there some snow on the ground by you? If so, do yourself a favor and go eat a handful. Have your kid eat some, too.
Then wait to see if you die. If you donâ€™t — and you wonâ€™t — you will be joyously liberated from the latest WATCH OUT YOUR KID COULD DIE FROM DOING A NORMAL KID THING warning, this one about germs in snow.
Yes, news flash: Snow has germs. So does everything else. In snowâ€™s case, researchers recently determined that sometimes the flakes form around a kind of bacteria that has been known to cause diseases in bean and tomato plants. If your child is a bean or tomato plant, steer clear.
But even though most of us do not have plant children, the story immediately launched into the sound bite stratosphere. â€œWHITE STUFF IS FULL OF BACTERIA,â€ yelled one headline. â€œSNOW EATING NOW ENDANGERED KID PLEASUREâ€ â€œSTUDY WARNS AGAINST SNOWâ€ — which, by the way, the study explicitly did not. Rattled and ever-ready to step up their vigilance, many moms went straight into panic mode (which they consider straight into responsibility mode). Â
â€œWe had a conversation about it already with our seven-year-old — that thereâ€™s lots of germs and bacteria and snow can make you sick,â€ said a mom named Whitney.
The lady next to her looked stricken. â€œWe had our dog out on Sunday and I was like, â€˜I donâ€™t think she should be eating that snow,â€™â€ she said.
Look: Dogs eat snow. Seven-year-olds eat snow. And unless the seven-year-old is eating the snow that that dog got to first, everyone is going to get through this thing alive. They always have. Whereas if you start worrying about every little germ in the world, you are going to end up either placing your kid in a bubble or pickling his food in Purell.
Some mothers seem at that point already, if the women at the Executive Moms luncheon I attended on Wednesday represented a normal cross section. (Maybe they didnâ€™t. They were mostly New York moms with high powered jobs.)
â€œI just heard you should never have a cut-up lemon in a restaurant because of the touching of it in the kitchen,â€ said Robin, the mother of a 5-year-old boy. So even though she used to love ordering a Diet Coke and sharing the lemon with her son, â€œThatâ€™s off the list. Thereâ€™s too much potential to get sick.â€
â€œI personally donâ€™t let my children eat ice on planes because I read about bacteria,â€ said another mom, Karen.
And then there was another one, Renee, who wonâ€™t let her son drink New York tap water — the same water that does not seem to be resulting in mass deaths among the other 8 million people here. â€œI drink this new Norwegian water from glaciers,â€ she said. And thatâ€™s what she gives her teen.
Since when do we need water shipped from glaciers 5,000 miles away to be healthy? And shouldnâ€™t we be more worried about the glaciers themselves than about a few germs?Â Â
A whole lot of todayâ€™s moms seem to pride themselves on scanning the horizon for each new speck of threat and then blasting it with a howitzer. No snow, no lemons, no ice, no water from the hose. Whatâ€™s left?
Iâ€™m not sure. But I know it isnâ€™t childhood.
This past winter I watched with bemused horror as my 4-year-old daughter pried a hunk of ice off the sidewalk and happily munched on it. I don’t believe in the 10 second rule for food on the floor but I wasn’t sure about the 10 day rule. Anyhow, as expected, not only didn’t she die, but she didn’t even get a tummy ache.
p.s. I heard you on Talk of the Nation – it was a needed breath of fresh air.
My daughters eat restaurant lemons all the time. And I don’t mean sucking the juice – they EAT them. It gives them pleasure and puts vitamin-C into their bodies. I wouldn’t want to take this fun away from them. The youngest even has a heart condition and has never seemed to suffer any ill effects. Let the lemons be!
Great chat on NPR today. It shocked me into action.
Heard you on TOTN. Hurray! We should all spend more time teaching our kids please, thank you, respect, accountabillity and contentment and less time teaching them how to be perpetual victims.
As a first time visitor to your blog, I want to say thank you for having the guts to speak up about some of the ridiculous things that parents – and non-parents for that matter – worry about. This nation is becoming far too driven on fear. Fear of terror, fear of snow and fear of lemon wedges.
I grew up eating snow every winter and amazingly, I am still alive. I never wash my fruit, I use public restrooms, swallow bubble gum, drink tap water and even eat restaurant-cut lemons.
It never ceases to amaze me how many times people warn me about things like this. Yet, I rarely get sick and if I do, it lasts a day.
It scares me to imagine how this generation will turn out – being convinced that they are “victims” of everything that surrounds them.
Keep up the good work.
Heard you on TOTN today. At 5 or 6 I allowed my daughter to cross our not too busy street to play with a neighbor. The girl’s mother did not want her to cross alone when it was time to go home even though my daughter had said it all right with me. When my daughter was 11 (she is now 22) I allowed her to go alone door to door in our neighborhood selling Girl Scout Cookies. I got a nasty letter from her counselor about that. At 7 I allowed my son to ride his bike the 4 blocks home from soccer practice. His coach told me that if I had not mentioned it to her she wouldn’t have allowed him to go. It was that unusual. When my daughter was 17 She spent a month with the family of the German exchange student that had lived with us. I allowed her to fly all alone to spend a few days in London. Not feeling safe at the youth hostel she called me and got my permission to stay at a pricier bed and breakfast. At 18 I traveled alone to spend a year in France.Though I did have relatives living in Amsterdam and Germany. Back then it was very unusual to call home. While in Germany my daughter went with her exchange sister and friends alone to vacation by themselves on an Island off the coast of Germany. That is a common thing to do there. I have allowed my son from 16/17 on to fly all alone to Florida, transfer to a city bus to the hotel in order to go to a yoyo competition. In this country kids aren’t allowed to go anywhere by themselves until they can drive.At 19 and 22 my kids are independent and happy. I have to admit I have felt a bit nervous which I attribute to our culture of fear. These things have never bothered my husband.
Hey — it’s Lenore here, the writer. I just want to say thank you for these lovely letters. That Talk of the Nation thing threw me for a loop — the idea of giving equal time to callers who really believe I’d put my son in mortal peril for a silly “experiment,” made me so upset. It’s like giving equal time to someone from a terrorist organization — not all viewpoints are valid!!
So these nice notes are very calming. Many thanks — Lenore
I think that we are scared of too many beniegn germs. Not every germ out there is plotting to crawl up our nose and eat out brain.
