I believe we are all aware of the 'baby' swings found at most playgrounds. They don't appear particularly dangerous do they?
The other day, I took K down to a local park we often frequent that is populated primarily by grad or doctorate students studying from abroad...along with the local neighborhood crew of upper middle class, educated women and their own little ones. Nearly everyone has some association with the local university and the (presumed) sum intelligence of these people has always given me hope that one day I will meet a fellow mother who I can truly befriend.
In any case, the incident that occurred the other day was this: A young girl of about 4 or 5 years climbed into one of the available 'baby' swings and began swinging herself using the physical force of her body and the in-out motion of her legs. Finding this a bit dull and 'ordinary', she carefully pulled herself into a standing position and using the power of her body continued to swing. A fellow father and I observed her the entire time and saw no danger in her actions. However, when her own father came round the bend, he seemed shocked at her self-sufficiency and creativeness. Harping on the point of safety, and physical endangerment, he forced her to get out of the swing exclaiming, "In what Bizarro world does that seem like a good thing to do?! Never EVER do that again!"
And while all this was ridiculous enough to have me rolling my eyes, the verbal agreements among most of the other parents was just shocking. K is 2, and he has swung standing up a few times in a normal swing...possibly a bit dangerous, but the point is that I TRUST he will not undertake something he cannot handle. Perhaps children really are so vastly different that one subset will routinely undertake actions that will actually lead to physical harm and/or death if not prevented by their caretakers, but, from my observation of children, I'd have to say this is not a natural trait. Rather, it is one CREATED by the very parents who will not allow their child any permissible level of endangerment in their play and exploration.
It bothers me a lot because for what purpose are we quashing children's natural tendencies to explore and manipulate their environment...PARTICULARLY their PLAY environment?! As one older man remarked to me when K tripped on the pavement while running and ended up with a scratched knee, "you hardly see a scratched knee anymore." Personally, I'm not so sure that is a good thing if it comes at the expense of suffocating your child's natural tendencies.