Are we babying our kids? Can riskier playgrounds make healthier adults?

Kellan Mogil climbed, barefoot, up a wood plank that was haphazardly perched on a mound of dirt.

He wanted to see what was in a giant hole that two bigger boys were digging.

The two-and-a-half-year-old's mother was sitting more than a dozen feet away at a table, talking to a friend.

All was as it should be at the Anarchy Zone playground, part of the Ithaca Children's Garden. The "adventure playground" encourages kids to play in ways that would make some parents cringe.

It is a partially fenced-in dirt spot, stocked with boards, shovels, wheelbarrows, old tires, fabric, rope and mud. What it becomes depends on a child's imagination. Parents are encouraged to stay out of the way unless they want to play along.

The message of the Anarchy Zone, part of a growing free-play movement: Kids suffer when play is too structured and too safe.

Related: Phys Ed Teacher Says Anarchy Playground is Just What Kids Need

It's not just about the playground. The main point is to put kids in charge of their own play. Let them build what their imaginations dream up without parents who say "Don't" and "Put that here."

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