SATURDAY! 4th Annual “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day”

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

At last!! Playing in the park the way mom and dad did!

At last!! Playing in the park just like mom and dad did!

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32 Responses to SATURDAY! 4th Annual “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day”

  1. Warrenl May 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    We need to start a TAKE YOUR TEEN TO THE CITY AND LEAVE THEM DAY.

  2. Vicky May 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    This post is a breath of fresh air after reading several rants on Facebook about parents not watching their kids at the park.

  3. Emily May 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Why can’t every day be like this? I’m not talking about forcing kids to play at the park when they’d rather do something else, but I don’t see anything wrong with giving each child a “free-range radius” (which would grow as they get older and more responsible), and tell them that they’re fine to roam within that radius as long as they’re home by a certain time.

  4. Suzi May 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    those numbers are dumbfounding. my three, not quite four year old goes out in the backyard (mind you it’s fenced) on his own all the time – winter and summer. I poke my head out occasionally and ask if he’s good, he also gets to play at the park across the way on his own if i’m in the front yard gardening. as a result, he knows how to cross the street (we still help), he knows never to go with anyone other than mommy and daddy, he knows how to climb, play, ride a bike and find something to do. he’s never completely alone but there’s no one telling him how to play, what to play. maybe i’m too lenient but he’s a happy, healthy, independent little boy so i can’t be doing all wrong.

  5. Jenny Islander May 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    @Emily: You mean the way just about every kid in the U.S. used to be parented? I felt like the neighborhood weirdo when I started doing the same thing for my kids because nobody does this below about junior high age anymore. But my kids, starting at about age 5, can go in the yard alone, then to the vacant lot, then clear down to the mailbox, then to the corner store, then across the street to the grocery store (after they have proved to me that they will cross safely even without me right there), and at ages 6 and 9 I feel comfortable handing my older two their allowances and kicking them out for the afternoon. I just tell them not to go to the harbor, because neither of them can swim and also there are sea lions.

  6. Emily May 15, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Warren–brilliant idea about “take your teen to the city and leave them there” day. In fact, I’m sure that this idea could be adapted to suit multiple different age groups and venues.

  7. Rachel May 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    I’ll be taking my 2-year-old to the playground and setting her loose. I’ll try to keep to the bench and watch from there as much as she’ll let me.

  8. Peter May 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    We need to start a TAKE YOUR TEEN TO THE CITY AND LEAVE THEM DAY.

    Actually, I’m rooting for “Put your kid on a one-way flight to Kiribati.”

    Especially those kids in the movie theater last weekend…

    😀

  9. anonymous this time May 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    It’s every day for us, thank God.

    Here’s hoping you end up on at least 524 TV shows and radio (or less, but with VERY broad reach), talking about this issue, Lenore. So glad you have made it an annual “event.”

  10. Val May 15, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    14th birthday party on Sunday. Drop off at movie theatre at 11 and then collect at child’s home at 5pm (they all want to be home for Dr Who!). Told to bring their bus pass so they can get from one location to the next. Not at all unusual here(we live in Australia)–our girls are reliable & independent–as they should be! They have been getting themselves to & from school for the last 2 years–no one mom would dream of collecting a high school student, it is social death. I only collect from swimming lessons because I am uncomfortable about them being on public transport after dark (and there is pressure for me to stop that as well).

    Stop treating them like babies and you will be amazed at how they blossom into lovely people.

  11. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt May 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    What a great idea! Even with younger kids (mine are 5,3, and 8 months), I think it’s important to let kids wander off out of sight. I may not be ready to leave them at the park and have them find their way home, but I certainly don’t need to be hovering over them on the jungle gym (excuse me, the “play structure”). The need to learn how to deal with life when mommy and daddy aren’t around….

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    http://www.lethereatdirt.com
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  12. Donald May 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    Lenore

    I love the idea of an international,”Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day”.

    However the problem still looms. “My kids want to go to the park but don’t because no other kids are there”. You can add to your blog what park you are going to. I’m sure a few people would love to meet you. They can leave their kids there and go to Starbucks with you.

    Perhaps someone else on your blog would help organize a website like meetup.com. People around the world can say what park they will be at.

    BTW I’m in Brisbane Australia. My kids are 19 and 22 so they wouldn’t be interested. However I’d be interested in meeting other like minded parents.

    dchristensen777@gmail.com

  13. hineata May 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    @Warren and Emily – no, don’t bother taking them to the city, give them a bus or train timetable and tell them to find their own way there. Unless you live in East Outer Endofnowhereville, in which case you’d probably be hitching in with Mike the Milk or such, that should be doable.

    @Peter – yes, yes, yes! I have three who could join them, LOL!

  14. Havva May 16, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    @Warren, I hope you mean younger teens for “take your teen to the city and leave them.” Granted lots of older teens these days could probably use the freedom. I remember being on DC’s metro, probably last year, when a group of high schoolers came breathlessly scurrying into the train car looking over their shoulders. Sure enough next stop two adults rushed in and scolded the teens who said they just wanted to ride home on their own. The adults condescendingly stated that they probably didn’t even know what stop to get off at, and sadly they didn’t. So they allowed these adults to stay on top of them until they reached their destination.

    I can’t imagine running a teen down on a straight shot ride like that. But assuming I had guessed they didn’t know their station and run them down. I can’t imagine handling that with anything other than saying “Well, your stop is X, not Y, the system map is over there. See you at X” Followed by going back to my original train car and letting them try it.

