How freely do you let your kids play?

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

We recently had a great discussion about whether we know our neighbors, and whether it’s even important for us to know them.  I found it fascinating the range of demographics and geography represented in the comments.  Overall, it seems like most of us want to establish some sort of community relationship with our neighbors, no matter where we live or what life stage we’re in.

Many of us have small children, so my next question for today involves their well-being.  There has been a huge shift in thinking — even just from my generation — about what constitutes safe playing for kids.

Nearly extinct are the days when kids just free played up and down their street, riding bikes to the pool and goofing around outside until the parents called them in for dinner.  Now, it’s much more about scheduled play dates, organized activities, and supervised backyard play.

Why is this?

typewriter key letter Q ampersand A

Is it too dangerous to play outside?

Richard Louv, author of last year’s Book Club summer selection Last Child in the Woods, and Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, argue that this is more than just interesting.  This is a crisis situation.

Parents are overly worried, argues Skenazy, because the dangers we imagine are mostly in our heads.  Thanks to the Internet and nonstop news, we receive worldwide information instantaneously, making us falsely believe the world is more dangerous than when we were kids.  In fact, crime overall is at an all-time 30 year low.

Here’s today’s discussion question:

Do you let your kids play outside in a “free-range” style?  How safe do you feel letting them out of your sight, even when you know where they are?  Do you think our current world is truly safer than it was when we were kids?  And how does this affect how you interact with your neighbors?

Also share how old your kids are and your living conditions, because I’m sure there’s a correlation.  I highly encourage you to check out Lenore’s site — it has some great information.  And if you haven’t yet, both books mentioned above are very worthwhile.

I’m looking forward to this week’s discussion! See you in the comments.

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Comments

  1. I have 3 children under 7 and they get to play in the garden unsupervised.
    I would have the oldest play differently but I’m reminded that my perceptions are different because I grew up, had my childhood and lived overseas. I’ve only been here for a short while in the US.
    I feel comfortable doing more but don’t.
    When I lived in Italy it felt very different. I have no idea if it was safer. I feel safe here but the parents/ locals I believe are different.
    I agree with the Free range kids message so much. I don’t think things have changed enough for what we do to have been so radically altered.
    Living here in America, my neighbours are too busy. It feels like you need an appointment to drop by……which defeats the object. We do have cul-de-sacs though so when some come out others follow.
    I enjoyed the festivals in Europe. The village would go to them and you’re always seeing the neighbours.
    Not everything is rosy though.
    .-= Melitsa´s last blog ..Raising Playful Tots show # 24 Time management tips for busy moms and play =-.

  2. I do not let my girls go in our front yard without me. So I spend a lot of time on the grass, watching them play. They go back and forth between our neighbor’s yard and ours. We might be over-worried by some people’s standards, but my husband actually had a friend who was kidnapped when they were out playing one day, so we don’t think twice about taking the time to sit out there with them. We’ve just never thought of doing it any other way.

    It’s also nice for me to be outside and read or work on my menus, etc. while they play. We also go to the park regularly where they have a little more room to run around. We live in California.
    .-= Angela @ Homegrown Mom´s last blog ..Wednesday Workbox Day =-.

  3. My boys are 12 and 14. I grew up in a tiny town, and I wandered the dirt roads of that town and the surrounding area all day, every day in the summers. No cell phone, no mall to go to, just walking and playing with whoever we could find. It was paradise for a child, and that makes it so hard for me to not let my kids wander. I didn’t let them when they were younger; I didn’t know my neighbors, it was a small neighborhood on the outskirts of town, and I was just nervous. Now that we live in a more central part of our suburb, and they are older, I let them wander. They walk to friends’ houses, to the park, to the store. But I still worry. I know that most of the things we worry about will not happen, but I still see newspaper reports of people following kids and trying to get them in their car. I can’t help but worry, but I also have talked to my kids since they were very small about the dangers. I feel like I have to let them go, let them “wander”, and really with cell phones these days, I do think they are safe and could call me if they need to. I am trying to raise my boys to be independent, so I can’t justify sheltering them at home because of my fears. I want them to have more and more freedom as they get older.

    I don’t know that it is safer today than when I was a kid. My husband grew up smack in the middle of a large city, but even with such a different environment than where I grew up, the neighbors (in my case, the whole town) all looked out for each other’s kids. They paid attention, they knew each other, and you kind of had a support network looking out for your child. I don’t feel like I have that, which is partially because moms and dads work all day now, and that wasn’t the case in the ’70’s and ’80’s when I was growing up. Cell phones do make up for that, but as a parent, it would be reassuring to know that other adults were watching out for my kids.

    Excellent question ~ this is something that seems to have no black or white answer, and we’ll probably always struggle with it.
    .-= Sheri´s last blog ..Monday Motivation =-.

    • I grew up in a suburb, and wandered all over from the time I was about 7 or 8. We moved to the country shortly after I got married and have raised 4 kids here. It has grown up much, though it is still considered rural. My kids were allowed to run between several neighbors yards when they were younger, but as they hit 8 or 10, I allowed them a little more freedom. We have acres and acres of woods around us, lots of places to explore. I always encouraged them to be with one of their friends or siblings. Once they got cell phones it became easier.
      When my daughter turned 11 she got a horse. She would saddle up after finishing her schoolwork and ride for HOURS down power lines and through fields. Sometimes she would have someone with her, but other times she was alone.
      When they built a gas station at the end of our street, still a little over a mile away, I began letting them walk or ride their bikes up there. They were preteens by then.
      Now that they are grown, I hear stories of things that would have gripped me had I known them then, like the coyotes chasing my daughter on her horse!
      All-in-all, they had a lot of freedom, and we had no negative results. And they have great memories!
      To give perspective, we live about an hour outside of Atlanta.

  4. Well, I happened to already be browsing the site when this post popped up. :)

    I only let my older kids (ages 10.5, 9, and 7) play outside with a sibling or friend, never alone. My 10yo pretty much comes and goes between our house and his best friend’s house 2 doors down. They don’t ride around the block or anything w/o permission.

    I’m OK letting them out of my site. I leave the windows and doors open so I can hear them, and I check on them every few minutes or so. My girls usually end up in the backyard on the trampoline, so that lightens my worries a bit. :) Our rules are they can only play/ride bikes or scooters on the sidewalk in front of our house and the houses on either side of us (so three houses total), and no further. I do not let my 4 and 2yo play outside w/o me.

    We live in a mostly empty-nester neighborhood. Lots of retired folks and surrogate grandparents look out for my family. :) It’s a very nice but older neighborhood, the kind of place where people care about their lawns and yards, hang around outside to chat in the evenings, etc. It’s a close-knit neighborhood, including our street.

    Ack, this is too long! Briefly…. I am not sure if it’s safer now or not. I think we just hear so.much.negative on the news and it’s possible it just wasn’t broadcast as much back then. I am, however, very careful about how my kids interact with neighbors. There is one house on our street our children are not allowed to go to or go in, and all the other parents on the street feel the same way, so we keep an eye out for each other’s children. Other than that, my kids know they can run to almost any neighbor for an emergency. We also hold street or block parties in the summer at our house to get to know the neighbors and hang out. Like I said, we are all pretty close.

  5. we live on a corner block on a busy road in the suburbs (australian suburbs. ;) ). it’s a small block – just big enough for a swing and a mini exercise trampoline. my girls (2 and 4) are allowed to play outside without me, but i can see them from the kitchen. i think it’s important that they learn how to play without adults being right there, but it’s also important for me to be there quickly if something gets dangerous (like climbing on the frame of the swing!). they’re still really young, though – i don’t know what their outside play will look like in a few years – i’ll take it as it comes.
    .-= anna´s last blog ..Another Keesh challenge… =-.

  6. mmm, i should say they’re allowed in the *back*yard… our front “yard” isn’t much of one, so there’s no playing that happens out the front.
    .-= anna´s last blog ..Another Keesh challenge… =-.

  7. avatar
    Brandis says:

    I have a 3.5 year old and an 18 month old. They both get to play in the fenced back yard by themselves, and I let my older daughter play in the front yard by herself as long as I am in/near the kitchen where I can see her most of the time. They aren’t old enough to run around the neighborhood yet, but I imagine that if they were I would allow it. Our neighborhood is nice and, while I wouldn’t call it close knit, everyone is friendly. All the older (school age) kids play together up and down the block and ride bikes in the street. It’s a neighborhood that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, making it a bit safer in that respect.

    I honestly have very mixed feelings about this. I think we should give kids freedom, but with limits, and we have to be very careful about the choices we make so far as allowing them to run around. Crime may be lower, but no statistic in the world is going to make me feel better if my daughter was grabbed by someone, or run over on the sidewalk by a drunk driver. I don’t worry about these things happening (worrying isn’t good for you!). I just try to make choices that will make the aforementioned events less likely without infringing on my kids’ freedom too much. But I don’t think it is any more or less safe now than it was when I was growing up.

    I do think that this is a huge incentive to get to be friends with your neighbors, though. It takes a village, right?

  8. avatar
    Shelby Austin says:

    We live in a small town (3500) in Alberta, Canada. I let my 7 and 4 year old play unsupervised in the neighborhood. This is new for me and I have to admit it takes some getting used to, I’ve been tempted to send them with my cell phone or to get walkie talkies. About 50% of the time they are within my sight, but that leaves a lot of the time where I can’t see them. They often play behind the houses across the street. I believe that this is good for them to experience and be given this freedom, so I try to work through my anxiety and remind myself often that its safer now than it was years ago. The problem arises when my 4 year old wants to go out without the 7 year old, I’m not comfortable with that yet, but she gets frustrated because she doesn’t understand why she can’t.

    • My two older children were allowed more unsupervised play than we allow our youngest. I have grandchildren that are older than my youngest (step-son). We also live in a different place, let alone a different time. Just last week I ran off a little boy that had climbed up onto our deck, heading straight for my husbands new tomato plants. I ran him off. Thinking he would open the gate and go back through, he instead climed over it using the rails on the deck, in flip flops and up two stories. All I could do was hold my breath a pray that he did not fall. Two days later, I saw him outside across the street in a neighbors yard with very large fence cutters. He had to stand in the middle of the cutters with one hand/arm on each side in order to close the cutters and continue with cutting down the neighbor’s bush. Again in flip flops. At this point, I called the sheriff. I could just imagine the tips of the cutters dropping into his little toes or cutting off his fingers. I work in an ER and we see a lot of adults getting put back together after doing something stupid. I do not know where this child lives. I do not know where his parents are. The boy, who we now refer to as Dennis the Menace is about 5 years old. As the child continues to run the neighborhood unsupervised, I will continue to phone the police when I see any danger. Eventually maybe his parents will have to be accountable for their own child. Lots of other children “free play” in our neighborhood. But then we live in a neighborhood that has a lot of drug activity too and lots of speeding cars. There is parenting towards independence, and then there is pure laziness. We see most of the latter.

  9. My son is only 2 and we don’t have our own backyard (military apartment dwellers!) so unfortunately he can’t play unsupervised. We do have a shared playground right outside though and when we go out to play I am always there if he needs me but I make a point to sit away from him playing with the other kids so that he can have fun on his own terms or I’ll be doing something else like weeding the flower beds.

    Not to say that I don’t play with them too, it’s fun to get a little messy but I know they need their own space sometimes. I try to keep it fairly balanced. We also live in Europe (Germany) where kindergarteners walk home/catch the bus home all on their own regularly. I’d have no problem letting him play unsupervised if we lived in a house with a backyard.
    .-= Satakieli´s last blog ..Forget the rain =-.

    • I just wanted to add… i’m British originally. I don’t know how it is now but when I was a kid in England we would run all over the neighbourhood playing. The older kids would watch out for the younger ones and the parents would just have their windows open so they could hear us. We lived on a cul-de-sac with hardly any traffic.

      It seems to be much this way in Germany but I know when we lived in the states briefly I was surprised at how few children were playing outside in the yards or in the street. The only time I saw kids playing outside was when we lived in a lower income neighbourhood and in the summer the street was full of children playing and the parents sitting out on their porches, I used to really enjoy those days.
      .-= Satakieli´s last blog ..Forget the rain =-.

  10. I do not have this worry yet. My son is 3 on the 30th of this month but is dev. delayed so I have to have him in sight at all times. My 15 mo. daughter still looks around to make sure I’m there before she goes too far. We have a nice acre for them and are in a cul-de-sac. When they get older, who knows? We are currently living in the city my husband grew up in and I know no one except the next door neighbor. If we were in my hometown I would probably not care about them playing all over the neighborhood. I used to ride my bike to the downtown area(3 miles or so) and to the closest grocery(1 1/2 miles) when I was 10 or 11. I think it is different now in that there is more built up and more traffic but for the most part. What will be will be.

