Letting My Kids (Including the 3-year-old) Play Out of Sight

Hi zzyrhebysf
Folks — This comes to us from a mom in Israel named Sorcha! Maybe your kids can have a weekend like hers! – L

Dear Free-Range Kids; I have 3 boys (10,7, 3) and since finding your blog a couple of years ago have been consciously trying to follow the Free-Range philosophy. Admittedly, this is easier because we live in Israel which in general, (although this is changing) has a more independent outlook for children.
For the last week or so, my older sons, along with some of the other kids from our neighborhood, have been building a “machanay” (a fort or clubhouse) at the bottom of our street, which is a cul-de-sac and so has little traffic most of the time. They’ve had no adult input, and my oldest has been voted the leader, so he has to sort out the inevitable conflicts which arise.
On Sunday we had a “sharav” (hot wind) an lots of the machanay blew away and made a mess. But spontaneously, as soon as they got back from school, the boys were all out there cleaning up. Right now, they’re watching my 3-year-old down there while I’m supposedly Passover cleaning. But I really wanted to share with you what they can do when given the opportunity.
Thanks for the moral support that enabled me to let them go and do something so impressive instead of keeping them where I could see them. - Sorcha
There’s just something great about kids playing on their own, outside.

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18 Responses to Letting My Kids (Including the 3-year-old) Play Out of Sight

  1. Emily March 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    You know, this reminds me of something that happened when my brother and I were 7 and 10 or so. We built a lean-to fort in the woods behind our house, in the densest area, close to the park, but not visible from either our house, or the park (house was near the top of the hill, park was at the bottom). Anyway, it was really fun to play in that part of the woods, because it was like a whole other world in there. So, we made a lean-to fort, from big sticks, and immature fallen trees, and maybe a few that we, umm, “helped” to fall, but we were kids. The end result was pretty spectacular–it was big enough to stand up in, and we had pine-needle carpeting, and log benches, that we actually dragged into the fort on our old sled. My mom didn’t like us to play there, because she couldn’t see it from the house, so after a while, she tried to enforce a rule that we either play there supervised, or not at all, but then she realized that that killed a lot of the fort’s appeal for us, so she allowed us to play there on our own again.

    However, a few weeks later, some neighbourhood kids (another brother and sister pair, except the boy was the elder/ringleader), got jealous, and tore it down, and even threatened us at knifepoint, so then my mom put her foot down, and made us build our new fort closer to the house. The kids who threatened us were allowed to continue playing in the woods independently. I’m not saying that my mom was wrong to try to protect us, but at the time, it felt like WE were being punished for the other kids’ actions, when we’d done nothing wrong ourselves. In the future, we were less likely to talk to our parents when something was wrong, because we were afraid that their response would be to “clip our wings” again.

  2. hineata March 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    @Emily – how annoying for you! And a good reminder to us parents about the negatives of trying to shelter our kids, though I am sure your mother meant well. My sister and I were much luckier, as we didn’t need to actually add much to our forts, because we had a number of big trees with natural hollows close by. Much easier to keep private if it doesn’t look like anything from the outside, lol!

    @Sorcha – good on your kids, especially regarding the clean up part! Wish them many more days of fun 🙂

  3. Jen Connelly March 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Yesterday my son’s 12yo friend came over and asked if he could take my 2yo to the park to play. I immediately said, “sure, go ahead.” He took the toddler and my almost 7yo daughter and played at the park for about an hour before bringing them back safe and sound.

    My older kids have been taking the toddler out to play without me since he was a baby. They would put him in his stroller and push him around the neighborhood. Then when he was 1 they started taking him to the park. I love that there are a bunch of kids in this neighborhood that look out for each other. My son’s friend loves kids. He adores my youngest son. He’ll come over to play with my older son but end up playing cars with the little one instead.

    And I don’t think there’s anything weird about it. I was like him at that age, wanting to be around and play with small children. Now I have 5 kids of my own. I see him growing up to have a bunch of kids or being a teacher.

  4. Vaughn March 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Amazing. Israel, a country with real legitimate security concerns, is more willing to encourage independence than the US is.

    I let my 4 year old play in his own yard with his big dog after dark and I have to fend CPS off for 4 months. Sitting in the middle of Kansas, I have a lot less to worry about than an Israeli parent does.

  5. Katie March 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    My friend’s sister (and husband and three kids) live in Israel. It is so much better there when it comes to free range parenting. I think when she was 10 her daughter started walking a mile to the mall and shopping at it all by herself. My understanding from them is that is common there. If you do that here you end up on a tv talk show or something!

