What Might Happen If You Let Your Kid Play Outside, Alone?

Hi Readers! In response to my downer about dealing with a tsunami of media “What If?”s, here’s one woman’s note answer to: What happens when you, with some slight hesitation, let your child go outside on her own?

Dear Lenore: I understand your anxiety, and can only join the chorus of those saying please, please don’t give up.  Your book has SIGNIFICANTLY changed our family for the better, and we were already what I called “half-range” to begin with!

My daughter (10) has been riding her bike to school for a month now, with buddies, but no adult.  It started out with just her wanting to and me saying yes, which traveled through the grapevine and triggered a flood of calls from the other moms.  “Are you REALLY allowing this?  Are you nuts?  What if this/that?  But but but…”  And many conversations and several holes bitten through my tongue later, we have 4 regular riders and many more that, although they aren’t allowed on the school ride, are allowed a wider radius of the neighborhood for riding.

The whole pack of them roam the neighborhood after school and on the weekends, with no adults around.  They’re all still alive and well, some of the moms have relaxed and seen the light, and the kids have met many neighbors they didn’t know at all before.  One elderly neighbor has been given the nickname “Candy Man” because when he sees the pack of them go by, he goes out to the street with a big bag of candy and lets them each choose one.  (Needless to say, they looooove the Candy Man!)  Another one has a dachshund they just adore, so they’ll go up and ask if they can “borrow” her dog to pet for a while.  Sometimes they’ll show up en masse at another kids house, grab the family dog, and take it for a walk (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen 8 kids walking 1 dog).

Without your book and this site, I don’t know that I would have allowed the school ride.  And look what it started!  I won’t be taking my daughter to the park and leaving her there on Saturday.  I’ll be telling her to get on her bike and GO to the park and hang out with her buddies, and be home when the street lights come on!  (Meanwhile, I’ll be leisurely reading on the couch!) — A Free-Range Mom

46 Responses to What Might Happen If You Let Your Kid Play Outside, Alone?

  1. Liz Picco May 22, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    DITTO! Our 14 year old asked to ride his bike alone during “Ride to Work & School Week”. We hesitated because part of the ride is through a few miles of narrow, windy country roads that are heavily used by folks, who are at times, talking on their cell phones, applying make up, texting, and eating as they take a short cut to Highway 17. Yes, it was nerve wracking, but the look on my son’s face when he arrived after school, sweaty and beaming, was well worth it! He tells us all about his observations and loves when adult riders give him a thumbs up. He’s been riding to school everyday now and the bonus is that he takes care of his bike better than ever before.

  2. Susan May 22, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    This post is like a fairy tale for me. It’s what I dream of for my kids. My oldest daughter will be 9 this summer. Hopefully, we can start a movement in our little neighborhood.

    I’ve been giving my kids more freedom over the last year, but this makes me think we need to start inviting other kids from our neighborhood to take part.

  3. Juliet Robertson May 22, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    Look for a pre-school centre that begins with a positive approach to risk and management. I’ve just blogged about Cowgate U5 Centre in Edinburgh. The manager, Lynn McNair, is super and her work was formally recognised last year with an OBE from the Queen!

    http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2010/05/outdoor-play-at-cowgate-under-5s-centre.html

  4. Martha May 22, 2010 at 1:05 am #

    I support this movement and am elated to find this site.
    I am 48 year old mother with an almost 3 year old. I see for her the adventures in nature and with people that I enjoyed and that formed who I am. At 7 I was spending half days roaming acres around my home with my brother and friends. Building all kinds of forts in and around our little home too. Digging mud holes, climbing the tree onto the roof.
    Our job as parents is really only to raise children to be great adults. As for now I let her roam safely around my immediate un fenced in home and explore all the flora and fauna here in Hawaii. She spends hours doing it. My main goal over potty training was her learning to swim earlier this year. At the beach I let her play with little interuption. She heads for the tide pools and other kids. I try to always give her room to connect with people when we are out and about.
    As a artist, designer and Feng Shui practitioner I iterate people are nature too. It is healthy for children to see us positively connect with everyone wherever we are.

  5. Eric May 22, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    @Susan: Yes, yes, yes. Do it. Remember, it takes steps to get to where you want to go. Keep on doing what your doing. I’m sure you kids have a few friends that they hang out with. When more kids see this type of interaction, they’ll want to participate as well. The hurdle is getting their parents to agree.

