Want Safer Kids? Send Them Into Traffic

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There are two ways to approach a risk: Try to spend your whole life avoiding it, or learn how to deal with it. In Germany, when it comes to kids, the authorities seem to be voting for Option B. Here’s a letter from a mom over there:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Finally took a photo of a poster I wanted to send you:

Those are feathers!

Those are feathers!

The picture shows parents wheeling their kids to school in a wheelbarrow on a bed of feathers.

The local traffic authorities realized there was an increase in traffic accidents involving kids  caused by their inexperience in being near traffic on sidewalks, having to cross roads on their own, and general lack of knowledge of the road rules. Their research made them realize this was linked to the appearance of the “drop off and pick up” scenario at school/sports/etc.,  instead of the arrive and depart on your own practice of before. They ran this campaign. The wording underneath says, roughly, “There is only one certainty: Traffic awareness requires practice as with everything in life. Learned awareness and movement bring your children further than Mum’s taxi.”

 It was sponsored by the Children’s Accident Commission of Kaiserslautern, Germany under the project “Safety while out and about.” They emphasize familiarizing your kids to traffic and what to do in and around traffic and to slowly let them be independent movers on a step by step basis.
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And I was amazed to find that it is compulsory for all year 3 kids here to undergo bicycle training and assessment through the school — i.e. they have to be able to ride a bicycle, have a helmet, and pass a practical assessment at a traffic center to show they know the rules of the road, how to cycle in traffic and execute it without endangering themselves. Neat huh?
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Be well,
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Michelle

It’s like giving kids swimming lessons, or driving lessons — lessons that recognize that adults will not always be orchestrating and supervising every second of their lives. It’s liberating, empowering, and protective all at once. It even saves the environment from a million cars dropping off able-bodied kids every morning.

Could we do this here? Has anyone’s school undertaken something like this? – L.

 

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93 Responses to Want Safer Kids? Send Them Into Traffic

  1. Bill August 19, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    Safety Town, located in Eisenhower Park in Nassau County has been doing something along these lines since 1972. See, for instance, http://www.gcnews.com/news/2010-02-12/School/Mrs_Coynes_3rd_Grade_Class_Goes_To_Safety_Town.html

  2. George August 19, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

    Kaiserslautern! It’s a neat place, known colloquially as K-town, near Ramstein AFB.

  3. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

    I think it depends a LOT on what the traffic is actually like near the school. If it’s neighborhood streets vs. major arterials, for example. The grade school my daughter went to faces a major arterial. Directly across that arterial is the gigantic suburban high school. Fortunately, it’s all quiet neighborhood streets on the other side, and that’s where we live, so lots of kids walk to school, or ride bikes.

    Our state passed a law requiring 25 MPH zones near every school, 24/7. It was so poorly observed that they repealed the 24/7 rule, and changed it to an hour before school starts and an hour after school ends, as indicated by signage and lights. Which is STILL poorly observed, and counterproductive… kids go to the schoolyard to play even when there’s no school. When there’s a giant pack of them heading to school, or going home from school, they’re hard to miss. When there’s just one or two of them… that’s when you’re going to get an accident. (The only case I know of that involved a school-child being run over on their way to or from school involved a student who attended my daughter’s middle school, who was run over, in a sidewalk, by a lady who had a seizure and wound up parked in someone’s living room.

    In another part of town, there’s a highway that has a school bus stop. “Children” (teens) were getting off the bus, then crossing the highway to go home, and there were several accidents over the years. So they put in a 25MPH speed zone. They didn’t put in a pedestrian crossing. They didn’t move the school bus stop to be near one of the stoplights that already existed. They make everybody slow down from 55 to 25 for a short stretch, 24/7 because some teens were crossing the highway without a signal. Actually slowing to 25 is a good way to become involved in an accident; cops could write hundreds of tickets by staking out the area.

  4. Donald August 19, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

    It make sense that kids are safer from practicing road safety. (being exposed to traffic)

    Even though this is logical, we can’t act on it until we have statistics. It’s a shame that we need traffic accidents (due to inexperience) to prove that this is a good idea.

  5. Kate August 19, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

    Both my elementary school and my childhood Brownie troupe had bicycle safety courses. 🙂 The Brownie one was more motivating, of course, as it came with a badge for completion.

    Another basic life skills thing–this presentation has been given at my children’s school multiple times: https://www.adventuresmart.ca/kids/hugatree.htm
    It’s a basic wilderness safety guide, with a wilderness safety kit for each child (includes a whistle, emergency blanket, and signal mirror).

  6. Ann in L.A. August 19, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    Sooner or later, most kids grow up into adults who drive. We have a kid who’s 15, and has little idea of the rules of the road, despite the fact she’s months away from taking her written drivers’ exam. When I was her age, I had spend my life walking to school and biking all over town–including to a park 6 miles away. I had ridden my bike in the street and alongside cars for much of my life.

    Is it any wonder why the number of young adults who drive is dropping? They and their parents know they haven’t a clue how traffic works.

  7. Warren August 19, 2015 at 11:29 pm #

    If you can dodge a ball, you can dodge a minivan.

  8. Easy August 19, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    I subscribe to a lot of free range principals, and think many risks like stranger-danger are overestimated. And it definitely makes sense to teach kids as much as we can about traffic safety. But we also need to remember that cars statistically do pose one of the greatest risks, and there are limitations to how much kids (or adults) can mitigate the risk imposed on them by others.

    Driving is sufficiently hard that drivers in the US (mostly adults, some teens) manage to kill 30,000 people each year. It’s the leading cause of injury death for ages 5-24, and the 2nd leading cause for ages 1-65+, so no one is great at avoiding it. At uncontrolled crossings, kids may not be able to estimate high speeds reliably due to “low-level visual detection mechanisms”. At controlled crossings there are a lot of nuances to take into account – is the car really stopping, or are they going to fast to do so? Are they on their phone? Or planning to do a rolling right turn? Did they see me? Am I behind something?

    Overall driving is a terrible waste of human life, and countries and cities with lower levels of driving, lower speeds, better transit, and safer walking and biking facilities let both adults and kids have a lot more freedom.

    Refs:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year
    http://www.cdc.gov/injury/images/lc-charts/leading_causes_of_injury_deaths_highlighting_unintentional_injury_2013-a.gif
    http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/11/30/kids-cant-accurately-judge-speed-of-approaching-cars-study

  9. pentamom August 20, 2015 at 12:09 am #

    MVAs are not the second leading cause of death, they are the second leading cause of *accidental* death. If you break down all causes of death and separate the types of accidental death, MVA comes in at 11th — just behind liver disease.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/LCWK9_2013.pdf

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/accidental-injury.htm

  10. Warren August 20, 2015 at 12:48 am #

    pentamom,

    But just how many of those deaths from liver disease are actually from heavy drinkers that drink and drive, but got lucky enough not to get into a MVA?