The worst thing you can get from your hands under normal circumstances is the common cold.
I’m currently 13 and I’ve eaten snow before. Every single time it snows. And I’m not dead! Look at that! Personally, I think all adults should let up on the OMG my son/ daughter can’t walk around the neighborhood alone to a friend’s house. I’ve done it before, and even on Halloween! But I am still alive and in one piece. Nothing has happened to me.
The worst kind of sickness I have ever had was when I was three and that was because I was allergic to nuts and I accidentally ate a couple, which sent my temperature right up to 102 degrees. I was fine after a couple of days. Since then, the only sickness I’ve had is a stomach virus and the occasional cold. So, really, letting your kids eat snow shouldn’t kill them unless they’re very vulnerable to germs.
Also, parents need to let up on the protection a little bit. I’m going on a school trip this year with my friends for four days and one of my friends’ parents was going to follow us the whole time to make sure nothing happened to her! I’m not saying don’t protect us, I’m just saying let us make our own choices sometimes and let us be responsible.
Also, when you let your kid find his way home on the subway in New York, I thought that it was a great idea. I mean, for a young child, that is one of the best ways for us to learn how to be confident! Let us free for a while and let us make our own choices. If our parents make all of our choices, we’ll rebel and turn into the worst child on earth because we don’t have freedom. So if you let us make our own choices, we won’t be mad at all, we’ll understand. But sometimes, you have to make choices for us. Most of the time you should let us have a say first, and then decide. But, a couple of germs or finding your way home on the subway is jsut one long ride to becoming the person who you are in the future.
I have an article on my site about how to make snow ice cream and I get email about it all the time… how unsafe it is, how it’s going to kill someone.
And no drinking water from the hose? What???? What’s this world coming to?
Seriously though, I welcome your blog and I applaud you for writing about your son on the subway. My son is 12 and for the last year I’ve been thinking that I’ve been too protective and not allowing him enough chances to practice his independence. I know other mothers out there are struggling with it as well. You said that there were groups for you and groups against you and then there was that group on the fence… I hope those are the moms you’re reaching. They have the potential to change things for their kids, I think they’re just still stuck in the struggle and haven’t abandoned all that fear, yet. Keep talking, though, and hopefully it will happen.
Someone else who is speaking to parents in the same vein is Hal Runkel. He talks a lot about letting kids experience independence and make the kinds of mistakes they can learn from. I feel like a much more confident mom when I read his book and when I read the things you’re talking about here. Thanks!
There’s pretty good evidence that our cultural germ-phobia is responsible for the rise in asthma, allergies and other immune disorders. If you don’t give the immune system something to do, it’s going to turn on ya…
Just take a pass on the yellow snow. Spicy but, ewwww.
kudos for a welcome call to sanity and reasonableness.
My young daughter and I were clearing snow a month ago and I tossed her the keys and had her back out the car so we could shovel around it. I talked her through it and when she was done she was a good two or three inches taller than when we started.
It made me realize (again) that teaching healthy independence is a responsibility and I’m not doing my children any favors if I wrap them in bubble wrap and escort them to their approved weekly “play dates”.
It reminds me of the statistics I’ve read about the number of pedestrian injuries vs. cycling injuries and the question of why we do not require pedestrians to wear helmets.
The only time I was cautioned against snow eating was when the Chernobyl cloud passed over our province. Fair enough, I guess. Other than that we were definitely free range kids.
Keep fighting the good fight!
Good job on TOTNâ€”I really wanted to punch some of those callers in the face, but that’s proabably because I spent a good deal of my childhood eating snow every winter. Oh well, I think there’s a book that helps cure the late onset effects of childhood snow eating.
I love it: we shouldn’t eat anything from a kitchen that may have been touched. That, and I don’t think I’ve ever been on a plane where I didn’t see a hundred people (including myself) enjoy a drink with ice. How many planes are in the air every day? How many days/months/decades have we had these planes in the air? And which one person said you might get sick from the ice?
I read about you on bOINGbOING.net, and recently they also featured an article from Bruce Shneier which stated, “there are two ways to make people feel more secure. The first is to make people actually more secure and hope they notice. The second is to make people feel more secure without making them actually more secure, and hope they don’t notice.” I’m very, very glad that this blog will be part of the solution, helping people notice we actually are more secure.
Just like I’m very, very glad that Gwendolyn up there, at age thirteen, cares enough to know how significant this is.
(And regarding your comment about the equal time for dissenters: I definitely understand being shaken up (me too!) but sure they deserve equal time, if only because protecting ourselves from listening to them is just as bad as keeping your kid off the subway–we can only deal with it by dealing with it! Just remember that listening doesn’t require heeding the words.)
100% agree with the site. I believe the only thing to be avoided (besides yellow snow) is red / green snow. This has snow algae which I believe can upset your stomach.
I read about a study some time ago (too long ago to remember where I read it) that said that kids who grew up on farms, and presumably were surrounded by all sorts of animal droppings and diseases, ended up with way fewer infections as adults. The lesson being: disinfecting the world around us isn’t doing anybody any favors.
Let the kids eat snow. They’ll not only not be hurt, be all the tougher for it.
Great blog, btw.
I am disappointed that I did not get to hear you on TOTN 🙁 but I loved the NY Sun piece about letting your son ride the subway alone.
Check out this awesome video. The presentation is titled: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.
When I was about 12, I ate snow and developed a bacterial infection in my intestines that caused many months of pain, missing a lot of school, and endless doctor’s visits where I underwent many unpleasant tests and treatments. At least, the doctor concluded that the snow eating may have been the cause, but no one was really 100% sure.
My mom still talks about it decades later and freaks out when her grandchildren eat snow. When melting snow for water on snow-camping trips, we always bring it to a boil.
I make sure the kids use a water purifier when we get water from the river when camping. This is common sense and snow is a little different (as many of the bad things that can live in water and streams don’t live in the cold snow falling from the sky).
Despite my personal experience, I don’t freak out about eating snow. Chances are rare something will happen. I tell the kids they probably shouldn’t, but if they do, they do. I don’t forbid them from playing in the snow or anything like that. Eating snow is just one of thousands of things where there is a one in a million chance of something bad happening, but you can’t (and shouldn’t) prevent children from those thousands of things in the name of safety.
Kids will fall off their bikes, get hurt in sports, cut themselves their first time with a knife, etc. and its part of growing up.
