Leaving Your Toddler Alone in the Yard for a Sec

Hi sbhhnyhznb
Readers — Many folks tell me they’d LIKE to go Free-Range, but aren’t sure how exactly to start. Here’s one mom who took the first (baby) step that some of you might want to try. Good luck! – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I think this might be the fourth or fifth time I’ve written you, so please do not think I’m stalking you, but I want you to know how Free-Range is just in my mind all the time and how much your blog has helped me.

Yesterday I was playing in the sandbox in the backyard with my two-year-old son.  Now that he is truly mobile and getting independent, I’ve really had to fight the urge to protect at every turn.  Basically, I’m testing myself and my belief in the Free-Range philosophy all the time.  It’s hard, but I know being Free-Range is the best thing for me, my husband, and our kid.  And I’m committed to it even though it is hard for me emotionally sometimes.

Anyway, we were out there playing, and I had to go to the bathroom.  We live in a normal suburban neighborhood and we have a huge, scary-sounding dog who would do anything to protect our son (even though he’s really just a big old sweetie).

When I had to go, I thought, “Hmm…can I just….leave him in the backyard?”  I was scared to do it, I’ll admit it.  I even said to my son, “Hey, do you want to come in for a second while mommy goes to the potty?”

Well my son, who was having the time of his life, looked at me and said, very clearly, “I stay here.  Mommy be right back.”

I knew he was right, so I got up and walked into the house and left him in the backyard unsupervised for probably one minute at most. I was nervous, but I *knew* he was happily playing in the sandbox and no, *no* one was going to come by at that exact moment and snatch him from the backyard!  The abduction thing being the fear most parents have (including me), I really did realize in that moment how much higher the odds were that my son would fall and hurt himself or swallow sand or whatever – and even *those* things would be highly unlikely in the span of one minute!

Now that I’ve done it once, I know I can do it again and each time (I think) will get easier.

I cannot thank you enough for giving me the courage to really be a Free-Range mom.  THANK YOU.

Sincerely, Jennifer

Lenore here: Jennifer, you’re welcome. And thank YOU for describing a first, small step some other parents might try now, too!

One small step for mom, one giant leap for her toddler!

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52 Responses to Leaving Your Toddler Alone in the Yard for a Sec

  1. TaraK September 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    You go, girl!

  2. Earth.W September 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    My only concern here would be leaving a toddler alone with a dog.

  3. Emily September 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Awesome first step. If you get your son used to the idea that he can play outside by himself, and be okay, and even have fun doing it, at an early age, then in a year or two, you’ll be able to send him outside when you need to make dinner, or just have some time to yourself.

  4. Sara September 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    At that age, I’m more concerned about them hurting themselves if left alone. But I’m sure that mom knows her son and her yard and had assessed the possible danger. I agree – good first step.

  5. Fear less September 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    This is how it is supposed to happen. Out of necessity or convenience, you let them go a little bit, see that everything is all right, and then you worry less next time and on and on, and one day they can take care of themselves and live their own lives.

    When my son was 2, I had just given birth to his brother and we had our first snow, He desperately wanted to go outside and play in it, but I did not want to take the baby out in the cold. I bundled him up and sent him out into the small backyard as I watched him from the window of the back door. He had a blast, playing and playing! He ate some snow,but he survived. When he had enough, he came back in and I realized that this was totally possible and workable for us.

  6. Brenda September 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    I totally understand where this mother is coming except I’m less afraid of abduction and more afraid of my neighbors seeing my toddler in the yard alone and calling the cops!

  7. Silver Fang September 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Dogs make great babysitters. I remember once I was out walking along a busy street and I saw a little girl of maybe two to three years playing alone in her fenced in front yard. My initial reaction was dismay at such a young child being alone in a front yard along a busy street, but then I looked again and on the porch was the largest, sternest looking dog I had ever seen. He and I just regarded each other for a moment and then I moved on. I knew she was safe.

  8. Heike September 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    I totally understand! It can be the scariest thing ever! Great job, mom, keep it up! 😉

  9. Warren September 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Congrats on fighting the fear, good job.

    As someone that has had dogs, all my life, they have given me a great source of peace and confidence, about my kids.
    We have always had med. to large dogs, nothing against lap dogs, our 100 pounders still think they are lapdogs at times.

