Japan CELEBRATES Kids on Errands Alone (Instead of Arresting their Parents)

Readers fyhdfyrsir
— Here’s a nice note about a great show. Read it, watch it and then I have a proposal for you:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Thank you for your efforts in helping kids regain the freedom they once had. This is a very worthy cause.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but I wanted to bring your attention to a Japanese TV show called “My First Errand/ Hajimete no otsukai.” You should be able to find a few episodes online with subtitles. It’s been running for 20 years and it features young children, typically aged 2-6, who are secretly recorded when they’re sent out on their own to complete a small task. It is incredibly empowering and encouraging to see how capable these little people are. It has changed the way I see kids.

I wish we had a society which supported kids’ independence. Some argue that Japan is different because it’s so safe (which it is), that it’s more densely populated (also true), and that we couldn’t do this in Canada/America. But I believe the biggest difference is attitude. Attitudes towards what is considered safe and what children are capable of is the biggest factor in enabling or preventing kids from experiencing the freedom to grow and learn. You can see in the program that community members watch over or help the kids, but they don’t usually intervene. Kids are also taught from a very young age about how to cross the street (the universal way in Japan! We need such a tool.)

I wanted to share this with you because, as a parent of a toddler, here is something positive!

Thanks, Megumi, in Canada

Thank YOU Megumi. I went to YouTube and found this delightful segment. I can’t quite figure out how they filmed it without the kids noticing, but I wonder if there’s some way some of you readers might want to do something similar with your kids. Film them succeeding as they make their way in the world. This could be such a great thing for others to see! In fact, it reminds me of my show, World’s Worst Mom, where I encourage nervous parents to let their kids do things like walk to school or play in the forest. When the kids came home, full of pride and adventures, the parents’ fear pops like a bubble. In its place? Joy. – L

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90 Responses to Japan CELEBRATES Kids on Errands Alone (Instead of Arresting their Parents)

  1. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    There is no epidemic for parents getting arrested for letting their children run errands.

  2. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Way to plug your show. When will it arrive in the United States? Also, why not make a similar show to the Japanese one instead of just clapping about it. Lot of tongue flapping around here with no real action.

  3. lollipoplover August 13, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    The younger sister in this video is absolutely precious and mature to keep her older brother on task even though he is crying.
    This is a HOOT.

    I also saw this link and thought how ridiculously backwards our country is going in terms of supervision requirements for all children.


    And Dirk, do you seriously have to troll every thread here? I need more coffee to even comprehend what your point is.

  4. Andy August 13, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    @lollipoplover His point is that only few parents have been arrested for allowing their four years old lonely errand. Which is true, primary because nobody dares to send their four years old seemingly alone to store.

    Of course, if you would send your five years old alone to store and got arrested, Dirk would tell you it is your own fault. You should have known you would be arrested and you should have follow social norms.

    It is kind of circular, so you can spend hours arguing those points.

  5. MichaelF August 13, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    The Japanese also have a bigger sense of community than we do, although socially that is somewhat changing with the low birth rate but it’s far better than here where you get people filming your kids on a cell phone rather than help out.

  6. SKL August 13, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    So stinkin cute.

  7. J- August 13, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    A lot of this has to do with the crappy media in this country, both hysterical news and fictionalized TV. That point has been made over and over again on this blog.

    I managed to watch one episode of Bubble Wrap Kids (Lenore’s show was called in Canada) but all the rest of it is locked up with a Canadian copyright. I’ve enquired about getting it put on Hulu or Netflix.

    My First Errand is successful in Japan, but I don’t see it flying here in the US. There is no edge of the seat drama of a kid going to the library and not getting raped and murdered. This show is the anthesis of Nancy Grace, America’s Most Wanted, or anything broadcast on C&I.

    Lets be honest, sex sells. Either they rope you with people you want to have sex with or they rope you in by torturing people with perverted sex (the train wreck approach). Why else would Law & Order: SVU still be on the air?

  8. Warren August 13, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Though being a complete ass, you are right. There is no epidemic of parents being arrested for letting their kids run errands, specifically.

    There is an epidemic of parents being arrested for allowing there kids to do things in general that pose no risk to the child.
    So yes the actual arrests for individual specific acts are not super high, the arrests for all the acts, that fall under the belief our kids are not in constant danger are off the charts.

    And I hate to admit this but STRANGER DANGER is real. There is a real danger that a complete stranger will have you arrested because they disagree with the way you raise your kids.

  9. Katie August 13, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Warren, I love your definition of stranger danger! Having lived overseas in different cultures before I had kids, I thought that was normal. What a shock when I allowed my daughter, 5 at the time, to play in the front yard alone! Of course I’m keeping an eye out here and there, and we live in a great neighborhood. But, wow, the shock and dismay from my MIL and own mother! Regarding errands, out here in suburbia we have very few small shops that I could send her into. None within walking distance. (“Here honey, take $300 and go to Costco for me.”) But maybe at a strip mall where I can park in front, she can help me out by letting me stay in the car while she runs in for something. Hmm. She would love that! Kind of flips the rules against leaving your kids in the car. Is it legal to leave your mommy and brother in the car while you run in for just a second? 😉

  10. Steve August 13, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    This video made my day!

    Our society would change for the better and go back to being more Free Range if movies and TV shows portrayed kids being Free Range and smart.

  11. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    I like Warren’s definition for it too.

    Sorry about being an ass. I mean it. It’s just lets be the sane people in this world and not the other end of the extreme.

    When I was Kindergarten I walked to school. In first grad I could go to the playground at the end of my street. In 3rd grade I would wait outside at 7 am for my school bus and by 5th grade I was a full on latchkey kid. I get it.

  12. Asya August 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Oh my gosh. That was too precious.

  13. John August 13, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    Japan is safer than the U.S.? I find it difficult to believe that a city the size of Tokyo has a lower crime rate than most major cities in the U.S. Well, if the data indicates that then so be it. Regardless of the crime stats, kudos to the Japanese for encouraging free rangeness among their children! The USA needs to learn and emulate these things from countries like Japan and the Philippines, but I’m not holding my breath.

