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Creating Community

What a good idea! If any of you try this (or decide to give up worrying for a specific amount of time, just as an experiment), please let me know how it goes! – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: The other day I let my 5 and 2 year-old kids walk down the block. It was a big deal. It was a rainy day, they wanted to go puddle splashing, but they had never walked that far alone. It involved crossing one street. We live in an area that doesn’t get much traffic. But I told my daughter (the five year-old) to hold her brother’s hand and not step one foot into the road if she saw a car coming from any direction.

My husband and I stood outside our house and watched them. They waited while one car about half a mile down the road passed them and then finally stepped into the street. They carefully crossed it, got to the other side, walked two houses down to the “succulent house” with their favorite plants, and walked back. Just as they were approaching me (my husband had run inside to make them hot chocolate) a man pulled up in a car and started yelling at me. He told me that if he were still a police officer he would have me arrested. How could I let them walk down the street alone, they could have been hit by a car! It was raining and where was my husband?!

In retrospect he sounds ludicrous, but I was really shaken. It took me a couple of days to think through the whole scenario and believe that we had made the right choice. Did I mention my kids were beaming with pride when they got back? All this lead me to your book, which I’m very grateful to have read. I didn’t even realize how immersed our country is in fear until I started to think about all of the assumptions that I have about danger and how far-fetched most of them are. Now I’ve given up worrying —  not planning, not taking precautions, but worrying – for Lent.

Yours,  Determined Mom of Two

Maybe this says, "Thou shalt not freak out about unlikely dangers."

“Thou shalt not freak out about unlikely dangers.”

 

Hi Readers! This comes to us from play-writer/thinker Bernie DeKoven. Bernie was computer game design pioneer and worked with major toy and game companies. Many of his games are taught in elementary schools around the world.  His books include The Well-Played Game, Junkyard Sports, and most recently, A Playful Path. He blogs at DeepFun.com, which I was just browsing and found SO MANY fun games, like “Mitt Rowdy.” An inspriation! – L

 

OF SPOONS AND WAR, by BERNIE DEKOVEN

It started out as the straightforward game of Spoons. You know the straightforward game of spoons?

You place a bunch of spoons in the center of the table arranging them in easy-grabbing distance from any player. There’s one fewer spoon than there are people.

You deal everybody some cards and pass the rest of the cards, one at a time, around the table, trying to get four-of-a-kind. When they do, they grab a spoon and then — everybody else does too. The trick is to remember to grab a spoon as soon as somebody else does, because the only way to lose is if you don’t have a spoon.

Well, it wasn’t that straightforward of a Spoons game, actually. We didn’t have any cards. So we had to use rummy tiles instead. You know rummy tiles. Like playing cards morphed into mah-johg tiles.

And then, for some reason, we men divided the tiles into three piles. And each of us, as if in response to a genetically cellular call, began to build forts out of our tiles. We men, that is. As our forts got more intricate, the women became more otherly engaged.

And just as our forts were near completion, we suddenly knew exactly what to do with the remaining tiles: Slide them into each others’ forts. Carom loose tiles into the enemy’s towers. And, when all else finally fails, launch them. Toss them. Drop them. Catapult them.

We learned a lot about fort construction that evening. The tall and the imaginative do not survive. Only the short, the thick, the ugly.

And when those fail, grab as many tiles as you can. And then grab each others’. Continue until there are no free tiles. And then build new forts, under the table, behind chairs, in the living room. And don’t worry. Nobody really dies from laughing. – B D K

Spoons is not about the spoons.

Spoons is not about the spoons.

Let’s remember we can all BE LIKE THIS LADY! And like the school kids, too. Let’s replace suspicion and fear with WARMTH! God knows this is a winter we really need it! – L.

Readers — Sometimes I can’t believe how hard it is for kids to find anyone to play with outside.  Some days my sports-loving son, now 15, still comes straight home, only because all the other kids were doing that, too.

So — here’s an alternative you might want to try: Rather than relying on parents to spontaneously let their kids go out and play (which I hope will happen again some day), a Florida parent has started organizing “Good Time Sports” every other Sunday at a local park. Kids come and play casually organized games.  Parents pay $10, which goes for food and expenses.

Now I know — $10 isn’t peanuts, and why do kids need anything other than a ball and each other? But it still seems like a great alternative to a super-organized sports program, or sitting at home on a beautiful day.