    When I am out doing middle of the night service calls, or the kids are out playing, or when they are home while mom and I are out, I know that those dogs would sacrifice themselves to protect the kids. It is nothing trained, it is just their natural instincts. The most important tool the dog has is it’s bark. First no intruder, burglar, or abductor wants to mess with a dog. They run the risk of being bitten, and a barking dog alerts family, friends, and neighbours. People who know any dog, can tell the difference between the bark of a playing dog, or a dog protecting it’s pack/herd.

    My dogs have always been working/herding breeds. My elderly aunt, with major health issues has come to live with us. Our three dogs follow her everytime she steps outside, and if she strays too far, in the dogs opinions, from the house, they herd her back.

    When my kids were small, and playing outside, they stood guard so to speak. The kids would start to wander a little, and they would either get herded back, or the dogs would start barking at them, alerting me.

    Now I am not saying that a dog is a babysitter, but they do give us a parenting tool. People will say that you cannot trust a dog. I say that dogs are just like humans, you can trust the ones, that you know. And I know my dogs. They sleep with the kids, do a few patrols thru the house at night to check on all of us, and will sit there with disgusted looks on their faces, when the girls used to make them play dress up.
    Dogs and kids, are naturals, barring allergies.

  10. Elizabeth September 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    I know how you feel. I have the worst thoughts about letting my 13 year old being free range such as, leaving for school after I leave for work, and going to the shops on her own etc, but I don’t let these thoughts stop her from doing any of this stuff. All I can offer you is although you may have those work at thought scenarios, please don’t let it interfere with allowing your child to grow, investigate and enjoy this world.

  11. RebaD September 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Love it! My girls are 8, 5, and 3 and we live in a wonderful community with fantastic neighbors. My girls know the rules, they know their boundaries and I have yet to see them veer outside of either. My neighbors and I do not supervise their play – we let them manage it themselves. We do however, keep eyes on each others little ones. I am so happy I live in a free-range neighborhood!

  12. AW13 September 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Good for you! It was hard for me the first time I ran inside to go to the bathroom while kiddo played in the yard (he was around 2 also). It did get easier. I would leave him in the back yard while I went inside to prepare dinner (peeking through the window at him every so often). Then, when he was older and had demonstrated that he would stay on the sidewalk, we gave him parameters that he could ride to on the sidewalk in front of the house. They were out of sight (mainly due to hedges and bushes) but not far away. We spent some time waiting in the front yard but eventually, my husband and I would sit on the deck in the back yard, and our son would stop in on his way from point a to point b. And if we didn’t see him for a few minutes, one of us would go out front to see what was going on. He was 3 1/2 when we started letting him do that, and our big concern was that he would get hit by a car, but he was very good about staying on the sidewalk. We also reviewed the rules (the boundaries, no alleys, no roads) before he went out. He LOVED it! He would head down to the end of the block where there was only a pedestrian path to check out the ant piles, gather interesting rocks, or bring back leaves and sticks for us to inspect. More than that, though, he’s gained a certain amount of confidence. For example, he insisted on using the men’s bathroom by himself at the park yesterday. The only thing I helped him with was the door (though I’m pretty sure he didn’t wash his hands, haha!). Anyway, each new step still makes me a little nervous, but I remind myself that he needs to expand his boundaries if he’s going to be an independent adult. Hang in there! 🙂

  13. Myra September 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    I, too, am more worried about the traffic whizzing by on our street than an abduction in this smaller town. We get a lot of 18 wheeler traffic on our street. We have done this step and a bit more with our kids by the time they are 3-4. They can play out in the backyard alone for as long as they want by this time.

  14. Mike in Virginia September 19, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Good thing you don’t live in Houston (I think this has been posted before). http://www.click2houston.com/news/Mom-sues-police-over-arrest/-/1735978/16528610/-/b7nf6o/-/index.html

  15. Dave September 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Everyone starts somewhere. Good move.

  16. TRS September 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Abduction was never a fear for me. What I am afraid is the traffic and the Copperhead Snakes in my neighborhood. I have had two adult neighbors that were hospitalized for a week from Copperhead bites. I can not imagine how serious it would be for one of my kids. My neighbor caught a 6ft one in his deer netting the other day. Unless I am home my 12 yo girls can not even play outside. At least not until winter.

  17. Havva September 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    When I was in high school, I started noticing the gulf between how my mom treated me and my friends (respect and guidance), and the way others treated us (disdain and increasing restriction).