I was taught “a sharp knife is a safe knife” because there was less of a chance of it getting caught on what you’re cutting something and it moving eradically. Plus, it taught us to respect the blade and the importance of handling it properly. I still carry a scar on my finger from learning that lesson the hard way though.
I’m just trying to find a “spot” to tell
you I love your website.
I found it as usual… just surfing.
Anyways I LOVE IT!
(We were so poor we ate snow to save money on the water
bill… just kiddin”)
We live in a small town. I mean, like 1400 people small. Except for a few people who live literally right next to the school, my daughter is the only kid who walks to school. I worry about her crossing the two heavier travelled roads (albeit not dangerous ones) because there are no crosswalks and no crossing guards, but also no drivers who are used to having to watch for children.
We had crosswalks and crossing guards when I was growing up. Heck, the school provided sixth graders to guard the neighborhood crossings. It was a special privilege. We don’t have anything like that here. It drives me nuts.
It’s me again.
Wasn’t it germs that killed the “Invaders from Mars”?
It’s been reported that these new “kill everything in site”
household cleaners kill too many germs. We need a few germs to help our immune system to become, and stay strong.
Personally, I grew up eating snow, and if I ever have kids, they will be encouraged to eat snow, with the admonition that “if you can see anything in there that isn’t white like snow, find a different spot.” Snow isn’t an issue, it’s frozen water, kids eat frozen lemonade and snow-cones. The issue is if “oooh, Lemon snow!” becomes an attraction.
from two German university studies:
children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop allergies than children from the city
children with anxious parents have more accidents than more relaxed parents
what does that tell us…
I’m not a parent, but I was, for years, a child allergic to some forms of antibiotics. I got exposed to all the standard childhood ailments. I ate snow. I played with all manner of animals that the media insists are plague-spreading demons, I handled bugs bare-handed, stepped in cow-pies, fell in mud, wiped my nose on my sleeve, failed to wash my hands, been licked by a giraffe, and other germ-intensive childhood activities, and have lived to tell the tale.
also, i believe it’s safe to say that kids put far worse things than snow in their mouths.
Thank you for your excellent blog entries, your article, and your appearance on TOTN (just listened online). I don’t have kids myself, but if I did, they’d get the same freedoms I did as a kid. My brother and I always went to the park by ourselves, rode about the neighborhood without supervision, and were sent on the greyhound bus to visit our grandparents every summer for a week (before my parents came out to visit too). Of course, I was about 10 before that happened, but I knew that if something happened, I could help my brother, we could talk to the driver, and there were other people on the bus that could help. But nothing really ever happened, although on our first trip the bus broke down and we ended up being 3 hours late to our destination. The worst part of that was being bored out of our heads waiting for the replacement bus to show up.
We played in the snow all the time and if there was enough of it, the first thing we’d do was build a fort, or burrow in. Our dad occasionally helped us if he was home, and we had some awesome forts. We knew we had to make them sturdy because it wasn’t good if they collapsed on us, but it was never a huge worry. Ditto with eating snow – we did it all the time, and knew to avoid snow that wasn’t white.
We also played in the dirty, probably ate dirt, put rocks in our mouths, went camping and spent ages in the bush, exploring.
We also learned how to do our own laundry, cooking, and balance our budgets. We took buses to school and back, and I used to go to the library downtown (it was next to the sketchiest part of downtown, according to many) and the only thing I needed to worry about was figuring out what time to leave so that I could get home when I was expected for dinner.
And now my brother and I are in our mid 20s, and functional, ‘street smart’ adults. I’d like to think that if I have kids (or my brother does) that we’ll be good, sensible parents.
Oh dear… when I think of all the disgusting and questionable things I touched, inhaled and ingested as a child, my grown up self just cringes. Strange though, despite growing up on a farm and eating those questionable berries that grew by the fence around the cow pasture ,which I think were growing in a nice cow patty now that I think of it, I am still alive. I remember vividly licking my dog’s nose and deciding to take a mud bath with her afterwards. I drank from the hose and I sampled the sap from the big pine tree in our yard.
I walked to the bus stop which was a ways away across the main base line for our county and waited for said bus with a girl who didn’t speak English so well but taught me some Flemish. I guess she qualified as a stranger.
Oh, did I mention? I ate snow!
I don’t worry about my 7 yr old son eating snow, around our place in the suburbs, but you do have to be more careful in areas populated by a lot of wild animals. Giardiasis is no joke, but I don’t think it’s usually fatal either. And Fort Lee, NJ isn’t the Rocky mountains.
While our kids are not sent at age 9 to the corner store to buy wine like my sister-in-law was, we do try hard not to freak out on them.
A great book which supports the free range children idea from an anthropological perspective is The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff. (The book is big with the attachment parenting community, but even if that is not your style there is a lot of good thinking on the innate intelligence of kids, and some good ideas about grownups, too.)
Thanks for fighting the good fight!
As a kid, I ate really old snow off the top of a mountain (Mount Lassen, to be specific) and used to suck the water out of sprinklers. My sister was caught sipping gutter water, using a popsicle stick as a spoon. 30+years later, we’re both healthy as can be.
I still eat snow. As someone who grew up in California and now lives in Colorado, how could I help myself? We didn’t have snow to eat growing up.
The only danger –if you are licking snow off leaves as I sometimes do on my walks, just make sure not lick a thorny branch. Walking one night I was thirsty and went to lick a leaf of snow –my tongue was impaled on a thorn.
So you see, snow eating can be quite hazardous indeed 🙂
I board at big bear a lot with my daughter. I don’t chide her everytime she sticks the fake snow in her mouth, but, seriously, that stuff comes from big bear lake through big hoses up the mountain into a pit full of mud and algae and then back into hoses and then is sprayed onto the surface of the mountain.
In spite of their campaign, I don’t consider this snow “real”. I try to encourage her to avoid eating too much lake-water-snow.
If we were back in Colorado, perhaps I’d feel different.
She does walk alone to school often at age 11, particularly the path with a sidewalk from her mom’s, but not so much from my place, which doesn’t have the sidewalk and means she walks on the road into traffic that is the type of folks trying to get around main road or highway by cutting through our neighborhood. So I dunno. Next year for Jr. High, I probably will let her make that judgment with the metallic beasts.
Just saying, I agree with your first two posts, but within limits of reason.