    This just comes down to having more exposure, training and practice, which leads to more skills, which leads to more confidence, which translates into a lesser chance of making a mistake. Nothing will ever save a pedestrian from a driver fault accident, that it out of the walker’s control. But you can give your kids the tools to control their own actions.

  11. Alicia August 20, 2015 at 1:13 am #

    Warren — kids can’t dodge minivans because they can’t dodge balls anymore. Think of all the horrible things that could happen if children were allowed to hurl playground balls at each other. It might hurt if someone actually got hit, a child might slip and fall while attempting to dodge the ball, a child might feel bullied by the child throwing the ball, a child might not throw as well as another child, thereby shattering his or her self esteem. Obviously, playing dodge ball is a safety risk of epic proportions and should be banned immediately!

  12. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 1:31 am #

    “kids can’t dodge minivans because they can’t dodge balls anymore. Think of all the horrible things that could happen if children were allowed to hurl playground balls at each other. It might hurt if someone actually got hit, a child might slip and fall while attempting to dodge the ball, a child might feel bullied by the child throwing the ball, a child might not throw as well as another child, thereby shattering his or her self esteem. Obviously, playing dodge ball is a safety risk of epic proportions and should be banned immediately!”

    You left out the horror of picking teams… some kid is going to be chosen last, and that could deal a crushing blow to the little darling’s sense of self-worth. I think that’s the one that actually gets dodgeball banned in the places it’s been banned. (After all, we might ban dodgeball from P.E. class, but football is still the king of sports in the U.S… so clearly, we are prepared to allow at least some of the kids to play violent sports.)

  13. johnf August 20, 2015 at 1:35 am #

    We’re concerned with pedestrian safety here, not motor vehicle safety overall, so this might be a better source: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812124.pdf

    14% of motor vehicle deaths were pedestrians in 2013, but 21% among children 14 and under. Much higher in some big cities.

    One bit caught my attention: 34% of pedestrians killed had BAC of 0.8% or more (so if they had been driving, they would have been driving drunk).

  14. Warren August 20, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    Alicia,
    Sounds like they would be better off playing Dodge the Soccer Mom’s Minivan than Dodgeball.

    Kids these days are wimps. Back in our day we played Dodgeball with five pin bowling balls. We had been using ten pin balls, until that guy that always got picked last, forgot to let go…………..and well let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight.

  15. International reader August 20, 2015 at 4:26 am #

    As I mentioned, in Switzerland, kids walk to local primary schools from their home. Sometimes they have to take public transport (bus, tramway) for a few stops. On their own. From age 6. Cars stop for them at pedestrian crossings. Traffic enforcement is ruthless. Switzerland dominates societal rankings. Look at statistics of accidents and kidnappings. They will dominate there too (in a good sense).

    In many European countries, the practice of the Walking School Bus http://www.walkingschoolbus.org/ is widespread and encouraged. I am sure it helps. also good for environment and health.

    This means that somebody else than their respective parent accompanies the kid to school. I bet that if you are at risk of ending up in jail or see your life ruined by lawyer/court if you participate to such cooperative experience in your neighborhood, you will not do it. I would not participate to it in the US for instance, assume I have to direct somebody else’s kid, attempt to save his or her life by touching him or her, or giving him or her strong instructions, or , Heaven forbid, be involved in an accident situation with somebody else’s kid. No way.

    But I don’^t live there and my kids take school/public transport on their own since age 6 anyway.

  16. Suzanne August 20, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    International Reader–I don’t know where you are in Switzerland, but I live in Baselland. Here, kids start walking to and from school on their own at 4, when they begin kindergarten. The kindergarteners wear bright yellow triangles over their coats to help them be more visible.

    One of the checklist items for first grade readiness is the ability to get to and from school without parental help.

    There’s one super busy road on the way between my son’s school and our home. There is a tunnel to get across that, which is nice.

  17. Andre L. August 20, 2015 at 5:28 am #

    If there is a single issue that is indeed a danger, it is traffic.

    I fully agree that the perception of risk of kidnapping, homicide, playground accidents is often vastly skewed, as we often read on this site/blog.

    However, traffic crashes appears to flow under the radar, when it is indeed the major cause of deaths of American youth. Road traffic kills more children above age 5 and teens than all other causes of death combined, nationwide.

    Around 45% of fatal victims of car crashes in US are not killed inside vehicles (pedestrians, cyclists, bystanders at a bench etc).

    So I do think children must be taught to be aware and safe around traffic, while also recognizing the regrettable state of road infrastructure and engineering that make so many residential and town streets (I’m not talking of freeways or highways here) extremely dangerous places due to a combination of bad design, lax enforcement, ill-behaved road users (including drivers).

    This (traffic deaths) is a problem that deserves much more media attention than it gets. Somehow society has normalized traffic deaths as some sort of “act of God” that just kills enormous amounts of people in totally preventable incidents that are then labelled “accidents” as if they were freak, unusual and rare occurrences.

  18. hineata August 20, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    In NZ we have basic road safety lessons for the 5 year olds (1st year at school). In our area these are run by the community constable, and I assume that would be the case in most urban areas. Seems to work OK. Used to be sponsored by McDonald’s, so at least they got to do one thing right!

  19. hineata August 20, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    Ps just got one of those autoresponse things from Lenore. What holiday is going on over your way at the moment? Dear Lord, can’t be Christmas already, surely. ..knew my memory was slipping, but I can’t be that far gone ☺☺

  20. Emily August 20, 2015 at 7:31 am #

    About dodgeball, when I was a kid, we still played it, but we were told to hit below the waist (or below the chest), and not throw the ball at anyone who wasn’t playing. Still not a fun game for uncoordinated, introverted me (although, I’m a fitness instructor now, so I didn’t grow up to be sedentary), but I never considered dodgeball to be bullying.

  21. Tim August 20, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    @Ann,

    Good point. I had a “Bicycle Rules of the Road” handbook when I was a kid. I rode all over and knew traffic patterns and the rules of the road (for cars too). I’m sure it helped me understand what to expect from bikes when I started driving. It never occurred to me that if a young person is never out riding their bike in traffic, or using intersections as a pedestrian that it won’t be second nature when they start to drive.

  22. Alicia August 20, 2015 at 7:39 am #

    @ James Pollock – how did I miss the concept of kids getting picked last? I WAS the kid always picked last….that should have been my first thought! Obviously, that experience has scarred me irreparably. In all seriousness, it was disappointing. And helped me realize that I suck at all things athletic and should focus my interests elsewhere….which helped me develop into the (mostly) stable adult I am today.

    @ Warren – glad I didn’t play with you & the 10 pin bowling ball. What with me being the unathletic child that I was!