    As a result mom and I started discussing her parenting philosophy. At the core of it all was the belief that “A parent has only a small amount of time to teach a child everything they need to know to enter the world.” And so she concluded a parent should use every opportunity to help the child function wisely and independently. That when a child understands enough to ask a question, it is time to answer that question. That when a child can follow appropriate rules and the child feels ready to do something, it is time for a little freedom.

    Sounds like the 2 year old was ready. Growth is always one step at a time. If you take each step as it becomes appropriate, you will grow a young person who respects you, and whom you can respect as well. Keep up the good work.

  18. Kaleigh September 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    I do this often. My daughter (almost 3) plays outside by herself often. She stays in our yard and plays. Of course I’m up every 2 minutes, making sure she’s still living. We also use our dogs like an alarm. A squirrel couldn’t make it into our yard without him losing his mind. If a human came near our home, I’d know it before they even got close enough to talk to her.

  19. TRS September 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    @Mike in Virginia – I think that is the saddest story I ever heard. My biggest fear of Free Range Parenting has always been people so hot to call CPS or the Police. I have had security called on me for leaving my 9 yo twins play in an enclosed playground @ Kings Dominion to use the bathroom. When I came back – there were a hoard of moms and a security guard. When the guard saw me he said all was well and told me we could move on. Well the moms had their cells out calling 911. I just calmly took their hands and walked away.

    Later the security guard caught up to me and apologized for the mom of angry moms and wished me to have a good day at Kings Dominion. I thanked him soooo much for being sensible. He told me that after I left they surrounded him and yelled at him for 10 min that I needed to be arrested and my kids taken away.

    I have never been so sad and scared my entire life. I am a great mom that is very involved in my kids lives.

    I just don’t get it. Unless a child was being abused I would never call the police. If I saw a small child alone – I would probably find out where his/her mom was and just make sure he/she is safe. IMHO kids are better off with their parents except for abuse situations.

  20. Christi September 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Loved reading this! I also have a 2 year old and am taking these “baby” steps as often as possible. Two months ago we got a second-hand “Little Tikes” playset and put it in our tiny tiny codo backyard (maybe 5 by 10 feet, but not sealed off). I’ve felt very proud of both of us when, on several occasions, I’ve stumbled into the house carrying groceries and opened the screen door and sent her out to play. Many times now I’ve left her out there to grab a towel, use the bathroom, pour more coffee or grab her a snack (similarly a minute at most!). I, like others, considered the abduction thing but looked around and thought, “Someone would have to be stalking me and her, in particular, hiding in the bushes, waiting on the hope that I let her play outside this morning and then step away for a moment.” Same when I leave her strapped into her car seat in the driveway for a split second to run back in and grab the wallet/cell phone/keys/coupons that I forgot. “Someone would have to be stalking us, waiting in the bushes on the hope that I leave her strapped in the car for a moment while I run in to get something AND THEN get her out of the carseat in a matter of seconds. HA! I can’t get her out of the carseat in seconds.”

  21. Amy O September 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    I agree with the comments that I’m more afraid of my neighbors than anything my toddler could do. My dad lives in a really safe neighborhood, and I left her outside playing in the fenced-in backyard while I made us lunch. I could see her from the window in the kitchen, but I swear I kept an eye more on the neighbors’ yards to see if they came out than I did on her!

  22. Jennifer September 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. Chase is still a little young to leave anywhere by himself (11 months) but when he’s 2? Of course he can play in our fenced back yard.

    Here’s hoping I don’t end up having to sue someone over it, though. Have you seen this? http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/09/07/50051.htm

  23. Jen Connelly September 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    It’s all about the baby steps. I remember when my older three kids were little I started letting them play on our front porch. We had rigged up some plastic lattice to go across the steps to keep them on the porch. It wouldn’t do much to keep someone from taking them but I wasn’t all that worried about it. At first I always sat out there with them. There was a sand table and other toys. The kids were 1, 2 and 3 when, one day, I had to really go to the bathroom. The thought of wrangling three unhappy children into the house for two minutes was unappealing. So I told them I was running in to use the bathroom and they should behave.

    All the windows in the living room and the front door were open and I left the bathroom door open in case they started crying to get in (they couldn’t open the screen door). When I was done in the bathroom they were still happily playing in the sand so I went into the kitchen and got cups of water for us all. After that I realized the kids were fine to play on the porch when all the windows were open. I could hear them in any room of the house. My big concern were nosy neighbors but it was never an issue. They’d play on the porch and I’d sit in the living room doing other things.