    The author of this article had mentioned how the community (in Japan) watch over or help the kids without intervening. Didn’t it used to be that way here in America? Does anybody here remember the “Block Parent”? This was a popular concept in the 70s where people would put a sign in their windows indicating they were a “Block Parent” meaning that if any kid was hurt or in distress for any reason that he (she) should not be afraid to knock on the door of a “Block Parent” and the person(s) who live in that house would gladly assist the youngster. But it was emphasized to kids that a Block Parent was there only to help kids if they were in some type of trouble and the youngster should not be knocking on a Block Parent’s door if they merely wanted a drink of water or to use the bathroom.

    Well, I have not seen nor heard of the “Block Parent” concept in probably 35 years, unless I’m missing something. Perhaps our hysteria in believing that EVERYBODY is a potential sex offender and that all “sex offenders” are a danger to children, has got the best of us.

  14. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Hold on there Warren…

    “There is an epidemic of parents being arrested for allowing there kids to do things in general that pose no risk to the child. So yes the actual arrests for individual specific acts are not super high, the arrests for all the acts, that fall under the belief our kids are not in constant danger are off the charts.”

    NOOOOOOO. I have never bet anyone who was arrested for allowing their kids to do anything ever. There is no epidemic of parents being arrested for good parenting. For running errands, for letting kids go to the playground, stay at home, nothing. There is no epidemic for any of this. If you have met a parent who was arrested for their parenting it is an extremely small tiny statistically insignificant percent. I have never ever met or known a parent arrested for their parenting. “the arrests for all the acts, that fall under the belief our kids are not in constant danger are off the charts” What are you talking about Warren?

  15. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    I meant that one sentence to say:

    I have never MET anyone who was arrested for allowing their kids to do anything ever.

    There is a hysteria here that parents get arrested and so forth. That rarely ever happens (I know this to be true because people leave their 10 year olds alone at home every day…EVERY DAY…and nothing bad happens). “Consciously focus yourself on the evidence around you that the news is picking out the extremes and the bad things…” The blog entries on this site are the extreme minority of happenings. Parents do not regularly get arrested for leaving their kids home alone or letting them go to the playground. It is so rare it virtually never happens. You could find more articles online about kids getting killed each day with handguns than parents getting arrested for letting a 10 year spend a few hours at home alone. Doesn’t mean the world isn’t safe and it doesn’t mean parents get arrested all the time. You, I, we should all be careful to not replace one sense of extremism with another (don’t replace the false idea that the world is an unsafe place with another false idea that the world is persecuting you.) Follow the last advice of the journalism linked in the blog article. “Overall, of course, it’s both unrealistic and undesirable to construct bubbles that keep out the world’s bad news. But there’s a difference between being informed and being obsessive, and it’s a line that’s very easy to accidentally slide across in an age when there’s so much information zipping around,” Parents free range or not…believe this…the world is safe and you are not being persecuted.

  16. Wendy W August 13, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    I visited Okinawa when I was a teen, about 30yrs ago. Even as a young person I was impressed that the little kids were out and about by themselves. Despite the crazy traffic, the drivers were all alert to kids crossing the streets, even at the middle of the block. The kids just stuck a hand in the air to stop traffic, and headed across.

    I found a few more of the videos online, and noticed that many of the kids, like the boy above, were not thrilled with being sent off alone. I find it interesting that in the US we would more than likely take their reluctance as a sign of them not being “ready” for the task and let them stay home. Instead these parents send them on their way and at the end the kid has an obvious sense of accomplishment and pride. What a confidence builder!

  17. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    The boys do seem to cry a lot…


  18. Bernard August 13, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Nice to know there are still sane parts of the world. We adults need to get our act together. It’s NOT all about us!!!! Children from a very early age need to know that they are “useful” . That may sound ridiculous to contemporary adults. But it is not. From time immemorial children have felt connected and needed – because they were. Today, children are seen as incompetent, naive, innocent, stupid even – victims of not being adults. Sigh. I repeat this ad nauseum. But it needs repeating : We are, (as focused as we are on ourselves) the greatest danger to our children.

  19. Papilio August 13, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Something tells me that maybe waiting a bit longer and then send sister alone would have been a lot quicker…
    Sister comforting brother was priceless though! 😀 What a cutie.

    It is funny how the video shows both that they’re capable in staying together and not getting in trouble and buy things etc, AND showing they’re not exactly reliable when it comes to timemanagement and getting the right products in the right amounts…
    I didn’t notice car traffic btw – people on foot and bikes also mean more eyes on the street (and little children) without the added danger of cars.
    Actually, this show would be totally possible here. Hmmmmm…

  20. gap.runner August 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    A few years ago the German TV program “Galileo” did a segment about the most unusual ways that kids around the world go to school. Some very young (1st and 2nd grade age) Chinese kids were filmed walking to school on a mountain trail. It took them over an hour each way, which included time to stop for a snack. The first few times they would go with an adult. Once they knew the way, they went without adult accompaniment but with a buddy. There were African kids who walked 30 minutes, then took a boat in a crocodile-infested lake. A group of schoolchildren in Siberia walked to school in minus 30 C (minus 22 F) weather. They did have an adult with them, but he was one of the teachers.

    It would be nice if they could show kids in the States doing what we considered normal when we were kids, if only to prove that they are perfectly safe activities. We’re not in rural China, Africa, or Siberia. But it would be great if people could realize that their little Snowflakes aren’t in grave danger any time they are allowed to do something on their own.

  21. Papilio August 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Oh look here’s part 2:

  22. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm #


  23. Kenny Felder August 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    What a GREAT IDEA. Something like that in the US might do more to change attitudes than all the facts and statistics in the world!

  24. Gina August 13, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    I wish I could understand what they’re saying. A few observations:

    1. Great that mom didn’t give in to the crying…she must have told him he’d be fine. I love that attitude.
    2. If I saw a young child walking down a road crying, I definitely would stop and ask if s/he was ok. In this case, I can imagine that the sister would have reassured me.
    3. If this is a regular situation in Japan, why didn’t we see ANY other kids, of ANY age, doing errands? Just wondering.
    4. The scene at the playground was priceless. That’s when I REALLY wanted to understand the dialogue!

  25. John August 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm #


    Quote: “There is a hysteria here that parents get arrested and so forth. That rarely ever happens (I know this to be true because people leave their 10 year olds alone at home every day…EVERY DAY…and nothing bad happens).”

