State Officials Back Off Regulating Freeze Tag, Kids' Games

NYS officials nix plans to regulate "dangerous" kids' games

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Carole Holschuh
    Wiffle ball was on the "risky list."

    Day camp games like tag, wiffle ball, Red Rover and kickball are no longer at risk in New York after state health officials yanked a proposal that threatened the future of those mainstays of child's play.

    Towns, villages and other camp operators had begun revamping upcoming indoor summer programs after the Department of Health sent out a long list of familiar games and activities it said presented a "significant risk of injury" and needed to be regulated more closely.

    But after a state senator's call for a delay in the regulation generated a buzz of news reports, the department reversed course Tuesday, saying the rules proposed under the previous administration were too specific.

    "The practical effect is that we are not going to get that detailed and into micromanagement," department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said of the decision.

    She said the department will continue gathering information during a comment period that ends May 16 and will formulate new safety regulations that are broader and deal more with potentially dangerous conditions than specific games.

    The regulations are required under a 2009 law meant to close a loophole that allowed indoor day camps to operate without the same state oversight applied to outdoor day camps, targeting "nonpassive recreational activities with significant risk of injury." The law took effect April 1.

    State Sen. Patricia Ritchie of Watertown sent a letter to the state health commissioner asking for reconsideration of the regulations after hearing from a local mayor.

    "It's overregulation by the state of things that have been around for years and years," Ritchie wrote.

    On Tuesday, Richie, a Republican whose district includes three mostly rural north-central New York counties, said she was pleased by the reversal.

    "At a time when our nation's No. 1 health concern is childhood obesity, I am very happy to see that someone in state government saw we should not be adding new burdensome regulations by classifying tag, Red Rover and Wiffle Ball as dangerous activities," she said. "I am glad New York's children can continue to steal the bacon and play flag football and enjoy other traditional rites of summer."

    The proposal would have revised the definition of a summer day camp to include potentially risky organized indoor group activities like archery and rock climbing — as well as things like kickball, tag and Wiffle Ball.

    Ritchie said that would have required camps in many smaller towns and villages to add staff such as nurses and pay $200 for a state permit. Other critics argued the regulation was a hysterical approach that stood to take all the fun out of summer.

    "I never got hurt; maybe scraped my knee once in a while, but that was it," Kimberly Baxter of Queens, a 27-year-old mother of a 1-year-old girl, told the Daily News.