  23. cynthia August 20, 2015 at 7:54 am #

    When our kids started Schule in our very small country town with little traffic they were prepared weeks prior by the kindergarten and local police. They walked the route they’d be taking and made them practice crossing the street. All Schule kids wear monstrous backpacks with reflectors to ensure they are seen and since they also had to wear large reflector belts over their chest as it was dark many mornings when school started. That’s not to say I never caught my kids or others walking in the road (or a construction site) before – they are kids and screw up sometimes but the expectation was that someone would yell at them and set them straight. Now that we are stateside they are prepared to ride their bike to school daily and I see they are much better getting themselves than a lot of the other kids.

  24. gap.runner August 20, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    I live in Bavaria and a lot of the kids walk to school starting at age 6, when they start first grade. Primary school (1st to 4th grade) kids have big backpacks with a reflector on them because it is dark when they walk to school in the winter. Yes, kids walk to school in the cold winter over here. When my son was in his last year of German kindergarten (preschool), a policeman came to the school and gave traffic safety lessons to the kids who would start school the next year. The kids learned about crossing the street when the light and “the man” are green. They also went out and practiced with the policeman. In my city a lot of the kids walk to school. There is a crossing guard at one of the major streets because it allows a right turn on a red light and the drivers don’t always look out for kids in the intersection.

    In fourth grade the kids take a bike safety course through the German auto club (ADAC). Someone from the ADAC comes to the school to inspect the children’s bikes to ensure that they are road worthy: they have reflectors, a bell, a light, and good brakes. Their helmets are also inspected. The ADAC also sets up a test course and grades the kids on their cycling skills. In addition, the students take a written test about bike safety and the rules of the road. Bicycles are treated as vehicles in Germany. After completing the performance and written tests, the kids get a certificate and are allowed to cycle to school by themselves. An interesting point about the written test–the kids get a grade and it counted as part of their local studies grade.

    In Germany, as in most European countries, kids don’t drive a car until they are 18. Bicycles are their means of transportation in smaller cities. It is considered normal to see adults riding bikes to commute to work or run errands.

  25. Tricia August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    Depending on the local conditions, sometimes concerns about pedestrian safety are reasonable. For many decades roads in the U.S. have been built without taking into consideration the needs of all road users. When only automobile traffic is considered you wind up with high-speed arteries bisecting densely populated areas, neighborhoods without sidewalks, and few or no facilities for bikes. One way to increase pedestrian activity is to advocate for complete streets that balance the needs of all road users.

  26. BL August 20, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    @Emily
    “I never considered dodgeball to be bullying.”

    I didn’t either. I thought of it as a way for phys ed teachers to be lazy – instead of teaching us how to shoot a jumpshot or bump-set-spike a volleyball – just throw out a dodgeball and doze off for a class period.

  27. ChicagoDad August 20, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    Our kids’ preschool had an annual bike safety day. A police officer would come out and spend the morning with the kids doing safety demonstrations. Parents brought the kids’ bikes and trikes and they would do some practice drills in the parking lot. It was fun!

    This would be an easy thing to start up at any school. Talk to the preschool or kindergarten teacher, pitch the idea, and then call the police department to schedule an officer to spend a few hours with the kids. Some cities also have bicycle clubs and other organizations that could offer some training and support.

  28. pentamom August 20, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    Warren, I agree. I was just addressing the use of statistics by another commenter.

  29. pentamom August 20, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Dodgeball is not inherently bullying, but it can be a very convenient medium for bullying. Been there, done that.

    That said, I’m not against dodgeball, I’m in favor of teachers actually supervising the games they organize.

  30. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    “This would be an easy thing to start up at any school. Talk to the preschool or kindergarten teacher, pitch the idea, and then call the police department to schedule an officer to spend a few hours with the kids. Some cities also have bicycle clubs and other organizations that could offer some training and support.”

    It doesn’t have to be done through the school. Our parks district has “bicycle safety fairs” where they have a whole half-day of activities, combined with bike inspections, helmet recall checks, and the like.

  31. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    “I never considered dodgeball to be bullying.”

    No, more like “bullying-adjacent”. It allows bullies to do bully-like things in the guise of officially-approved school activities. Watch the playground during recess… see anyone playing dodgeball? On the other hand, there are dodgeball leagues and pickup games for adults (kickball, too.) Maybe it’s just one of those things that you don’t like when it’s happening, but, looking back, see the value of. Or maybe it’s just that the people who aren’t good at dodgeball don’t join the leagues, but they were required to play in P.E. class.

  32. BL August 20, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    “No, more like “bullying-adjacent”. It allows bullies to do bully-like things in the guise of officially-approved school activities. Watch the playground during recess… see anyone playing dodgeball? On the other hand, there are dodgeball leagues and pickup games for adults (kickball, too.) Maybe it’s just one of those things that you don’t like when it’s happening, but, looking back, see the value of. Or maybe it’s just that the people who aren’t good at dodgeball don’t join the leagues, but they were required to play in P.E. class.”

    No idea what you’re driving at.

    Bully-like things in the guise of officially-approved school activities? That would be a very long list, nothing special about dodgeball.

    Dodgeball games at recess? Nope, never saw one.

    Dodgeball leagues for adults? I’ve heard of such things. Why, God, why? Dodgeball always struck me as a stupid excuse for a sport, anyway, which is why I mentioned laziness on the part of the teacher. There’s such a long list of good sports that can be played in gym, why that one?

    And why mention kickball? Is it supposed to be comparable to dodgeball in a way that, say, basketball isn’t? If so, I don’t get it. In my first grade school (K-2), kickball was quite popular at recess, and wasn’t directly supervised (there was a playground monitor, but no-one dedicated to reffing the kickball game).

    Looking back? No, I still think dodgeball was stupid. Basketball, fine. Volleyball, fine. Flag football, fine. Slow-pitch softball, fine. We even had the wrestling coach in a few times to show us that sport (not the idiotic stuff called “pro” wrestling). All fine. But dodgeball was for lazy gym teachers, err, physical educators.

  33. Havva August 20, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    @International reader, Walking school buses do happen in the US. The elementary school near me set them up after a budget crunch made busing kids who were in easy walking distance not only ridiculous, but too expensive to tolerate. They were pretty depressing things to witness. Somehow the adults managed to keep the kids in these ridged 3×4 grids as they more or less marched them to school. I was sort of glad when the program fell apart, and the kids who walk now do so at their own pace in little packs of friends like I remember from my school day…. though there aren’t many of them. So that falling apart might not be the best of things. My parents have told me about the stunningly huge pick up lines they have seen by the elementary after school. And I heard from a planing commissioner how they receive frequent complaints about driveways being blocked by the pickup/drop off line. This upsets the blocked in neighbors because it …. keeps them from getting into the pickup/drop off line!

  34. Havva August 20, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    Adding to @ChicagoDad’s suggestion. Check with your local safe routes to school program. In our area they have bike safety courses they run in the schools.