  6. jody sergienko May 22, 2010 at 2:36 am #

    As a Navy family we move a lot and with each one I seek out neighborhoods with lots of kids. We move in and my two say, “where are all the kids?” With in a few weeks if not days of my children being sent outside to play the empty streets and tot lots would fill up. Not only do the children start playing outside more the adults join them.

    Now at 8 & 11 my two can go to friends houses on their own, & ride bikes in the residential area. I don’t send them to the park because our huge back yard is a park of sorts! All this has paid off already. When we were in Europe for a week both were comfortable being out and about while knowing their limits.

    Your site was timely since we are about to do yet another move. This time I am going to look for an area where they can ride bikes to school, go to the youth center on their own, and encourage this independence. soon I hope to be coming home from work to find they started dinner :)

    Keep it up,

  7. bequirox May 22, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    Boy howdy, I have quite the discussion going on my facebook page about this! Lots of people saying “What about this girl who got kidnapped? What if what if?” But I also have a few defenders. I live in the 5th safest state (crime wise) in the US. I understand being worried your kid will get hurt. It’s very likely they’ll be scraped before they come home. But worrying they’ll be kidnapped, when the last kidnapping in Utah was Elizabeth Smart? That’s just plain ridiculous.

    Correction: It was Destiny Norton 4 years ago, who was kidnapped and murdered by her neighbor, not a stranger.

  8. Jsue May 22, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    What a great website. My husband and I totally agree with letting our 13 year old go out and about. We even moved to a small town 6 years ago just for that purpose. Now, my son can ride his bike not just all over our neighborhood but into town to the IGA or Dollar Store or Subway (there aren’t that many businesses where we live). He can go up to the small university gym and play pool or basketball (it’s a christian school so the students are super nice to all the “town kids”). And just as close he can ride down a one lane country road that crosses through a creek and be swimming and fishing with his buddies all summer. To help allieviate worry I used to give him my cell phone (and now he has his own). He would always call if he was going from one place to the next to let me know where he would be. I usually hear from him about once an hour if he’s out, letting me know he’s alright. This is how I grew up. It’s how my husband grew up. We knew our boys had to grow up this way too.

  9. Mother Lode May 22, 2010 at 4:00 am #

    Hi Lenore, I’ve been following your blog, totally intrigued with the topic – I must admit that I have to use my mind to override my gut reaction to the idea of letting my daughter such free range. However, she’s only 4, I’m a logical person, and thus I have time for my gut to catch up with my brain =) I follow your reasoning and agree on many points, and see the value of what you’re promoting – however, I can also see how our worst fears as a parent (which I have to battle against myself!) can be counterproductive to what is actually better for our children. That’s my personality, able to empathize with both sides of a difficult issue. So, in your post today I read the words “open minded’ in reference to a recent interviewer, and that is how I feel, that I’m open to this whole idea (which is HALF the battle, right?) but think it would be really beneficial to have more intermediary and progressive steps and tools available to work up to the ideal scenarios you’re proposing, and perhaps there could be some common ground for those open, but still hesitant? Just like children need the opportunity to experience expanding freedoms in order to learn how to handle it well, it’s the same for parents – we’ll get more and more comfortable working toward this goal of free range as we gain experience with it, and it works on both sides – both the parents and children learning and working together to find a good balance of the boundaries appropriate for each age and stage. I think providing some progressive steps to point parents in the right direction without taking the full plunge before ready/willing would be a huge step in the right direction toward gaining experience and comfort with this parenting philosophy. Thanks for what you do, I’m a fan and will continue to follow, even if it’s just baby steps.

  10. Jasson May 22, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    Hi Lenore.
    I have just read the interview you did with Nathalie Rothschild on spiked. I think the Take your kids to the park..and leave them Day is a fantastic idea.

    I don’t have kids myself but know a lot of people who do and who agree with you in the UK.

    Here’s to a great success.
    Jason

  11. Tanja May 22, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    yeah you.. tumbs up from Norway. It is a lot more common that kids play outside alone here.
    It is different from usa, because our country is little compare to yours, but still.. kids need to be kids :)

  12. Scott Fletcher May 22, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    Thank you for writing this enjoyable and thoughtful article. As a parent of two twenty-somethings, teacher and child-care provider (a past life) I can only say, “Absolutely!” to your encouragement for parents to let their kids off the leash. It can happen slowly and in small steps until everyone is comfortable and acting responsibly. As a society, we have created our own child-rearing cul-de-sac that stifles healthy child development while wearing us parents out with worry, guilt and over-parenting. Imagine the possibilites!

