Forget toboggans, let’s ban all childhood activities

March 9, 2015

TobogganingLet’s hear it for those precautious towns around Ontario and beyond that have cracked down on one of the most hazardous, risky things our kids love to do in winter — tobogganing.

Faced with a growing onslaught of lawsuits from parents whose children have been hurt while sledding, some municipalities are banning the traditional winter activity at city-owned hills to protect our kids from preventable visits to hospital emergency rooms.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, more than 5,600 Canadians are seriously injured every year from winter sports. Knowing those sobering statistics, communities across Ontario, including Toronto, Hamilton, Sudbury, Orangeville and elsewhere, have chosen to stand up to the laws of sleds and snow and gravity and say: Not on my watch.

Some municipalities, including Vaughan, have taken steps to make tobogganing safer by removing all obstacles, including trees, from hills. But moves like that aren’t going to really protect kids, not unless you’re prepared to cut down all trees in your city. Because what if some kid somewhere decides to climb one?

That’s why all-out bans are the only safe answer. The only problem is, simply banning one-off activities such as tobogganing doesn’t go far enough. No, we must examine the real root of childhood injuries.

It’s a poorly kept secret that the biggest danger to kids today is childhood itself, and that’s why our local governments ought to do the only responsible things they can — ban all childhood activities.

This may seem drastic at first. But every single day across this country, children are hurt doing childish things. It’s sad but true.

You think your children are just having fun? Look a little closer. Danger lurks around every corner of kids’ play. Playgrounds? Too many hard surfaces. Swimming pools? A drowning waiting to happen. Soccer fields? They only encourage running, and running can lead to falling, and falling can cause injuries. It’s a slippery slope.

All the things you did as a kid flirted with danger, whether you realized it or not. Blowing up balloons? You could damage your eardrums. Walking on the beach? You’re asking for blisters. Making Christmas cards for your parents? Paper cuts.

Wintertime is especially dangerous for children, and it goes far beyond tobogganing. Making snow angels? Risk of suffocation. Skating? You could get cut. Snowball fights? Tennis elbow. Snow forts? They’re just a few snow flakes away from a coroner’s inquest.

The list of hazardous kids’ activities goes on and on. For safety’s sake, our children should be kept as far away from childhood activities as possible. It’s the right thing to do.

But I’m not suggesting we ought to keep our kids wrapped in bubble tape under 24-hour surveillance. That would just be silly. There’s a risk someone could suffocate, after all. And all that plastic could cause a rash. Worse still, someone might get copies of those surveillance tapes and put them on the internet.

Instead, our children should be encouraged to do safe, harm-free activities like the kind we grown-ups do. After all, nobody ever poked their eye our doing adult things, like filing taxes.
Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based writer whose column appears every third Saturday. He can reached at and past columns can be read at Follow him on Twitter at @MercerRecord.

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