Thank God for this site, it’s long overdo. First, snow eating should be encouraged whenever possible. Second, I’ve always heard that children who aren’t exposed to enough germs as children are more likely to develop severe allergies later in life. Sorry, I can’t find a source for that though (I think it was on a show on Discovery channel a long time ago) since any googling of “childhood illness and allergies” brings up a wide array of paranoid articles.
I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old, our teacher went outside and grabbed a bunch of snow that fell the previous day. We helped her make snow cones with the snow and various flavor syrups. We all didn’t die… and I’m still around almost 30 years later.
Our French Canadian grade 2 teacher came back from a vacation in Quebec with some real maple syrup (not pancake syrup!) , and took us all out to the playground to make “snow candy” with it. We poured the syrup right into the snow, it hardened, we scooped it out and ate it, snow and all. Delicious, and a treat that Quebecois kids have been enjoying for generations. That was about 25 years ago…
What’s strange to me is that it’s our generation, who enjoyed these freedoms and these treats 25 years ago and lived to tell the tale, who have become these new super-protective parents.
Every substance, every surface is CRAWLING with bacteria. Billions upon billions of bacteria. In your body there are 10 times as many bacterial and viral “beings” as there are cells of your own. Your immune system needs to be programmed during childhood. All these are reasons why worrying about getting rid of all bacteria in food and drink is totally absurd, not to mention impossible.
This comment is completely off topic, or at least mostly so. I’m putting it here since this is a new blog and its owner is probably still reading all or most of the comments. Anyway, I completely agree with the sentiment, and if this movement takes off the world probably will be a better place.
But, eventually someone’s kid is going to get hurt, maybe even killed. That’s just the unfortunate reality of everyday life. It will have almost nothing to do with raising free-range children, but that’s not going to stop or even slow down the blow-back.
With that in mind, what is the author going to say when it happens? It will NOT be her fault, but she will be in the spotlight and the obvious target for blame when the inevitable occurs, so she better be ready when it happens.
Well, Dave (commenter above me), I would say your attitude is the real reason for the problem. This attitude of “Someone will sue you because their child gets hurt blah blah blah”. Guess what, Dave? If more people were told to “get stuffed” when they brought frivolous lawsuits for injuries suffered while doing things that required a bit of common sense or forethought, we wouldn’t be living in a world of constant fear. Sure, as a parent I feel a twinge of concern when my kids take off to go swim in the river with their friends. But not fear. The fear I feel is that some idiotic social worker is going to abduct my children because they feel I’m being irresponsible. I give my kids some tools and a bucket of nails (rusty ones, too!) and let them build a tree fort. I let my 13-year old drive the tractor (I was driving anything with wheels on by the time I was 12). My kids know that if they see a bear, they should make lots of noise. I don’t let them use the chainsaw yet, but that’s only because mine is a brute of a thing that even I have a hard time with.
And contrary to popular belief, eating yellow snow won’t hurt you. It won’t taste very nice, though!
Thanks for being willing to bring this subject to the attention of lots of people, Lenore.
Here’s one reference for the study that showed a connection between hyper-cleanliness and increases in asthma, Hepatitis A, and immune disorders in children:
I remember as a kid putting the snow in a cup and pouring juice over it. Winter ice cone! I’d eat snow today if there were some around.
Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow.
Wow. I’d just like to say I’m 25 and I still eat snow. And I love it. I probably won’t have any kids for a couple of years, but I think this site and your column is very important. I remember growing up with a lot more freedom than I think today’s kids have in terms of safety and playing outside, etc. I really don’t want my kids to miss out on all that!
Eat plain snow? What a WASTE! Make snow ice cream. Add milk, sugar, and vanilla and you have some gooooood stuff. The only snow you should eat directly is the stuff you catch on your tongue.
We moved north about 18 months ago, and that winter my kids saw snow in their yard for the first time ever. The first thing we did was hammer each other with snowballs (FYI, making snowballs is apparently instinctive). The second thing was bring in wood for a fire and make hot chocolate. Snow ice cream was the third thing.
Just avoid the yellow stuff and anywhere the dog shows undue interest in.
You know what’s really funny/sad? Those parents that are trying to shield their kids from every bacteria under the sun are actually making their children SICKER.
You see, our children’s immune systems are learning about the world — what is “self”, what is benign, and what is infectious. But the only way they can learn this is by exposure to a wide variety of “germs”. When kids are deprived of this immune stimulation, their immune systems go haywire — developing asthma, allergies, and other autoimmune diseases.
Check out the “hygiene hypothesis” for more information:
Throughout human history, our children have grown up eating dirt. It’s good for them; it’s what their bodies need and expect. Raising them in a germ-free bubble does more harm than good!
â€œWe had our dog out on Sunday and I was like, â€˜I donâ€™t think she should be eating that snowâ€™
Having seen dogs eat all manner of things off the ground, I don’t think the dog is particularly worried. In my experience, if it doesn’t agree with them, they’ll throw it back up later.
It’s interesting you would choose this topic to start, beyond your initial reason for starting the blog.
We’ve made snow ice cream. It’s delicious! Nobody is going to die from eating snow, either. However, my 5yo did get sick this year, from eating dirty snow. It was a short bug fortunately, about 24 hours.
I’ll still let her eat snow, but I hope she’s learned her lesson about fresh vs old snow.
Well, there is some danger in eating snow that the snow might contain chemicals such as heavy metals. Of course, that would also mean the air contains such things, at which point worrying if our kids are eating them would be kind of silly. In any event simply trying to keep the air clean will take care of this danger. This is, by the way, why lead was removed from gasoline.
Even now I generally eat snow whenever it falls (which seems to be less and less with each passing year, this year didn’t even produce satisfactory icicles, most disappointing), my rule is: if it isn’t white or is in direct contact with the pavement (other snow, leaves and grass don’t count) don’t eat it. Don’t ask me why I’m against pavement, maybe because unlike leaves/grass/dirt it isn’t natural.
Apparently as a kid I put cat shit in my mouth (I thought it was fudge), and although I didn’t eat it doing so didn’t kill me, although it did leave me with a deep dislike of the brown stuff.
The only rule I ever learned about eating snow is DO NOT EAT YELLOW SNOW.