WHERE YOU COME IN

If this sounds fun to you, why not share your location and an email address in the comments section, below? Tell folks what day and time you’d like to organize a Free-Range Sports Day! If and when you get something going — I sure hope you do — send pictures! – L

Someday kids will play beyond clip art!!

Someday kids will play beyond clip art!!

Readers — This is a video made by a Norwegian group, SOS Children’s Villages, that gives out coats to Syrians freezing through the war and winter.  If you wish to feel good about humanity, click to play. If you wish to help, too, here’s the link.  - L

Readers — What a perfect way to start 2014, with a great story of two boys walking to the store and the mom who fought for that right.

Yes, that RIGHT. It is OUR RIGHT to believe in our kids.  And it is our kids’ right to grow up FREE from the limits imposed by delusions of danger.This story was sent in by Ben Rossiter, head of Victoria Walks, an Australian non-profit dedicated to getting people back to doing just what these boys did: Walking around their neighborhoods. How radical. – L.

Women call police after spotting young boys walking alone to Port Fairy shop — but mum is not happy

By Jarrod Woolley

PATRICK Blythe doesn’t understand why a group of women stopped their car and told him and his brother William to go home when they were walking to the shop yesterday morning. …“I was holding Will’s hand, we weren’t running and we stopped and looked properly when we had to cross the road,” the six-year-old said yesterday.

“I told them Mum said we could go, but they just said go home. It made me feel sad, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

It was the first time the brothers had been allowed to walk to the shop without their mum Kelly, a walk they had made together hundreds of times.

“I KNOW MY CHILDREN, AND I KNOW THEY ARE MORE THAN CAPABLE OF WALKING 300 METRES ON THEIR OWN.”

…Ms Blythe said she understood why the women stopped their car to check on her boys, aged six and four…. But what she can’t comprehend is why they called in the police.

Read the rest of the story here. Then MAKE YOUR DAY by reading the mom’s incredibly wonderful, Free-Range letter to a local paper that begins:

To the car of women who pulled over and stopped my two sons on their first unchaperoned walk to the shop to purchase milk, I would first like to acknowledge your concerns about the welfare of my children and I appreciate that you may have a different opinion about whether they were old enough to undertake such a task without adult supervision.

I understand that we do not live in an ideal world where we can presume our children are always going to be safe.

I would love to think that I could protect my children from any sort of harm and I shudder with horror like any parent when I hear about child abductions and other abhorrent abuses innocent children suffer, which are reported by all forms of the media on a daily basis.

I do not, however, want my children to grow up being afraid of the world.

I am a teacher and in my job I am responsible for the welfare and education of my students on a daily basis.

I teach many students who have limited independence and their reliance on myself and others to help them navigate their way through their daily world leaves me concerned about how they will cope with the realities of life once they leave school and have to look after themselves…

Here’s the rest! It ends:

I believe in raising my children to be intelligent, independent beings who will have a lot to offer the world as adults. I am teaching them to be aware of the dangers and realities of life, but to not be afraid of it. Yours sincerely, Kelly Blythe

Kelly is my hero! – L 

PORT FAIRY, VICTORIA: What a terrifying looking town!

PORT FAIRY, VICTORIA: What a terrifying looking town!

Readers — This may sound insane to some, but to me it sounds beyond fun. Happy New Year! – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: In honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to share with you my memory of my favorite New Year’s eve growing up.  This was in the late 70′s, growing up in a typical suburban neighborhood.  All the parents on our street gathered for a New Year’s eve party at one of the family’s homes, and instead of hiring babysitters, they decided to let all of us kids have our own party.

About 20 kids, ages 7 to mid teens, gathered in the basement rec room of a neighbor’s home, had some snacks and soda, got out a ton of toys, put the top 40 countdown on the radio and proceeded to have a great time totally unsupervised by any adults, while all of our parents were having their own party several houses down.  No one got injured, killed, kidnapped, drunk, arrested, or kidnapped by aliens.  We all got to stay up til midnight, we had a blast and we felt grown up.  Our parents had fun at their party, they knew where their kids were, and no one had to pay for a babysitter.  Win-win! – Beth

 

Woo-hoo! Here's to a Free-Range 2014!

Woo-hoo! Here’s to a Free-Range 2014!