    They are 12, 11 and 10 now and have freedom to run all over our neighborhood and, if they are at least in a pair, can go out into town (we’ve since moved from the city to a small town). They sometimes take their 6yo sister with them and they take their 2yo brother to park all the time.

    The 2yo is allowed to play in our fenced backyard any time he wants for as long as he wants. The other kids are allowed out front. I rarely check on them. They come in often enough that it isn’t an issue. In the summer I do kick them out the door and tell them not to come back until the streetlights come on. I do let them in to use the bathroom and eat lunch and dinner. Usually they are out until it is fully dark (around 9:30pm in the summer).

  24. Renee Anne September 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    I *love* this idea but I know that my not-quite-yet two year old couldn’t be trusted. He has difficulty staying put when we’re outside. I’d be more worried about him running off into traffic.

    However, I have no problem leaving him in the living room while I go down the hall to the bathroom or work in the kitchen (we don’t have any steps to worry about). He’s generally pretty good about that.

    When he’s older (and able to better understand), I plan to do what I can to let him be Free-Range 🙂

  25. Lisa Herrera September 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    I left my 2 year old son in the backyard while I went to the bathroom. Somehow he figured out how to get through the gate. When I came back outside he was in the street and an angry driver was yelling at me.

  26. N September 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Go you!

    It’s definitely hard to do, but the freedom in leaving my 2.5 year old playing chalk or with her water table while I cook or do something for myself is great. In both cases, there are glass doors and I can see her 90% of the time, which helps, but I do worry more about somebody in our neighborhood reporting me than anything happening to her.

  27. SKL September 19, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    I used to go in and work in the kitchen while my kids played in the backyard. I could see them through the window if I looked. I started this around the time they were 1.5.

    My backyard is not fenced in, and we have a deep ravine at one side, and wild critters mosey through the yard at times. So I had some rules that the kids had to follow, and they’d have timeouts if they disobeyed. It worked for us.

  28. paranoia destroys ya September 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    No need to worry about leaving a child with a dog. Animal owners most likely know the temperament of the animals they take care of. A 22 year old video of a toddler playing with a Gorilla was just released. They even go down a slide together. The gorilla doesn’t look like it is a full grown adult in that it is only a little taller than the little girl.

  29. maggie September 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    What? Worried about leaving the child with the dog? Have you never read the Carl books?? Dogs are the best babysitters EVER (especially Rottweilers) 🙂

  30. Heike September 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    The legal risk is often the harder part than the actual existential risks. I just yesterday left my 5-year-old alone on the playground for about 5 minutes while I took my 3-year-old to the nearby restroom. I was 100% confident that she would be fine (she was); but I did worry about park rangers or other parents and their reactions.

    The US is crazy that way: when I visited my sister in Germany this summer, I saw lots of 5- or 6-year-olds in parks with no adult visible nearby. And 6-year-olds regularly walk a mile to school by themselves even in bigger cities. So why in the world would we be afraid to let a 5-year-old alone on a playground, or send her down a different isle in a grocery store, or have her go to the restroom by herself in a park or a restaurant? But we are – because no-one does it here. Thanks, Lenore, for giving us perspective every day!

  31. racheleh September 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    @trs knowing snakes are active in the neighborhood is wise parenting to not let tiny kiddoes out, When I was a kid though we spent massive ammounts of time unsupervised and in the outdoors by the time we were 8 or 9 we knew the dif between good and bad snakes. Its easy to avoid most snakes if you don’t go poking about where they naturally are. For copperheads and water moccasins you avoid downed rotten and hollow wood and watch where you are stepping and putting you hands when climbing trees and rocks. Snakes always moved faster to get out of our way than you would believe they could. Snakes have known behaviors and they are a danger, but it is manageable. 12 yr olds should be able to navigate the dangers of random snakes pretty well.

  32. Peter Brülls September 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Was the kid still there and alive when she got back?

    The suspense is killing me!

  33. Carol Everett Adams September 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    I often had a moment of worry when leaving the kids to play alone while the Boxer was on duty… worry for whomever was dumb enough to cross her. A trusted, well-understood, respected, loyal family dog is the best guard for kids, ever.

    As many have expressed over time on this blog, I worry far more about the neighbors “ratting me out” for letting my kids play alone in the yard (back or front) than I do about the kids being harmed.

  34. Lollipoplover September 19, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    We have two “nanny” dogs that are wonderful with all children and great at alerting when anyone is even near the perimeter of my yard. I’d trust the dogs with my kids more than some of the neighborhood kids.