  11. I routinely let my 3 year old play outdoors with the 8-12 year olds in our neighborhood without me. It took awhile before I let her do this more and more on her own. At first they would just play in our garage with the door open which progressed to her playing at the neighborhood playground across the street. I learned to trust the girls and they watch out for her. I still check on her every 15 minutes or so. It’s been difficult finding kids her age to routinely meet up with because everything is so scheduled. It seems so many moms of toddlers just sign them up for expensive “educational” classes but don’t let their kids have free play. My daughter has learned a lot from the older girls about friendship, imaginative play, sharing, etc. It’s an experience neither me or some over priced class can recreate.

    • Hi Megan,

      I’m in the same situation as you. My 3 year old daughter advanced quickly. A year ago, my husband met a family that moved in five doors down the street. She has a 7 year old daughter who is really friendly. My daughter took a liking to her right away. My husband started allowing them to play together and the three of them would go places, like the park or the local farm. My husband is a huge fan of free-range kids and was comfortable letting our daughter play with this girl on the street unsupervised. A few days ago my daughter and I were on the porch. She wanted to see if her friend was available to play. She asked if she could go check and I said “yes, but if she’s not home or not available, you come back”. I had to use the bathroom so I did. As I was on my way back to the porch my babysitter (who lives six doors away) comes into my house with my daughter and told me that she was just hanging around the front of her friend’s house. Her friend was not allowed to play that day. Later that evening when I went to pick up my daughter from the babysitter’s she said she wanted to discuss some “legal matters”. I asked what it was about and she told me that it was illegal for me to leave my 3 yo unsupervised. She threatened to call children’s aid for neglect. She said that I should not let my daughter play alone on the street (which was never done intentionally) or let 7 year olds supervise her. I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep that night. When she basically implied that I had to watch my daughter 24/7 I felt like my whole world was closing in on me. I’m a stay at home mom and being around my daughter all the time is a challenge for me. I’ve stopped using my babysitter’s services but she now has me questioning my own parenting choices. I know I’m not a lazy parent because I don’t sit at home watching tv while she’s out. I cook, clean, do laundry and house repairs. Today she asked if she could knock on her friend’s door (like she always does) and I didn’t know what to say. Now I’m living in fear, afraid that someone will take her (according to my babysitter) or that someone will call children’s aid (probably my babysitter). Funny thing is that her 16 year old son is a smoker and she knows it. I think that’s neglect. Any advice or feedback would be appreciated.

      • I feel bad that, that happened to you. And now all those horrible doubts have been put in your mind. The police are here to serve and protect, call them and confirm that it is not negligence to allow your daughter to walk 5 houses down the street. What the evil baby sitter said would have shaken my ideals too. Children need to learn independence and confidence. I guess the problem is (in this case) Plan B happened and a 3yo couldn’t figure out the correct course of action (come back home) Maybe if you give your daughter better directions, ie if your friend is not home then come straight home. And TALK to the 7 yo’s mom, about calling when your kid shows up at the door, whether or not her daughter can come out and play. Possibly better communication is the key here. And for heavens sake, never let your daughter near that baby sitter again, I’d be afraid of her. The flip side of this is my boss watching his 14 yo’s friend (boy) walk to the end of the corner, which I think is as silly as anything.

      • Wendy,
        I would have to agree with the babysitter who told you it’s unwise to let your 3 yr old wander 5 doors down to see if her friend was home. I find it hard to believe I could be in the minority here. A 3 yr old is vulnerable to older children who are not mature, and also unable to make decisions about what is safe, etc. You have no idea what she might encounter on her trip down the street or into someone’s home. It’s not reasonable to expect a 3 yr old to come back 100% of the time, and not wander or get distracted, as children this age are naturally curious. They depend on adults to sense danger and keep them safe. She could literally be anywhere for hours before you discover her wherabouts. I think the babysitter was sincere in her concern for your daughter’s well being, as the vast majority of adults would be. If it is a challege being with your daughter all of the time, maybe you could take turns with a neighbor babysitting each other’s children. Or arrange for a friend or family member to give you a break when you need one.

  12. I have 3 children 20,12 and 4 months. I would have to say it is NOT as safe as when I was a kid, but on the other hand, I think people have gotten overboard about some things. I have never let my kids ‘spend the night’ with friends. Or at least very rarely, and I had to be close friends with the other family.
    Where we have lived has been a factor for sure about my kids playing with other kids. The 20 yr old spent her first 15 yrs out in the country. Her play friends were the horses and dogs. The 12 yr old hasn’t been as blessed. We just spent the last two years living in an area in which he didn’t leave our yard. The feeling was mutual. He never even asked to leave the yard. It was an uncomfortable place to live. Not bad. Just uncomfortable. We now live in a better town, and he has one friend. The minute that friend goes outside, so does my ds. One rule though…no playing inside the others home. That goes for both boys.
    I pray that by the time my 4 month old is big enough to play outside, we will be in the country again. I think he’d like horses and dogs as playmates!
    .-= Tonya O.´s last blog ..On-The-Go Picnic placemat set =-.

  13. I have 2 under the age of 3. So no I don’t let them play outside unsupervised, not only because I fear going to jail but because I fear they would get hurt. We live in the country in a very small town, but near a busy highway & even though the speed limit in front of our house is posted at 30 mph no one, not even the police, drive past here that slowly. Perhaps when they are older and have a better comprehesion of what is safe, etc. Then I’ll allow unsupervised outdoor play, I even look forward to the day perhaps I’ll be able to finally go to the bathroom by myself.

  14. Mine are still small, so my answer might differ from that of some other moms. My oldest just turned four this weekend, and my youngest is 1 1/2. We live in the city (Montreal), on a busy side street. The kids play in the backyard, and they do what they want while I’m gardening, etc. The oldest can play in the backyard with her friends while our downstairs neighbor (a mother) is inside keeping her eye on them through the window. The baby is obviously too young. I don’t feel that my oldest is old enough to roam the neighborhood, particularly in a city environment.

    I don’t feel our outdoor environment is more or less safe. I think there were always dangers, and there always will be.

    I like to get to know as many of my neighbors as possible. I’m not one to just go to their doors and introduce myself because I’m a little too shy for that, but every opportunity I have to meet someone who happens to be outside, I take. I figure that it can only help to know the people around me, right?
    .-= Jaimie´s last blog ..Self Portrait Saturday #2–May 8th, 2010 =-.

  15. We live on 27 acres in Australia, and I let the kids 2yo, 4yo, 5yo boys) play unsupervised outside all the time. We have boundaries – no going into the bush, no going down out the front gate. I do question myself on days like yesterday when my 5yo came face to face with a brown snake (v. venomous) when climbing an embankment near the house. He tried to get away, and eventually the vine his foot was caught in broke, and he slid down the bank to safety. Would not have been a nice Mother’s Day.
    We don’t have any dams on our property, so except for snakes, I think it is pretty safe. I think when they are older, I will let them go exploring in the bush (- staying on our property.) I think it is important not to try to protect our children from everything that might harm them. Isn’t getting hurt part of growing up? My boys have learnt quite a bit of safety sense from their mistakes. I must admit I am much more comfortable with the idea of dealing with risks in nature, than the risks involved with people.

  16. My child is 12 and when he was around 10, I loosened up a little, letting him play outside without me. I’m extremely protective and I’d only let him play outside if I could actually see him. I’d tell him if he couldn’t see me (sometimes I’d be inside, in the kitchen at the PC where he could see me), then he knew he strayed too far.

    I’ve loosened up more, but he still isn’t allowed to play at anyone’s house I don’t know the parents – period. He is also not allowed to go into anyone’s house for any reason, unless I know first. I’m lucky enough to live in a community where I know almost all the parents of the kids my son plays with – but its because I make it a habit of introducing myself to his friends parents. I feel this is something that you HAVE to do.

    Also, when my son was 10, I made sure to put my cell phone in his pocket – so that he could always reach me and vice versa. Many of my friends said that was too young – but it was MY phone, and it made me feel better to have him outside with my phone, even if I could see him.

    At 12, he uses my extra cell phone … and I have signed up all numbers to a Locater service, so I can check online his whereabouts from time to time. Again, it may seem a bit much to some, but it works for me.

    Above all else, nothing beats getting to know the parents of your friends. I make sure they have my number and also the number of my extra cell phone that my son carries when he plays outside.
    .-= KayTee´s last blog ..A Season Of Artful Orange … =-.

  17. avatar
    sewingirl says:

    My kids are mostly grown now, but we have lived in the country forever. We had a fenced play yard when they were younger, maybe until 5 or 6, and they had to stay inside it unless we parents were outside somewhere. They played all over our big yard, and later the farm fields. I don’t think rural people worry less about abductions etc., maybe more, there are much less people around to witness things. When the kids got old enough to be out of sight of the house, they had to go in pairs, and yes we did invest in some walkie talkies, they loved them, and we were more comfortable knowing what was going on. They didn’t sleep over unless we knew the other family, but I don’t remember that they even asked to very much. I did call around a few times to see if anyone I knew, also knew the other folks, if they got a good recommendation, I would call them directly, just to “double-check” the details. And I did have some parents come to the door with their kids, I was always very glad to see them, and I hope that I passed muster also!

  18. I just did a post on this last week! It was about letting my 8 and 10 year old kids ride their bikes on our country roads. (I did—they went three miles to my husband’s job and back.)

    My kids (4, 6, 8, 10) roam freely on our five acres (mostly fields, no water).

    Everyone has different tolerance-levels, but I think a lot of the reason why people are so nervous today is because they are so far removed from reality—cars, air-conditioning, all food from the grocery store, TV. Our society has lost a lot of practical skills and basic common sense, and this makes us scared and fretful and we take it out on our kids.
    .-= Jennifer Jo´s last blog ..Warts and all =-.

  19. My kids are 11, 9 & 7. We live in an urban neighborhood in Maine (very low crime rate in the state overall). I let my children play unsupervised in our backyard, I’ve been doing that for only a couple years. Before that I wanted to be with them.. I also let them play unsupervised (as in, within earshot) in the Maine woods, which we spend a fair amount of time in.

    We live in a very urban spot and people are always walking on our street. Great neighborhood but I would never let my children roam freely from here. Way too risky.

    I am not so much concerned about physical harm, ie: all three jump together on the trampoline all the time (very unsafe according the powers-that-be) but I am very concerned about strangers, abductions etc… I could not live with myself if something like that ever happened to my children. I’d rather be overcautious in the city for that reason.

    But once we get into the woods (every weekend) we like to let them explore with minimal interference from us. Also, we go to our csa farm once a week all summer and they are “free-range” there.

    As city dwellers we need these weekly excursions for free, unsupervised play.

  20. My boys are 4 an 19 months old. I let them play freely in the fenced in backyard at our rental house. We are close to a busy street so I usually stand in the kitchen or sun room to keep an eye on them. I also don’t hover at the playgrounds either. I often wonder how far I’ll let them roam once they get a little older.
    .-= LaToya´s last blog ..Real Food on a Real Budget Giveaway @ Simple Mom =-.

  21. The gentleman who lived 3 doors down from us was recently jailed for molesting his step-daughter that lived in the house with he and his wife. That step-daughter is the same age as my oldest daughter.

    On the next street, an older grandfatherly type man was arrested for drugging and molesting two neighborhood boys.

    No, I don’t let my kids play outside in the neighborhood unsupervised. And I’d like to say to Ms. Skenazy that the danger is not in my head. But rather 3 doors down.

    I do, however, provide lots of outside play time with my kid’s friends. With safe and adequate supervision.
    .-= Fiddledeedee´s last blog ..A Mother of a Day =-.

  22. I have 4 kids (11, 9, 5, 3) and live in a neighborhood that has one entrance/exit plus our house is in a court. I feel safe letting the older 2 ride their bikes and walk around the neighboorhood without an adult present and I’m fine with letting the kids play out front with minimal supervision. The exception is if it’s only the 2 younger kids. In that case, I try to be outside too so that I can keep tabs on our youngest. Sometimes though if it’s for a short time period I’m okay with them playing our front alone…if the windows are open and I can hear them. Out in the fenced back yard they can definitely play alone.

    My oldest has been walking to the her friend’s house the next neighborhood over for over a year. My only requirement is that she phones when she gets there and calls before heading back home. She has also been staying home by herself during the day for a couple of hours here and there. This weekend, she stayed home with her youngest sibling for about 1 1/2 hours.

    My oldest 2 also walk to and from the bus stop by themselves on school days. It’s around the corner from our house so they are on their own until the bus comes.