    That is true Dirk. It is indeed rare for parents to be arrested for allowing their 10-year-old to stay home alone and Lenore has emphasized this. BUT based on the few arrests that have occurred, it’s probably a more accurate assessment to conclude that parents GETTING CAUGHT for allowing their 10-year-old kids to stay home alone is what is rare.

    A fews years back when the power went off in my residence during the late afternoon hours, there was a knock on my front door just minutes after the power went off. Turns out, it was the cutest little 7-year-old girl who lived down the street asking if she could use my telephone to call her mom to let her know there was no power (apparently the absence of power affected their landline phone and she didn’t have a cell phone available). Well, being the paranoid person I am, I wouldn’t allow her to enter my home so I brought my cell phone to her so she could call her mom. Now had I been the asshole “vigilante” that some people, albeit very few, try to be; I could have called the police to report a 7-year-old child home alone unattended (apparently she was a latchkey child) and I can guarantee you that this little girl’s parents would have been in a world of trouble!

    THIS is what has got to stop in American society!

  26. Jen (P.) August 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Dirk – There may not be an “epidemic” of parents being arrested for child endangerment although their children were never in danger, but there does appear to be a growing trend in that direction. Like you, I’ve never personally met someone who was arrested for something like this, but I do know people who support the use of the criminal justice system in this context, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. If you’re so annoyed by discussion of this topic, why are you here?

  27. Jen (P.) August 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    Dirk – There may not be an “epidemic” of parents being arrested for child endangerment although their children were never in danger, but there does appear to be a growing trend in that direction (and isn’t one too many? I doubt the parents who have been harassed in this manner are comforted by the fact that they’re still the exception and not the rule). Like you, I’ve never personally met someone who was arrested for something like this, but I do know people who support the use of the criminal justice system in this context, and for that reason and others the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

    And your complaint about “tongue flapping” with “no real action” is silly. With this blog and her other work, Lenore is raising awareness of a very real problem. If you’re so annoyed by discussion of this topic, why are you here?

  28. Jen (P.) August 13, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Sorry for the double post. Thought I had caught the first one before it posted so I could edit 😀

  29. BethinMD August 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    I adore this show! I had TVJapan on my cable for a while and they would air the specials every so often. I love to see the look of pride some of the kids get when they finish their errands. It may take them a while and there is often tears, but I have never seen any of the kids give up – or the parents let them either!

  30. Papilio August 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    @Gina: It’s a TV show, not regular daily life. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pick difficult errands on purpose (3-4 different shops, products/words the kids aren’t really familiar with), simply because it’s funny to see them try and maybe fail, maybe succeed. Again, the fact that they have trouble remembering what exactly they need to buy and come back HOURS later shows that they’re actually a bit too young and unreliable to be doing this on a regular basis to help out their mother. But for a comical show that’s perfect, and their pride when they succeed is a nice bonus.

  31. Maria August 13, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Umm…and why is this funny or a show of independence? First off, the little boy is miserable and possibly traumatized. He is crying for his mother who just sent him off all on his own. Second, the children are crouching on the side of a road looking for a tissue–maybe this is a street with no cars, but it doesn’t seem that way, so yeah, not the safest thing in the world. I’m not sure why danger is being equated to freedom or independence. It’s great to see young kids being independent, which they are, and i agree in America we are overly protective, but it’s also nice to see them do it at their pace and when they aren’t hysterical crying.

  32. Mandy August 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    @Maria– the boy wasn’t “hysterical” nor traumatized. If you watch the part 2, he’s beaming with pride at the end. It’s common for young kids to cry a bit when pushed outside their comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean it’s traumatic. Kids don’t self-regulate as well as adults; this is normal. If your kid never cries from frustration, his life is too easy and he’s not learning enough.

  33. Warren August 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm #


    So far in a glance, more parents are being arrested for letting their kids wait in cars, than kids actually being harmed by waiting in cars.

    More parents are being arrested for letting their kids go to the park, than kids are being abducted from the park.

    More parents are being arrested for letting their kids play outside, than are being abducted.

    And the mentality of calling the cops everytime someone disagrees with parental decisions has become infectious in our culture. Spreading like a disease. Hmmm awful damn close to being an epidemic.

  34. Maria August 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    @mandy yeah I know this about kid’s self-regulating, not only do I have one of my own but I was a preschool teacher for years and the beginning where he is crying for his mother is a bit disturbing, that’s all. Further, I don’t equate “freedom” with having a kid stop on a street to get tissues–this is just unsafe and stupid. How is this free? What is it teaching them?

  35. Papilio August 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    @Maria: So you think they’d do that show (and parents would let their precious children participate) if the kids were in actual danger?

  36. Maria August 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    @pappilo then what’s the point of posting it as something to show kids are independent? It’s a staged production and therefore it proves nothing about kids being “free” or independent.

  37. Andy August 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    @Maria Where you see traumatized kid, they probably see a kid that is afraid and unsure of itself in the process overcoming those feeling. Being able to overcome discomfort is important thing we all need to teach our kids.

    I think that we should reserve the word trauma and hysteria to situations where the kid is really out of emotional control and where the discomfort is likely to have long term consequences.

    I think that the place he is sitting at is effectively sidewalk meant for walkers. It is separated from road by the white line. I do not think they are walking through some super dangerous street where the kids are unexpected at that moment, do not forget that kids in Japan walk the town alone sooner and more often then you are used to. Otherwise said, drivers expect them there.

    I do not see the problem with tissues nor why it should teach him something special. He has them in a bag in case he will need them. He takes them out of bag and uses them. Nobody staged them there to teach him something, they are there to make it easy for him in case he needs tissues.

  38. K August 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Maybe we can start simply… if you want to see independent and responsible American kids – look on farms.

    While the family farm is going the way of the Dodo bird, farm kids start early being responsible, having legitimate responsibilities, and develop a work ethic that I rarely see in other kids. The only exception is a former student that helped out on his dad’s lobster boat. Working develops work ethic and a sense of responsibility. Shocking, I know.

    I am not advocating in pushing lots of child labor, but there does seem to be some optimal balance.

  39. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    People are not getting arrested in droves.

