View Full Version : Free-range Children

23-05-10, 03:18
I know what you're thinking - "Why post a parenting article in a forum where the average age is about 17?" - but I think it leads into some interesting discussion about things people other than parents can relate to - how we relate to our neighbors, trust issues, childhood obesity, community, etc.

Should we drop kids off at the park – by themselves?
from TODAYMoms (http://community.todaymoms.com/_news/2010/05/20/4316679-should-we-drop-kids-off-at-the-park-by-themselves):

Lenore Skenazy is an outspoken mom with a somewhat controversial idea: give kids freedom.

In an effort to get American youth off computers and outside their homes, the author and blogger has declared this Saturday, May 22, “Take Our Kids to the Park... And Leave Them There Day.” It’s a novel, head-on approach to force kids – ages 7 and up – to play with other neighborhood kids and connect with their community. It will not only expose kids to potential new friends, Skenazy said, but give them a taste of responsibility.

As for the issue of safety, Skenazy says we’re “way more scared than our own parents,” thanks to a 24/7 media culture that overemphasizes child abduction and murders. “Our crime rate is lower than when we were kids, playing outside!” she wrote. “And yet, as a Gallup poll found, 73 percent of Americans think we are less safe than ever.”

Skenazy’s no stranger to stirring controversy. In 2008, she left her 9-year-old son in midtown Manhattan with a Metrocard for the subway, a subway map, $20, and told him she’d see him when he got back home. She wrote a column about her experience that got parents – and the media – in a frenzy. TODAY Moms asked Lenore, who publishes the Free-Range Kids blog, a few questions about her unique parenting philosophy and the reactions she’s received from others:

What inspired you to launch “Take Our Kids to the Park...And Leave Them There Day?”

A lot of days when it is 80 and sunny outside, I tell my sons, “Go out and play!” And they look out the window and say, “No one’s there.” And – they’re right. And I have a feeling that up and down the block, other kids are looking out the window and they don’t see my kids, so they stay inside. And then my kids don’t see them so they stay inside and they end up playing a couple of hours on the computer. So I dreamed up a day when kids would all converge on the playground and meet each other and sort of “break the ice.”

The reason I’d like parents to let them play by themselves without us hovering for a little while – even as short as 10 minutes – is because when parents are around, we tend to get involved. We help our kids organize the game, we rush over if we think they need help, we change the dynamics. When kids are 7 or 8 – the age the rest of the world sends its kids out to walk to school, in Europe and Asia and Africa – kids are capable of being on their own for a little while, and it’s even helpful.

Helpful in that when a kid is playing with a videogame and he gets frustrated because he’s losing and he quits, what happens? Nothing. The computer doesn’t care. And what happens if the kid is playing with us and he’s losing? Sometimes we let him take an extra turn, or spot him a few points. Hey – he’s our kid.

But when kids are playing on their own – doing what is called, in child development circles, “free play” – what happens if he tries to take an extra swing? The other kids holler, “Wait your turn!”

That’s about as crucial a lesson a kid can get. It develops self-regulation – the ability to control oneself, the stirrings of maturity. And it occurs when kids play with each other, without us.

Which brings us back to the fact that they won’t play with each other at all, if everyone stays inside. So I think of “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day” as almost a block party. I’d like us to take our kids to the local playground, so the kids can make friends in the neighborhood.

By the way, that’s why I recommend trying to get to the park around 10 a.m. That way if I’m taking my kid and you’re taking your kid, they’ll be there at the same time. And you and I can take a walk around the block!

What do you think is the number one problem with modern children’s habits?

Well, we know that our kids are a lot more sedentary than any other generation. This leads to all the bad stuff I don’t like to dwell on – obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and, I think, general crankiness (at least it does in my kids! Running around works wonders for their mood.) But I can’t really blame kids. Often they are not allowed beyond their four walls, because their parents are so afraid of crime. A study just released this week in England showed that 30 percent of all parents worry about predators (a very rare crime), but only 5 percent worry about obesity, which supposedly will complicate, if not shorten, the lives of about a third of all children.

You wrote that the world today is “scarier,” but not necessarily “more dangerous.” Do you worry about what might happen to you child when he is left unattended?

Believe it or not, I am a big time worrier. I believe in car seats, safety belts, helmets. When one of my sons turned 10 and we threw him a football party, what was the one single “treat” I put in the goodie bags?

Protective mouth guards! Woo hoo!

What type of reactions have you received from other moms?

Some are very psyched. They want a chance to meet other moms, they want their kids to meet other kids in the neighborhood, they want their kids to play – they’re in.