    I agree with what Brandis said, “Crime may be lower, but no statistic in the world is going to make me feel better if my daughter was grabbed by someone, or run over on the sidewalk by a drunk driver.”. I want my children to be confident and independent but at the same time, they’re my babies and I don’t want anything bad to happen to them. I do keep tabs on the sex offender registry for our area. We did run into a situation where we had a sex offender living in our neighborhood for a few months. I was a little more watchful of the younger kids and had several discussions with the older 2 about wrongful touching, etc..

    One thing I find different about when I was a child is that there are less parents home during the day. In our neighborhood of approx. 100 houses there is only one other SAHM. Whereas I had other moms keeping an eye for me whether I was aware of it or not, during the work week my kids don’t have that. It makes summer time a little lonely for them too. Most of the other kids are in daycare or camps all summer long.

    While I find the idea of free-range children interesting, I don’t whole-heartedly agree with it. We had for a time a couple of siblings in our neighborhood that were allowed to free-range. I didn’t know their parents at all and they certainly didn’t know who I was or where I lived. Their kids (who were a 4 and 7) would show up at our doorstep around 10am in the morning and inform us that they didn’t have to be home until 6pm. Maybe I’m too strict, but my kids don’t go inside someone’s house to play unless I’ve met them.

    My take on free-range kids…yes, kids today need a bit more freedom and less structure. However, you still need to be aware of where they are and who they are with.

  23. Is it weird I’m freaked enough about posting my kids playing habits I chose to do so anonymously?

    Anywho.

    I have two daughters. One will be three next week, the other is nearly 14 months. I let them in our fenced backyard together, but leave the door open and all of the window shades up so I can have the best view possible of them. Our neighborhood is a mixture of young families, but mostly older couples whose kids are in college. In general I would say that I’m more paranoid than most. I check out the windows at least every minute and my kids are still young enough that they check on me often too. Our fence is a privacy fence, but part is a picket fence, which has a lock on the gate.

    We live in a midwestern US suburb, similar, but a bigger city than where I grew up. I was able to play outside in the neighborhood up and down the street. That was the mid 1980’s. My kids won’t be playing in our front yard unsupervised, but I feel our backyard is enclosed enough to let them have a bit of freedom. I have considered buying alarm bracelets that they can wear to signal if they are a certain distance from me, for outside play time… not sure if I will, but I like the idea!

  24. I have 2 boys – 4 and 1 – and I let the 4 year old play in the backyard by himself, but that is about as far as I go. We have 8 and 6 year old neighbors that are allowed to roam a couple of streets over from their house – gone all day long if they like – playing at whomever’s house they chose. My hubs and I could not pick their parents out of a line up and their children have tried to come into our house. The 6 year old has been in our driveway until 8:30 p.m. This drives me crazy… and I don’t know what I can do about it {to help protect these kiddos} but my guess is the answer is nothing?
    .-= Leslie´s last blog ..Panama City Beach =-.

    • avatar
      Christine says:

      I had the cops called on me for this lol! But it is REALLY uptight in the south. Everybody here thinks its their business how you parent your kids!

  25. Here’s my take: I’m thirty-six and grew up in the era of Adam Walsh and After-School Specials. Mix this very early exposure to the evils of this world along with twenty-four hour news access, and we have created a world that is much more threatening to our children.

    Is this good? Bad? I don’t know. It makes me sad, though, that my children don’t have many of the freedoms and opportunities to grow (apart from parents, cell phone check ins, etc) as I did.
    .-= caroline starr rose´s last blog ..Do the Write Thing for Nashville =-.

    • A year later, I can say I work very hard to let my 8 and 10 year-old have more freedom. This is the year of the scooter in our household, and I’m letting the boys roam two streets up and two streets down from our house. While I’ll confess I’m partially nervous while they’re away, I strongly feel they need to have this room to play, explore, and grow without a hovering adult.

      They’ve asked to scoot down to the skate park without me (3/4 of a mile away). I’ve said no way.

      The boys are at a great age for pick up basketball and football in front of the house. We even have a few older boys that come knock on the door, looking for a game. This summer at my parents’ farm, the boys are getting a lot of time to explore on their own, creating memories and building dreams and being their grubby, precious selves.

  26. I have an almost 4 year old that I have just now started to let play in the fenced backyard by himself for a very little while. I honestly don’t know why it makes me so nervous to let him do this. He is excellent at following rules and has always been very safe. Maybe when his brother is older (8 months now) and they can play outside together, I won’t feel as nervous. I think the uneasy thought right now is not that he is outside without a parent, but that he is outside completely alone.

  27. Growing up, I had run of our 700 acre farm. I was taught to respect dangers (old farm wells, snakes, cars on the road that ran through the middle) and expected to be smart about the risk I took. If it started storming, I knew to go in the barn for cover. I came home for supper and band-aids.
    Now, we live on 6 acres, just a little way off the state highway. My kids are ages 6, 4, 3, and 1. The six and four year old play outside, within the boundaries we have set with them. When they were younger (and now my three year old is learning), I taught them this rule to keep them out of trouble. “Stay in the grass (that’s our immediate yard area, not the field), don’t run away. If momma calls, answer right away.” I made them repeat the rhyme before going out the door, every time. The older two have had their boundaries increased as they show they are ready to venture farther. Now, they enjoy playing in the woods as well as the yard.
    I think it’s important for kids to “get in trouble” from time to time and have to work their way out of it. I try to control just how much trouble they can find, but I let them get in just over their heads from time to time. It builds their problem solving skills, makes them feel more independent, and gives them confidence.
    .-= Fatima´s last blog ..Thankful Thursday =-.

    • BTW, in the “old days” we always kept the windows open. I do the same for my kids. It’s a bit warmer in my house without using air conditioning, but I’m connected to the outdoors and my kids. I can hear if they get into trouble. They can easily come to me for help. I am excited about putting up a screen door on my front door this weekend. It will make it even easier for the kids to enjoy playing outside.
      .-= Fatima´s last blog ..Thankful Thursday =-.

  28. My baby is only 10 mths., but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. We live right in the middle of the city in New Orleans & have both a back & front yard (although small). We know all of our neighbors well & live in a low-crime community. The problem is that there is a bar on the corner (3 houses down) and it is starts getting customers pretty early in the day. This never bothered me until I had a baby. Now I have to carry her with me constantly, even if I’m going to turn on the hose or disassemble the stroller. I worry that some drunk will lose control of the car…

    We never considered moving out of the city a viable option for our family. Both my husband & I were raised in the suburbs and while we enjoyed the freedom it brought to our play time, we decided it was more important for us to have the cultural benefits of living in the city.

    As much as I wish my baby could have a little more independence as she grows, the trade-off may be worth it. We did take the street car into the French Quarter yesterday and spent the day listening to live music & eating some pretty awesome food. Hopefully your child develops a different much still valuable skill set from city-living?

  29. avatar
    Melissa says:

    When my son was born, we lived on a beautiful mountain in a very small converted summer bungalow. Our back door opened up to a state park, and we were always outdoors – I would put him in the backpack and go hiking, or we would go for a stroller walk around the lake. I promised myself back then that I would never, ever do anything to limit his freedom.

    But things changed when we outgrew the little house and had to move to a larger one in a different state. Now, on a non-stop basis, I have 18 wheelers driving to the factory out back of my house, and a train that goes by all hours of the day and night. My neighbor’s one son is in jail for murder; their other son still lives with them. He is no prize and has even stolen from us on a number of occasions. He is an overall angry person. He drives too fast and I am scared of my son wandering into the alley and getting hit.

    So, needless to say, my whole approach is different now. I hate it, but I don’t know how else to keep him safe. I also have a seven month old daughter now, and it is a challenge to coordinate his outdoor play time with her feeding and changing schedule. Sometimes he’ll be asking me, “Can we please go outside?” It’s a beautiful day, but I’ll have to keep him in a little longer until I finish what I’m doing and am able to go out. I wish so much that it wasn’t like that. I will let him go outside without me if my husband is working out in the yard. What I desperately need is a fence, but my estimate is that – even if we installed it ourselves – it would cost about $5000, and that’s a big nut to crack.

  30. avatar
    Elizabeth says:

    I think the neighborhood is key. We live in a townhome community where 90% of the families go to the same seminary that my husband attends. There are a ton of SAHMs and we know most of the people living here. My 2 yr old is allowed to play on our porch, in our carport, and in our side yard where I can hear and see her most of the time. Our 5 yr old is allowed to ride his bike in our cul de sac and to walk to the playgroud that is about 150 yards away from our house. When we move away from here I’m not sure how things will change.

  31. My oldest is 4.5 and my youngest is nearly 3 (in july) They are allowed to play outside by themselves, even in the front. For now, they have to stay in our front yard and I am pretty strict about the boundaries (As they get older and more cognizant of cars, they will get wider boundaries.) Primarily, the boundaries are in place because I simply worry about them being on the sidewalk, in the path of someone backing out of their driveway (a situation that nearly happened to a friend’s daughter while she was visiting – our next door teenaged neighbor nearly backed right over her and yes, it was truly frightening)

    I do keep a general eye on them, but for the most part they are on their own. My oldest has been playing in our backyard since he was 20 months old by himself. He has been playing in the front yard by himself since he was 3.5. We have a lot of windows in our yard and definitely last year, I was more nervous about him being in the front yard and would check in on him more frequently.

    You see, the fears are MINE and I had to navigate those carefully because I want a childhood for my children where they actually get to explore and participate in their world without my monitoring and scheduling every moment. Half the importance of childhood is having loads of free time, being bored with it and figuring out on your own when to do with it.
    .-= cagey (Kelli Oliver George)´s last blog ..Letting go. =-.

  32. avatar
    Heather says:

    My kids are a 10 year old girl and and 3 year old boy. Like others they are both allowed to play in our fenced backyard unsupervised.

    My 10 year old is allowed much more freedom just because she is much more mature. She rides her scooter to school alone (of course we only live 3 houses away from the school). She can ride her bike to swim team, again only a few blocks away. She can ride around the block with her friends. Now we are about to let her ride her bike/scooter/or walk to friends houses in the neighborhood with one condition. We know which house she is going to and she must call when she arrives. Sortof a point A to point B kind of trust system.

    On visiting other people’s houses, I have to know the parents and have to be invited into their house for at least the first visit. You can just tell more about the vibe of the house if you visit for a while. Neither of my children are allowed to go into a stranger’s house, period.

    In addition, a few of our friends have formed a loose parenting group. Basically, my daughter has 5 friends who she has chosen on her own and now the 6 families have agreed to partner up on parenting the girls. If 2 or more of them are together then they get more freedom to do more things in the neighborhood like ride bikes, go to each others houses, etc. Our goal is to build up this trust between the girls and the parents to prepare them for middle school and beyond. That way we know they’ll stick together at dances, functions, and we’ll know whether they are truly sleeping over at so & so’s house.

    My son is 3, all boy and leaves a path of dirt and destruction. Therefore, he is occasionally allowed to be out of sight, but not out of hearing range (ie. the next room). Think Calvin and Hobbes. He is going to get more freedom when he is older, but for his and everyone else’s safety he is well supervised.

  33. I have two boys, 3 1/2 and 9 years old, and one girl, 12 years old. We live in a small rural town in Northwestern Minnesota (population about 1,000 with only 300 families in town). We moved here from a larger city in middle Tennessee about two years ago. We know all our neighbors here and our neighbors know us and the kids. I let my oldest play outside by himself, ride their bike around our block and visit with some of the neighbors BUT they are suppose to tell me before they leaves the yard.

    Obviously, my oldest has more freedoms than the youngest. My youngest doesn’t go outside unless my husband or me are with him. Our yard isn’t fenced in so I’m afraid of him wandering off and getting lost more than anything else! As he gets older, he will be allowed to play outside and do more things on his own but my nearly 4 year old still struggles with staying within boundaries.

    When we lived in middle Tennessee, we knew very few of our neighbors and the neighborhood was not know to be the safest place. My kids were not allowed to play outside unless my windows and doors were open and they stayed within eyeshot of the living room. They had a friend down the street but they could only walk to her house if I stood on the steps and watched them make it inside their friend’s house!

    I grew up in a larger city suburb where we were allowed to play at certain neighbor’s homes, and always in our own yard but mom had to know where we were and when we’d be back. We were allowed to ride our bikes to the dead end of the street and back. If we wanted to go anywhere else, we had to call home first and if mom yelled our name, then it was time to come home!

    I think the dangers are no more worse than they were when I was a child, I simply think they are presented differently: cyber bullying, online predators, etc. I think as a parent, you just have to be aware of what’s going on in your community. If you live in a high crime area then obviously you won’t let your kids go out alone but if you live in a low crime community then you can let them play and be free-ier!
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Archives.com #GIVEAWAY ($200 Value) =-.