  35. BMS August 20, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    We live on a block that is a bit of an ‘island’ with busy streets on three sides. Our driveway opens onto the busiest of those streets, right across from a rather complicated intersection. We’ve witnessed about 7 car accidents in front of our house since we moved in. Because of this I made sure starting at the age of 5 or so that my kids learned how to cross that street, by themselves. When they were first starting out, I made them walk down the block to the corner and cross at the traffic light. Every single time we crossed together not at the light, I talked about what we were doing (i.e. check the cross street, look to see if the light is red, don’t forget to check this other street, etc.). Forbidding them from crossing the street wasn’t going to work. Actively teaching them did. My friends thought I was nuts at first, but I pointed out: all of their friends live on the other side of one of these streets. I either teach them to cross safely, or they’re stuck on the island, waiting for me to shepherd them across.

  36. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    “Bully-like things in the guise of officially-approved school activities? That would be a very long list, nothing special about dodgeball.”
    And?

    “Dodgeball leagues for adults? I’ve heard of such things. Why, God, why?”
    nostalgia for childhood.

    “Dodgeball always struck me as a stupid excuse for a sport, anyway, which is why I mentioned laziness on the part of the teacher. There’s such a long list of good sports that can be played in gym, why that one?”
    Basketball lets 10 people play at once. Baseball lets 10-13 people play at once; softball 11-14. If you have 30 kids in your class, you need a game that can be played by 30 people at the same time. Dodgeball is just such a game.

    “And why mention kickball?”
    It’s another game that adults don’t play very much. Unlike, say, golf, which is nearly all adults. Or basketball, which is small kids, medium kids, big kids and adults.

    “Is it supposed to be comparable to dodgeball in a way that, say, basketball isn’t? If so, I don’t get it.”
    Kids play kickball. Then they get older, and they don’t. Then, some small number do again. That’s different from basketball… people who like to play basketball start playing, and keep playing.

  37. Emily August 20, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    James, I agree that dodgeball is bullying-adjacent, but you just gave the solution–watch the kids. While you’re at it, enforce some rules, and have deliberate cruelty result in elimination from the game. In fact, all sports and other recess activities are potentially bullying-adjacent. Even non-physical activities come with the potential for exclusion. So, the solution isn’t to blanket-ban the activities, but to teach kids to play safely and fairly. Some of that job can even be outsourced to older students as “Conflict Managers” or whatever. Include a reward at the end of the year (amusement park, or a simple swim and picnic day if money’s tight), and kids will sign up in droves for the reward, and learn some responsibility and compassion along the way.

  38. Emily August 20, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    P.S., While I don’t think competitive sports and dodgeball should be taken away from willing participants, I also don’t think they should comprise the entire P.E. syllabus. There are tons of other options that allow 30 kids to participate at once. How about a nature walk, or a yoga or Zumba class, or a bike ride where you use it as an opportunity to teach the rules of the road? What about orienteering, geocaching, or scavenger hunts? What about individual sports, like golf? My point is, I think the P.E. curriculum should do more for kids who aren’t traditionally athletic, but that doesn’t make competitive sports inherently bad.

  39. Warren August 20, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    People, people I made a joke about dodging minivans. It was not meant to send this thread off on a tangent. Especially one we have discussed at length many times.

    I regret even touching on this subject, and wish we could get back to the subject at hand.

  40. Julie August 20, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    We did an interesting thing with my Girl Scout troop a few years ago. My mom lives out in the middle of nowhere with a volunteer fire department down the road from her. Part of the overnight event we held at her house was teaching all the “city” girls how to navigate a country road on foot in a safe manner by walking from the house to the fire station and back (with a terrific fire station tour to boot). Most of the girls just didn’t know what to do without a sidewalk. They had never been taught…

    As far as dodge ball, we had the MOST AWESOME setup at my grade school with two facing brick walls just the right distance apart. I was typically chosen toward the end…but that just made me more determined. There was a boy, Jay, that threw the hardest at folks. I was bound and determined that the way to not get picked last was to become the kid that was willing to hold ground against him and catch his throws. I still remember the first time I caught one (but I also remember the many, many painful times I didn’t before that). I use that experience to help my kids deal with the “picked last syndrome” too.

  41. BL August 20, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    “Basketball lets 10 people play at once. Baseball lets 10-13 people play at once; softball 11-14. If you have 30 kids in your class, you need a game that can be played by 30 people at the same time. Dodgeball is just such a game.”

    We had two lowerable baskets on each side of the gym, making two courts crosswise to the varsity court. That’s 20 players if you play full-court, and 40 if you play half-court, which is what we often did. I don’t think we actually had 40 kids in gym class, so probably we’d be playing 4-on-4.

    I’ve seen bigger gyms with three sets of baskets on the sides.

    Oh, and in basketball you can play the whole game (since we didn’t have benchwarmers in gym class). In dodgeball when you’re put out you sit the rest of the game. As I recall, the last few outs can take a while, with 90% of the players sitting.

  42. Nicole August 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    I remember that they taught and tested bike safety at my school when I was young. You had to pass to be allowed to ride to school. There are so many skills that kids need to master- before they become adults! One thing that worries me is how we now have to keep kids in the back seat for so long. I remember riding up front from a very young age, and while I know the back is safer, I credit how quickly I learned to drive with riding in front and watching what my mom did. By the time I was old enough for a permit, my instincts told me exactly when to turn or break or signal just because I had observed it for so many years. My younger brother, who rode in back more often (since, as the oldest, I always called dibs!), took much longer to learn to drive and to feel comfortable with it.

  43. ChicagoDad August 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Ok everybody, how about a Free-Range Kids Reader Challenge.

    Sometime this school year, we should each to organize something to encourage kids to walk or bike to school safely. It could be just about anything: a safety class, a walking club, contests, blog posts (or letters to the editor for you old timers), writing to the school board or city council, getting your school to install new bike racks, anything! We’ll work on it and report back on what we did.

  44. BL August 20, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    @Nicole
    “One thing that worries me is how we now have to keep kids in the back seat for so long. I remember riding up front from a very young age, and while I know the back is safer, I credit how quickly I learned to drive with riding in front and watching what my mom did. By the time I was old enough for a permit, my instincts told me exactly when to turn or break or signal just because I had observed it for so many years.”

    That’s a good point. I too grew up riding in the front. Never though about what a different it would have made being in the back all the time.

  45. Warren August 20, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    BL and Nicole,

    Your observation probably speaks to the growing trend of those that are in no hurry to get their learners permit and licenses. They are so used to riding around in the back, being picked up and dropped off everywhere they go.

  46. BL August 20, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    “While I don’t think competitive sports and dodgeball should be taken away from willing participants, I also don’t think they should comprise the entire P.E. syllabus. There are tons of other options that allow 30 kids to participate at once. How about a nature walk, or a yoga or Zumba class, or a bike ride where you use it as an opportunity to teach the rules of the road?”

    Well, I’ve already made my scorn for dodgeball clear, but yes you’re right.

    Learn how to use free weights, or Nautilus weights, or do the sort of stretching warm-ups serious athletes do. Or how to jog with good form so as to minimize foot injuries.