    When I was just turned 15 my parents put me on an airplane to go visit my sister at college. Between classes, and her job, my sister didn’t have much time for me. First day she showed me which bus lines go to the bus tunnel from her apartment and told me I could go anywhere from there. Suggested I go see the space needle, gave me the address for her work and told me to meet her there when her shift ended. And that was that. I quite enjoyed my time on my own. I got a bus pass and signed up for some ballet classes down town. Got lost, miss-interpreted bus schedules, had to walk half way across Seattle once, chose to a few other times. Spent most of my time roaming the city and studying the next year’s math text book. Lost a bunch of weight and tested out of the next level of math at the end of summer. One of my most memorable summers.

  15. Alana M May 16, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    That is also my son’s “invite 15 friends over to shoot each other with Nerf guns around the neighborhood” day. Hopefully no one complains about a bunch of hoodlums down at the school and park with guns and no mothers.

    And yes Lenore, I will take some pictures!

  16. gap.runner May 16, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Every day in Germany is go to the park alone day. My son and his friends ride their bikes to a local park, usually the ball fields on the base where I work. In fact, that is where he is right now. Any parent showing up, especially to supervise their activities, would be horribly embarrassing.

    Last week, when my son was on base with his friends, he had a problem with his bike. Instead of calling for us to come get him or fix his bike, he called to let us know he would come home late because he was going to take the bus home and leave his bike locked up on base. He has ridden the bus many times before, so he knew where his stops for getting on and off were. I was in the middle of cooking dinner when he called; and it was nice not to have to drop everything to fetch him.

  17. John May 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I found the article, “Girls who play in dirt are healthier” quite interesting. I guess they mentioned “Girls” instead of “children” because it is assumed that boys already play in the dirt. But I’m finding that Americans are also overly cautious with little boys in this day and age, not wanting to expose our “little fragile children” to sickness. So we prohibit them from going outside barefoot and lather them up with anti-bacterial soap. BUT I think the reason wood flooring in homes is now replacing carpeting is because of the allergies of the helicopter kid generation who are now adults and home buyers.

    It’s amazing that many of the street children in the Philippines, Egypt, India and Thailand are probably healthier than well-to-do American kids from two-parent homes. Just because of their exposure to dirt and bacteria! (I STILL prefer carpeting in my home)

  18. Donna May 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    @John – Or maybe those of us who prefer wood floors, despite not having a single allergy in our house, just outnumber those who prefer carpeting.

  19. Emily May 17, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    @Val–

    1. That sounds like an awesome and fun free-range birthday party. I hope Val Jr. and Friends have a blast. 🙂

    2. When you say you don’t want your kids riding public transit after dark, does that also apply in the “winter” months in Australia, when “dark” happens at 4:30 or 5 p.m.?

  20. Uly May 17, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    Yeah, Donna. I grew up without wall to wall carpeting (I don’t think it’s very common in NYC apartments) and it just always seems so dirty to me!

  21. Tamaya May 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    I guess we did ours today. My son and his bff went to the park with the bff’s 12 yr old brother.

  22. Earth.W May 18, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    I’ve done this many times before…taking my kids to the park and leaving them there but they keep finding their way home. I even took a roundabout way and they were at the door needing food. I’m sure they’re bloodhounds. LOL

  23. sarah May 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    I have wood (bamboo) floors because I let my boys play outside and get dirty. Just because you allow your kids to go out and play in in the dirt, does not necessarily mean you don’t want to be able to to easily clean up the messes. No matter how clean you are and how much much you clean, carpets get disgusting quickly.

  24. jen May 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    My 10yo daughter, her 11yo friend and a 7yo friend are all at the park. My 13yo daughter is on her way to a Primus concert with her dad – MUCH scarier than the park! 🙂

  25. Tammi May 19, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    I think the danger that parents fear today is someone snatching their child when they are out by themselves and bot falling from trees at the park. When I was young in the 70s and 80s, I went on bike rides by myself and was outside all day until I decided to come in. We even lived in the country where anyone could have come up and snatched me and no one would have realized. But by the time I went to college and moved to another state, my family was worried THEN that I would be harmed. Not when I was in elementary but when I was an adult! I think I would still go to the park and quietly read or be on my iPad during this park time- just so an adult was watching. Maybe take turns with the other parents in my child’s group of friends.

  26. Sam Jane May 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Letting kids play by themselves with parents nearby is great. Only an unknowing moron would suggest leaving kids to play entirely by themselves. That leaves other parents to pick up after that moron’s irresponsibility.

  27. Sam Jane May 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Letting kids play by themselves with parents somewhere nearby is great. Leaving them by themselves a moron’s idea. Other people always have to pick up after other peoples’ stupid ideas.

  28. Val May 20, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    @ Emily

    Just so you know … they had a blast. And so did all the parents who had a bit of free time to do as they wished!

    Swimming wraps up at 6 pm — once showers etc. are dealt with it hits rush hour on the buses. They do have manners (ie do not take up a seat – there are always tired adults who need one) but I still have to work on my being comfortable with them doing it by themselves….maybe we will give it a go this week.

    And yes, the youngest (aged almost 12) did ride her bike over to a friends & then they went to the park on their own this past weekend. Got to love independence!

  29. Judith May 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    After raising my children some 30-40 years ago when cell phones were not the norm, I can see that we are raising children that are not going to be able to get themselves out of a difficult situation without calling mom or dad for help. It there is a minor car breakdown, a broken bicycle chain, a scraped knee or a heaven forbid a skirmish with another child they are not going to be able to think about the problem and how best to resolve it. Please, teach your kids some responsibility for their actions and let them have some independence.

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