  34. Being in my early twenties, I do not have any children of my own, but I can give my perspective of my childhood.
    Growing up we (my sister and I) lived on 5 acres, which we were allowed to play unsupervised any time. We were also allowed to ride our bikes around the neighborhood to visit with the other kids (note, that all of the lots are 5 acres mostly, so there was a lot of distance). Of course, we always had to let mom know where we were going. Going into town on our own didn’t happen because we lived too far away, so no trips to pools.
    Visiting my grandmother’s town (where my parents grew up) we were allowed to walk all over town, up to the various parks and playgrounds. Again, we did need to notify the parents if we were going far (however, when less than a mile…we didn’t always remember to tell them…).
    Heck, I think my parents kept better tabs on us as teens because then we could barrow the car and actually get some distance from home. So, maybe we were more “free range” than some kids today. I don’t know, it was just normal for me.

  35. I have a 5 and 3 yr old, and we live in a small prairie town on a side street. My 3 yr old is allowed in the our back, fenced yard by himself, or in the front garden if I am in the living room or outside. When my 5 yr old is home, they are allowed to go two driveways on either side of our house on the sidewalk. Recently they have made friends with the neighbours across the street. After a few days of playing in each others’ front yards, the other mom and I have both decided to give them free range of our backyards, too. So we both keep our windows open and keep an eye on them when they are in our back yard. Its been great for my boys to have this freedom.

    Next fall we’re moving to an urban neighbourhood in a big city, so it may be a few years before they have this much freedom again — it will be a lot of more supervised time in parks, etc until they are a little older and more responsible. But we’ll also be closer to my husband’s brother, who has a few acres of woods, so we figure that the boys will get lots of outdoor nature time when we go to visit.
    .-= jill´s last blog ..Treehouse! =-.

  36. avatar
    Melissa says:

    I do not let my kids play unsupervised! We just had in our neighborhood a girl almost get taken by some pervert! She was smart and got away She was six yrs old. We live in a nice neighborhood but these days no where is really safe from those who would take advantage of parents not watching out for there children. It really is not safe because pornography is so much more prevalent than when I was a child. It does change a persons brain chemistry and thinking until they act out their fantasies! A word to you all watch out for your children. You really do not want to be that one in however many that gets their child taken!

  37. avatar
    Vanessa says:

    I have a 2 year old and 3 year old so being allowed to play outside alone has yet to become a venture for us. With where we live, while we are out in the country, the cars zoom by at incredible speeds and I’m not sure if they we’re older I’d allow them to play out front alone. I do know that the neighbors that I have seen, they have older children, are allowed to play outside alone but I never see them riding bikes or anything along the street. I’m assuming because of how fast our road is taken by car.

    When at the Grand parents, my 3 year old is allowed to play outside without an adult but only if both of her older cousins are out there with her (10 and 9). They live in the suburbs in a fairly quiet neighborhood and people who drive through are normally very cautious. Though the no front yard still applies. They are only allowed to play in the Grand Parents back yard or my brother’s (My Parent’s and brother live next door to each other).

  38. I am glad to read that things are really not more dangerous now than before – that our perceptions are a bit addled by news coverage and careless messaging.

    However, I do think there is one change that does impact the safety of our kids – which relates to the neighborliness issue we discussed last week. While our parents had a LOT of neighbors and friends nearby who would help out if the kids had a problem (or rat them out if they were behaving inappropriately) AND to whom the kids would feel comfortable going if they ran into a problem, we lack that comfort and closeness as a community that our parents had. This affects simple physical safety if the kids are playing in the street and get hurt – but also affects the kids’ ability to make good or bad decisions. If they know that every house contains an adult who won’t hesitate to step in or call their parents, kids will hesitate to make bad decisions, but if many of the neighbors are virtually strangers, then they may not have those same mental brakes.
    .-= ami´s last blog ..Spread your ideas – learn to speak in public =-.

  39. My oldest is almost 6 and I’ve thought about this a lot lately. I’m not overprotective in most cases, but I do have realistic concerns about distracted drivers. (ie talking on the phone, texting or in a hurry with our recently busy-busy-busy nation) Playing in the front yard isn’t my concern, but our yards are small in Phoenix and I realize playing would seep into the streets.

    I guess my job is to relentlessly instill in my kids to “looking both ways” like our parents did. Most kids are off in la-la-land nowadays because there’s no accountability. The helicopter moms don’t let kids have natural consequences, so it seems kids all feel invincible.
    .-= Intentionally Katie´s last blog ..‘Round Here =-.

  40. avatar
    Jessica says:

    Wow. It seems I may be in the minority here. I let my 5 and 3 year old play outside by themselves (although we do have a big yard and a small house so they are always visible). I even let my 5 year old ride up and down our street on her bike (dead-end street). I think that it is much more important to teach children how to respond to danger rather than sheltering them from it. From infancy on I’ve taught them to respect cars and driveways, always be aware of their surroundings and how to recognize and respond to strangers. We always talk about different situations and how to handle them.

    I’ve recently started teaching them how to hike in the woods (follow trail blazes, stay away from poison ivy, etc.) to prepare them so they can run free in the trails behind our neighborhood in a couple of years.

    Here’s the thing I’ve noticed- if she knows I’m watching she does not pay as close attention to her surroundings as when she doesn’t think I’m watching. The more freedom I give my 5 year old the more responsible she is. And isn’t that the ultimate goal in childrearing – to raise responsible mature adults?

    • I really love this, “Here’s the thing I’ve noticed- if she knows I’m watching she does not pay as close attention to her surroundings as when she doesn’t think I’m watching. The more freedom I give my 5 year old the more responsible she is. “

    • I feel the same! I have a six-year-old son who is allowed to play in the back yard unsupervised and in the front yard if I am aware that he’s going and he respects the perimeters (to the edges of each of our neighbors’ yards).

      If my son thinks I’m busy inside, he definitely seems to take more care to listen and observe. I LOVE catching him just laying in the yard, silent. I can see him easily from a large sliding glass door that leads to a sun porch, so he can’t as easily see me.

      The air conditioner is a game-changer. It blocks my ability to hear him, so I get a bit more vigilant about checking on him. When environmental sounds are few, I can go 30mins or so without needing to see him.

      The front yard limits are due to my concern that the high school kids coming and going will not notice him if he wanders too close to the street, or if they get distracted and drive into the yard. And, truthfully, I worry about snatchers and sexual predators.

      We speak often about what to do when you’re hurt or feel like you’re in danger. We discuss stranger danger, mostly focusing on never going anywhere with a person you don’t know. I want my son to be open to people he does not know, but I need him to understand that no one who cares about his safety would ask him to leave a space without his parents’ permission.

      I used to hover. I had to let go when I returned to work and grad school. My son was 4.5 at that time. It’s been good for him to be without me, but he certainly watches more television/plays with gaming systems much more now that his father and I are so busy.

  41. My son just turned 3 a few weeks ago. He plays in our fenced backyard, unsupervised, with the pup (86 lbs of huskie/terrier mix) nearby. He is not allowed in the front yard alone — we live on a corner, and one street has recently been opened into a through-way to the next neighborhood. When we are at my parents’ (a couple hundred acres, garden, animals, the whole nine) he’s allowed to roam within reason. He loves to climb up on the tractors, but has recently learned that’s not such a great thing. He’s also tried to climb into pens with bull calves, which he also quickly learned is not a good thing.

    When we are home, I am admittedly over-protective. Both my husband and I are involved in the criminal justice system, and while crime rates have gone down nationally, they have risen dramatically in some areas (a product of growing communities). I am very aware of exactly who lives nearby and who drives by, what they’ve done and what they’re capable of doing. It’s a curse of my profession.

    That being said, we make certain that our son has the same opportunity to be independent and run around being a carefree child that we had growing up … even if it’s only on the weekends.
    .-= Trina´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday: Quick Meals in 30 or Less =-.

  42. We recently bought our first house, and we purposely chose one at the end of a cul-de-sac/dead end road and with a large, fully fenced in back yard, because I think unsupervised play is really important! My kids are 4 1/2 and 10 months old. My son goes out to ride his bike in the cul de sac with the neighbors all the time. There are lots of kids his age on our street, and I feel really safe having him out there, mostly unsupervised. I do keep an eye on him every few minutes and he knows not to ride past a certain point, or to go into anyone’s house without asking me first.
    All our neighbors are great and half the time they are out with their kids and we all keep an eye on each other’s kids. Its great!

    Our backyard is a complete mess right now, as that was how it came with the house, but eventually this will also be a fantastic spot to let the kids roam free. :) Not everyone can do this, but I am really grateful for the opportunity to let my kids play free. For them and for me.
    .-= Briana´s last blog ..#4 =-.

  43. I let my almost 3 year old play in the front yard by himself for short periods of time. Mostly, I worry about what the neighbors are think when they see someone so tiny out by himself. =) This is one of the big reasons that I wish we had other families with kids around us, but it’s all empty nesters. Our old neighbors had two boys (8-10ish). If they were still around, I would have let my son play outside with them this summer. I’m looking forward to when the baby is older, so the two of them can play together – or the economy improves so we can move to a street with families!

    Thanks for these two recent posts about community and play! I’m getting inspired to organize a block party, so we can meet a larger range of neighbors. I know there is at least one family with kids in a nearby cul-de-sac (they have those “Slow – Kids at Play” signs), so maybe we can establish a friendship and casual playmates…
    .-= Alissa´s last blog ..I’ll be Watching You =-.

  44. I love this conversation!

    I have four children, 8, 7, 4, and 20 months. We live on a fenced acre in a neighborhood in the California high desert. I send them out to play out there every day, barring times of the day that reach the triple digits, and they are usually unsupervised unless I am out in the garden working.

    We have a weekly park day for our homeschool group, and during those couple of hours all the kids roam free about the park, and it’s a lot of fun (for kids and moms alike!). I check on them every now and then and make sure the baby doesn’t plunge from the top of the play structure.

    I had the run of my neigborhood when I was growing up. It was a small town in southern Oregon, and the neighbors knew each other and the kids played together. I wish I could have something more like that for my own kids.

  45. I grew up in the country – 400 acres for my sister and I. At around age 7 we were allowed to ride horses around our property unsupervised.

    My husband grew up in the country as well.

    We live in a subdivision. Have a 3 week old and a 3 1/2 year old. We constantly watch out for and supervise our 3 1/2 year old, but get him outside every day. I’ve found myself cringing when he steps in mud puddles, which is weird, because I spent my whole childhood dirty and happy.

    The time spent outdoors cannot be replaced by anything else. It is a unique part of my husband and I, and we’ll try our best to give it to our children. But we’ll probably watch them closely the whole time (we’ll see once they hit 7 years old or so).
    .-= Windi Padia ´s last blog ..My Mama =-.

  46. I am currently expecting our first so no parental experience to share. However, we currently live on a small military base in the States and I have to say that I would have no problem letting my child wander the neighborhood once he/she gets to be around 5ish. Earlier than that, he/she would be free to stay in the small fenced backyard. I feel very safe in our current neighborhood and we frequently see school aged children playing/walking from the bus in the afternoons and weekends.

    As children (probably 6+), my siblings and I freely wandered my grandparents 50 acres (open fields and wooded areas includes two large ponds.) We would stuff our pockets with snacks and be gone all afternoon.

  47. We let our older sons play outside alone (when they are here — they live out of state with their mom), but we never let our 4-year-old daughter play outside alone. Her brothers are 11, 10, and 8, and they generally all go out together. We live in an apartment complex near a very busy street, and we just don’t think she’s old enough yet. We do take her to the park and playground often and will give her free reign while she’s there, as long as we can see/hear her. And we’ll also let her play outside with older cousins and her brothers when we’re at family members’ homes who have a yard to play in. Maybe when she’s older we’ll let her venture out alone, but we’re not at a point where we are comfortable doing that yet.
    .-= Jennae @ Green Your Decor´s last blog ..Happy Patterns: Cloud 9 Fabrics’ Organic Collections =-.

  48. My boys are 17 and 20 years old. I worked part time for many years. We live in a suburb of Boston, in a condo until they were 7 & 4. They had free range of the property, which had
    natural boundaries, but no fences.

    We moved to a house 13 years ago, on a somewhat quiet street (no sidewalks). The boys walked and biked in the immediate vicinity (no crossing busy streets).

    The older one was reliable – I knew where he was going and when. But the younger one was sneaky. He got into trouble – at school and in the neighborhood – and eventually became a couch potato playing computer games.