And then there are those who think that children should wear helmets when sledding (on snow),
My 8 year old daughter and her friend wanted to ride their bikes to another friend’s house about 6 blocks away from their summer camp. My 12 year old son and 12 year old god daughter were the “chaparones” and the kids were so excited! Unfortunately, the experience was ruined for them when the mother of my daughter’s friend showed up with her bike to “keep them company.” I knew the day before that she was planning on doing it, so I told the 12 year olds that they didn’t have to ride with the 8 year olds, and they could just meet at the house. The mom later told me how glad she was she went with them, because the 12 year olds were “no where to be seen and weren’t good at keeping an eye on the girls…!” I then explained that I had set the 12 year olds free because she crashed their bike ride…she never mentioned the ride again, but both the girls were angry that their exciting adventure had been ruined.
To sum…both my kids just understand that Aunt Sue is WAY WAY over protective! Unfortunately, Aunt Sue has no clue – even when it was explained to her directly. Some folks just don’t get it.
Oh yay! This seriously is such a breath of fresh air! I am raising a 2 year old grandson in a nice, dusty, animal-hair-resplendent home, and he’s healthy as a horse. I let him go down the BIG slide at the playground headfirst (well, he Supermanned it really) by himself… it’s a tunnel; he can’t fall off. He was absolutely ecstatic! “Connor self! Connor go self!”
I also teach Sociology in college. Some of my students have shared parental expectations that astound me…
One young woman, 22, wasn’t allowed to drive herself to the downtown campus in our small city… Daddy drove her if she had a class there.
Another young woman, 20, was required by her mom to call on her cell phone the moment she walked out of an evening class, and talk to Mom until she was locked into her dorm.
A student who is a resident adviser relayed phone conversations with parents who were concerned that the RAs were making sure their children were eating enough vegetable, and receiving instructions on riding the bus that makes exactly 7 stops between the main and satellite campuses.
Cripes! These are adults we’re talking about!
Lay off, and let them grow up! I mean, as parents, we say we raise children. God forbid. I want to have raised adults! People who are competent and capable, secure and confident. I really have no interest in having a 25 year old child.
Free Range Forever!
You mentioned not letting kids eat snow from the same spot where the dog has partaken of snow. Actually, the dog may have more to worry about if he eats after the kid. The son of a friend of mind did a science fair project on comparing the nasties in a human child’s mouth vs. the nasties in a dog’s mouth. The children’s mouths sampled were much, much (much) dirtier, microscopically speaking. I guess all the germophobes will have to ban their kids from kissing them.
It makes me laugh how alarmist our society has became.
My mom tells the story about how at the age of 2, I took her handbag when she was not looking and walked a block to the grocery store – incl crossing a road…..I know, I know…..my poor mum was beside herself.
As I became older and bolder, I made a deal with my parent to let me fly to Australia by myself to see my cousins. I was 10 years old and as one would say….NOBODY DIED – although my mom did cry and they did put me on a direct flight 🙂
In fact my ability to be independent avoided much of the usual teenage rebellion years, and has given me the confidence to be a successful working mum in a male-denominated Wall Street environment.
I hope I have the same courage as my parents did, so that my girls will experience independence they way I did.
I would say: Parents, if you let your kids be free-range….you will end up with high functioning successful adults.
I can’t believe you people!
Snow, cocaine, whatever you call it is a dangerous drug! You shouldn’t be giving it to children! People get addicted to snow and it’s expensive to boot! I hate all these retro trends! People, cocaine is nothing to mess around with no matter how readily it’s available!
Oh, you mean SNOW, as in precipitation…
Why is this even a topic up for discussion?
A mom with two snow-munchers
Heard you on TOTN and was thrilled that there are others who think kids should be able to live childhood outside of a bubble. I’m 26 and don’t have kids yet but my husband and I have long thought about this “free range” concept. After hearing your interview we have renewed motivation. Thanks!
I just found out about this website while reading something online. I am happy to have finally found a place where other parents feel the same way I do. I have always wondered what in the heck the parents of today are so jumpy about all the time when it comes to their kids’ independence. I hate saying this, but I think many parents today are wimps, pure and simple. Yesterday’s parents were much more “tough.” If this conversation had been happening 30 years ago it would have looked insane. I am 38 and when I was 9 I remember clearly riding my bike all over creation with my 7 year old sister, crossing busy streets, buying pizza and soda, and going to the record store. It was like nothing! My mom used to drop us off at the city pool in the summer at lunchtime and leave us to swim alone until she got off work at 5:00. (My parents were VERY good parents.) I honestly don’t see why we parents don’t give our kids the same freedoms. In a big way our kids will be handicapped and unable to function independently. I have a son who is 9 right now. (That’s why the subway story caught my eye.) We just moved, but used to live by a corner dime store and pizza place. He walked over there all the time by himself and got snacks, pizza, whatever. I never got reprimanded for it by other parents, but I don’t think they knew about it. To me, it was just a natural thing for my boy to do this as I am sure that he was more than ready to try a real world experience on his own. Why do so many parents today shelter their kids and deny them experience? I don’t think the media is that much to blame. All in all, things are still very safe and I think more adults probably look out for all kids in general way more than years past. So, what is the root of all of this? I am just glad to have found a place where my long-time concern about this is finally being addressed!
I rode my bicycle to the mini-grocery for the first time when I was 8 years old. I got to buy a loaf of bread and boy was I proud!
My sisters and I went to the movies alone every single weekend, we each traveled by train and by plane alone before we were 12, we walked 2 miles to school without parental supervision, it was a wonderful childhood and we had fabulous parents.
I feel so sorry for the ‘house arrest’ kids and so fortunate not to have been one of them. This website is overdue!!!!!
I grew up eating snow cream and I am still here. My best friend is a complete germaphob and her kids are always sick and have had strep more times than I can count. She is definitely a “smother” and her kids don’t have any friends in the neighborhood because she will not allow them to ride their bikes without her standing there. Social issues in the future? You better believe it.
Oh and my neighbors called CPS because my kids were outside unsupervised! This neighbor has no kids and hated my dog because he barked. My kids are 7 and 9. Do I need to run next to them while they ride their bikes?
We lived in Mexico City, Mexico, for 5 years. I have video of both of my then-toddler daughters sucking water out of the garden hose in the back yard of our home. Moctezuma who? Both lived to tell the tale!
Thanks, I love that you’re doing this. As a younger kid, and even now, (16) I’ve always wished kids would have fun and play out on the street more…I’ve read books about it, watched movies…but it isn’t real.
At least not here (Toronto) and not so often.