    Hell, one in nine kids ages five to 14 spends daily after-school hours at home alone according to the 2013 census report. About one third spend time home alone at least part of the week. Now this is may be less than it used to be. But that is still a lot of kids. The total number may be between five and seven million children. That is a lot of kids and parents who do not get arrested.

  40. Peter August 13, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Dirk actually brings up a good point. As we rail against the evils of corporations and media preying on fear to sell products, we have to be certain we don’t use these same techniques.

    That said, Dirk, I missed where anyone in this article said that there is an “epidemic” of parents being arrested.

  41. E August 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    It’s an adorable show and adorable kids. But they are most certainly not “secretly recorded”, the cameramen or visible in many many shots and unless the kids was blind, he saw them the whole time (the little sister makes eye contact at one point).

    I’m not saying the kids knew they were being filmed (maybe the did) or that it affected anything that transpired, but it’s worth noting.

    I’m curious, do parents send kids this small out at that age w/o the camera crews? Meaning, is this a typical/traditional thing to do?

  42. hineata August 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    Very sweet! I wonder if boys do cry more at that age about being ‘out of their comfort zone’? I know when I was New Entrant teaching it did seem to be more boys reluctant to leave Mum than girls, but not by great amounts…

    @Gina – yeah, I would probably have asked the boy if he was okay too, though I think you’re right, the wee girl would probably have set us straight :-).

    Boy went shopping by himself at about that age, though on the same block as us, so not a big deal. Everyone was always very helpful and friendly, and he learnt a bit of Malay faster than he would have with me there :-). He didn’t do a lot independently at home in NZ though, as there aren’t a lot of cheap shops within walking distance of our place.

  43. Dirk August 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    Re-read the comments then. Warren et all.

  44. Donna August 13, 2014 at 4:56 pm #


    Arrest isn’t the only issue.

    We’ve had a number of regular posters here who have stated that CPS has investigated them for things that used to be routine kid activities.

    We’ve had a number of people here who have been questioned by the police for allowing their children to do what used to be normal childhood activities, even though no arrest ultimately occurred.

    We’ve had a number of people who have been warned to stop allowing their children to do certain activities or a report would be made to CPS or the police.

    We’ve had a number of people here who have had their children stopped or brought home by police for being outside alone.

    We are a small group and I highly doubt that we are somehow uniquely unfortunate and are the only people in the US who are running into these issues. I don’t think that this is happening daily, but it does appear to be a growing trend. You can hide your head in the sand and wait until it actually becomes an epidemic if you choose.

  45. Natasha Batsford August 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Here is our contribution to “My First Errand”

    Our son, obsessed with making meatballs went and shopped for the ingredients, made and cooked dinner.

    Aged 4.


  46. Papilio August 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    @Maria: “then what’s the point of posting it ” Ask Lenore, it’s not my blog.
    But like I said, they still more or less succeed in doing the task and the little boy was actually proud at the end of the second segment. So while I think this show – unlike Lenore’s show – mainly exists because it’s funny, and doubt parents let children this young disappear for hours on complicated errands (but who am I, I don’t live in Japan), it’s not like these kids don’t benefit from it at all.

  47. Stacy August 13, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    “Umm…and why is this funny or a show of independence? First off, the little boy is miserable and possibly traumatized. He is crying for his mother who just sent him off all on his own. Second, the children are crouching on the side of a road looking for a tissue–maybe this is a street with no cars, but it doesn’t seem that way, so yeah, not the safest thing in the world. I’m not sure why danger is being equated to freedom or independence. It’s great to see young kids being independent, which they are, and i agree in America we are overly protective, but it’s also nice to see them do it at their pace and when they aren’t hysterical crying.”

    My son cried much harder when I left him three mornings a week at preschool at age four. He wasn’t traumatized and the separation was good for him. He needed to be pushed a little to be independent. His little sister, on the other hand, would have been comforting him just like the sister in the video. My impression of the show is that it isn’t typical Japanese parenting to believe little children are capable of these kinds of errands and the parents might not have let them without the cameras following, but no one thinks the children should be sheltered from this experience or being laughed at on TV, and the message is that kids can do this sort of thing, in their own goofy but adorable way.

  48. Andy August 13, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    @Maria “what’s the point of posting it as something to show kids are independent? ”

    It is meant to show that their kids are fully independent at age of three. More likely, it is meant to show difference in attitude: one culture finds the situation cute, funny and not harming at all. Another start panicking and accuse parents of neglect.

    Although those kids are super proud in the end, that was not a goal. Which may be another point and difference: you expect some huge learning moments and points out of the whole thing. If they are not there, the whole thing is bad. They just enjoy watching the kid to overcome problems. If the kid is happy and unharmed in the end, they consider it good enough.

  49. Andy August 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    I forgot to write NOT. My first sentence was supposed to be: It is NOT meant to show that their kids are fully …

  50. Glen August 13, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    I love the idea of kids being given opportunities to have freedom and explore their world. If we expect very little of our kids, they will always stay little kids (even when they are 30 and living in our basements).

    I like it because it gives kids the opportunity to assert themselves with adults and speak for themselves.

    Japan’s culture, although somewhat Americanized, still holds closely to the principles of honor and shame culture wide, which is different then in the U.S. These Japanese kids aren’t left alone to fend for themselves with cameras watching their every move, and I am sure the store owners were prepped prior to their arrival.

    I was wondering how many parents would feel comfortable letting them go without a film crew following.

  51. Tsu Dho Nimh August 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    I love it … 20 second into the errand he finds a dandelion and is happy, briefly.

  52. SteveS August 13, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Dirk, it is ‘et al.’, not ‘et all’, or were you trying to be clever?

    While there does not appear to be an epidemic of parent arrests, I am not aware of any study on this topic or any easy way to track this kind of data. I can tell you from working closely with CPS, family court, and the judicial system, that there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some parenting behaviors that would have been deemed acceptable in the past are not as acceptable now and that parents are being seen as putting their kids at risk for these things even if they are not hurt.

    We also are seeing (in some states) legislatures addressing these issues with changes in the laws. Currently, 19 states (including mine), have added laws to address this in the last 10 years.

  53. Reziac August 13, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    While watching this, it occurred to me that this early-instilled sense of responsibility (and the concomitant self-confidence), rather than “higher intelligence” or even “more study” may be the root of why Japanese students do so well compared to… oh, say, modern American students.