    How well do you think you know your neighbors? My older son was friends with people I wasn’t crazy about. I set limits around being at their house that I didn’t set for other neighbors. My son wasn’t crazy about that, but when they were 8th graders, the father died of a drug overdose (this is an upper middle class neighorhood).

    By all means set boundaries. Be thankful your children follow rules, but check up on them often. Talk to them about “what if…”. Children’s books are great resources for talking about every kind of situation without being alarmist.

    However, I wish all of you luck with your rules and cell phones! They can give you a false sense of security. We parents will never be 100% in control. You’ll have to judge what you can tolerate, knowing your child and your neighborhood. But remember, statistically the risk of injury to your child is higher riding in your car than playing in the yard.

    Increased traffic, I think, is a major factor in why our childhood experience was different. We didn’t drive everywhere, suburban areas had less traffic so kids could ride bikes, our day-to-day environment had fewer strangers. Times change; so can we.

  49. My children are 8 and 6. We live in a safe, low-crime area in Orange County, CA. I know my neighbors, most are retired or have older high school children. I do not let my children play out front unattended. ( I have let the images of grieving parents of abducted children influence my decision.) Why take a chance when I can bring my lap top out front and be a watchful without interfering in their play.
    One family down our street is “Free- Range” but I find it interesting that her free range kids want to be at my house even though they could be anywhere in the neighborhood.
    I might add that my children go to the park daily where they are free to roam but once again I am watching from a far.

    • Dar,

      They probably want to be at your house because your children can actually play outside. Kids want to play with other kids.

  50. I have 2 girls, ages 6 and 4. We live in an apartment complex with private entrances, and I have a huge picture window looking outside (obviously). The apartments playground is right in front of our window, so they are allowed to go out there alone. We do live right on a busy street, so they have guidelines as to how far they are allowed to go (they can go farther out of my sight if they are playing with other kids), but they are only allowed to go behind the building we live in (there are two in the complex), because I can see them outside of my kitchen window. They can’t go into anyone’s apartment without letting me know, and they are not allowed to ride their bikes or scooters on the sidewalks by the street, only the ones lining our parking lot. They also can’t go down towards the other end of our building to play on the huge rock, unless the other neighborhood children are outside as well, because we live across from a trailer park, and there has been a lot of police activity over there.

    I’m pretty laid back about what I allow my children to do without me right next to them. My children are smart, and they are pretty good rule followers. I also pay attention, so I do know when they are breaking one of the rules, and then they have to come inside, which makes them mad. I always know where they are.

    My husband was outside with the kids recently, and while they were down at the above-mentioned rock (they could be there because daddy was outside), he had taken one of the scooters, and “raced” up to our door. The lady that lives next to us had just gotten home, and saw the girls down at the rock. She said “Sweetheart, I’d think twice about letting your girls play down there alone, the trailer park is there and there was the report of that van looking for kids.” My husband looked at her and said “Sweetheart, I’m outside with my kids and they’re fine,” and scootered away :-P.

  51. avatar
    Elizabeth says:

    We live in a small town in the mid-west and our house is on a cul-de-sac. I have a 5 and 3 year old and I am probably more protective than most. I just started letting my 5 year old play outside with the neighbor’s kids (ages 5, 8, and 9) by herself, as long as she stays in our yard or their yard. I always go with my 3 year old whenever he plays outside. Our backyard is not fenced in and he does not understand boundaries. I am trying to teach him to stay in our yard, stay out of the street, etc. but he really needs supervision right now at his stage. I wish we had a fenced in backyard, then I would feel okay letting him play on his own.

  52. We live in a rural area with five neighbours and a forest next to our house. I used to not let the kids play outside unsupervised due to the worry of the rare animal who roams in the forest, but I hated being so fearful all the time so now I let them play unsupervised, although I can always see them out the window. They’re 3 and 5. The oldest climbs our plum tree and the youngest rides her tricycle on the road (we are the last house on the road so there is basically no traffic down here. We are going to be moving in a couple months to a house in an urban neighbourhood and I wonder if I will let them play as freely. I really want to but do find myself feeling slightly hesitant in the city. BUt the older they grow, the easier it will be I think.
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..Their First Protest =-.

  53. I’ve never commented before, but this blog struck a cord with me. I have 4 kids, three of whom are step-kids that live with us full time. Their ages are 14, 13 (bio-son), 11 and 9. I’ve read the book Free-Range Kids and agreed with a lot of the points. We live on the corner of a semi-busy street and a seldom used side street, across the street from our community recreation center and playground. Here’s is what I have done/allowed:
    Our three older kids are all in Junior High and the youngest is still in Elementary school. The older three are allowed to walk to/from school by themselves, but the youngest is not, even though the schools are the same distance from our house. I disagree with my husband on this as I believe the youngest is old enough to walk to/from school with friends.
    They are allowed to roam the neighborhood in pairs or more, unless they are with friends that I know – then they may go by themselves, with the friend. They are only allowed to go into friend’s houses that I know the parents. They are allowed to go to the community playground at any time (in pairs or more), but are not allowed at the recreation center after school (they have to have an ID to enter the rec center – which we’ve refused to get them).
    Not going to the recreation center after school has created much arguing with the Jr High kids as that is where a lot of their friends go after school until their parents pick them up 3-5 hours later (after work, I’m assuming). The problem is, there is anywhere from 100-200 kids there with only 5-10 (tops) rec center workers there. Any time there is a problem (like fights – which happen often enough to upset me), the police are called to sort it out. We’ve talked to the police and they have said they wouldn’t let their own kids hang out there after school because of the problems they have encountered – we’ve followed the same line of thought. We’ve explained this to the kids, but they are still not happy with our choice.
    The step-kids are allowed more freedom at their mom’s house. She lives in a trailer park and the kids roam the area freely. None of the kids in the area are allowed in anyone else’s trailer, but are all outside from dawn until dusk within the trailer park property (fenced off fields with cows are considered out of bounds but we know they break that rule all the time even though the kids deny it). Since the area is on a dead end street, there is only trailer park traffic (the roads are so bad that you go faster than 10 mph at the risk of damaging your vehicle). We have had instances of poison ivy and other ailments, but nothing so serious as to warrant true worry.

  54. I’m torn about this. I realize that statistically speaking it’s very safe, but then whenever I hear about another case of a kidnapped child, I become overprotective again.

  55. avatar
    Meredith says:

    My son will be two this summer, so he’s at an age where he almost poses more of a threat to himself than other people do. However, as he gets older, I do not think I will allow him to play outside unsupervised. I am a stay-at-home-mom and am able to schedule our day so that I can get indoor chores done while he plays inside, and I can play with him outside or sit and watch him play. I realize not everyone has that luxury though. We live in a quiet, safe (as far as I know) neighborhood in the South, but it only takes one “crazy” person to ruin our lives. We don’t live in fear, but we feel very strongly that it is our responsibility to be cautious. My son doesn’t know we’re out there to protect him. He thinks were are just there because we love being with him (and we do). If it is safer now than it was thirty years ago, maybe it’s because people have started being so cautious.

  56. I have 2 girls, 8 & 10. We live in a safe inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. I read Free Range Kids this winter and immediately began allowing my girls to walk the 5 blocks to and from school without me. They can play freely on our block, but have to let me know before they go into anyone’s house. They may only go “off-block” if they ask first. We do not give them cell-phones. I plan to install a large bell by our side door so that this summer they can come home when they hear it. (Less yelling for them by me!) There have been a few lapses in judgment that resulted in good discussions about what-if scenarios. I think we need to reclaim our neighborhoods and not be scared into isolating ourselves. I had a tremendous amout of freedom as a kid growing up in a small town and I learned to be self-sufficient, resourceful and responsible. If my kids can’t be trusted to use good judgement riding their bikes around our neighborhood, how will I ever trust them to drive a car?

  57. We live in an old neighborhood in a medium-sized city in Wisconsin. We have 6 children: 13,10,7,5,3 and 2 months. Our street is not busy, but there is a busyish street on the way to the park. All the kids may play in both our front and back yards unsupervised. When the older kids go farther afield, they just need to ask/let an adult know. We regularly send one of the 2 older kids to a nearby grocery store to buy milk etc. Our 2 oldest use their bikes both for recreation and transportation. The children attend a school that is not within walking distance, but if it were, I would have no problem sending a kindergartener out the door in the morning. The 7yo and 5yo may walk to the park together. The 3yo gets to go with one of 2 big kids.

    May sound confusing, but it’s pretty obvious to us when each individual kid is ready to take on more independence.

    In a nutshell I suppose we’re “Reserved Free-Range.”

    My husband and I grew up in the same small mid-western town where I used to spend hours toodling around the neighborhoods on my bike and my hubby’s mom used to lock the doors for an hour in the afternoon and say “Don’t ring the doorbell unless there’s blood.”

  58. My daughter is only 1 1/2. She’s good at following directions, but she’s an explorer… so I only will let her out of my sight for 2-3 minutes at a time (ie. run back into the house to get something). (My husband is appalled, but I’ve shown him that she really doesn’t need an adult there every second.)

    We have a registered sex offender living on our block, so I don’t think I would let her play totally alone for a long, long time.

    • A year later… now we have a little baby boy, too. He’s not really mobile yet, so he plays near me. :)

      At nearly 3 years old, I will let my daughter “out of sight” for a longer period of time, but still only within our backyard. I think in less than 2 years, I will probably be ok with letting both of my kids play together in the backyard unsupervised but within earshot. My oldest already does that at one friend’s house when we have playdates there (the kids there are almost-3 and 5, and the yard is big and set back from the street).

    • My son is 14 months and I do the same. I let him play on the back patio while I’m inside, checking on him every few minutes. Usually I can hear him banging around and I run out if it gets quiet. It’s exciting for me to allow him these tiny bits of trust and independence.

  59. I have 7 children, aged 1-12, and we live in a small neighborhood in the suburbs where everybody knows everybody. Most of my neighbors are retirees, and quite a few of them are busybodies. ;) Sometimes it’s annoying, like when one old lady griped at my kids for playing in the grass of our own front yard. But I like knowing that if my kids get into mischief, someone will tell me! Once my sons walked right out behind a car backing down the driveway, and they were brought home by the constable. I was thankful that my neighbors are watching out!

    I let my children play “out front,” meaning outside of our fence, once they are at least 6 years old. I make them stay together, and they can’t go out of my sight (that is, they have to stay where I could see them if I stood on the corner of our lot) unless they ask permission. With permission they can go inside friends’ homes, to one of the neighborhood parks, or to the meadow. They have to tell me as soon as they come home, or ask permission to go somewhere else.

    I think my rules are a little strict, but I have a hard time letting go. I’m not very concerned that they’ll be abducted by strangers (I know that’s not as common as people think.) I’m concerned that my sons walk out behind cars that are backing up, and eat wild honeysuckle (I make a big deal about them having Daddy identify flowers and berries before they eat them), and tell me that they saw “snakes” in the creek (I’m pretty sure there are no real snakes, certainly not venomous ones). Worse, my husband is always telling them stories about HIS childhood, and his stories always involve science experiments that blow up, or falling off of home-made skateboard ramps, or accidents with nail guns while building those skateboard ramps! :( I’m constantly reminding my kids of safety rules, and I’m signing them up for first aid classes! Thankfully we haven’t had more than the usual childhood bumps and bruises, but I can’t let go of the feeling that it’s only because of my nagging! ;)
    .-= Michelle Potter´s last blog ..Sunday Linky Love for May 09 =-.

  60. Love this topic – it’s fun to read through everyone’s take on this. We live in the suburbs of a fairly large city and while most would consider our area of town the “bad part” we have had absolutely no problems. We live in a cul-de-sac which I think naturally draws children to play here. Just yesterday my oldest two kiddos (ages 6 and 4) spent literally all afternoon out in the front yard. They are allowed to play freely as long as they can see our house which has kind of been our boundary. I will say in our neighborhood there are a lot of different nationalities and a lot of working class people who work very long hours. We know the kids a lot better than the parents so my kids aren’t allowed to go in anyone else’s house but there is regularly a group of 4 – 6 kids playing in our street at any given time. (With at least 3 different languages being used – love it!) We also have a privacy fenced backyard and the 2 year old is allowed out there by herself or with her siblings. I usually allow this as soon as they can safely navigate the porch stairs.