  47. Pat Peterson August 20, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Ausgezeichnet!

  48. Peter August 20, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Kids these days are wimps. Back in our day we played Dodgeball with five pin bowling balls.

    LUXURY! Why, when I was a kid, we used rocks! And we were happy to have them!

    And you try to tell the young people of today that? They won’t believe you.

  49. John August 20, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    You know, this makes a lot of sense. A few years back when I was in New Delhi, India, 3 little street children followed us asking for money. They looked quite young probably around 5- to 7-years-old. Well as you can imagine, traffic on a busy New Delhi street is crazy with drivers speeding and making crazy lane changes. So us Americans somehow made our way across the street leaving those 3 kids on the other side.

    Well, before we knew it, there were those 3 little boys again, on our tails! Someway, somehow, those 3 little kids who were no older than 7-years-old made their way across that very busy street and survived! In fact, it is nothing to see young children in Asian countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam as well as in India and Egypt cross busy streets. It might be two young children, maybe 8-years-old with their 4-year-old sibling by their hand, cross a busy street. If a sight like that was seen in America, those kids would be snatched off the street and their parents immediately tracked down and arrested!

    But I really believe it was their experience and their experience ONLY that enabled them to safely cross that very busy street. In fact, many experts who work for the plight of street children across the world say that these kids actually learn valuable lessons from the street such as conflict resolution, survival instincts and how to safely deal with adult strangers. I’ve also heard orphanage workers say that the street children they take in tend to be a bit tougher and more tenacious than the kids coming in directly from a sheltered environment.

    Now I’m certainly not advocating that we Americans just throw our young children out on the street but this just goes to show you that even very young kids can learn how to maneuver themselves and adapt in fairly dangerous situations. Perhaps we should slowly but surely give our kids more independence out on the street even at a fairly young age allowing them to gain some valuable street experience while maybe keeping an eye on them from behind the scenes.

  50. Alanna August 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    And here I lot of schools don’t even teach driver education any more.

  51. Steeve August 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    We live in a quiet, residential neighborhood near a couple of main traffic arteries. Occassionally, a car will take a short cut through our neighborhood and go faster than it should.

    Nevertheless, if a person looks both ways before crossing, which is what I learned as a small child, you can still make it across the street without losing your life. And that is simple and easy to do.

    All kids need to know how simple it is to avoid being run over by a car.
    ( Sounds silly even saying that. )

    When we moved to this neighborhood many years ago, there were only a couple stop signs where our street crossed a busy one. And that worked fine for many years.

    Then, a few years ago, a couple of fearmongers decided we needed 4-way stop signs at every single cross street. So they had the city install them. Now, you drive a block and stop, even though the street crossing our street rarely has any traffic. Drive a block and stop. Drive a block and stop.

    I was told that the parent who had the stop signs installed on the corner nearest our house is also the parent who would not permit his 12-year-old daughter to cross 3-lane street nearby because he thought it was too dangerous. And it would be, if he has not taught his daugher how to cross a street safely. “Look both ways before crossing.”

    Wow! THAT is just SO hard to do.

  52. hineata August 20, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    @Alicia – yay! Another one! I was the kid always picked last, and it …..ensured I focused on academics. Which of course ruined my life :-).

    Oh, and these days it makes me more likely to pick the least athletic looking kids to captain teams. Just to mix it up a bit.

    Interestingly our local kids walk to school a lot, seem able to look left and right OK when crossing the street and therefore don’t need to dodge cars…..they see them coming first. And they still play dodge ball at playtime and lunchtime. In order for some of your kids to be playing dodge ball in their recesses, they actually need, first, to have recesses.

    Finally, American football as a violent game….come on. So padded up the only injury is likely to be from walking in all that get-up. Rugby…now THAT’S a real game. 🙂

  53. Alicia August 20, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    @ Warren – I thought the dodging minivans joke was hilarious. I’m beginning to be sorry I perpetuated the dodge ball conversation as well. I had no idea people felt so strongly about it and really it has nothing to do with the issue of this post!

    @ hineata – yes! with the football pads! My two boys just started playing last week. I wasn’t worried about them getting hurt until I say them trying to walk in all the gear….and them with restricted vision because of the helmet! Hee hee!

  54. JR August 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    As kids get fatter and lazier, one of the current trends in gym class is no-elimination dodgeball because it ensures that kids have to be more active for longer periods of time. This keeps the hapless or the apathetic from standing there, getting hit instantly, and then sitting on the sidelines the rest of the game.

    The way it works is similar to Red Rover. If you throw the ball and it gets caught, you now have to join the team of the person who caught the ball. If you get hit by the ball instead, you join the team of the thrower. The game ends when all the players are on one side or another.

  55. Ms Spen August 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    I read through many of the replies and many were good but many went off the subject (dodgeball aside) the main point is teach them to cross the street. Also, of any free range situation- if you are acting sensibly- odds are- you’ll be safe. That said, teach your kids to cross properly, like, at street lights and corners. It doesn’t matter how wide the street is if you follow the lights and signs you’ll be fine. When kids die crossing the street it’s because the crossed in the middle of the street. I live just outside DC and we are near a crazy strip mall intersection. To walk to the crosswalk is inconvenient- so people don’t do it. It irritates the hell out of me. The woman on her cell phone, holding a baby, dragging a toddler through the traffic. Um, no, if we hit you- that is on you. (Though the cops would likely fault the car-grrr) but seriously, darting into traffic is dangerous and the point of the ad is teach your kids traffic smarts. It’s not that hard. There is another weird curve nearby that it seems no matter what time of day some idiot is sauntering across… No, just no. Teach your kids despite the inconvenience go to the light or the stop sign and cross there. In this case, size doesn’t matter. Proper crossing technique is all that does.

  56. Havva August 20, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    I’ve found getting my daughter cycling about the neighborhood was key in improving her traffic safety skills. It took away the safety net of all she needed to do was stop at the corner, grab our hands, and wait for us to move. (Which was fine as a toddler). But now she has to lead the way because it would be wrong to push/pull her into the intersection if she isn’t ready. And it takes her longer to cross and so on. So now she has to make that judgement call. At first it was a bit confusing and scary because she didn’t know what she was doing, and we had to stop her from making serious errors in judgement (like looking both ways, getting slightly stuck, getting unstuck and attempting to cross with out checking for cars again). But by putting her in command she got a lot better even at other related skills like figuring out where a car was about to appear. Now she knows without being told when a car is idling on the other side of a tall hedgerow.

    Road safety is definitely a skill that needs a lot of direct exercise before it can become second nature.

  57. JR August 20, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    @Havva – I agree completely!

    As a “tween,” my independence (on a bicycle, I hated walking) was so important to me that I made it my business to learn the rules of the road so my parents would feel confident while I was out roaming. I still enjoy riding my bike places and hate when I see people riding against traffic, riding through crosswalks, riding on the sidewalk, and otherwise doing stupid things that give all us cyclists a bad name.