Instead, the way kids actually ‘hang out’ with eachother these days is talking over the internet, e-mailing, or calling with a phone.
What happened to the children’s street culture in the 30’s? Imagining new games, inventing, drawing, running…has turned into computer games, movies, and PSP’s.
That’s all fun, but… where’s the real life from that?
I used to teach preschool in Appalachia. I do remember being told (by the school head, who never actually spent time with the kids) to NEVER EVER EVER let the children eat the snow. How exactly I was going to stop them when I was responsible for up to ten at a time on a large playground I don’t know.
Anyway, we had to go to a state-mandated training once, when they showed us all the toys that had been banned for “safety reasons.” I can see banning lawn darts, but one toy that was banned was those weighted diving sticks for backyard pools. Reason? Supposedly 18 kids died from rectal hemmoraging/infection after STICKING THE STICKS UP THEIR ASSES.
Now, I’m sorry, but if that statistic is true, that’s just natural selection. I played with those diving sticks growing up, and I never thought it would be a good idea to stick one in any orfice.
I am loving these posts but it’s almost too hard to read because your quotes from moms (not unlike ones I have heard in person all too often) just make. me. insane. Bottled water from Norway was a good one. Let’s think about how much packaging we’re wasting there, and how about the engine fuel used to get that supposedly germ-free water here from Scanda-friggin’-avia. How is that solving ANYTHING?! There’s so much of this insanity that I don’t even know where to start and I feel like my head’s going to explode, so I’m glad you’re tackling it, one issue at a time.
If that woman thinks glacier water is clean, she has never seen or been near a glaicer.
BraVO, Ms. Skenazy. I am from your son’s generation, and before many other kids, I began to question whether we really need to be covered in bubble-wrap before going outside. I wasn’t allowed to bike more than five (suburban) blocks away alone until I was thirteen. I’m not supposed to eat the snow because it has plane fuel in it. I’m not allowed to go anywhere for an hour without calling.
I look back on “The Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson, who grew up in the 1950’s, and I look at kids and their restrictions today and I just wonder “WHAT the HELL happened?” Parents really need to step back and let their KIDS be KIDS for God’s sake. We’re gonna be changing your generation’s diapers for the rest of our lives. In the words of John Oliver, “We seem to have no intention of providing our children with a future, let’s at LEAST provide them with a past.”
Okay, I’m not here to debate that– anyhow, I get the feeling that because of these next three things, parents have become too protective of their children.
1.) News travels quickly. Because of the internet and faster communication devices, people can spread news around faster.
2.) (I rip this from a book) Too much news time. There used to be just an hour or two a day in which the news was. Now, there are all of these 24-hour news stations. In the old days, you had to cram all of the important things into an hour. Now, there’s not enough news to fill the space, so they decide to tell horror stories of social networking sites and why you shouldn’t eat snow.
3.) Finally, because of all of the press coverage these “dangers” get, parents have become super paranoid. It’s only natural to want to protect your child from harm, the thing is, when you make them wear a helmet on the swing set because you heard on Fox that some boy in the Irish Republic got a concussion from falling out of a swing, you’ve just gone too far. The media makes things seem as though there’s a stalker or pedophile or rapist around every corner.
Thank you, I needed a place to vent some of this.
It doesn’t snow in Los Angeles, so I can’t eat any snow. It doesn’t rain (much) in Los Angeles either, so I can’t taste rain drops on my tongue. (Well I can actually, if I can get outside before the rain stops – about a minute or two at the most). But I CAN breathe the air and be in the sun; both of which will end up killing me sooner or later. So I guess there’s no way around it – one day I’m going to… die! YIKES! JEEPERS! (How can this be allowed to happen?) Where’s a helicopter mom when you need one? (Not eating snow, that’s for sure!)
You know what’s funny? My kids used to protest when i let them have a spoon of cookie dough. They’d gotten it from their friends’ moms (and my best friend) that this was a Dangerous Thing. I even went so far as to look it up and found no cases of Cookie Dough Poisonings; in fact, I don’t remember finding any raw egg poisonings at all.
Remember when raw egg in your smoothie was considered a healthy thing?
BTW–sugary dough beat out caution. Every time!
being from Minnesota…snow …no big deal…loved eating it with maple syrup poured on top!
When my 9 year old son was 1 1/2 years old, I needed to find childcare for him. During an interview at a prospective caregiver’s home, I let my son play with the other children. Quickly after arrival, a little girl came down the stairs to tattle that my son was chewing on a toy. The lady excliamed, “take the toy away from him”, and then said to me ” I do not allow the children in my care to put their mouths on anything, it’s too unsanitary.” Wow, I was shocked. Needless to say I decided immediately I would never let my son go back there.
You absolutely HAVE to start a Facebook group for this movement.
About snow- I ate it, I let my son eat it. He eats everything off the ground! How could I possibly think that snow is worse than bird shit?
The above comment about Wind Danger cracks me up!
By the way, once, my Russian mother-in-law almost cried when I set my son down on the ground in July last year. She made a horribly sad face, took in a panicked breath, and said “Oy! Ze Frost!”
I don’t know why she was convinced that he would get “frosty” on the ground in July, but sometimes these Russian fears about children can be far more irritating than American ones.
They all tend to over-bundle, over-feed, and over-protect…until they’re 5 or 6, that is, at which time they are allowed to ride without seat belts and hang out with crack dealers in Brooklyn (I’ve seen this first hand!)
I haven’t read everything here and my daughter is only 18 months old, so I’m not sure how much I agree with, but I do know that I’m always shocked as a teacher by how little freedom my 11 year old students have. When I was a kid I had much more freedom and independence and my mom was the most overprotective mom around!
On the eating snow topic, I have to say that I’ve had a lot of funny looks and comments from people because of what I let my daughter put in her mouth. She’s a very oral child and at this point, if it isn’t going to kill her or make her sick, I’m not going to fight with her about it. We were blowing bubbles and she started chewing on the wand; another woman ran over in a panic to tell me she had it in her mouth. My response? “It’s just soapy water.” She was flabbergasted…LOL Maybe she’d understand better if she had watched me stop Rachel from licking the pee off fire hydrants! Trust me, a little soapy water (or snow) is NOT going to hurt them!