  61. Awesome discussion today. I, for once, felt like I could actually contribute. I am a mom of 4 boys, who are pretty much free range after hockey season. I think that the world is probably slightly more dangerous, only due to the fact that while crime is down the crimes themselves are much more brutal, and the news is a scary thing most days. (Not that we watch it, No cable, only VHS… Gasp..) We are lucky to live in a large apartment complex with 100’s of neighbours, even more kids, a private playground and some swampy areas full of critters and bugs, so I don’t feel scared to let my kids go “do their thing” around here. They walk to and from school, and ride bikes, and go to the corner store, and I’m not afraid. It’s all in the planning. The have all taken safety workshops, like “Stranger Danger” and have child find cards, and most importantly, have to check in when they are going to change activities. But on a whole, I don’t worry much if I don’t see them for an hour or so. There are a ton of worms to be dug up and frogs to catch…. But as free as my kids are, I think some of my neighbours hate me just a little, because while their sons and daughters play in a small supervised area or go to piano or karate, my kids are outside, getting dirty and making noise, like my friends and I used too. Oh well, I kinda didn’t really want to be on the PTA anyway. LOL

  62. Does anybody remember reading the books “On My Honor” and “Bridge to Terabithia” when we were kids? If I remember correctly, in the first book, a kid dies by falling out of a tree, and in the second, the girl dies when swinging from a tree across a creek. I must have been in late elementary when I read these books, but I remember them and the class discussions about them enough to remember that the purpose of reading books like those was to begin to have an understanding of death’s reality, how to work through it and how to deal with it. There was never any mention of, “Well, that little boy shouldn’t have been climbing a tree with no one around to see him fall” or “That little girl should never have been playing by herself.” It is very interesting to wonder, what has changed? Why all the concern now when we didn’t have it ourselves when we were kids. Frankly, it’s discouraging for a new parent.

    I have a 10 month old, and obviously I can’t leave him in the yard or at the park to play by himself, but I do do things that many parents would probably think I’m a bad mom for. For example, I leave him playing in our (well baby-proofed) living room while I go take a shower or start a load of laundry. I allow him to crawl after me into the (gated) courtyard of our apartment complex and let him out of my sight while I am starting laundry in the laundry room. Heck, I even left him with a stranger in a starbucks when he was just a few months old while I used the bathroom. I didn’t do these things because I’m too lazy to take him with me, because I have a death wish on my child, or because I want to be a bad mom. On the contrary, I want to be the best mom I can, and I believe that allowing my child to have the opportunity to play freely, by himself, without constant adult supervision and intervention is a great way to allow him to develop independence, learn responsible risk-taking, and learn how to solve his own problems.

    Frankly, the biggest problem I feel like I come upon is that when my child is older, if I allow him to play independently, will someone call the cops on me for neglect? Isn’t it sad that I worry about that as a more likely occurrence than a kidnapping? Frankly, my child has a WAY higher statistical likelihood of getting seriously injured in a car accident than any of the other many many many things that we are taught to fear as new parents. But no one suggests banning having children in cars…

    • I’m glad there’s someone out there like me! I have an 11 month old who pretty much has independent run of the house (though of course not outside yet). If I’m going to be very distracted for more than a few minutes I will let him play freely just in his bedroom. Frankly, this seems pretty paranoid to me but according to some moms I’m being quite permissive! In the long run, however, the helicopter mom mentality has some clear drawbacks. My stepdaughter’s mother will actually play with her most of the time and has her under constant supervision. The result? My almost 5 yo stepdaughter is unable/unwilling to play by herself (even when supervised) and has not learned (believe it or not) that she should not run out into the street! When I am taking care of her, I have to watch her more carefully than I do my son!

  63. I grew up on a dairy farm and as kids we were allowed to play just about anywhere as long as we checked in and arrived on time for meals. There were strict rules as far as what areas we could play in but we commonly enjoyed the company of all of the neighboring kids. I do have concerns with my own kids as far as safety goes. Gone are the days when you knew all of your neighbors. Nowadays an unknown vehicle that’s parked by the curb can be cause for alarm. I think I’m a little more liberal with my kids than some of the other parents in my neighborhood but I think that comes from being very trusting of most people…my husband used to tell me that I was just too naive when it came to other people. My kids do play in the backyard but only if they abide by the limitations that I set.
    .-= Tina@RideonToys´s last blog ..The Power Wheels Little People Tot Rod Provides 2 Stage Learning =-.

  64. avatar
    mdvlist says:

    My mom seems to me like the most paranoid person on earth, but she gave us a surprising amount of freedom in our youth. We lived on 10 acres in the country, and although we always had to be together (there were three of us kids), we road our bikes around on the dead-end roads, explored in the woods and the over-grown pasture (along the river . . .), climbed trees, etc. We never really knew or were allowed to trust any neighbors; we were just supposed to look out for ourselves and each other. I’m sure we weren’t allowed that level of freedom until we were at least 7 or 8, though, so we were certainly old enough to have learned to avoid unknown animals, rusty metal, potentially electric fences and oncoming traffic. My children are 3-going-on-4 and 1 1/2, and I can imagine giving them similar freedom eventually, as we still live in a fairly quiet rural area. The older one already knows where he is and isn’t allowed to go, so I will let him out in the side yard by himself where I can see him/hear him constantly. Since our yard isn’t fenced, I never allow the little one outside without me. That would be silly. Obviously. I don’t think we need to push “free range” living on children just for the sake of proving that we’re not over-protective parents. At this stage, they get the benefits of that approach just by being allowed to play upstairs by themselves while I’m working in the kitchen. There will be plenty of time for them to go adventuring when they are old enough to know what they’re doing and take care of one another. We will probably also get a big dog for them (another valuable part of my “free-range” childhood). Then again, I would be much more concerned about letting them out of my sight if other children were involved, especially older boys. I’m far more concerned about other people’s kids than I am about abduction.

  65. I probably let my kids play quite freely without too much supervision. This was how I was raised. But they need to know the safety first.

  66. Wow, there are a lot of comments for this post! And a lot of variances in the answers.

    Personally, I do let my kids play “free range” style, within certain limits. We live in a condo townhouse which has common play areas for the kids with paths connecting them. So my 11 year old can go anywhere within the confines of our small neighbourhood, and my 5 year old can play in front of our house or out back in the play area, but he has to stay close enough that I can see him out our second-story livingroom window.

    It’s a blessing that there are lots of kids in our neighbourhood, so my children always have a playmate and they spend hours and hours playing outside in almost any weather. I’m happy that they spend so much time in the outdoors, and I wouldn’t want to limit that.

    I myself remember playing outside for hours at a time with my sisters, and our favourite thing to do was explore the woods at the end of our cul-de-sac, or go for long bikerides along the Ottawa River (this was when I was about 10, my sister about 8). If we had had to stay within the confines of our back yard, we would have been very bored and surely would have spent most of our time inside, instead.

    It is very interesting to learn that crime was higher 30 years ago than it is today. I wouldn’t have thought that.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..What does "simple living" mean to you? =-.

  67. I had the luxury of growing up in a small country town and then on a large farm and we were totally ‘free range’ (we also spent nearly all holidays at our grandparents farm and we were free range there too). We pretty much roamed all over that town (and farm) and just checked in for meals. We didn’t get up to mischief but we had a great time catching tadpoles, playing games in parks, riding our bikes around and just doing kid stuff. I am trying to think if maybe our neighbours would have viewed it differently! Maybe they would – there were 6 of us so maybe we annoyed someone – who knows? All I know is that I feel very resourceful and value the sense of independence it gave me. Having said that I feel sad my kids don’t get the same opportunity. We live in a large’ish city near a highway, don’t speak the language of our host country fluently, don’t know our neighbours etc. etc. We are lucky enough to have a big backyard though and my two (7 & 4) can play unsupervised for as long as they want to. In fact I wish they would do it more! But, on the street, I am more cautious. I would love to live in a more rural setting so they could have more freedom. I honestly believe it is very good for children. However, I think it would be a bit foolhardy to give it in a city setting where most people are out at work and neighbourhoods aren’t populated like they used to be (we knew people all over town when I was a kid). Most of the people above whose kids enjoy a more free range lifestyle nearly all come from a country/semi-rural setting. When I visit my parent’s farm though my kids enjoy a lot of freedom then. I don’t know about how safe/unsafe the world is now. I agree with others that a statistic wouldn’t make me feel better if my child was abducted. It is a tricky balance.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Giveaway results! =-.

  68. I just finished reading Last Child in the Woods and my husband and I are struggling with this very issue right now. As kids we both had the run of our neighborhoods. I was allowed to go to the corner playground with my older brother, we played up and down our block, walked to school and rode our bikes all over the small city we lived in.

    I have a 5.5 year old son and an almost 3 year old daughter. Even though we live in a gated subdivision they are only allowed to play in the backyard by themselves. When in front or riding their bikes I go with them. This isn’t because of stranger danger, but because we are honestly fearful of them being hit by a car. People zoom through our neighborhood constantly. We live in a society where everyone is stressed out and plugged in. When I was a kid we rode our bikes and played tag in the street – we didn’t have to worry about being run over because people drove real slow and would stop to let us clear the street. But now, everyone is in a rush to get home after a too-long-day at work, or to get to work on time; they’re talking on the phone, texting, eating, putting on makeup and driving 15-20 miles over the speed limit in a gated neighborhood. A few of our neighbors put the please slow down kids at play signs up when their children play in the front and most of them have had their signs hit several times and instead of people being outraged by this fact, there were complaints about the signs!

    We would love to let our kids play more freely and are trying to figure out a solution, but honestly I don’t see it happening too soon. Even if we can find a solution to the speeding cars, we live in an area where children are so over-scheduled that we rarely see anyone playing outdoors even at the neighborhood pool in the summer – so they’ll only have each other.

  69. I live on the edge of a mid-sized city in Central Europe and fortunately, we have a house and a yard (fenced in all around, our house is bang-smack in the middle). My kids are 2 and 4 and for the moment they can play in the yard as freely as they like. I usually do a little tour of the yard when they go out, just to be sure nothing dangerous is lying about, but otherwise, I have no worries. My son would love to bike on the street, but we don’t have a sidewalk and I do worry about cars – I think he is too young to really be careful enough (plus little sis has to do everything he does and she is definitely too young!). Living here I don’t sense any of the media scare aspect that folks talk about in the US, but interestingly most parents here seem even more protective the Americans! Perhaps this is a misconception on my part, but very few of our friends will let their kids play unattended and at the playgrounds mothers and fathers are always warning the kids of every potential danger. Yet I don’t get the impression that they are worried about kidnapping and such, just basic injuries.

  70. Wow!!! Hot Topic!!! We live in Cape Town South Africa, where all homes are surrounded by high walls and electric fences and continuous neighborhood patrols. For all that we still have an insanely mad crime rate. We have a courtyard that is central to our home and garden so I can hear everyone where ever they are playing. Luckily we have a heap of kids so they do free-range on our property and they tend to travel in a pack – heaven help anyone that takes them on!!! Off our property no-one is free to be at all… within visual distance, if not arms reach, at all times, without exception. Never drive with windows even slightly open, never let a child out of sight… I am always looking for places for my kids to run free – always!!!
    .-= se7en´s last blog ..The Week that Was – 2.45 =-.

  71. We live on a dead end road and have 1.5 acres, with a creek and no fence around our yard. We have a very safe neighborhood; our only concern, really, is our kids falling in the creek. There is a bridge, but still. Our kids aren’t allowed outside alone (i.e. no adult supervision) until they’re five. Even then we keep an eye from the window.

    When my son goes over to his friend’s house across the street, he takes a cell phone or a walkie talkie so he can contact us if there’s an emergency. The other week we went on a field trip and the older kids split up from the rest of the group for a hike…i was nervous about my son going without me, while I stayed behind with the younger ones, but it all ended well.

  72. avatar
    Karen (scotland) says:

    These comments have been an eye-opener for me.
    I have four kids – 5, 4, 2.5 and NB. We live at the end of a dead-end street in a suburbian-type neighbourhood. Our street, bizarrely, has no pavement (sidewalk), so pedestrians have to walk on the road.
    Our street is full of kids the same age as mine but I seem to be the most protective of all the parents as everyone else seems to let their kids out from age 3 onwards. They claim to be watching from the windows but I often have parents up at my door asking if I’ve seen their kid (aged 4, or 5 max). I don’t know how they can cope with the stomach-churning fear of not knowing where their pre-schooler is.

    My kids can play in our back garden (surrounded by six foot fence) as much as they like. I’ll let other kids in to play with them whenever they want, providing that kid has gone back to their own house and told their parent(s) where they’ll be.

    If my kids want to play out front, then I HAVE to be there. It’s as simple as that. I don’t feel comfortable letting my five year old out of my sight but I feel that’s only natural.
    My concerns are, firstly, traffic – cars reversing out of driveways, non-neighbours flying around the bend down the bottom of the street, the kids wandering around to the “big road” (where I once saw the skid marks from a car driven by teens that had been speeding, mounted the pavement on one side, came down again to the road, mounted the pavement on this side and then knocked a bin 30 yards down the street…)

    Secondly, abduction. Yep, I know the stats say it’s unlikely to happen but imagine having to live with that.

