Handstand ban: why wrapping kids in cotton wool is dangerous.

Mia Freedman


This week, a Sydney primary school has banned handstands, cartwheels and somersaults during lunch and recess – unless they are done “under the supervision of a trained gymnastics teacher and with correct equipment.”

How great is that. If by great you mean appalling.

This from News Ltd:

In a newsletter sent to parents principal Gail Charlier said the ban followed consultations with the State Schools Sports Unit, a branch of the Department of Education, the Inner West Courier reported.


The move has confounded parents such as Rebecca Chown, who has collected more than 250 signatures on a petition calling for the rule to be overturned.

“It’s ridiculous, what’s the world coming to when kids can’t do handstands and cartwheels at lunch time,” she said.

Ms Chown said she understood the principal “felt she was doing the right thing”.
“So many principals are wary about children injuring themselves, due to the growing litigative culture we live in,” she said.

Ms Chown first heard about the ban when her daughter Estelle, 10, came home on August 17 and said children had been told they couldn’t do anything that had them “upside-down”.

Estelle said: “It’s really frustrating because they ban everything and there is not much else for us to do.”

Soon, children will be forced to sit on the ground with their hands on their heads – remember that? In silence. In case anyone says anything offensive.

I worry about all this, I really do. Especially after a recent interview with an adolescent health expert in relation to a spike in young men and women being killed in car crashes.

His point was that we’re now living in a society that doesn’t give kids or young people any opportunity to asses and manage risks. With their lives so much more tightly controlled by the new helicopter style of parenting and rules such as ‘no cartwheels or running’ in the playground, how are kids meant to learn about consequences? You climb a tree, you fall out, you’re a bit hurt (not badly) and you’re more careful next time.

Instead, we wrap kids in all kinds of legal and emotional cotton wool and then when they turn 18, they get keys to the car and the right to buy alcohol. Is it any wonder the combination of these things, after a lifetime of being sheltered from learning how to manage risks, is potentially lethal?

There are many laws designed to protect us that are a result of a pattern of catastrophic injuries and based on recommendations by coroners – helmets while riding bikes etc

But if children are never exposed to risk and never have to learn the consequences of managing risks… does that set them up to make sensible decisions when there’s no parent or school teacher around to say no?

I’ve previously written a column about how we all might be turning into a nation of wussbags, incapable of dealing with boredom or discomfort and totally protected from risk:

One friend observed this wuss behaviour while skiing last weekend: “I was watching all the little kids slowwwwwly skiing down their special kiddie slope and then getting on the magic carpet and crying. When I was young my parents just pushed me down the mountain and hoped I stayed upright.”

Ah, tough love. The opposite of wuss.

“My grandad put together my first bike without the training wheels,” nodded a workmate. “He was like, ‘you’ll work it out’ and pushed me down our steep driveway.” 30 years later she has no visible scars.

What do you think? What kinds of things did you get up to when you were a kid that would never be allowed now?

I’ll go first.

I used to rollerskate with my friends on the road outside our house.

I used to jump on a trampoline WITH NO SAFETY NETS.