  13. anon May 22, 2010 at 5:32 am #

    I think that this is a big mistake. why should you be teaching parents to go against their gut/intinct? There are a lot of idiots in the world who will leave children places. It’s one thing if the children are 10, 12, 13 and it’s another thing for toddlers — are you crazy?

    How would you feel if something bad happened to a child because some (I’m sorry, well-intentioned by idiotic) parent followed your advice?

    It is disingenuous to have posters here talking about 4 year olds! Come on. Disingenuous and irresponsible.

    I grew up in the 70s and 80s and at no point did my parents ever leave me alone in a park. We played in OUR NEIGHBORHOOD alone. Big difference.

    I feel like you may be well-intentioned but you’re just trying to cash in and make a name for yourself by coming up with this whole thing.

  14. April May 22, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    Wow. I am shocked at the passionate outrage, and how literal some people are taking this attempt at positivity. Perhaps you could simply leave your children to play while you go sit on a bench neaby & read a book? Sit in your car? Drive away for 5 minutes to grab a coffee? Whatever you are comfortable with.
    The whole point was to see that a mature (yes people, let’s use the common sense Lenore assumes we have as parents- there was NEVER any advocation for leaving infants or toddlers alone.) child could be trusted among other childen, without constant parental input or approval. I can see that this is a training exercise for parents MUCH more than for children.

  15. Cynthia May 22, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    Anon- the idea is not to go against your gut. It is to examine your gut reaction to see if it matches the actual risk of the situation- a skill we believe free-ranging will help our children to develop as well.

  16. Elfir May 22, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    I’m scared of the day my kids learn how to ride bikes… not for them but because I’ll have to finally learn too!

    I’m a little surprised how many anti-FRK posters there seem to be now, but I guess the park day thing just brought on a lot of media attention all at once. I just wish those posters would bother to read the site a little before assuming we’re advocating a dog park for toddlers or something.

  17. anonymous May 22, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    Now that I am a parent I have been looking back on my childhood in a medium size upper midwestern town. I lived across from a large park that I played in from morning to night and in the winter I was there ice skating until my toes were frozen. I lived in that park from about the age of 5 until I left for college. Based on the parenting styles that I am witnessing, I feared that my child would not experience the joy of independence like I had …..apparently I am wrong and there are, and I will meet other parents out there as he grows. Thanks for the blog and the posting of the letter. I love that letter and can picture so many faces and people from my neighborhood and I think back on how many eyes and people were actually watching over us. Neighbors new our names and our homes and as a result out lives were richer and safer.

  18. Carbine May 22, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    It’s boggles my mind that parents who leave a 3 month old baby in the care of people they hardly know for 8 hours day, will turn around and treat them like infants 10 years later when it doesn’t do any good. Studies say daycare has no lasting effects on children, but maybe they need to go one step further and study the parents — a great deal of them seem to be suffering some kind of lingering guilt. Just a thought.

    I’m the queen of worrywarts, vein on the forehead and everything, so I enrolled my daughter in martial arts. The day she dislocated my knee while practicing, I stopped worrying.

  19. Nicola May 22, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    @anon: It makes me giggle whenever I see people such as yourself on this site. The only words that ever stick out to me from posts like that are:

    “What if…”
    “But, What if…”
    “And what if…”
    “But, what if and what if…”

    You guys sound like Chicken Little! “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” News flash – just like in the story, it ISN’T. People like yourself take a small amount of data (‘Child in Maine kidnapped!’) and stretch it to mean that every child in the entire world is in danger of being kidnapped. They AREN’T.

    We have a bureau dedicated to collecting the statistics to SHOW people like yourself that it was just an apple that fell on your head, not the sky – but it’s so difficult when the skulls are so thick and eyes so blind. It’s humorous and extremely sad – lemme tell ya.