When our son was born, my husband’s protector reflexes kicked in and he deemed nothing safe enough. As Christians who believe in a sovereign God, we were able to say, “God loves our child more than we ever could and He is ultimately in control.” We will use our best judgement as to what’s safe and to pass that on to our son because that’s why kids have parents. I’m sure Ms. Skenazy loves her son and did not make this decision lightly. My only concern is that she said one reason her son doesn’t have a cell phone is that she’s afraid he’ll loose it. If a child isn’t responsible enough to manage a cell phone, are they able to mange the subway? (I’m not being rhetorical- I’m not used to the city so I really don’t know the answer.)
Importing water because of possible germs in the tap? Really, that’s just riddiculous.
I grew up in a town with trace amounts of arsenic in our groundwater. Everybody knew about it, but it wasn’t a big deal, since you’d have to drink an entire gallon of the stuff a day and have a really sensitive constitution to be affected bit it. Nobody ever died from it, so there’s nothing to freak out about, really.
I just read an article on you on MSN and decided to check out your blog.
I grew up decidely ‘free range’ and although I did occasionally get sick or hurt, it didn’t kill me. In fact, I really enjoy some of the memories I have of being a kid and being allowed to basically go where I wanted without having a parent hovering over me all the time.
Ok. so what about eating uncooked cake or cookie dough. We love to scrape the bottom of a bowl while waiting for the baking to be done. yet often my children’s friends are afraid to because they could get sick- oh no!
Or what about the kids who has never felt wonderfuly mushy mud between their toes..too dangerous and dirty! I wonder what our children’s future will hold.
I’ve been thinking about this movement since this morning, when I found out about it. I’ve been so excited to find other people who want this life for their children.
I said to myself, “My mother certainly let me out of the house- I was everywhere. I took risk, I learned to own my safety, and I am a smarter person for it.”
But then I remembered something reaaaally important.
I was completely impossible to control.
And my son seems to be the same way (He’s only 18 months now).
Which means that if I set down tons of rules and restrictions, he’s going to go have adventures REGARDLESS. But maybe he’ll have safer adventures? Maybe he’ll think of my mortified face the last time he tried to pull that off, or remember my nervous words, “…the creek can be dangerous. I don’t want you there when it gets dark, and I certainly don’t want you walking on those slippery rocks.” And then go and do all of those things, anyway?
I know that I sure did.
If my mother wouldn’t have given me all of those paranoid warnings, I would have done even riskier stuff than I did (which would just be reckless, really).
If we KNOW that our kids are going to create adventures and independence (despite our warnings or restrictions), should we act MORE cautious, as a sort of everything-will-end-up-in-the-middle precaution?
If I want Ben to be home at 5:00, and know he’s going to be an hour late, should I insist on 4:00 so I get my way in the end?
i’ve read some of your comment’s and applaud this movement. I was raised by walking to school, or rode my bike. I was allowed to play anywhere in the neighborhood as long as I could hear my dad whistle for me, and I could be outside at dark”in the yard”. I grew up just fine. My kids were allowed to get dirty, ride their bikes to the park, and walk four house’s up the street to the convience store. I think a parent needs to decide if their child “is mature” enough for something. And base the child’s independence level on that.
Kids get dirty, they eat disgusting things, they jump from high place’s and take dare’s from their friends that would make most of us cringe if we saw them do it….that’s called childhood, ………..I lived through it, my children lived through it, and so will my grandchild when he/she arrives this summer!!
This topic you have brought to everyone’s attention is an interesting and important one. I don’t have a problem with lemons or snow, etc. because lots of people have done this for a long time and been fine. It seems to be that our biology can deal with it. It seems to make sense that even if they get sick, they won’t die, and will come out of it stronger.
But I do still struggle alot with the idea of leaving my young child alone. Just because another child travels alone a million times without incident, doesn’t guarantee that my child will be fine. Or even though my kid knows to look both ways before crossing the street, what happens the one time they get distracted? This fear is strong, and yet it seems important to let go of it to help our kids become capable individuals.
This one I’m still having lots of trouble with.
I don’t think it was mentioned here, but does anyone remember the article on how playing in leaves can be dangerous due to molds, etc. in the leaves? I thought to myself, Oh for the love of God! What CAN kids still do?
I seem to easily let go of the danger of germs, because when my second child came along, I simply couldn’t control the dirt factor anymore, so it was out of my hands.
But when it comes to the danger of OTHER PEOPLE, I have trouble letting go. I hear stories of predators in my area on a regular basis. How do you let go of that? How do you ask yourself the question “what if it happened to my child” and not be able to condemn yourself (even though it’s not your fault) for the rest of your life, not to mention the trauma your child is suffering? I wish I could let go.
Bacteria and Germs! Eeek! Hey, our bodies are designed to deal with these and have been successfully doing so for millenium. There is a part of us called “the immune system” . Works pretty good too. But if not challenged while growing up, your body will be more susceptible to infections. Remember the use it or lose it axiom. Applies to everthing about us.
Aaaahhh….free-range children…what a beautiful idea…. I’m happy to see there are other’s out there that share the same dream… here’s another beautiful idea..
pull your kids out of school, unschool them – really free-range them – give them REAL freedom… Freedom to pursue their own interests, fulfill their own desires on their own time, develop their own unique opinions and ideas. Children will THRIVE in this kind of environment and develop into real-life INDEPENDENT THINKERS AND DOERS- not sheep that just follow along with the herd and fall for all these RIDICULOUS fear tactics that keep them PENNED IN.
Thank you for your courage to speak up!
Next up: Spring them from kiddie prison. Free-range kids should be free range, no just free-range evenings and weekends (which seems more like grass-finished beef than actual free-range beef).
So much of this anxiety about life is coming straight from the schools — the reason we can’t let our children be children anymore without being demonized for it is stemming from school culture and things like “mandatory reporting” (which seems to extend to all previously-normal childhood accidents).
There are growing number of us out here free-ranging through life, not just nights and weekends when the kids are sprung from school.
Hey if it aint yellow, he’ll be fine LOL. I LOVE IT. However I dont think I will take my 5 year old down town to the park and leave him there all alone lol. Although In a town with a population of around 4 thousand…I dont think he’d be in danger of anything except maybe wandering off from the park and the police taking him to social services and dropping him off….for good.
My 2 1/2 year old daughter loves to pick up leaves as we walk home from daycare. By the end of autumn, some of them were pretty disgusting.