  58. Papilio August 20, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    I like that these initiatives do seem to be realistic… By which I mean, this isn’t some Bikeability training like they give kids in the UK, even though the streets are so unsafe that their parents won’t let them cycle there no matter how much training they got, and those parents themselves wouldn’t cycle if their life depended on it.
    It does make me think though: I’ve never heard of primary schools/municipalities in my own country that (kind of) make kids walk to school by themselves *at a certain age*, as a standard or tradition, which is what it sounds like in the stories from Germany/Finland/Switzerland/Japan. And while I think all primary schools teach theoretic traffic lessons (starting at age 4 or 6 or 8, depending on the school), not all of them participate in the actual bike traffic exam. And while that exam is organized by the municipality and involves police officers checking if the kids’ bikes are okay (not their helmets, because no helmets), it’s not official in the sense that you’re not allowed to ride anywhere by yourself unless you’ve passed that test.
    OTOH, I do live in a country where an insanely high percentage of trips is done by bike or on foot (43% in 2013) while maintaining one of the lowest traffic death rates on the planet. Even if the kiddies don’t start walking to school by themselves at age 4 or 6, active transport is ubiquitous – resistance is futile 😛

    Re: dodge ball: I kinda liked it; I was good at the dodging part 🙂 We usually played it with ‘undead zones’ around the field of the other team, where you had to go after you ‘died’ and only could come out of if you managed to ‘kill’ a kid of the other team. Which meant that as a survivor, you’d be surrounded by enemies after a while – not much time to relax!

    @Ms Spen: is that crossing to the mall on (most) people’s desire line or is it somewhere out of the way of the car traffic?
    @Alana: The word ‘even’ kind of says it all…

  59. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    “As kids get fatter and lazier, one of the current trends in gym class is no-elimination dodgeball because it ensures that kids have to be more active for longer periods of time. This keeps the hapless or the apathetic from standing there, getting hit instantly, and then sitting on the sidelines the rest of the game.”

    The other one is to have two games running simultaneously… get eliminated from one, you switch to the other.

  60. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    “Finally, American football as a violent game….come on. So padded up”

    We played with no pads. It’s likely that having all the pads actually causes more injuries, because people will try to do things they wouldn’t do if they weren’t padded (which is why rugby players, who usually don’t even wear pants that go all the way down, are less likely to be injured. Well, that and the fact that rugby is most just a lot of running around.)

  61. Emily August 20, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    @JR–I think non-elimination dodgeball (and other non-elimination games) are good for kids who legitimately want to play, but in my experience, the kids who want to sit out, will sit out. I was one of those kids–by grade six or so, I had it all figured out: If I participated and tried my best in gym, I’d get teased mercilessly, because “my best” was awful. If I stayed in the game, but out of the way, I’d get teased for being lazy. If I sat out altogether, the teasing didn’t happen. The teachers didn’t like it, but the other kids were much meaner. I didn’t worry about failing gym for not participating enough, because otherwise, I’d fail for being awful at sports. Academically, I was a good student, so I knew I wasn’t going to be held back over gym. This continued until grade nine, when I took (mandatory) all-girls gym with a good teacher who was supportive and encouraging of everyone, not just the jocks. After that, I didn’t have to take gym anymore, so I didn’t, but sheer apathy got me through the last three years of K-8 gym. I didn’t even wait to be eliminated or rotated off; when I was done, I was done. I never got punished, because I have a mild spatial disability, and ultimately, it was understood that I just couldn’t do it. It helped that I worked hard and (mostly) made good grades in everything else.

  62. Rook August 20, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    The bicycle thing sounds pretty cool! The most my local public schools have is drivers ed. I was homeschooled, so I had the rules of the road fairly well taught to me from the get go. Plus the drivers of my local towns and cities are pretty nutsy. Some of my earliest memories are my mom sternly saying “Do not cross the road if a car is coming because they will run over you. If the crosswalk light is green, do not cross unless all the cars have stopped, because they will run over you”. The weird thing is, I’m from the country. I’m far less experienced with vehicles. Maybe that’s why my parents did their best to drill in common sense and survival rules?

  63. kathy August 21, 2015 at 12:18 am #

    A lot of people make fun of Germans because they wait for the light to cross the street but they do it to be an example to children. There are signs on the crossing light that say”Please be an example to children and wait for the light”.
    Both my children got there “bike” license here in Germany. It was one of the happiest days of there lives. The police give the test. It is very official and they get a real license. They were both very proud of themselves;)

  64. hineata August 21, 2015 at 12:32 am #

    @James – never watched rugby, obviously. Never mind.

  65. James Pollock August 21, 2015 at 1:01 am #

    “@James – never watched rugby, obviously. Never mind.”

    Obviously. Sevens or Elevens?

  66. Warren August 21, 2015 at 1:40 am #

    hineata,

    His playing with no protection would explain a lot. Brain injuries and all.

  67. hineata August 21, 2015 at 1:44 am #

    @ James – Can’t tell if you are trying to be funny, so will explain anyway. Rugby is sometimes played as sevens, but the usual game is 15 aside. Quite different from soccer, an 11 aside game, and the 7s, which are fun but again very different from real rugby.

    So yes, obviously you haven’t watched rugby.

  68. James Pollock August 21, 2015 at 2:05 am #

    “Can’t tell if you are trying to be funny”
    It’s funny that you think you’re showing me up. Does that count?

    “Rugby is sometimes played as sevens, but the usual game is 15 aside.”
    It’s, um, also sometimes been played as elevens. I didn’t see any need to bring up the 15-a-side game (it’s boring), and besides, I’ve obviosly never seen a game.

    “Quite different from soccer, an 11 aside game”
    Ya think? (Note, as an American, I don’t care a rip about soccer. Literally the only reason I know there are eleven on a side is because I used to work for a videogame company that made a soccer game, and “eleven” was in the title.)
    Football (the good kind) also has 11 on a side, BTW. I’ve obviously never seen that, either. And beach volleyball, which is also quite different from 15-a-side rugby (and which, obviously, I’ve also never seen), and has only 2 on a side rather than the standard six for regular volleyball. Obviously, never seen that..

    “the 7s, which are fun but again very different from real rugby.”
    I prefer sevens. Which is odd, since, obviously, I’ve never even seen it.

    “So yes, obviously you haven’t watched rugby.”
    Obviously.

  69. sexhysteria August 21, 2015 at 2:47 am #

    My limited experience in Germany is that people obey the rules of the road so everything is more predictable and accidents ae less likely. In some other countries (I won’t mention any names) there are a lot of crazies out there who are less predictable.

  70. hineata August 21, 2015 at 3:19 am #

    @Warren – yes! That’s probably it!

    I think the worst thing about this person is that he reminds me of my husband in his worst moments ….the times when he will argue with me about things he actually knows absolutely nothing about. We had an argument once about whether butter goes rancid….a Malaysian who had literally never seen butter growing up with a Kiwi who had made it herself. I can laugh about that now….. Still, I have to live with my husband, warts and all :-). I do not have to deal with this troll so shall do my best to cease and desist…..