    And as a few other people pointed out – (again, that tendency of people like yourself to take a bit of data and stretch it to conform your imaginations) – no one ever advocated taking a 2-year-old to the park to leave them there. If you have a child that doesn’t have any sense whatsoever (which happens because people like yourself won’t even give them a tinge of freedom to learn common sense), don’t take them to the park. Let them outside on your block to start, then work to larger freedoms. If you let you drop your infant or toddler off at the park and leave – now that isn’t free-range but stupid and negligent. Again – not what is being advocated here.

    Best of luck to you, Anon. Remember – it’s an apple, not the whole sky. If you figure that out, the world becomes a much nicer and pleasant place to live.

  20. This girl loves to Talk May 22, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    well its saturday here in Australia and two of my kids 7&9 went to the park on their own for 45 mins. They played soccer together, the older taught the younger how to ‘run on all fours’ (lol something she thinks is a skill of hers) they walked the 3 blocks there and back.

    Since reading your website this is the 4th time they have been to the park alone.

    They were very happy and proud and so am I
    (though parents who let their kids play till dark (i dont know how you do it, I am still a little nervous

  21. Marieanne May 22, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    anon, what an astonishingly ill-informed and unkind post.

    Have you read Lenore’s book, or any of the articles linked on this site?

  22. gramomster May 22, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    @ anon… did you not have a playground IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?! Most neighborhoods have parks. Parks with playgrounds. Playgrounds that often have NO KIDS on them, as parents keep their precious snowflakes cooped up in the house, or at supervised, organized activities.

    My 4 year old (yes 4) grandson gets taken to the park at least 3 times a week. Of course we don’t leave him there, but we encourage him to play with the other kids that are there, we don’t hover while he climbs, and we sure as all get-out don’t climb up there with him. But by the time he’s 8? I sure as hell expect we can either take him to the park and let him play while we take a walk, or send him to the park, and tell him when he’s expected home.

  23. Kelly G May 22, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    Anon, those of us with toddlers and four year old’s talk about them because someday, they will be the 7, 8, 9, 10+ year old’s that everyone else talks about. As mother to a two and half year old, I visit this site to gain ideas and encouragement from other parents of older children on how to introduce the concept into our family and to take heart in the slow but hopeful movement that will create independent and critical thinking children.

    Free range parents are not irresponsible or negligible parents; we use our common sense and follow our gut all the time. And our gut tells us that the more scary scenario is a future in which children are unable to make decisions for themselves or know how to socialize and empathize with their contemporaries. Yes, we all have that twinge in our hearts sometimes about the “what if?”‘s in life, but our “what if?”‘s are different from yours. We understand and recognize that the world is a big scary place, but we analyze it and determine what is the most appropriate risk to take with minimal losses. Sorry, if that sounds too logical or scientific in terms of parenting, but when we made the decision to carry that child to term and be a parent, we were taking the biggest risk of all and everything that came with it: to lose our hearts by letting them walk outside our bodies and grow up.

    Please take the time to read what free range kids is about before casting insidious allegations against us and calling us “well-intentioned but idiotic”, “irresponsible”, and “disingenuous”. At the end of the day, we are all on the same side: the side that wants our kids to be successful. We’re just taking a different path to get there and we hope that you will open your heart and mind to see the benefits of that path.

  24. Julie Colwell May 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    What if we leave our kids inside? What if we keep them cooped up until they are 18? What if we never let them develop any sense of responsibility? What if they get diabetes and heart disease because they’ve been sitting on the couch playing Wii *safely* supervised for 15 years? What if we never let them solve their own problems because we are constantly hovering and interfering?

    Then, they will live with us until they are 30! No thank you! I find it kind of ironic that a thousand years ago, the expected life-span was 30. Now, it’s when “kids” finally grow up. Yikes!

    No one ever asks those questions! Get outside and stay there.

  25. Babs May 22, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    Here we go again…

    @Anon: nowhere did Lenore ever advocate leaving young kids ALONE. It’d be one thing if 4 y.o. kids were accompanied by an older sibling (like 10 yrs. and up) for playtime at the park, sans parent. Just ‘dumping’ kids at the park was not the intent of today’s event. I have a 6 1/2 y.o. daughter, and were we not busy today, would send her, but only in the company of another child or two (and one of them a bit older too). Too many people are getting their proverbial panties in a knot over this being an ‘excuse’ to abdicate responsiblity or being neglectful towards kids.