    That little girl must be all of three years old. Can your three-year-old compete with her level of competence?

    Sad to say, I don’t think encouraging parents to let their kids do stuff like this will work nearly as well as shaming them into it because their kids are competence-retards compared to average kids in Japan.

  54. SteveS August 13, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    In terms of the changes I mentioned, specifically, I meant to say that 19 states have added laws dealing with kids being left in cars.

  55. RobL August 14, 2014 at 12:04 am #


    “We also are seeing (in some states) legislatures addressing these issues with changes in the laws. Currently, 19 states (including mine), have added laws to address this in the last 10 years.”

    Please clarify: Are these laws protecting parents (by codifying that they’re allowed to let their kids do non-harmful things) or are they helping prosecution of parents who let their kids do non-harmful things?

    Also: in Dirk’s defense, I see a LOT of parents who become knowledgable about these trends and then raise their kids in a much less “free-range” manner than they otherwise would because of the fear this knowledge creates. While I’m ALL for spreading the knowledge to the rational so they can stand up against the tyranny of absurdity, there’s something to be said for moderating the tone. If you like walking in the rain, please continue to do so… YOU probably won’t get struck by lightning.

  56. no rest for the weary August 14, 2014 at 3:31 am #

    My ex threatened to call in the ‘authorities” because I let our then-grade-two son walk a mile to school. He was happy, proud, and kinder to his little sister that day, but as soon as my ex found out about it, the boy was told that it was “wrong,” and I got the warning about CPS.

    A buddy of mine in my pristine town had the police summoned because their two grade-school-aged boys were playing in the pristine park “alone” (their house is a couple doors down from the park).

    In both cases, behaviour that was seen as utterly normal before the 24-hour news cycle began was called out as “in disagreement with current interpretations of child ‘endangerment.’ laws.”

    I think there are just as many parents caught totally off-guard by “well-meaning” bystanders who call the cops on “helpless kids who shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing” as there are vocal dissenters who are well aware with this sea change in attitude that occurred since their own childhoods and purposely, civilly “disobey.”

    Whether you’re aware or unaware of the suddenly subversive nature of allowing your child to behave as children did for nearly the entirety of human evolution, having the authorities come in and mess with your family when your kids are being well-loved and cared for SUCKS.

    And I know that this was NOT how things were before “child abuse” became this ever-more-fantastic category which has come to include any bystander’s “what if” thoughts.

    Epidemic? Well, here’s the thing. Stranger abductions are not epidemic. They’ve always happened at about the same per capita rate. No spikes recently. Kids dying in hot cars is still a very small number, and before “no babies in the front seat” laws, was much smaller still. I can’t call that one an epidemic.

    But the thing about people calling the cops or reporting to CPS about perfectly healthy, well-loved children who are NOT being injured, and the authorities actually prosecuting the parents who have been reported, well, that just didn’t happen in the 1970s. In fact, there were hardly any calls to the authorities even if the kids were coming to frank, obvious harm. The culture was much more willing to “look away” from “family matters” like incest, cigarette burns, and bruised ribcages.

    Well, I think we could do with a little more looking away again. Or looking, but not reporting. Sure, report cigarette burns. Sure, incest. Sure, bruised ribcages.

    But not kids playing happily in the park. Not kids walking around town to find their way to things they want to do. Not kids happily waiting for a few minutes in the car.

    The reporting is epidemic. It never existed, and now it does, far more than anyone sane could possibly say is working for children and their families.

  57. Lex August 14, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    That’s the most adorable thing I’ll see all day.

  58. Jen Connelly August 14, 2014 at 6:32 am #

    That was too cute. The little boy reminded me of my 4yo son. He throws a fit any time he’s pushed out of his comfort zone. He’s a big baby sometimes. I’m working with him on it. He recently learned to pick up his feet on his glide bike (small bike without pedals). A day before that he was scared to go more then a walking pace. Then BAM he’s balancing like a champ at high speed.

    Today I took my older four kids (14, 12, 11 and 8) back to school shopping. While at Kohl’s they all freely wandered around the store while we shopped. The same at a very busy Walmart (at least for our area). At one point the oldest got bored and her and the youngest went out to the car with the keys so they could listen to the radio. She didn’t ask for the keys, I offered them. At some point the 12yo went out. I had no idea where he was, but we didn’t see him while we continued our shopping so I assumed he went to the car. He came in looking for us just as we were checking out.

    No harm came to anyone (except maybe the poor car–they were all sitting on the roof of the truck when I got out there) and no police were called.

    Earlier in the year I took the kids shopping at Goodwill. The girls got bored and went out to the car. At some point the oldest came back in leaving the 8yo in the car alone. With the windows down!!!! I worried someone might make a comment about her being alone but if anyone noticed her sitting sullenly in the car they didn’t say anything. It’s pretty normal around here to see kids waiting in cars at her age and walking around stores on their own. By middle school, kids are hanging out at Safeway on their own. My 14yo says she knows the names of all the girls that work at the Starbucks kiosk because she’s there so often.

  59. Donna August 14, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    “Are these laws protecting parents (by codifying that they’re allowed to let their kids do non-harmful things) or are they helping prosecution of parents who let their kids do non-harmful things?”

    They are largely codifying an age at which kids can legally be left in a car. While this provides clarity, the problem is that it is often non-harmful to leave a child in a car at a younger age, so perfectly harmless acts are being made illegal.

    I know that there are people here who call for more clarity in the law by setting age limits. This is exactly the problem with that. The law is going to set an age that is unreasonably high in most cases – the age at which it is believed by the largest number of people that EVERY normal child can to do some act.

    In other words, the government is going to set the age that kids can go to the park alone at 12, not 8, despite the fact that it is not generally dangerous for 8 year olds to hang out at the park alone. It then makes it easy to prosecute someone who lets their 10 year old go to a park alone. The DA now doesn’t need to prove that the action was neglect because it is just per se against the law.

  60. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    SteveS, I was just typing fast. It is a phrase used where I work so it is a habit.

  61. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    SteveS, you are right, parenting has changed over the last 50 to 100 to 200 years. Child labor laws, abuse laws, etc. Early 20th-century child-rearing guides warned parents not to kiss their babies or cradle them too much, lest the children become spoiled.