We are pretty sure this is how she contracted ringworm. It was bad enough when we took her to the doctor (I thought for sure he was going to call Children’s Aid on us), but it was 100 times worse when I realized she had given it to me on my scalp. The doctor informed me that he had never seen it before, and it was more associated with homeless people and the third word.
It’s the funniest story I have from the past year.
And my daughter is still free to pick up (almost!) anything when we walk home. Watching her amazement and joy at discovering new things is well worth any ointment I have to rub on my scalp for two weeks.
I grew up back in the late 40’s in the outskirts of a large city. My Granny & Gramps lived down town. I used to run home from school on a Fri night, change clothes, grab my pre-packed bag and catch a city bus. Rode to the end of the line, transfered to a street car to the downtown area and then to the cross town car. I knew where to get on and off. I was 6 years old!
As a unversity student stuyding a biology-heavy course, I have to say that I get incredibly amused and exasperated whenever I hear someone shriek about “germs” being everywhere and how they can kill you. Yes, bacteria are everywhere. But what do these people think their immune systems are for, seriously? The whole reason why AIDS is so deadly is that people with AIDS have no functioning immunity, and therefore can’t keep the normal bacteria that live in our gut and on our skin in check. If you don’t have AIDS, then you’re fine, really, even if you do pick up food from the floor and eat it (provided that it’s a reasonably clean floor). Of course, I’m not saying that food safety should be disregarded, because food that has gone bad or become contaminated with other food that has gone bad can make you very, very sick. But just remember that the *vast* majority of these “germs” you encounter everyday will not harm you in the least. Oh, and that using antibiotics everywhere promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bugs, which will be very, very bad when you actually get sick, because the medicines we have won’t work anymore.
can you pleasetell that mother Renee who only lets he Son drink the water from a a Norwegian Glacier to take a long look at herself , how dose she think that Glaciers are made !!!!! SNOW yes fokes its snow and Its out all day and night with years of snow year after year . So lets wake up here and smell the coffee De-Caf of course .
I love your blog. You crack me up consistently. As a person forced to deal with this coddled, helpless, crybaby culture on a fairly intimate level (I will not say what I do for a living) I rarely find myself in disagreement.
I grew up in a community that was contaminated by military and industrial waste and sewage and we didn’t know it until quite a lot later. We ate fish from the poisonous bay and who even knows what all I might have put in my mouth. Snow? Please.
As I approach 40, I do have health problems and some severe allergies (most of which I can pinpoint the exact point of incidence), but I don’t let them bring me down. I compensate. I take care of myself. I know how to do those things because I was allowed to be a child, to live, to learn, and to accept responsibility for my actions. My parents let me do as I pleased most of the time, with a few strict rules as to what I was Not Allowed To Bring Home. “No dead things or dog sh**” my mother was fond of saying when I was leaving on an adventure. I never even imagined running away from home until I was in my teens and my parents became obsessed with a certain popular parental terrorism TV show featuring a man by the name of Walsh who liked to luridly detail all the awful things that were going to happen if you let young people leave the house. They instantly clamped down on my fun, turning me angry and rebellious. When did America turn into a nation of paranoid, helpless shut-ins perpetuating that idiocy in their kids? Well before “9/11”, I can attest. I have digressed, pardon.
Most curiously however, in spite of all my health issues, I seem to be impervious to some notable illnesses (all bacterial in nature) and I am always the last person “out with the flu” or “out with a cold” at work. I have never had “strep throat” and have come to think it might be a myth.
Adults need to watch themselves a lot more than we watch (obsess over!) our kids. Long ago and far away, I worked in organic produce and would recommend not only washing your fruit, but never eating the rinds on anything. If you saw the conditions that people work under picking a lot of that stuff, you’d cringe. Hand washing and clean bathrooms just aren’t available things, and the sprays put on all that stuff are sulfide based. Let your kids eat the heck out of it, though; it’ll make em stronger. I wouldn’t recommend it for grown-ups though. It’s a speedy road to diseases you think only exist in the so-called “Third World”.
This reminded me of a sitcom I watched a while ago. Not a very good one but this one scene stuck with me and I occasionally use it as an example.
So, there are these two completely different sisters, one constantly stressed and he other completely relaxed. Both have kids who are playing together and the kid with the stressed mom drops an apple in the floor. The other one picks it up and eats it. The stressed mom is shocked and tells her sister about what her kid just did. “So?”, says the relaxed mom. “So??? Aren’t you worried about germs?”. “Germs?? I’m just happy that he is eating fruit!”.
I think it goes right to the point. I’m just happy when my kids eat fruit too. And, hey, nothing beats natural immunity.
Ringworm doesn’t come from dead leaves, no matter how gross they are. It comes from an animal or human with the infection.
So let the kid pick up all the leaves she wants.
I, like many others, ate snow, put all kinds of things in my mouth (including used chewing gum, gross, I know) and lived to tell the tale…Now I’m a mom (18 month old). I let her eat snow last winter, she wasn’t even 1 yet, and, she lived too! She puts things in her mouth as toddlers do, she eats dirt by the handful and, yes, I allow her to have sugar and will let her play with toy guns if she so desires…I know I know, I’m a horrible mom! LOL
It’s so nice to see I’m not the only one who is willing to let their children make mistakes, get hurt occasionally and, well, be kids!! How about we worry about our kids watching to much TV and not seeing the sunshine for days??
SD, if your doctor said he’d never seen ringworm before he’s either stupid or a liar. Homeless? Third world? Ringworm is *athlete’s foot* – and I guarantee you it’s not unknown in the US!
LOL! Norwegian glaciers? Maybe that’s why our icecaps are shrinking… they’re using it to fill our bottled water!!
We make “snow cream.” (A kind of ice cream using snow and sugar and cream.) This is not considered abnormal by anyone I know.
so why are you saying that kids might die if they eat snow
and if you do not stop doing that I will call you if you give me your number talking about kids might die if they eat snow
Why would you say if kids eat snow they might DIE
you are so SICK
I am 11 and snow is DELICIOUS!!!
By the way, If it’s yellow or brown, PUT IT DOWN! 😀
As funny as this sounds. I ate some snow yesterday because I forgot my water for my sauna. It had been snowing since the day before and it was all untouched. Unfortunately today I am really sick! I feel like I have the stomach flu or something really awful. Soo there is some truth to it, eating snow may actually make you sick… Who knew!
(Won’t do that again)