    @Carbine: interesting point. I did have my daughter in daycare from age 3 mos. (both DH and I had to work, and we didn’t have family caregivers to help out). However, there are people who think even getting a babysitter/childcare provider outside the family is a fearful thing to do. I put a lot of thought into where I had to place DD while I worked, and I wound up using a facility where she was treated well, learned a lot, and even made some friends in the process.

    And I don’t feel any residual guilt for having DD in daycare, nor am I overprotective (I don’t think so) — it’s just a matter of doling out degrees of independence to my daughter at what I feel are age-appropriate levels.

    Is society more dangerous now than we were kids? Not necessarily — we are more aware, thanks to parents being more open with their children (a good thing) about things that MAY happen, and the advent of more news coverage on such stories (a bad thing, esp. with the likes of Nancy Grace, etc.,) I find the abnormal fear factors to be a bit silly and feel that arming your child with confidence and a modicum of common sense will serve him/her well in life.

  26. Mike May 22, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    Question: What might happen if I let my kids play outside alone?

    Answer: They’ll have a good time.

  27. Ulla Lauridsen May 22, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    When I first let my then 12-year old ride the city bus alone, she was the only one among her friends who were allowed to, while the others were driven by their parents. But lo and behold – when the other parent saw that our daughter remained safe and sound, and WE didn’t have to flitter hither and yonder, they soon let their kids ride the bus, too :-)

  28. Uly May 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    You know, Julie, when people say that the expected lifespan was 30, it’s not that they mean you were a doddering old man at 30 and liable to die at any moment.

    People, barring illness or accident, lived close to as long as we do now… IF they survived the first five years of life.

    There was a very harsh infant mortality rate, and it was still pretty steep until the age of five. All those early deaths skew the mortality rate severely DOWNwards.

    Of course, children were likely to die in the least as well as in the most permissive of homes. Children get sick. They have accidents. And when you don’t have modern medicine, there’s not a heck of a lot you can do about it. (Even WITH modern medicine, sometimes there’s not much you can do about it anyway.)

  29. American woman May 23, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    All I can say is “wow”. Lenore, do you even know how free-range really works? Free- range animals never leave their young along. They always eat and roam in a group. We should all be as smart as the “free-range” animals you keep referring too.

  30. bequirox May 23, 2010 at 5:27 am #

    Went to the park today. It rained all morning, but as soon as it stopped we headed over. My daughter is 2 and she played with her 3 year-old cousin. They climbed all over our super tall playground all by themselves and the cousin went down the big slide and didn’t want mom at the bottom to catch her. After an hour or so a couple girls showed up on their bikes. But thanks to the darn rain it was a pretty quiet park day.

  31. Steve May 23, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    “American Woman” has obviously NOT read Lenore’s book.

    There are 2 kinds of skeptics: Those who want to believe an idea or concept and suspend their criticism while reading up on what’s behind it indepth. ( in this case, reading Lenore’s Free-Range Kids book)

    And then there are those like “American Women” who, from the start are not about to change their minds. They hear about something and castigate it BEFORE understanding it. But it’s never too late to change.
    Treat yourself and read the book.

    Read the 66 five star reviews at Amazon reviews:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470471948/

    And perhaps you might watch this video of Lenore’s:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEKlZO6xXWg

  32. NicoleK May 23, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    I’m amazed this is even controversial. I certainly biked in the street. I remember the first time I was sent to the town center alone on an errand. I was six years old, and it was to buy a gallon of vanilla at Brigham’s ice cream. My au pair gave me the money. I was so proud to go all alone! After that, I was always going for walks or to the center or to the park by myself.

    The first time I babysat my brother I was seven and he was two. It was when my parents drove my au pair to the airport. It was for an hour or two, early in the morning so we were still in bed anyways. I was very proud then, too.

    I started sitting for money when I was 10. It was a good source of income.

    My first intercontinental flight without a relative was when I was 4. I was in the company of a stewardess, though. The first time I flew intercontinentally WITHOUT the dreaded plastic “UM” bag I was 14, and in charge of my brother. We changed planes in Zurich, and met a friend for lunch who worked at the airport.

    By the time I was a good enough swimmer, I was allowed to swim unsupervised in the lake outside our house. I must have been 9 or 10. We’d take rafts or the canoe out to the middle of the lake. I was given many swimming lessons before this, and of course the first season or two I was strong enough to swim across I was with my mom. It was about 1/4 mile across… I was 7 the first time I swam across.