    I was worried that I was over protective but the NSPCC (national charity for welfare/protection etc of children) recommends not letting children play unsupervised until they are 8 and I feel, looking at my son’s maturity (or lack of) and general savviness, that seems about right on schedule to me, tbh.

    This is way too long already so I’ll stop now!

    Karen (Scotland)

    • avatar
      Karen (scotland) says:

      Should have pointed out that the bin that got knocked down the street wasn’t on wheels – it was a public bin cemented into the ground. (A bin is a trashcan, btw!)

  73. such a great topic to discuss. i didn’t realize it until i started reading these comments, but it appears i’m pretty protective! we live in a smallish city (100,000 people) in west texas in an established neighborhood with a few kids around, though i don’t see many out and about. i have a 3 year old girl and a 21-month-old boy. i have just recently started letting them play in the backyard by themselves as long as i’m in the kitchen and have the back door standing open so i can hear them. even then, i’m nervous that they’ll find a snake or a dead bird (there was one out there the other day) or play in some nasty water pooled somewhere and catch some terrible disease. there is no way in the world i would think to let them play in the front yard alone. i nearly have a heart attack when i’m putting one in the car because i’m imagining the other being in just the right place to be hit by a car that’s swerving into my driveway. i have never stopped to evaluate why i worry though. as a kid, we rode bikes all through our large neighborhood in a decent-sized suburb, played in construction sites, hung out at each other’s houses (as long as mom knew the people), and had to be home with the street lights came on. an extremely interesting topic that i will be pondering quite a bit more, i imagine.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..when did her legs get so long? =-.

  74. avatar
    Kelli (USA) says:

    I have three children 10, 8, and 5. We’ve lived in our home for five years and I’ve grown progressively more comfortable with letting my kids have “free range” on our street, within some parameters, as I’ve gotten to know my neighbors and as the kids have gotten older. We live in the suburbs on a cul-de-sac with large yards and wooded back yards. We purposely chose this home because it seemed ideal for outside free play. There are lots of families with kids on our street.

    Our rules for the kids are as follows:
    1. Tell mom where you are going to be. If you decide to go to a different part of the street, check in with mom or dad.
    2. Be home at set time.
    3. Don’t play inside someone’s home without permission. (My kids rarely play inside someone else’s home, and if they do it’s a family I know well.)
    4. Tell mom before you ride your bike (only for my five year old).
    5. Stay on our street with bikes, scooters, etc. unless you have permission to go elsewhere (only my 10 and 8 year olds have the privilege of riding elsewhere.)

  75. We live in a small town in the Midwest. I am careful. My three year old would never be allowed outside without constant supervision, of course. My ten year old can go about a block away to her friend’s, but I can see her the whole time. However, if she wants to go to the park (which is half a block away), it is only with a friend or a big sis, not alone. She can ride her bike around the block. I suppose this is overprotective, but I also know that there are convicted child predators that live in the area. I am not taking chances. I grew up on a farm, where we could run to our hearts delight. I kind of wish for that freedom for my children some days. Yet, when I see children running around town, some from a young age, unsupervised, I get frustrated. It’s too easy to be complacent and then something happen.

  76. Ugh, I felt uncomfortable just reading this topic. My girls are only 3.5 and 4.5, so I do keep a very close eye on them when they are outside. The crime rate may be at a 30 year low but have you ever done a search of the registered sex offenders in your area? Even the “best” neighborhoods have some…and that is probably what freaks me out the most as a mom. My husband and I have also agreed that our girls will not attend slumber parties unless it is at someone’s house that we thoroughly know both parents and trust them completely. I do not know where my fears stem from…I was not molested as a child or anything like that and had a fairly idyllic upbringing, so not sure where this comes from in me. In either case, I would rather err on the side of caution. What is the real point of letting your kids play completely unsupervised, anyway? Is it too much of an inconvenience as a parent to watch over your kids or at least know where they are at all times?

    • Thank you for saying that – I totally agree!
      .-= Elle M.´s last blog ..Mini Review of Seasons of a Mother’s Heart =-.

      • avatar
        Margaret says:

        Where does that fear come from? I feel the same way. I got nervous just reading about parents letting the kids out all day unsupervised rurally, or in the suburbs, or in the city. :)

    • “What is the real point of letting your kids play completely unsupervised, anyway? Is it too much of an inconvenience as a parent to watch over your kids or at least know where they are at all times?”

      It’s not so much the convenience or inconvenience of watching over your kids, because of course, parenting isn’t about us. Playing freely (and safely, of course) teaches life skills, develops character, and treats kids to experiences that they can’t always get in heavily supervised play. So much so, that Mr. Louv and others argue this is the real loss at stake in our kids’ generation. The threat is raising kids who are actually more at risk, not less, because they’re less apt to make wise decisions in real-life situations if they’re never given a chance to explore the world on their own.

      Of course, age, personality, and specific situations come into play, so I’m not referring to every single situation. But in general, they’re arguing that kids given the chance to play independently and unsupervised are given the gift of character building in a way that controlled environments, like a play date (or even a backyard) can’t always provide.

      Just my $.02. :)

  77. My daughter is 5 and I have twins that just turned a year old. We have a fenced in backyard, and I let them all play outside. I even walk in to start dinner and leave the twins out on a blanket playing where I can see them from the kitchen window. We feel our backyard is safe and contained, and I don’t worry when they’re back there.

    Our house is the first from the neighborhood entrance, so I don’t feel safe with them in the front yard without me. Our neighbors down the street live in a culdesac, so we often stroll down the road and play with them in front of their houses. The street is much safer to ride bikes down there, and the kids play in all of the front yards while the moms visit together.

    I wish we lived in a culdesac, but I’m so thankful for friends down the road who share theirs!

    I think statistically our world is safer from crime, however, I wonder about other things that we as moms tend to over-obsess about such as varying parenting strategies from our neighbors. I think this causes some parents to be leery of their children playing freely outside as well.

  78. My kids are now 17 and 21, but when they were little they were closely supervised. They were allowed to play in the backyard at a young age, as long as one of us were out there (at that time, our backyard was open to a public area that anyone could come up to the fence, so we never let them be out alone).

    As my son (and eventually his brother) got older he was eventually allowed to play in the backyard or front yard by himself. I had the windows open and he was instructed to run inside if a stranger approached him. I kept checking on him, and he also had the dog with him.

    As he got older still, he was given boundaries by the driveways of neighbors. He could play “this many” driveways away. By this time, I felt much more comfortable with him (them) being outside, but they still had boundaries.

    Eventually he was allowed to ride his bike further in the neighborhood, or even go for a walk, etc. I never allowed them to go into homes of people I didn’t know, even though they would meet kids in the neighborhood who had much more freedom than they did.

    We used to have some neighbors who seemed to have trouble watching their preschool aged kids. These three and four year old kids were all over the neighborhood, making us all a nervous wreck sometimes! One of them got in his dad’s car and “drove” it down the hill and crashed into a neighbor’s yard. Another time the two year old was walking down a very busy street until a neighbor saw him and brought him home.
    .-= momstheword´s last blog ..MAKING YOUR HOME SING: BE INTENTIONAL =-.

  79. avatar
    Britiney says:

    We live in a SUPER safe neighborhood and I do let my kids (ages 10, 8, and 5) play outside free-range style. Even my 5 year old is really pretty good at letting me know where he is and there’s a “herd” of kids who all roam the neighborhood together and have a blast. They build forts and go on adventures and this weekend my 5 year old came in covered in red “stuff” and said he’d been “painting with berries” behind the neighbor’s house. Apparently they were picking berries off the trees and “painting” with them on the rocks. Having them all enjoy playing out side together so much reminds me of the stories my dad tells of when he was a child and roamed the neighborhood with his friends looking for adventure. I’m the chair-person of our neighborhood watch group, so I know most of the neighbors pretty well. We all look out for each other and all of the neighborhood kids.

  80. I live in a suburban neighborhood, on a quiet cul-de-sac. It would be quiet. But there are always hordes of children wandering the street. Mine – a 7 year-old – is among them. She is only allowed to go into the homes of people we actually know. She is not allowed to go into the next cul-de-sac unless I am watching from the front window. She has to tell us when she moves to another location – sometimes I give her a walkie-talkie to keep in touch. I can hear the madness from in anyone’s yard on our street from my house. As long as I can hear the gang and can be reasonably sure that she is among them, I’m OK. When it gets quiet for more than 5 minutes – cause let’s face it, quiet children are far more dangerous than loud ones – I give her a yell. She always yells back.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Today’s Rant =-.

  81. Moanna is about to turn three, and if she is outside we are right by her side. At the play ground we are no more than 10 feet away. She is a quick little thing and in a blink of an eye could dart towards the road.

    I grew up being sent outside on my own and given boundaries and times to be home.
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..A Cocktail of Emotions =-.

  82. I’m not sure if this has been said, but here are my two cents on this…. I think there’s a difference between hovering/micromanaging your child’s behavior and having loose supervision while they bound about indoors, outdoors, at the park/playground, etc. I think we as parents can model engagement in something even just making a to-do list while they play on the slide, or showing friendliness with fellow Moms to model that friendliness for the kids (even though they’re usually better at that than we are).
    .-= tacy´s last blog ..Self Defeating Habits: What Are They and How Do They Make Us Unproductive? =-.

  83. Oh but let me clarify that— I do not recommend “loose supervision “when it comes to things like playing near the road or deep water, by they way. I saw a little girl fall off a public dock while feeding ducks recently- fortunately she could swim and her Mom reached right into get her, but it sure scared everyone around.
    .-= tacy´s last blog ..Self Defeating Habits: What Are They and How Do They Make Us Unproductive? =-.

  84. avatar
    Brittany says:

    When I read “Last Child in the Woods” we were living temporarily overseas in Wales and my kids (5, 3, and <1 at the time) and I spent a lot of time in the public parks situated around the city center. Richard Louv's book helped me loosen up a bit and give my older children (my oldest, in particular) more freedom. I let them roam further from me as long as I could see them and – although it was a bit nerve racking – let them play in ways that made me nervous (i.e. climbing up tall playground equipment, tree climbing, etc. without me hovering). It was very freeing for all of us.

    Now that we're back in the states my kids (6, 5, 2) can play in our fenced backyard without my supervision. We live in a cul-de-sac where we are surrounded my many other young children who often play unsupervised outside. While I sometimes allow my oldest child to join them, more often than not I am outside someplace nearby. Sometimes this is about safety in the sense that many have written about here, but more often than not, it is about the kids themselves. We have many wonderful children and neighbors, but we also have several bullies who live here and they are almost always unsupervised. Based upon the ages and temperaments of my children, they are sometimes targets for bullying behavior. My presence, and my willingness to put an end to inappropriate behavior, is usually a sufficient deterrent (it helps that I have made a deliberate effort for the past 18 months or so to get to know ALL of the kids, even those I wouldn't choose to have my children play with if we didn't live here).

    I agree that kids need to be given freedom to be kids, but I also feel we need to provide a safe framework for them to do so. Letting them – at these young ages – roam freely and without adult supervision through the neighborhood with older kids who would victimize them and on streets where cars being driven by teenagers go too fast is just not something that I am willing to do.

  85. My sons are nearly two (next month!) and nearly eight (in two months!). I let them play together outside in our fenced in yard without me and the big guy has been playing alone in our yard since he was just over five.

    I’m actually much more permissive than my parents were. I remember my mom always being outside with us all the way through elementary and some of middle school.

  86. Such a big question, isn’t it? I tell myself I don’t want the kids (6 & 4) playing on our street because while it is short and usually quiet, there is a blind curve in the middle and it is often used as a cut-through, and even my well-trained kids sometimes forget and run after a ball, or coast the scooter all the way down the driveway in to the street. I love the days when it is warm and a mom on the other end of the curve is out in her yard and I am in mine so we can each keep an eye on our part of the street. The traffic increase really makes a difference.
    But so do the scary stories, which is why in my heart of hearts I prefer they play in the back yard, and ask that they stay within yelling distance. I am so glad they answer right away when I call. I want them to play outside on their own. I think it’s so important. But so is keeping them safe, from themselves and others.
    .-= MemeGRL´s last blog ..MPM–Back to Reality =-.