  71. Eric S August 21, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    That’s awesome! Unfortunately, I don’t think that would be happening here anytime soon. Even the authorities who would need to set this up would be too paranoid. Not so much by the program, but the blow back from angry parents should something happen to their children. After all, for many, it’s always the other person’s fault.

    Things like this only work when everyone is on board and not pointing fingers.

  72. Eric S August 21, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    The issue really isn’t so much traffic. It’s the mentality of people navigating through traffic. Roads aren’t like those cartoon shows where cars are constantly whizzing by. Where there is no room whatsoever to get across. This is the reason why we teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street. I also teach mine to run across the street once it’s clear. 1. It’s good exercise. 2. The shorter amount of time spent on the road, the better. These days kids and adults alike are distracted walking about. Why? Because their too busy doing what they want, and not concentrating on what they need to. Talking to each other without paying attention to what’s going on around you. Head down looking at their phones. These are all contributing factors to pedestrians being hit by cars. That’s not to say drivers aren’t at fault either. Because these same people walking distracted, are some of the same people behind the wheel. Those few seconds when your eyes and mind are off the road (walking or driving) can very well be the difference between life and death. That’s just fact. People say, “I can multitask”, or “that would never happen to me”. Guess what, multitasking is myth. And everyone that has ever killed someone, died or been injured because of distracted something, said or thought the very same thing. Yet, it HAPPENED TO THEM.

    We can’t always control what other people do, but we can control what we do. Learning spatial awareness and timing is a great skill to have. Keeps one from bumping into people when walking, teaches them to give others room, improves timing when crossing streets when there is a gap between cars. I learned these very early, still use it to this very day. Now I’m teaching my own to do the same. He walks to school on his own now. Crossing over 2 main intersections. He told me a story, that one time his friend was walking with him, and kept trying to show him a video on his iPad. He told him to “stop, I’m trying to pay attention to the traffic”. I asked him what his friend did afterwards. He said he stopped talking and waited till they got to school. lol Kids are intelligent, and they learn. We just have to teach them proper. Forget about what makes us feel better, and concentrate what will make our kids better.

  73. Eric S August 21, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    lol. As I read down the comments, it’s funny how this topic went from teaching kids how to navigate around traffic, to dodge ball, to rugby.

    Personally, I loved playing dodge ball as a kid. Yes, it can be a way to bully someone. But at the same time, it’s also a great way of getting back at the would be bully. C’mon, Where in school (at least in my day) do you get the opportunity to ping off that jerk kid. Even better, a bunch of kids that got bullied gang up on that bully. lol Some of those bullies are terrible at physical activity. All the while, your learning spatial awareness and timing. Great skills to have. And your getting a lot of exercise, and sharpening your mind. Yes phys ed teachers probably get kids to play dodge ball because they’re too lazy to come up with something else. But it’s a win win.

    What’s a little sting, when you compare it to the real life trials our kids will face as they get older. Kids adapt, they learn, they get better at things the more they are exposed to it. Eventually, that ‘sting’ feels like a love tap. Not saying force them. But if they feel they’re ready and they tell you, be supportive and encourage them to take on that challenge. Not telling sheltering them, and telling them, “no honey, that’s too dangerous, you’ll hurt yourself”. Your just teaching them they are inadequate and won’t be able to do anything for themselves without you. Is that really fair?

  74. BL August 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    “Yes phys ed teachers probably get kids to play dodge ball because they’re too lazy to come up with something else.”

    Even if they do something other than dodgeball they need to be less lazy and, well, be actual teachers.

    I got a needless broken finger in gym class because the teacher hadn’t taught the class the proper way to shoot a basketball. Most of us were reasonable shooters, but some weren’t. One kid just threw the ball overhand very hard at the basket while I was standing underneath waiting for the rebound (hands and fingers extended, of course). The ball hit the bottom of the rim very hard and rebounded into my finger. A ball shot with reasonable arc wouldn’t have done that no matter how badly it missed.

  75. BMS August 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    I think I’m the only person in the world who liked dodgeball. Not because I got picked first (far from it), but because I have no skill in pretty much any sport. It was something sport like that I could play without getting teased for sucking so bad, unlike every other sport I tried. If you got out in dodgeball, well, so did a whole bunch of other folks. If I managed by some miracle to get someone out – awesome! It was low key, minimal scoring, and burned off energy. As long as you use a reasonably soft ball, it’s pretty injury free as well. Only time in gym where I didn’t feel like I had a big neon ‘loser’ sign above my head.

  76. Liz August 21, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    Remember crossing guards? Are there any left? If kids aren’t walking/biking to school, their jobs are lost.

  77. Havva August 21, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Liz, crossing guards still exist near me. There are a number of schools near very major roads. I’ve gotten caught waiting a few times while they ushered middle schoolers across. The area got pretty well developed by the 60’s so the lay out is from a less car dependent time and still fine for walking with some basic precautions like crossing guards. By middle school a whole lot of families do allow kids to walk with friends.

  78. James Pollock August 21, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    “Remember crossing guards? Are there any left? If kids aren’t walking/biking to school, their jobs are lost.”

    Forty years ago, we gave the job to sixth-graders… took them out of class 10 minutes early, to give them time to don the orange vest and grab the flag, and get out to the crossing before school let out. Now they use parent volunteers.

  79. hineata August 22, 2015 at 6:39 am #

    We still give the job to the Year 6s. 10-11 year olds with big lollipop sticks – these days they attach to big poles and get swung out into the street. Any other countries still use kids? Australia?

  80. Papilio August 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Over here it seems they’re always adults. But if they’re kids: they need to get to school in time too. How does that work when other kids are late?

  81. hineata August 22, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    Good point Papilio. Our patrols usually work on the roads directly by the school, sometimes one, sometimes 2 sets of road patrols depending on configuration and busyness of the surrounding block. And they do it between very set times, usually 15-25 minutes before school and 15 after, so they pack up a few minutes before bell time, or dead on. If you miss them, tough luck, you cross the road like normal. Generally a zebra crossing anyway.

    We also don’t tend to worry about kids being a bit late, as long as they report to the office first and then come in to class quietly. And patrol schedule is pretty much known, so you don’t mark them away.

  82. Andy August 22, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    Dodgeball amounts to most of kids not moving at all most of the time. It is bad choice of game for PE for that reason alone. Kids in our school stopped to play it during recess when they were strong enough for hit to actually hurt. Game lost appeal for most after that. At least in our school, boys did not even played except when very small, dodgeball was girls game.

    I do not get the obsession with team sports during PE through. PE should teach mix of individual and team sports, plus skills like climbing rope, jumping, running, little dancing etc. While some kids like team sports, a lot of them prefer individual sport and there is nothing wrong with that.

    I also do not get what match rules about number of people in team have to do with elementary school PE. Most team sports can be played reasonably well with range of 5-15 people in team and if there are really too many kids, you can split them into two groups playing separately. Soccer in particular works fine practically with any number of kids, but the same can be told about rugby and basketball.