    I was born in 1977 in case you’re wondering how old I was. So it’s not like they didn’t have cars back then.

    I can’t imagine keeping a kid cooped up all day. I would have gone crazy! And I was hardly an athlete… I was a bookworm. I can’t imagine keeping a kid more inclined to physical activity cooped up.

    You know, I stopped teaching because the kids were so hyper. This must be why.

  33. Uly May 23, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    All I can say is “wow”. Lenore, do you even know how free-range really works? Free- range animals never leave their young along. They always eat and roam in a group. We should all be as smart as the “free-range” animals you keep referring too.

    Actually, there are a wide number of childcare (pupcare?) practices in the animal kingdom.

    Some animals rarely leave their young. Others are more than willing to leave their young in the care of friends or relatives. And some leave their young alone all the time! The greatest example here is rabbits, who basically visit their babies once a day to feed them – to do otherwise would be to attract predators. And of course there are animals that spend no time whatsoever with their young, which are expected to fend for themselves from the time they’re out in the fresh air, taking their first breaths.

    Now, of course, the pertinent question isn’t “how do chickens and pigs and scorpions raise their young”, nor yet “how do chimps and bonobos and gorillas raise their young” but “how do other humans raise children”. And the answer to that is that there are many, many ways to raise children worldwide, and everybody does it differently.

    *shrugs*

  34. Dot Khan May 23, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    The local news covered a woman hit by a stray bullet with her kids in the car, but completely ignored Park Day both before and after it. The kids would have been safer in the park.
    Many predicted that this was a bad idea, but probably would only have gotten coverage of kids playing with other kids if something bad happened. Bad news and fear sells.

  35. Babs May 24, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    So, what was the outcome of this event, nationwide? Were there higher than average reported attempts at pedophiles plying unsuspecting kids to come see their puppies or get candy? (sarcasm implied) Or did parents take advantage as they saw fit?

    Although we had other obligations, my daughter had a free-range afternoon of sorts. My neighbor across the street had a huge party at her house, and the street was blocked to traffic (there were over 100 guests throughout the afternoon/evening), so it was great to see kids of all ages running around, riding bikes, hula hooping, playing with chalk, climbing trees, singing karaoke, and socializing with little, if any, interference from adults. (I only got nervous when I couldn’t find my daughter at one point, but she had gone in the house to use the bathroom — silly me!)

  36. Mom May 24, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    I let my kindergartener walk to school alone for the first time today. It’s a short walk down our street and then onto a path–no streets to cross. We’ve been practicing for a few weeks, with me walking far behind her or walking her only halfway. I got a call this morning from the school saying that while she was fine, it was their policy that adults have to escort kindergarteners inside the building–not even to the front door, but actually inside the building. Then the school told me that they “hear about things,” including kids from other districts being asked to get into strangers’ cars.

  37. jim May 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    8 kids + one dog = 16-hand body rub = blissed-out pooch. My Staffordshire street-rescue mutt (that’s “pit bull” to you fear-mongers) gets tied up right inside of the gate of our neighborhood community garden where he is the first thing the kids see when they come in; if it’s a “big kid” (5 and up) he wags his tail because he’s going to get a hug (the regulars know that if they kiss him on the nose he’ll shake hands) and if it’s a toddler he goes total passive-posture with all four legs in the air for a tummy-scratch.

    GREAT post!

  38. pentamom May 25, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    @Uly — besides what you said, Lenore’s use of Free-Range is a metaphor, not a strict analogy. It’s a really common, really bad failing people have of looking at a metaphor and thinking they can deconstruct a position based entirely on the choice of metaphor. OF COURSE “Free Range Kids” does not mean “raise your kids the way chickens do.” It means “let your kids have some freedom.” SHEESH! The person who critiqued the position based on the behavior of animals 1) completely missed the point and 2) utterly wasted the bytes and bandwith consumed by her crashingly non-responsive comments.

  39. anonymous May 25, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    This is in the Portland Oregon area and I think people who follow this blog might be interested so I thought I would at this to the comments. It is not a crazy idea to actually let your children play outside and there are even ways to facilitate a sense of playborhood.

    Neighborhood Play, Everyday!