  87. Wow – a million comments! My kids are 8, 6, 3, and 8 mo. The older three play outside alone all the time. Once they’re 2 I send them out with their siblings without me. They know to stay out of the road and out of the pond. The three year old plays outside alone sometimes. The oldest two get to roam in our woods and take walks up the road together. They like to bring my cell phone in case they get lost. The farthest they’ve gone (that I know of!!) is about 2 miles. It is very rural here and not many cars, but once in a while a few speed demons go by. We have quite a bit of land of our own and then beyond that are hay fields.
    The only time anyone had a really bad experience playing without me was when my 3 yo was puddle stomping in the driveway while I unloaded groceries and a woman stopped her car to tell my daughter to go inside. She came in howling about the mean lady!
    .-= Cori´s last blog ..who is this kid anyway? =-.

  88. I am more concerned about the influences of other children than about kidnapping. If it just my girls, ages 7 and 2, I let them play in the yard unsupervised, but we also live in a country setting. I let my older one run around our country property and climb trees, but, believe it or not, it’s when the neighbor kids get involved that I decide to go out and supervise. I just remember running all over the neighborhood as a kid and getting into a whole lot of mischief, playing truth or dare, and kissing boys (real kissing) at age 9. I don’t want that for my kids. When kids get together, I think, there is more reason to worry than when your kids are alone with eachother only.
    .-= Annie ´s last blog ..Family Meals: Increase The Value =-.

    • This makes sense to me, Annie, and I think I agree completely. As horrible as it sounds, we hold our breath every time a family with children looks at the home for sale in our neighborhood because not having other kids here works for us!
      .-= Mandi @ Organizing Your Way´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning Carnival: Get Pesticides Out =-.

      • I think you made an excellent point. We’ve recently restricted our son’s boundaries somewhat because we witnessed some of the older boys, in the pack, exagerating too much (creative lying) and playing manipulative games to try and control the younger boys in their group (read: Peer Pressure). It can be difficult to find a balance between the free range play and safe, healthy play.

        • Amen to this, neighboring kids have been a real problem to us as they clamber over our walls and assume our home is their home… why would we notice a couple of extra kids playing in our home!!! Well we had to clamp down straight away and set limits and keep our doors and windows shut nearly all day to avoid invasion!!! They moved and we sighed with relief. There are no other kids living on our street right now and much as I would like my kids to have neighborhood playmates they will have to rely on each other because I am not comfortable with other kids who have no manners, no discipline and no idea how to play with a wide age-range of kids (skills my kids have because that is their life…) invading our home when they are finished at school for the day – everyday!!!!
          .-= se7en´s last blog ..The Week that Was – 2.45 =-.

  89. Very interesting comments today. I have mixed feelings about the topic, to be honest, and I can’t imagine any parent being “okay’ with the whole abduction, sex offenders thing.

    To those of you who are genuinely concerned about child abductions, I really recommend reading the Free Range Kids site and learning more about the statistics behind those. When you realize that most of them happen with people you already know, and that there’s a greater chance of your child getting struck by lightning than there is a total stranger driving by and swooping them up, then it’s a little easier to at least see the perspective of those parents who let their kids roam more freely.

    And as far as those who are commenting that they don’t see the benefit outweighing the risk to letting kids play free-range, Richard Louv (and perhaps Lenore Skenazy, I’m not sure) argues that when you don’t ever let your kids play independently, out of your sight, then you’re endangering them more than if you watched them at all times, even at a distance. Someone commented about how their daughter actually is more cautious when she knows her mom isn’t watching, and this is pretty true for most kids. When we don’t let our kids have any experiences on their own at all, we’re not giving them the chance to learn life skills that can only be learned through experience. As Last Child in the Woods reveals, we’re raising up a generation who doesn’t know how to fend for themselves in the real world when we don’t give them the chance to learn at all.

    Now, the debate here can be about at what age this happens… And this is where it varies. I doubt most parents here have the intention of raising up overly-dependent kids. There are many variables — living situation, family history, the child’s personality, etc. etc.

    But overall… Statistics show that the world really is much safer than the media and the culture would have us believe. Yes, there are exceptions. But those are rare — that’s why they’re exceptions. :)

    I’m loving everyone’s insight… Please continue.

    • Guess I’m an anomaly… I was approached 2x by dirty talking weirdo at age 9 and then again at age 17. At age 16, a man threatened me with a gun at a bus stop. I turned and ran. How’d you all manage to roam the streets with no repercussions?

  90. I live in a city of 85,000 in British Columbia Canada. We live on a busy 4 lane road. I have a 15 yo daughter and a 12 yo son. Both are allowed out alone. Their favorite activity is to ride bikes. They have a perimeter that they are to stay in, I’d guess its 4km long and 3 blocks wide.

    They are not usually allowed to cross the main road as people routinely speed and dont watch closely enough. Any time they go out to play, they are given a time to be home, and that is strictly enforced.

    When they were younger, we lived further away from the 4 lane road, but the river was over an embankment at the end of our street. I would allow my youngest out on our one block when he was 4 or 5, stressing that he never go near the river bank. I would often check on him, and once or twice I was a little worried, but we never had any major incidents.

    I grew up in a neighborhood where kids roamed free until dark, and while I wouldnt give my kids that much rein, I try to push myself, so that I am not shrinking their universe and leaving them unprepared for when they enter real world.

  91. Love this post! I’ve struggled alot w/ this teetering back and forth through my almost 7 years of parenting. But the Book, ‘Free Range Kids’ kind of was the final push for me to go w/ my gut…Im definatly more of a free ranger but because if their ages: 6,5,4…it’s not to great lengths! I do let them all outside (suburbia) and play by themselves out of my sight and into the next door neighboors yard.
    I was raised ‘free range’ taking hikes in the woods w/ my cousins, riding a bike accoss town- and I am so happy that I was- those were some of my greatest adventures :)
    I want my kids to have that freedom too…the key is you have to trust your kids.
    I highly recommend that book!

  92. Two things:

    1. The kids in our suburban neighborhood who play unsupervised tend to be inconsiderate/rude/disrespectful (especially in terms of noise), and the little ones (preschool age, sometimes even toddlers) that tag along with them are put in unsafe situations, in close proximity to cars and other hazards, and often past any kind of healthy bedtime.

    2. I grew up with lots of unsupervised play, and for the most part, it was more damaging than helpful. I was experienced and was exposed to things I shouldn’t have been (by other kids) and there were some definite near misses with creepy strangers and even vicious dogs. There were also needless injuries. I wish that my parents would have been more present during my free time, rather than letting me roam the neighborhood. Perhaps if I had grown up in Mayberry instead of Haight-Ashbury (not really, but just across the bay in hippie yuppie Marin), I would feel differently, but I would still agree with the earlier commenter who asked why shouldn’t parents watch over their children? As they grow older, our protection will shift, but it should be gradual, not premature…and certainly not just to give us “a break.” As a homeschooling mom, I know all about needing time without the kids, but there are more responsible ways to create that.
    .-= Elle M.´s last blog ..Mini Review of Seasons of a Mother’s Heart =-.

    • I think maybe there are two different situations at play here.

      I never send my kids outside so that I can get a break. In fact, I’m pretty sure it takes more work to get 3 kids lathered with sunscreen, get up to check on them every 15 minutes or so, deal with the mess when they come in, etc.

      Free range to me means setting boundaries and then giving children freedom within those boundaries to discover and explore.

      Perhaps it’s because we live in a rural area, versus a suburban neighborhood, and they play together but not with other kids, but my girls are complimented all the time for their behavior and manners and they rarely put each other in unsafe situations. Instead, they look out for each other and come running if one of their sisters is doing something unsafe or too difficult.
      .-= Mandi @ Organizing Your Way´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning Carnival: Get Pesticides Out =-.

  93. I live in a suburb of Jerusalem, Israel. I have 3 daughters, aged 6, 4, and 3.

    My eldest daughter comes home from school a couple of times a week on the bus by herself, as she finishes at the same time as my younger 2 finish nursery, on the days I don’t have the car.

    We live in a small pedestrianised area, and have a front yard that they all play in, unsupervised, and they wander round the pedestrianised areas unsupervised. They are in and out their friends’ houses, and their friends pop in and out here without their parents knowing where they are.

  94. I have two boys 6 and 7. I let them out on our dead end culdesac. There is a group of about 5 from school who are out every evening. I think they feel they have freedom even though I pop outside to check on them about every 10 minutes. I don’t tell them I’m checking and I don’t interrupt their games. I feel a bit overbearing as the other parents never seem to check on their children, but I still feel they are too little to be left for long periods without a little adult checking.
    .-= Sandi´s last blog ..Happy American Mother’s Day =-.

  95. My husband and I disagree on this topic, but since I’m the one home with them, my parenting style usually wins out. When we lived in a townhouse complex where the units were very small and we were wall-to-wall with neighbors, I had no problem letting the kids play outside in the common areas of the complex. I tried to have them stay within earshot so I could find them quickly, but they would sometimes go a little further than I liked. To tell the truth, I worried more about them getting too much sun exposure than being abducted or injured! :-)
    .-= Fran´s last blog ..Do You Really Need A Changing Table? =-.

  96. I have three kids, 15 years, 10 years and 4 years old. We live in a village neighbourhood, not much car traffic, many kids. My ten year old daughter rides her bike and goes to her friends alone, they all live in a 10 minute-range. She takes the train to her school everyday with her friends; if they are in a group, they are allowed to go into the woods that begin behind our street together, no cell phone at all, but with watches, and I insist on her being at home in time (this is always discussed very heatedly).
    My four year old rides his bike up and down the street, meets his friends there, goes to the playground down the street, all the smaller kids play together on the street and in the gardens of the neighborhood. I walk him to kindergarten and fetch him there, but he expands his range every season. If I don’t hear him playing outside for a longer , I check where he is and what he’s doing. So we raise our kids pretty much in the free range style, with helpful neighbors (both with kids and without) have an eye on them, too. I experienced some moments where I was anxious, though.

  97. avatar
    Jennifer B says:

    Great topic! We are fortunate enough to live in the neighborhood my husband grew up in, my in-laws live 2 houses behind us and all the neighbors have lived here for years. We have 1.25 acre ,and my kids can explore the field and ride their power wheels around freely, although we arealways outside on the periphery. We also let them walk to my in laws as we watch from the backyard and the in laws wait by the street for them. They are 4.5 and 2.5 and just in the last few months have we let them do this. We also grew up in the mid/late 80’s and rode bikes EVERYWHERE, only going home to eat and when the streetlights came on, will I let my kids do this too??? Maybe when they are O9 or 10, for now, I think they have enough freedom for their ages.

  98. avatar
    Jennifer B says:

    I shouls also add that we live in Florida on a dead end street, no other children in our neighborhood.

  99. avatar
    maryann says:

    My boys are 9 & 12. I have to let them walk home from school two days a week, necessity not choice. That’s enough for me. We live in a busy suburb outside NYC.

    The 9 yo has a friend 3 houses away. The little ones are allowed to run/ play/ bike only between our two houses & the other parents have the same rules.
    The 12 yo is not allowed to wander the neighborhood. He has be be somewhere that I know the parents. Wandering leads to Trouble.

    I’m sure I am over-protective & I don’t care. They will have many years out on their own. My motto is : NOT ON MY WATCH. :)

  100. avatar
    Karen Hayward says:

    Great topic! It’s interesting how so many parents have such strong feelings on both sides. I have 2 daughters. 10 and 7 yrs old. They have a fair amount of freedom. They walk to school and back (together) and freely play up and down our street and in an open field (well….dry mud field….we live in a new subdivision in Southern Ontario). I think I am lucky because they like to play together a lot and have mutual friends so they tend to stick together, with my older daughter looking being responsible for the younger one. My big issue is accountability. If they are out of my sight from the front door, they must wear a watch and be back at a set time. ( an hour is usually the limit).
    For parents of younger children, who are wanting to allow some freedom…but nervous about it, I suggest getting to know a few 10 year olds. My daughter LOVES being the older “watchful” mother’s helper. And takes it all very seriously, when she can play with a 3 year old. She pulls out a backpak full of babysitting items…books, toys, etc. for them and comes back home after thrilled and full of confidence in herself and her budding responsibility.
    I think these days, with added traffic concerns, a lack of other children playing, and generally less neighbourhood people around as a extra safety net, it makes it a harder decision on how free we can be with our children’s freedom, but I still think it is an important part of growing up and try to allow as much I can. And it is not easy. I am more nervous then them when I allow a new freedom….and must admit to spying on them occasionally at first to see how they are handling it all! I just try to use common sense and think ahead in a few years and know that I do want to have responsible teenagers who can handle themselves and all the issues that are ahead of them. I do think that if we are protective for too long, we may create a learned helplessness or a rash recklessness in our children who as a result may not have learned to differenciate between what is a real danger and what isn’t. Going from no freedom to almost total freedom as a teenager or young adult is a scary idea. I myself prefer a more gradual approach that starts earlier.

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