Yes folks, Saturday May 18 is international Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day, the Free-Range holiday that’s celebrated just the way it sounds: We all take our kids to our local park and, if they’re 7 or 8 or older, leave them there for a bit, starting at 10 a.m. That way, they meet up with other kids from the neighborhood — even ones that go to different schools.
After we wave goodbye, the kids will come up with something to do, as kids always have. And by the time they’re done — half an hour, or even half a day later — chances are they’ll want to do it again. So Sunday becomes unofficial “Our kids are going to the park on their own day,” as do most days thereafter. Suddenly, the empty parks are full of kids again!
If you’ve got younger children, you can participate, too. Go to the nearest park and watch what your kids will be able to do in only a few years. Meantime, you’re sitting on the bench, creating the kind of community that reassures the parents leaving their older kids there.
“BUT TIMES HAVE CHANGED!”
This simple, old-fashioned idea will, of course, seem radical to some. They will say they loved playing on their own when they were kids, but now it’s too dangerous. Please show them this just-released Pew study on gun violence that states: “Firearm homicide rates in the late 2000s were equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.” That’s right — gun crime is down to the level it was BEFORE COLOR TV.
Meantime, diabetes and obesity — the twin scourges of sitting inside — are up. What’s more, it is SAFER for kids to play than not to play. Here are some studies to wave around, if any of your friends are skeptical:
Kids NEED “adult-free play in diverse environments,” says this book review in Psychology Today, noting that a “growing body of scientific evidence confirming a direct relationship between play, evolution and brain growth.” Kids get SMART BY PLAYING.
Is it dangerous? More kids go to hospital for falling out of bed than trees. Moreover: Girls who play in dirt are healthier.
And yet: 1 in 4 kids, ages 6 to 12, NEVER goes outside without a parent. The outdoors is treated like yard time at prison.
Fight the misplaced fear that has kept kids indoors or only in supervised programs. Go forth to Facebook and Twitter and the PTA to spread the word about Take Our Children to the Park… and Leave Them There Day!
And tell us how it goes! – L