    Kids hardly play anymore in their neighborhoods, and they’re suffering because of this. This presentation will provide a detailed set of recommendations for how you can give your kids a life of neighborhood play: 1. Simplify Children’s Lives – to clear out time for neighborhood play; 2. Move to a Potential Playborhood; 3. Make a Neighborhood Hangout; 4. Embrace the Right Technologies that get kids socializing face-to-face and spending time outside.

    Facilitate Self-Reliance, Don’t Control! Find out more at Playborhood.com!

    When: Saturday May 29th from 2 – 4pm
    Where: St. David’s Church of Wales at 2800 SE Harrison St. Portland, Oregon.
    Cost: $10 – 20

    This workshop is a portion of The Village Building Convergence.

    For a full listing of events go to http://www.cityrepair.org and click on the link to download The Village Builder. Thanks!

  40. s. May 25, 2010 at 3:43 am #

    Just wanted to report that I sent my 8 year old son to the park by himself (for the first, and not last, time) this Saturday. He walked there by himself (walk a block, cross a street, he’s there), stayed for a pre-arranged time (45 minutes) and walked home. He was absolutely giddy when he got back–so full of joy and independence and wanted to tell me all about his adventure, and what games he made up to play.

    We had been leading up to it for weeks (practicing crossing the street, walking to the bus by himself, etc.), since reading your blog, and I’m so glad we did it. Thank you.

  41. Renee Aste May 25, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    I just wanted to share this here…

    This morning reading the local crime blog, a parent reported a five year old missing last evening (it’s was dusk and warm out). The police did a secondary search of her own home… she was there. While all the surrounding town’s police were on notice, at least they found her before a reverse 911 in town.

    How embarrassing, yet if the five year old did leave without permission then the Department of Children and Families would be called in for an investigation and not calling the police would make it worst for the parents.

    Next time you lose a child in your own house; calm down, say a little prayer to Saint Anthony and, take a moment to clear one’s head of negative thoughts, and then find your child. It’s works for me when I lose my keys.

    Door chimes/bells on the doors/gates may help also.

  42. Annette May 26, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    I am surprised that this is controversial. When I was growing up I was riding my bike and walking my dog all over the neighbourhood all by my self from the age of 11 onwards. I almost never had anybody to go with me.

    These days my son is six years old and rides his bike to school and back while I accompany him either on foot or on my own bike. One of our neighbours has a six year old girl who is already insisting that her mother meet her 50m down the road from the school rather than on school grounds.

    Admittedly this is in suburban Melbourne, Australia. Australians get independent about travelling long distances pretty quickly.

    Nevertheless I still had an old lady following me telling me that people can’t be trusted yesterday after my son had zoomed past her on the bike and was waiting for a few minutes at the end of the block for me to catch up.

  43. Mamarox May 28, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    My 10yo son has been riding or walking to school all spring, recently a friend down the block was allowed to join him. Today those 2 biked to another friend’s house and picked him up on the way to school. A small start is still a start! Viva la Free range!

  44. Jen Connelly May 31, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    Although we missed the Park Day event (my 7yo had her Girl Scout Court of Awards that day so we were busy) my kids have been playing outside alone for years. Ever since we moved back to Chicago when they were 4, 5 and just turned 7. Now they are almost 10, 8, 7 and just turned 4. They are outside from morning until way after dark in the summer. The 4yo has to have 1 of her siblings outside with her but otherwise is allowed free range of our side of the street.

    Yesterday there were 3 parties going on and about 20 kids running up and down the street well past 10pm (I dragged mine in at 9:30pm because I wanted to go to bed, lol).

    My 3 have also been walking to school alone since March. It’s a 3 block walk (takes about 8 minutes). They love it and feel so grown up in 1st, 2nd and 4th grades. They also walk themselves home from a park class they take on Fridays. This Friday is their last class and I plan to allow them to hang at the playground for awhile afterward.

    I would go insane if I wasn’t a free range parents. I can’t imagine having to follow my kids everywhere. They would be stuck indoors all the time because the heat bothers me and I get bored just sitting there watching them.

    So 3 years of the kids playing outside unsupervised and they are all still alive. So far the worst thing that has happened was my middle daughter sliced her foot open on some broken glass in our yard (she was 6 at the time). her brother and his friend helped her inside and life went on.

  45. MMA Guy July 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Your in no way to old to start your Martial Arts Training, however you do need to bear in mind at our age your body takes longer to recover.

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