  62. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    As a child in the 1830s President Grant for example was a horse trader and ran part of his parents farm by age 11. His memoirs contain a wonderful description of this time. In American up through the 19th century children were seen basically as little adults to a degree. Foreigners writing travel logs would not time and again how responsible American children were but also that they were insolent, that they treated adults as equals. This was most likely because children were treated as adults by their American parents to a degree. The added responsibility makes sense because, by age 11 you were essential through almost a quarter of your life. In 1900, life expectancy in the United States was 47 years, and only four percent of the population was 65 or older. The idea of childhood didn’t exist until the 20th century when universal education became required and children were removed from the labor pool. Being contained in a classroom I suppose limits your ability to learn horsemanship and farming and the sense of adult level responsibility that Grant learned. It at least makes it harder. After WWII children were given free range pretty much. The likes of Dr. Spock, who proves parental worry isn’t a new thing, provided guides saying essentially to love on your kid. It was a permissive parenting style that was opposed to the authoritarianism of earlier time periods. Ironically, this also meant that kids would be left to do what they wanted despite the extra affection Dr. Spock promoted. Permissive parenting accidentally promoted free range parenting again! Parents were closer to their children, treated them as children, but let them run off too. Parents were not involved directly in every decision children made. Today, for various reasons, the media, the economy, a sense of competition and living with a worry that resources are dwindling parents are uber involved in every decision of a child’s life. Helicoptering is real.

    But not everything is negative. An infant was four times more likely to die in the 1950s than today. A parent then was three times more likely than a modern one to preside at the funeral of a child under the age of 15, and 27 percent more likely to lose an older teen to death. Despite rumors to the contrary test scores are routinely up for high school students. (It is called the Flynn Effect, essentially each generation scores higher than the previous on IQ tests such as the SAT. So test makers have to make the test harder every 10 to 20 years or so to keep scores inline.) Studies show that Millennials are good at saving money, regularly read newspapers, and are inclined to accept challenges.

  63. EricS August 14, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    That took me waaay back! Awesome! Need to get back to those days, and it’s saner, more reasonable ways of thinking.

  64. EricS August 14, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    @ Jen(P): you took the words right out of my mouth. Well said.

    @ Dirk: It may not be an epidemic, but as Jen said, it’s moving in that direction. Think of the new rules and policies created in the last 10 years. Those started from small incidences, and growing fears of parents, and owners of establishments and institutions. All major issues ALWAYS stem from smaller issues that got out of control. This trend, if not put in check, WILL spiral out of control. And this “non-epidemic”, may just turn into one.

    And really, as “rare” as it is. It shouldn’t be happening at all. It’s only in the last 5 years, this has been happening more frequently (as rare as it is). What would your theory be for this trend? So plain and simple, if this happened (if at all) far less 20+ years ago, why is it happening more now? It’s called paranoia. Spread by media, and here say.

    I understand your “extreme opposite side of the spectrum”. But as I mentioned before, in the last 15-20 years, with the help of the internet, people have been “shocked” into this new way of fearing and thinking. They have been conditioned over a short period of time to be the way they are. And just like anyone overcoming an addiction, you have to shock their system going cold turkey. It’s no different promoting the idealogy that people are far too fearful, and that their is dire consequences for their actions based on those fears.

    Personally, I prefer the “fear mongering” to get people to start using common sense again. And stop getting involved in other people’s business in a negative way. Much better than the “fear mongering” that is making people stupid, paranoid, and illogical. Just as the video shows above. I don’t know how old you are, but THAT was the norm when I was their age. Kids watched out for each other. Parents watched out for other kids like they were their own. “Strangers” did the same.

    What would your rather have? A society like that? Or a society filled with fear and self-centredness? You can’t to one or the other without knocking a few heads along the way. All depends on what you want to promote. Because in this day and age, outside factors doesn’t allow for a middle ground. You have to pick one or the other. When people start thinking with reason again, then you can slowly slow things down, and iron the wrinkles. We first need to get to that point first.

  65. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    I just don’t think either extreme is true or has happened. I don’t think the nostalgia of the post is true and I also don’t think the hysteria of today is true. I also don’t think the hysteria as Lenore describes is true, and I also don’t think the extreme response to that hysteria is true.

  66. SKL August 14, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    My goodness, little boys cry. A preschool teacher who thinks that little bit of crying is a problem disturbs me.

    The little boy was probably worried that he would not succeed in this rather complex (for his age) errand. That is NORMAL and I feel the same way in my job more often than I admit. But I’m not a little boy so I don’t cry about it.

    If this little boy was not encouraged to keep going despite the crying, he would never have had the great feeling of accomplishment and the boost of confidence for the next task. How is that healthy?

    Reminds me of a song lyric – “newborn eyes always cry with pain at the first look at the morning sun. Fool if you think it’s over – it’s just begun.”

  67. SKL August 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    As for the supposed “rarity” of being arrested (or otherwise interfered with officially) for making a safe parenting choice, I would love a show of hands of people who know anyone who has had that happen to them (and how many they know), and then another show of hands of people who know anyone whose child died because of these things the authorities are supposed to be protecting us from.

    I know zero people (in real life) who have lost a child (or had a child seriously injured with long-term effects) due to anything other than congenital problems. I know zero people with missing kids and zero people whose kids have experienced heatstroke in a car.

    I know multiple people (in real life) who have been interfered with by police or CPS because of making a parenting choice that was safe in the circumstances.

    And in the current environment, there are probably more people who have had this happen but aren’t telling everyone they know, because it is embarrassing.

  68. Stacy August 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    “I know multiple people (in real life) who have been interfered with by police or CPS because of making a parenting choice that was safe in the circumstances.

    And in the current environment, there are probably more people who have had this happen but aren’t telling everyone they know, because it is embarrassing.”

    My embarrassing story — A police officer, who was trying to serve me with a witness subpoena, panicked because he could see my four-year-old through the window of my home and I was not answering the door. I didn’t hear the doorbell because I had the fan running and was trying to soothe a fussy baby upstairs. Fortunately, I heard the phone when he had dispatch call me while he was trying the back door and was about to break in. So thankful I wasn’t next door, chatting with a neighbor.