  83. Papilio August 22, 2015 at 5:58 pm #

    @Hineata: So basically: if they’re late, they’re late 🙂 Simple solution 🙂

    Andy: “Dodgeball amounts to most of kids not moving at all most of the time.”

    Not at all, most of the time? Tell me, what brilliant strategy to avoid moving did I miss? (When I say I liked dodgeball, I mean, in the category of horrible PE activities, not that I liked it better than reading. Or beading. Or doing the dishes. Or anything, really.)

  84. James Pollock August 22, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

    “Dodgeball amounts to most of kids not moving at all most of the time.”
    Depends on what rules you’re using.
    We had a variation where the field of play was divided into three sections, with the players in the center section playing against the players at both ends. We also had a version where it wasn’t a team game, it was every one for themselves.
    (I don’t remember playing much dodge ball in elementary school, but it was used in high school for days when an outdoor activity had been planned, but rain changed the plan.)

    “Dodgeball amounts to most of kids not moving at all most of the time.”
    Again, depends on the rules. Getting out immediately means some standing around, unless the rules have been tweaked to prevent that.

  85. James Pollock August 22, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

    Oops. Cut and paste error. That second quote should be “what brilliant strategy to avoid moving did I miss?”

  86. BL August 22, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

    @hineata
    “We still give the job to the Year 6s. 10-11 year olds”

    Hmmmm. When I was a kid in Michigan, I think it began with 4th graders. Nine-year-olds, mostly.

  87. hineata August 23, 2015 at 12:52 am #

    @BL – that’s great! I’m sure they were also very capable. Do they still do it?

  88. Curious August 23, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    GO PLAY IN TRAFFIC! Did anyone else hear that from an annoyed parent with kids underfoot?! My Mom was a working Mom and needed to get the house clean on Saturdays. We lived in a city neighborhood. There were lots of kids. There was traffic at both ends of the block. Buses, too, and trolleys. We used to cross three busy streets twice on school days. Little kids walked with children only a few years older.

    I can remember moving to new neighborhood, and going for long instructional walks with my Mom about how to look, and what dangers to look for.

    I lived in NYC when my own son was 4YO and walked and talked him through how to cross very busy streets–in case he did it without me sometime. And he did, successfully. So I let him. While watching from 4 flights up, out the window.

    That was 40 years ago. He doesn’t remember that. But when I ask him about other aspects of growing up “free range”, he has expressed his gratitude. We moved to the suburbs when he was 6YO. He recalls that most of his middle-class privileged school friends were “under house arrest” most of the time, inside with their stay-at-home moms. I worked, through necessity, as my own mother had, so I envied those moms who set out orange juice and home-made cookies every day for the kids. But I knew he was correct. They were not allowed outside, though they lived on cul de sacs, far from any danger. He was free as the breeze.

    A generation earlier, my own friends with stay-at-home moms put out delicious snacks after school. But outside was off-limits. Dirt. Germs. Traffic. And even then, sixty years ago, “stranger danger”.

    Currently, some seem to point to the “women’s movement” and the “free love” era of the late sixties and early 1970s as the root of the backlash against women and children.

    But much as it has become fashionable to put the blame on anti-women’s issues, and much as the police and other state functionaries mistreat children with cruel interrogations and removal from their homes when there is no “substantial harm” anywhere to be seen–I wonder if the problem is rooted more deeply than 1965?

    Isn’t it possible that the movement of our demographic center from the”Heart of the Nation”–near Kansas City, Missouri in 1950–to the huge cities on three coasts– had an earlier and even more heart-breaking beginning?

    We were rural people. We lived in clusters of small farms, and in villages. We elected people we knew to public offices that had meaning for us. We had control over our lives. (Except that women and those who were not “white” had no vote and no power. So it was flawed, wasn’t it?) We lived in mostly large extended families. Kids worked hard and ran wild–when they got a little time off hard work.

    Then came the stock market crash, the Great Depression, the major drought of the 1930s, and the Second World War. All these catastrophes drove people off the land, fracturing the large family groups, and depositing broken pieces of former families in cities, nearer job possibilities.

    Sometimes only the father went. Some fathers went to war. Some mothers worked in war industries. Was Rosie the Riveter a Mom?

    Broken-hearted dysfunctional families that would never be healed, because they could never go home again.

    Then in 1950, we all had television! The war was over! The daddies came home, some of them.
    But the model of the family they had known was no more. Everything was broken in every direction.

    But we had television! And television gave us the new model of family life: in the suburbs, Daddy in a suit and tie. Mommy in high heels and pearls. Dick and Jane and little Sally. Perfectly groomed and well behaved. (Not a cow or pig in sight. No goldfinches or daisies, either.)

    Dagwood. Not Lil Abner.

    Well. It isn’t natural! And it isn’t working all that well. But it’s what we have now. And we had just better make it work. If we can. Without ceding our kids and everything else worth living for in the bargain.

    Our kids. Ours.

  89. Kim August 24, 2015 at 5:05 am #

    This is in fact common practice in the Netherlands, although children are a bit older when they take a traffic exam. Our primary schools count 8 grades and in grade 7, all children must take and pass a traffic exam. They are taught the rules at school and then need to cycle a set route through town during which they are being assessed on their safety in traffic, knowledge of the rules, ability to assess risk etc.

    Unfortunately, despite the existence of this exam, many children are still being dropped off at school and picked up by car by their parents.

  90. Brian August 25, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    When I was a little kid, there was a “Safety School” thing my parents sent me to that covered this. I don’t remember most of the lecture/classroom activities, but the part I do remember was where they had set up in a parking lot a network of little roads and sidewalks, and we learned traffic rules by having some kids drive Power Wheels cars around the roads while other kids walked on the sidewalks, both learning the rules of the sidewalk and how to cross the street.

  91. Tommy Udo August 25, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

    When I was five years old, in San Bernardino, California (a nice small city in 1959, not the slum ghost town it is today), I walked the half-mile to kindergarten and back home every day. My mom went with me the first day to make sure I knew the way, which took several turns and crossed a couple of busy streets. This was not uncommon; all of the other kids did the same. The older kids walked or rode their bikes. There were no 8:00 and 3:00 SUV traffic jams surrounding the school. Nobody died or was kidnapped.

  92. Timmy August 27, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    Not teaching your kids how to cross the street is negligence.

  93. KH August 31, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    My 11 y.o daughter started school in Germany today. Because the temperature got over 90 F in the classrooms, they kids got sent home at 11:00– just “Oh, it’s a heat-day (“Hitzefrei”)– you can all go home.” And all the kids, even the brand-new ones who lived in other parts of the city and had to take the metro or city-trains, made their own way home.

    I was a bit shocked– but pleasantly.

    (On the other hand, part of the first-day orientation was what to do if a shooter invades the school…. :-/ )