Free-Range Kids

May 22 has been declared the very first, “Take Our Children to the Park … And Leave Them There Day.” Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free-Range Kids, came up with the idea.

Most of us used to play outside in the park, without our parents, without cell phones, without Purell or bottled water and we survived! Thrived! We cherish the memories! And if you believe the million studies that I’m always publishing here, kids are healthier, happier and better-adjusted if they get to spend some time each day in “free play,” without adults hovering, Skenazy writes on her blog.

I want to be one of these kinds of parents, because I want to raise independent and self-reliant children. I do not want to be a helicopter parent, and I believe children should learn how to do things by themselves. Older children play by themselves in our neighborhood all the time. But Simone and Nadia are simply too young. Maybe in another five years or so.

For now, I am more concerned about being a responsible parent. When something goes wrong, society often judges first and asks questions later.

Years ago, a friend of mine forgot one of his four children at a fast food restaurant. When he and his wife realized what they had done, they immediately turned around and picked up their child. The little girl was standing outside of the restaurant with an employee. The parents apologized profusely and took their daughter home. I think this happened in the 1970s. I am happy to report it never happened again, and the child is now the mother of her own children. If that had happened today, the department of children and families may have been called and the parents may have had to prove they had made an honest mistake.

So, what do you think? Will you leave your children at the park on May 22?

  • Rania

    I agree about not being a helicopter parent and letting kids be kids. This is a struggle I have with my husband who grew up with an over-protective mother which he hated (just the overprotective part). He always has to be within arms reach of our kids and it annoys me because I don’t think it fosters a sense of independence, rather dependence that Dad is going to take care and make decisions for me with everything I do.

    But you’re also right about being a responsible parent. When I was growing up, I remember running off to playground or riding my bike to my aunt’s house three miles away alone (with no cell, no adult present, etc.). But back then, we had friends in all the neighboring areas and my friends parents KNEW me AND my mom and dad’s phone number and people just looked out for one another.

    Unfortunately, it’s not like it used to be. People keep to themselves for the most part and what goes on with someone else’s kid is not “my responsibility”. This makes it easy for strangers to prey on kids left and right.

    I do allow my older boys to leave the house and enjoy themselves (they have cell phones, bikes, and are big enough to fend an attack off and call attention to any problem if they should be approached) however, until my little ones are not able to be picked up and easily carried away, I will have to keep my kids (4 and 21 months) at least within eye-sight.

  • Courtney

    Well, I’m 21 and don’t have any children yet, but I some day hope to adopt some older children. I’m sure once faced with the realities of parenting, my decision will change–but as a kid I often played without adult supervision in the park. There were always other kids, usually my cousins, and the worse thing that ever happened to me was a scratched knee. The reality is that most people who want to hurt children are in their family–and a lot of “stranger danger” is a bit unjustified.

    *shrug*

    That said, it’s a pretty tacky world with lots of creepers, and I don’t have much faith in the goodness of strangers, or anyone. I have fond memories of playing with just my peers at even 5 years old, though.

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  • I’m a big believer in free play, but free play doesn’t have to mean unsafe play. There is no way I would let my girls play alone in our quiet neighborhood park – not a chance, not at 5 years old. That’s just not a safe choice for us.

    I do however, give them plenty of time to play in an upstairs playroom or out in our tiny backyard without direct supervision. I think it’s important for them to have a chance to play without an adult directing them, making suggestions, or hovering. During free play time, I only intervene if I hear really loud thumps or crying.

  • I am happy to go to the park and leave the cell phone, change of clothes, raisins, pretzels, and wipes in the “park bag” at home if that counts. We don’t have a yard, we live in the park. But so do some folks that I wouldn’t want my children walking off with for a second. I support a few hours of “roughing it” without Mama’s bag of tired and true park necessities, if it is in the name of appreciation for doing the best with what you got.

  • Lenore Skenazy

    Well I happen to love the idea — because I’m Lenore. And I thank you so much for opening up a conversation about it! I don’t want kids who are too young — say, below 7 — out there alone. I just want to start re-creating the freedom and community most of us enjoyed as youngsters. Thanks for this and what beautiful kids you have! — L.S.

  • That’s a big huge no. lol She’s definitely too young. I like the idea though.

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