  35. Cynthia812 September 19, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    Props to everyone giving their toddlers a little independence! I just wanted to add something. My third child will turn three next month. He is constantly amazing me with what he is capable of. He can do much more than my oldest at this age, because he has older siblings to emulate and to watch out for him, and because I let him do things I would never have let the oldest do. It’s pretty astonishing.

  36. Shawn September 19, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Good job, Mom! I am proud of you, for swimming against the current and doing the non-paranoid thing! And your son is proud of you, too.

  37. Donna September 20, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    “No need to worry about leaving a child with a dog.”

    That’s what my family thought. Right up until our very trusted, extremely mellow beloved dog viciously attacked my 3 year old brother completely unprovoked with my parents in the room. 25 years later little bro still has very visible tooth marks millimeters from both eyes.

    We never would have expected this dog to attack anyone in a million years (before this day, my mother referred to him as “mellow yellow’), but he was stressed out because we had just moved a couple weeks before and I (his main human) wasn’t home at that moment. Animals don’t always react predictably to situations.

  38. Suzanne September 20, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    Way to go Jennifer!!!

  39. Hope September 20, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    My 6yo and 2yo play outside in our backyard, which is fenced in, but they also come and go through the fence gate to pick up sticks in the bigger side yard, roll down the hill there, etc. My biggest concern is a bear wandering onto our property, but they have been avoiding our street for the last year or two. Kids have to know you trust them to have some time alone to make up magical kids games/scenarios/stories!

  40. Hope September 20, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    @ Cynthia812: I have found the same to be true with my 2yo. He is far more adventurous than his big sister, and I don’t know if it’s personality or being the second child, but he is doing things at almost 2.5 that surprise me and challenge my free-rangeness daily!

  41. Warren September 20, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    Sorry to hear about your brother. Hopefully, you can take a step back and understand that this is one of those one off’s, like stranger abductions.
    For years parents have trusted dogs with and around their children, with nothing but fantastic results.
    I do not know what the exact statistics are, but I would hazzard a guess that more children are abused by family members, than are attacked by the family dog.

    Yes, I know first hand just how bad a dog attack can be. I helped with the rescue of a full grown neglected Rotti. He got the better of me, luckily he went after my wrapped arm. One very strong jaw. I would still get a Rotti, and after training her or him, would trust him/her with the kids.

    Can I guarantee that any animal will not turn on someone……no. But I cannot say that about humans either.

  42. Katherine September 20, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    I am so happy for this post. I have a toddler who is a bit younger, but same kind of thing — mobile, plays on his own, etc. We have a fenced in yard. I want to be free range but still take care of my kid. I have left him in the yard a few times for less than a minute while I have gone inside to grab a water or do something else briefly in the kitchen. My sense is that he is the right age for me to leave him briefly but it is just hard to know. Toddlers can be unpredictable. We did find out recently that he is capable of climbing the fence to some degree, so now I do need to be careful. He is also showing interest in the blocked-off stairway to the basement, so I am of course concerned about how good the blockage really is.

    But I’m glad to see that another parent is leaving her toddler briefly.

  43. Donna September 20, 2012 at 3:53 am #

    @Warren –

    Actually it isn’t a once off. I’ve worked with animals my whole life and have seen it repeatedly. Owners bit. Kids bit. All from very trusted dogs going through stress or illness. And everyone thought it would never happen to them.

    I certainly don’t think people need to be hypervigilent about their pets. I do think that people are too cavalier about their pets. We tend to view them as stagnant personalities with little understanding that They fail to consider that animals, like people, have moods and what is tolerated sometimes is not others. Animal, including humans, behavior changes under stressful conditions, including illness. The difference is that humans can talk, yell and otherwise express themselves. Animals cannot and aggression is often the result.

    We had left my brother with our dog many times in the past with no problems. The dog simply didn’t want to deal with the toddler when he was already seriously stressed out. Our fault for not reading him better and respecting his needs.