And of course there are tons who think I am courting danger. Which is why I must now drop in this quote from C. Everett Koop, the former Surgeon General, the guy who made it his life’s work to help American’s live long and happy lives: “If you want to say how can we step into childhood and make it better for them, I would start at the activity level. Let your kids go out and play. Then I’d say, ‘You’re not going to do that are you? Make your kids go out and play?’ Kids ought to grow up the way you and I grew up… Now who’s out playing in the afternoon? Nobody. Risks, I think, are the thing that make life important and everything that you and I do is risk vs. benefit. Is there a risk to sending your kid out? Absolutely. Is there a benefit? It exceeds the risk.”

I agree: The remote danger that “something” might happen is a risk worth taking, knowing that we live in safer times than when we were young. Also knowing that childhood is fleeting, and I for one would like my kids to be able to look back on memories of something other than Club Penguin and “How I Met Your Mother.”

Do you think parents are too overprotective these days?

I think parents have been hectored by a media culture that tells them their children are in “dire peril” if they even turn their backs for one minute. The “Fear the worst! Always!” message gets internalized to the point where one mom told me she was sitting on the lawn, reading a book, while her children played around her. Another lady walked by and screamed, “Put down that book! Your children could be snatched at any minute!”

When you are surrounded by that kind of message, and that kind of harshness, it is hard not to hover very closely over our kids. Even if a little part of us wonders, “Is this really necessary? Should I really raise my kids in a bubble?”

You wrote that this plan will help create a community again. In what way?

Well, one of the things people say when they hear about Free-Range Kids is, “That’s all very well, but when we played outside, we knew all the neighbors and they knew us.”

So this is a day we all make it our business to get outside, and maybe take a walk around the block while our kids organize a game of four square. You get to know the folks you live around, and maybe your kids make a plan to meet up again the next day.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to re-knit community so that we don’t have empty lawns and empty playgrounds, and I realized it needed a kick-start. “Take Our Kids to the Park and Leave Them There Day”has a provocative title, but that’s really what it is. A kick start to community.

It’s a chance to welcome summer, meet some neighbors and give our kids back the gift that had been all but taken away from them: childhood.

23-05-10, 03:22
I actually love this thread... a lot! :jmp:

23-05-10, 03:23
at first i thought the title of this thread was... Free range Chicken


but i do like your ideas about children Heather. Very interesting

and i do support the fact that kids should get freedom by themselves

EDIT: i keep thinking that the title is free range chicken... IMO the title of the opening post shouldnt be called free range

23-05-10, 04:02
If something should happen to one of those children, the parents will be charged with criminal negligence.
Bad move IMO.

23-05-10, 04:11
lol Free Range kids! Yes I'm all for this. We're made to walk around not sit in a cage all day

23-05-10, 05:20
Yes to having more exercise and playing outside, but no to having parents just dropping off their kids and leaving. I don't like parents that "hover" either, but it sounds irresponsible to just leave your kids. :/

23-05-10, 05:31
Considering I walked across Sin City alone when I was 11, I think the risk is very inflated. Infact, I got into more trouble in and around my house and school lol.

23-05-10, 05:43
I've been free to do what I want since I was five years old. I never had a babysitter and I learned how to take care of myself at a young age. More freedom for children is a good idea. It's crazy how strict people have been for the last decade. That being said, there should obviously be boundaries (which I did not have and almost resulted in my brothers death). Maybe tell them to stick in and around the neighborhood. It's not too strict and it's not too permissive.

23-05-10, 05:43
As a kid in a small town I was able to wander safely in a radius of many miles from home. But now I'm a father and I think I would want to die if something happens to my boy. Well, he is less than 1 year old still, as he grows up things can be different, but for now I think I will always keep an eye on him ;)

Ward Dragon
23-05-10, 06:17
I like the idea of encouraging kids to be more independent and play outside with each other, but I don't think they should be left completely alone like that for safety reasons.

I actually love this thread... a lot! :jmp:

What do you love about it?

23-05-10, 06:59
I think we've got to let kids out and explore. I think that if the parents are afraid of letting their kids out, it makes the kids afraid to go out, and that's no way to live. Teach the kids what to do in an emergency, and set some rules then let em be free. That's how my parents were with me. So I agree with a lot of the points that the article makes.

23-05-10, 08:14
Yes to having more exercise and playing outside, but no to having parents just dropping off their kids and leaving. I don't like parents that "hover" either, but it sounds irresponsible to just leave your kids. :/

Definately this. I live in a safe area but I still wouldnt feel right about leaving my kids.

