast-food outlets, why can’t I?” Some parents may also be thinking “it’s so much easier, cheaper and convenient to get the kids out of my hair and let them eat a burger and fries and burn off some energy at the playground…in in one location”. The list goes on and on…
Whatever happened to getting outdoors and enjoying the sunshine in the local park, sports ground or beach? There are also literally thousands of quick, easy and inexpensive catering options that are far healthier and better for your kids.
I know it’s hard with all the advertisements calling for your hard-earned cash to supplement your child’s pre-sold junk-food craving, but you need to seriously consider the health of your little one, even it means enduring a few temper tantrums.