  69. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I’ve never known anyone (that I know of) who has been involved with CPS or been arrested for such things. I’ve never seen a die from sitting in a car either. I have seen two babies in a car on one occasion. Since they were claimed by a parent, the dad, I didn’t need to do anything.

  70. SKL August 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Dirk, if I knew you in real life, I probably would not tell you about my run-ins with the authorities. You come across as both judgmental and irrational.

  71. Mae August 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    That was adorable! I watched a couple other segments on Youtube and I just want to see more. I really wish I could find some with subtitles. I want to know what they are all saying.

  72. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    SKL, I just don’t live a life that has “run ins with the authorities,” at least not ones that were definitely not my fault (like throwing beer bottles over fences, speeding, drinking in the woods as a teen, making out on a closed beach at night, etc all as a kid really…). I am sorry if you have had difficulties, I just think that difficulties are usually avoidable and that unwarranted ones are very few and far between (outside of racism, which I have seen and is ugly.)

    Why have you had so many run ins with the authorities?

  73. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    Stacy you reminded me of when I was babysitting my younger brother. He was 2 or 3. I took out the trash but forgot that the garage door locked behind me. He was locked in the house. I yelled through the window to let him know where I was and told him to just play in the living room where the window was. I went next door and called the cops from my neighbors house. They showed up in about 5 or 10 minutes and jimmied the lock with a knife and left. Easy as pie. I was in like 5th or 6th grade I was 11 or 12 I guess…

  74. SKL August 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    Dirk, I haven’t had “so many run-ins with the authorities.” When the custody of your kids is potentially at risk, one frivolous 911 call is too many.

  75. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    Sorry, when you said you wouldn’t tell me about your run ins with the authorities I assumed you actually had unwarrented run ins with the authorities (outside of racist cops). Like I said I have never known anyone who has…

  76. no rest for the weary August 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    A good friend deliberated a lot about whether or not to call CPS about her neighbours. A woman, recently divorced, had a daughter and son, ages 6 and 12 at the time. My friend heard many very loud conversations that sounded like arguing, screaming, and what sounded like objects hitting the walls inside.

    But she also watched carefully to see that when the kids were out of the house with their mother, everyone seemed happy enough getting into the car or whatever. The boy had friends and played sports, the girl became friends with my buddy’s daughter, there were no signs of physical abuse.

    So she decided not to call anyone. She wondered about this decision, because the screaming was frequent and loud, but looking back years later, it’s clear that intervention was not needed. The mom and her kids are doing fine.

    My friend understood very well just what gets set in motion when you call in the authorities, and really searched her soul to decide whether this was the course of action to take. She dared not speak to her neighbour about the screaming, because she felt it would be too embarrassing for both of them, but she did step up her efforts to connect with the family and offer the daughter times to play at their house, etc.

    Would it be that everyone might step back and carefully reason about whether or not to call in the authorities. “Connection before correction” is a phrase I live by…

  77. Dirk August 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    As a teen I saw a dad throw a beer can at his little kid while they sat on a porch. It wasn’t in jest or fun. This was my uncles neighbor. He looked at me and said something to the effect of “yeah, I kinda keep an eye out on that.”

  78. SKL August 14, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    @ no rest, my mom was a screamer. With a foul mouth. She also spanked, but she was not an abuser. She was (and is) a very loving mother who let the stress of being a working mom of 6 get the better of her at times. I’m sure our neighbors were not thrilled to hear it when she boiled over, but they understood what it was and what it wasn’t.

    I am an adoptive mom. I understand how lucky I was that my mom’s custody of us kids was never disrupted. This month, my kids spent 10 days with my sister and parents, and they were pretty affected by the separation, even though they knew we would be reunited soon. People need to understand the damage done by jerking kids around when it is not necessary.

  79. Shadow Flurry August 14, 2014 at 6:31 pm #


    Yeah, I know I don’t have to read your posts. But in order to find out if anyone else has anything insightful to say(and shockingly to you I’m sure, they often do), we’ve got to scroll through all your all-day-long posts. I know trolling is fun, and I hope you’ve gotten enjoyment out of it, but PLEASE STOP.

  80. Amanda Matthews August 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    What do the tissues teach him? In Japan, there aren’t boxes of tissue around at schools, offices etc., and there generally isn’t toilet paper in in public bathrooms, etc. So everyone usually carries tissue and maybe a handkerchief with them. So the tissues are teaching him to always carry some for when he needs them 🙂

    The crying is just the same as my youngest son (age 4) does when I go somewhere and leave him home with his father. But like this boy, he gets over it quickly.

  81. Andrea August 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    This is great. It reminds me of when I sent my 5-year-old to buy bananas from the fruit stand across the street from our house. He had to cross 2 residential streets to do so, and did a great job, looking both ways, making sure that the way was clear before he crossed, giving the vendor the money he had earned from his in exchange for the bananas. I stayed in the house until he returned, and he was sooooooo proud of himself when he did. It was one of the happier moments of my life as a parent.

    As an aside, though my son was perfectly fine to get to the fruit stand by himself, on the way over an adult with an older child was crossing from the other direction and they kind of “crossing guarded” my son the first street, and on his “return trip” the vendor walked him back across the first street and halfway across the second until he was back on the sidewalk. If find this notable for 2 reasons: Either (1) the people in my neighborhood didn’t think my 5-year-old was old enough to cross the street by himself, or (2) the people in my neighborhood take care of kids, including my child. I think people underestimate the extent to which (2) is true. What they DIDN’T do is call the police, which would have turned an amazing experience for my son and my neighborhood into a nightmare for everyone. STOP CALLING THE POLICE ON PARENTS.

  82. Let Her Eat Dirt August 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    This is the most hilarious thing I have seen in a long time! I love that little sister! Kids truly are capable of much more than we have grown accustomed to thinking they are.

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  83. Havva August 15, 2014 at 2:44 am #

    I wonder what impact it would have on society’s view of children, if parents made more of and effort to show the world a slice of this in real life.