  44. Warren September 20, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    I too have worked with animals, my whole life. And while yes there is the one off’s, of unprovoked attacks, or turn on owners, you also are quite right that there is usually a reason.
    Stress, anxiety, injury or illness can cause aggresive acts. But, and this is the big one…………a dog owner should know their dog well enough to make sure that dog is taken care of. I cannot speak for others, but I always know my dogs condition and or mood.
    We have kids over all the time, and I am often telling them to give the dogs a break, that they are tired, or just too wound up, because they have been on the go, or have been spooked, or anything. I tell them just to let them be, and when the dogs have rested or feel like it, the dogs will seek them out.
    I have taught all my kids, family and friends kids, that dogs have moods and needs just like them.
    If like with humans, we just take a moment to consider their needs, like you stated, then all is fine.
    My friend had the largest German Shep that I had ever known, 175lbs. Shultz, was the biggest baby you would ever meet. He lived at a motel and cabin resort, and a guest called the cops because he claimed Shultz nipped him. While the cop was asking me and the owner questions, another guest came up and told the cop, the guy had been teasing Shultz with a hotdog.
    It was just about 100 degrees that day, the female officer dressed in her black uniform, spoke with the man, who claimed he was bit. “It is damn hot, my day is long, so come to my place after work and tease me with a cold beer, and see what you get!”. She then apologized to us, and gave Shultz something from her lunch and left.

  45. Kelly September 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    I’m looking forward to being able to give my son more independence. He does have a gated play area (a huge portion of our living room) that he can run around in free of influence. At a year and half he’s a bit too young to stay outside since we haven’t been able to get him to stop from running to the street. I know we’re not too far off though 🙂

  46. SKL September 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    I admit to being iffy about the dog thing. I do think some dogs are just bred to be incapable of being anything but careful toward a little child. On the other hand, we all know of some children who have been bitten by their own previously mild dogs. My sister was at age 1. To me, it’s one of those things that are simply not necessary (leaving a pet alone with a child). I don’t think there’s any harm in choosing not to do this.

  47. Tsu Dho Nimh September 20, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    “Well my son, who was having the time of his life, looked at me and said, very clearly, “I stay here. Mommy be right back.””

    Awwww … he trusts you to be able to go potty by yourself!

  48. Tsu Dho Nimh September 20, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    @TRS … What I am afraid is the traffic and the Copperhead Snakes in my neighborhood. (snip) Unless I am home my 12 yo girls can not even play outside.
    I assume this is because you think you can somehow protect them from snakes if you are there. Can you move faster than a striking copperhead to get your girl out of harm’s way?

    If not, TEACH them what they look like, where they hang out, and how to avoid them. Also teach them what to do IF they are bitten. It’s real easy. Call 9-1-1 and wait calmly.

    Hope, if you have the occasional bear, have a talk with your kids about what to do IF they see one.

    We moved from Montana (bears and hypothermia) to Arizona (rattlesnakes, scorpions, death from dehydration, and heat strokes) when I was in middle school. All my parents did was teach us the new rules for the new dangers … no fussing. Just new place with different things to watch out for.

  49. Warren September 21, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    I feel for those with family that have had dogs turn on them. I have never known anyone to have this happen, only heard of it.
    Father’s best friend’s Lab pulled him from a burning cottage, and died of smoke and burns, in the process.
    My Lab bit me. Friends were over playing cards, and Lady was bugging me for attention. She finally nipped, no skin break, but hard enough. Chased her into the living room to find my friend’s two year old asleep, but face in a pillow and having a hard time breathing. Lady got steak for breakfast, the next morning.
    Our son has minor seizures from time to time, and is on medication for them. If he feels one coming on he calls our Great Pyrenese, who sits with him. Our son will pet and talk to Lego, and the seizure passes without actually happening.

    So as much as I feel for your misfortunes, I will leave my kids with one of my dogs before I would leave them with most humans.

  50. Jenn September 21, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Jennifer- You sound like me about 6 years ago when my first born was two. We have a fenced in yard and a dog who barked when strangers came near our property (and the dog would `squeak’ for friends and family). I used to let my two year old play in the yard on his own with the dog at first while I ran to the washroom. As I grew more comfortable, I would leave him to play while I made dinner, as our kitchen looked out over the yard. He had the time of his life and I think it’s helped him to become more confident and accomplished. There is so much that he CAN do that most of his peers have never tried. Parents all the time comment on how my kids can tie their own shoelaces, unload the dishwasher, walk home from school, go to the nearby shop to buy candy, ride their bikes and more- things that I did as a kid and no one batted an eye!

  51. Bec from Melbourne, Australia September 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    My 6,4, and 1 year old play outside with the gate locked. We have a big backyard. My 1 year old would happily do his own thing for an hour. I can hear if he calls me. His big sister helps him if he gets stuck etc. I look out the window every ten minutes or so. In Australia it is pretty normal to send your kids outside with the gate locked. We don’t have a dog.


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