23-05-10, 09:07
Take Our Kids to the Park...And Leave Them There Day
Pedo day

Sounds perfect for a pedo. A park full of children and no parents.
kids under 7 shouldn't be left in a park alone. Maybe if it's close to home.

23-05-10, 09:49
i think it's a major double edged sword, on one hand, you have kids that will be more active and 'healthier' (if they choose to play and not sit down somewhere), this idea has potential in low crime areas but in areas like where i am, around the parks and shopping centres (they are side by side) are fairly high crime areas. on the other hand you have unsupervised children which can be a prime target for assault (by other kids and some adults too), abduction, and what if the kid leaves the park and gets lost? (which is actually quite likely). as was said earlier what would happen if one of the kids got hurt? where are the parents? at home, if a kid gets hurt its criminal negligence. this idea would also put more pressure on the police/youth officers to try and help monitor these kids and keep them safe, which detracts from other things they could/need to be doing.

23-05-10, 12:19

Chocola teapot
23-05-10, 12:32
Encore, Couldn't have said it better myself.

23-05-10, 12:39
I was brought up in a time when there were no mobile phones, in fact we didn't even have a phone at home, and kids played outside all year long. We rode our bikes and vanished all day. I jumped on buses and went to the pictures on my own, I walked miles along a beach at sunset and then had to get two buses to get home. I never felt afraid. It is only now as an adult I feel fear.

Is there more abuse now? Well I am pretty sure that there has always been abuse. My nan was flashed at as a child in the 1920's...my mum had a man trying to touch her on the bus as a child, she can remember her dad going mad and wanting to fight the man. The difference is that we are aware of it now, every nuance is presented to us and is transmitted to us so we, as a pack learn to be afraid.

A lot of you know I work in a school, well no one ever had to teach us to play but nowadays many kids have no idea how to play imaginative games. Everything is spoonfed for them or they are plonked in front of a screen. They also struggle with creative writing because they are not used to using their minds to entertain themselves. Stories often have tv characters in them instead of ones they have made up. I have 7 year olds telling me their favourite games are Modern warfare.

So how do we change this? We have small families with no older siblings to keep an eye on the little ones anymore. Perhaps we need to stop micromanaging childrens play times and allow them to learn without adult input.

23-05-10, 12:45
I was brought up in a time when there were no mobile phones, in fact we didn't even have a phone at home, and kids played outside all year long. We rode our bikes and vanished all day. I jumped on buses and went to the pictures on my own, I walked miles along a beach at sunset and then had to get two buses to get home. I never felt afraid. It is only now as an adult I feel fear.

Well yeah. Kids aren't aware of stuff, of course they're not afraid of anything. That's hardly the point, the point is how responsible adults feel about this idea.

I for one also played outside all the time and did a lot of stuff without adults being around, but now that I'm 25 I know how dangerous that can be - I'm not saying kids should stay inside or something, of course they should be encouraged to play more with each other. But let's not go to extremes here. Leaving your kids in a park unsupervised for a long time is crossing the line.

23-05-10, 12:50
Kids nowadays do feel fear though. They worry about everything from the roads to strangers. They are aware of children vanishing in a way that I as a child wasn't even though the moors murders were happening during my childhood.

As a parent I know how hard it is to allow any freedon at all but you have to let your children grow and let them learn their places in the world. :)

23-05-10, 13:24
The first thing I imagined was from Treehouse of Horror V:
Principal Skinner: Now, let's check on the free-range children.

But I don't know what to say, playing in the street with other children is fine, because if something happens, people from the neighbourhood can help, but further away from home? I don't know.

23-05-10, 13:42
I never felt afraid. It is only now as an adult I feel fear.

It's the same with roller coasters, elevators and stuffs like that. When I were young I wasn't afraid at all. And I see children laughing and love stuffs like that.

But now when I'm older I listen to every sound, I feel if it's moving strange and everything. I fear much more things now then when I were younger. The same thing with walking alone outside.

And that's because I know exactly what can happen if anything goes wrong now when I'm older

Chocola teapot
23-05-10, 13:48
You see, when I was little I was scared of everything, Now I'm much less afraid.

I just... Don't care.

23-05-10, 21:23
Kids playing outside is natural but supervised is safer.
When I was a kid I was kinda stupid and probably would have done some really dumb moves and got myself hurt/killed. Now when I look back on that time I'm glad my parents just didn't neglect me and "send me out in the wild" cuz I realized how much of an idiot I was.
Jus have the kids play but some adult on the side lookin out for them. Like kids at recess during school, duh.

23-05-10, 21:31

Free range childrennnn