    When my daughter was still 2 years-old she had a very tiny errand that got me a shocking amount of parenting accolades. We were at temple and she got hungry so daddy gave her 3 dollar coins and we went to the bagel bar. I read the price list and helped her get a bagel with cream cheese. After we were seated she decided she was thirsty, and realized the dollar she had left was enough for orange juice. So I told her to go ahead, I watched from a table in the back of the room but didn’t budge. She got the OJ and came bouncing back. The man running the bagel bar was beaming almost as much as she was. A little while latter she told me she forgot to say thank you and went back to correct that. She came back with a cup so we could share the orange juice (all her idea I’m told). She really made an impression, not just on the cashier but also on the lady sitting near us. I didn’t anticipate their reactions.

    I dare say adults need more opportunities to see small children acting with agency and competency. Perhaps it would jog people’s memories on what children used to do, and remind people how delightful it is for all to let kids do a few things themselves.

  84. Dirk August 15, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Please stop being a knee jerk reactionary. I the post by Lenore about the people who are ACTUALLY crazy about leaving kids in cars it reads: “I can’t help feel that their message is bringing attention to a “fad danger” rather than a statistically significant safety issue and encouraging people to call 911 regardless of circumstance.” Sorry to have to tell you but most of the things being posted as parenting dangers here (getting arrested for letting your kids play alone, outside, at the mall, leaving them in the car, and even the statutory rape stories) are all statistically significant “fad dangers” that really happening. They aren’t happening in any meaningful way, the number of occurrences are so low. More kids probably die in cars each than parents are arrested for leaving kids in the car. About 25% of parents leave their kids in the car for some amount of time today. There are about 70 million parent households (with either one or tow parents present-according to the 2007 census). 25% of that is 17,500,000. That is how many of current parents have left their children in cars for some amount of time. What percent of those do you think have been arrested? 17 million 500 thousand parents and what percent get arrested for it? Practically zero. Your fear of this thing has escalated to the point of hysteria.

  85. Melissa August 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    These kids reminded me very much of my own. My son is hesitant and cries at the drop of a hat (almost 5) and my daughter (2.5) is brave and comforting. So cute!

    Whoever said upthread about independant American (and Canadian) children being farm kids – I totally agree. But as long as you expect some contribution from kids they can gain independance very quickly. My husband was a farm kid. Now we are definitely city slickers, but we own rental properties. Even at his young age my son helps to paint, pull nails in old floors, cut and nail trim, helps my husband fix toilets, etc. Even the little one pitches in with getting tools and holding nails, etc.

    Even though he’s a bit of a crybaby, he’s very independant and also trustworthy – as in he knows to always consider a power tool plugged in, is very careful with tools, and really gets a sense of pride from doing a job.

  86. SKL August 15, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Dirk, aside from your math being way off, the fact is that 25% of parents will *not* leave their kids in the car, because they are afraid to do it for the wrong reasons. That is the whole point. With campaigns telling everyone to call 911 if they see a kid in a car, regardless of circumstances, and people on that 20/20 trying to call even with the mother right there, and that lady being arrested for getting out of the car so she could smoke a cigarette, people are getting more and more afraid to do what makes the most sense. This is twisted. And it’s public officials who are creating this fear, even if you think the fear is overblown.

  87. Dirk. August 15, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I got that 25% from a news article, I should have linked it originally but I cant find it now. It said that 25% of current parents had left their kids in a car recently.

    But you are right, those numbers could be off.

    BECAUSE 70% us parents are ok with it! of A poll found seventy percent of U.S. parents are willing to their children unattended in cars!

    Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/204648-poll-seventy-percent-of-parents-willing-to-leave-child-unattended-in#ixzz3AURRp3Ng
    Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

    and here:


    No one is afraid but of this outside of this artificial fad danger extremism. No one is out to get you. Act reasonable (read April’s post in this entry here for what is certainly reasonable, like her I have never had any problems…https://www.freerangekids.com/elizabeth-vargas-2020-me-and-kids-in-cars-hysteria/#comments), if you act reasonable you will be treated reasonable. Like the millions of parents who are leaving their kids in the car for the couple of minutes it actually takes to pick up a pizza.

  88. Audible August 17, 2014 at 5:16 am #

    Non-Japanese parent raising a child in Japan here. Yes, kids do get sent on errands here. The key is that kids are typically sent with a sibling. So long as you have a sibling, kids are pretty much free to roam, often from the age of 2 or 3.

    Our communities are accustomed to kids waling to and from school, forming small groups and playing in the parks and fields, or heading to the penny candy shop to buy junk food. For the school walks parents and elderly volunteers act as crossing guards. Still, there is a general idea that everyone is looking out for the community’s kids. Safe houses and shops have signs so that kids know where and who to ask for help. Younger students often wear hats and identifying badges. Older students are put in charge of making sure that all the younger kids in their area reach school safely and on time.

    Traffic is always a concern, but I’m much more worried about my kid coming across a snake or wild boar more than any stranger danger. They do get the annual stranger danger talk at school, though, so it’s not as if Japan believes that it’s a perfectly safe country either.

    It is not easy trying to mainstream a non-Japanese kid into the Japanese public school system, but the freedom and responsibility kids are given at an early age is one of the perks of living here.

  89. Nikole August 19, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    Some of the harsher comments toward this video are understandable if you’re applying American views of children toward Japanese culture. I’ve lived in Japan for two years now and it was SHOCKING to me the level of independence children have here. I see children the age of the two in the video walking to school alone every morning, stopping at the store to get snack after and then playing in the park. They run small errands for their parents, hoist their siblings up to the vending machines, and cross busy streets by themselves. Cars immediately yield to crossing children, whether in a crosswalk or not. You don’t see it in this particular video but most Japanese children raise their hand to signal that they are about to cross and keep it raised until they reach the other side of the street. Children as young as 2 are dropped off a couple blocks from nursery school and walk the rest of the way as a first step toward independence. And the community looks after the neighborhood children. It is not uncommon to see an adult assisting a child when needed. As far as stopping on the side of the road, it’s hard to understand how Japanese streets are when you don’t live here but those children weren’t in extreme danger. Most neighborhood streets only have a very small sidewalk, or none at all, so cars tend to drive in the middle, moving to the side when an oncoming car wants to pass. The speed limits are also waaaayyy lower than in the states so any cars on the roads these kids were on would be driving about 15 mph or slower since Japanese people drive very carefully on the tight streets where people walk. It’s a bit of a culture shock, I know, but everything in this video is 100% normal in Japan.