Readers — This is an incredibly heartening story from England where, about five years ago, Alice Ferguson and her neighbor Amy Rose petitioned to close off a local street for three hours one evening. Guardian reporter Sarah Lewis Hammond quotes Ferguson saying:
“It was as if it was something they did every day. The adults started reminiscing about childhood memories of playing out we all said that this should be a normal part of our lives.” The result was not just a day of play, but a whole campaign – Playing Out.
Playing Out was too good an idea not to spread. Across the country, other parents petitioned to close off streets for a chunk of time, and now they’re all over. Kathryn Kay’s city first tried the idea in 2012, As she told the Guardian (boldface mine):
“We were blown away by what happened. No one even knew there were that many children living on our street. It’s not just the children who have benefited though. The social ripples have carried on and important connections were made between adults.”
A ha! This is exactly what we all want here at Free-Range Kids: A chance for kids to connect, and adults to do the same!
For Ferguson, it has been a justification of all the things she thought about parenting. “I’ve realised other people feel the same about their kids, that other people support the idea that children should be able to be outside in public space and it’s not a neglectful thing to want your children to play out semi-independently.” She talks about how her son now calls on the boy who lives opposite with a wonder that belies the simplicity of the act, and there is a little sadness that in efforts to move away from the cult of constantly scheduled activities, the free play itself has become scheduled….”We’re all overprotective, but we look too much to the risk of children being outside and not enough to them being inside.”
All hail these ladies and the realization that everyone’s happier when the kids are back outside, and not constantly supervised by their parents one-on-one. In my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, Queens, we, too, have a “play street” reclaimed from traffic. This can be done! If you’ve done this or are now ready to try, share your stories! – L