  6. Miriam March 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    I lived in Israel for a year and free range parenting is very common there. One of the well known free range traditions there is sending your 4-6 year old, often with a younger sibling, to the corner store. The mom writes a list and gives the kid money, then the kid gives the list to the grocer, who puts the order together and gives the kid the change. I used to see little kids doing this all the time and thought it was awesome.

  7. raebuzzell March 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Thats awesome. We live in a very urban area, 2 blocks away is a corner convience store, the walk includes crossing a very busy uncontrolled intersection, but the walk otherwise free from physical danger. I have a 6 and 7 year old and they would love to be able to go it alone and I would love to be able to send them. So last week we had our first ‘practice run’ they walked ahead of me, and they pretended to be alone and I pretended not to know them. They aren’t quite ready- the 6 year old girl is fine on the walk there, but things fall apart inside as far as ‘crowded urban store etiqutte’ (she got in and out of line changing her mind 3-4 times), my 7 year old boy is great in the store, mindful of others shopping and aware of how much money he has, what he is allowed to buy and how to politely stand in line…. it’s the walk to and from where he is unglued. Cartwheels on the sidewalk, running, weaving in and out of people, throwing snow… in 2 blocks! So we have a little work to do, but I would imagine sometime in 2013, I will be able to send my kids to the store with cash and a list… I can’t wait, and niether can they.

  8. Emily March 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    @Hineata–That’s the weird thing; our fort wasn’t exactly private. We never actually told this brother and sister pair that they couldn’t come in our fort; we encouraged them to visit us there, and play WITH us there, but at the same time, to respect that it was ours, because we’d built it, so any modifications, etc., were up to us. They seemed fine with that arrangement at first, but then they decided they didn’t like it, and picked a fight.

  9. Jenn @comebackmomma March 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    My husband and I were just discussing this very topic the other day. We were able to play out of sight much more than most kids these days. Luckily, we have a really big yard so my kids get a sense of freedom to explore our grounds without me outside keeping a watchful eye on them.

  10. Cherry March 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    I grew up this way and had pretty much free range from a very young age. But in South Africa where I live nowadays it is so dangerous. Kids are going missing on a daily basis and getting robbed or worse on their way to school. People just don’t let their kids run around freely here anymore. It feels like prison

  11. Emily March 8, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    @Jenn–I think it’s great that you let your kids play outside independently, but where do you stand on letting them go independently to places in the neighbourhood/town, like the park, store, library, friends’ houses, etc., and walking to and from school alone? Even when I was a kid, I felt like playing outside, and functioning independently in the world, were two different kinds of freedom. I was allowed to play in the (large) yard by myself before I started kindergarten, but being allowed to leave the yard alone (or even with my brother) took a LOT longer.

  12. Earth.W March 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    I find it interesting that nations with the constant threat war upon them, let their children roam while we in safety of the West, lock them up to electronics.

  13. Jenna K. March 8, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    My kids are fortunate that we live in a neighborhood where kids playing outside unattended is a common sight. However, I’m wary of sending my 2-year-old out with them because I’m more worried he’ll be hit by a car than anything else. They get so involved in their game that they don’t really keep a good eye on him and the drivers in our neighborhood drive way too fast. I’ve been out there yelling at them to slow down WHILE walking my kids down the sidewalk. My other kids know when to stay out of the street, but my 2-year-old does not and needs more supervision than a 10, 8, 6, and 5 year old can provide him.

  14. CrazyCatLady March 8, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    This is a great post! As a kid my brother started a tree fort, which in time almost knocked the poor tree down after the other 3 younger kids joined in!

    Right now we live in an area that is naturally without trees. So my kids have been “building” forts in the hay that we have stored for the ducks and geese. They go through spurts, invite the neighbor kids over and generally get very dirty.

  15. Jennifer Tobin March 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    We have had a good amount of snow this winter so the kids have been making the most of it, playing in the snow, shovelling, building snowmen and a quinzhee. My neighbours have a two year old who is having a great time exploring the snow but since there is a newborn at home, mom can’t take him out as much as he would like. My kids (8 and 6) have been happy to help out and take him out to play. Last week they were in the backyard for three hours playing and not once did anyone need an adult!

  16. obat lemah syahwat March 9, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    than’s atas info nya…

  17. Eliza March 9, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    I live in a cul-de-sac, which has a reserve at the end of the street. There are about 30 houses and a group of 5 units. We have a range of school aged kids living in the street and they still get together to play street cricket or play in the reserve. Because I walk to work I go past the reserve around the same time every day, so the kids have been told that it’s time to come in when Eva’s Mum walks past (My name has apperently changed over the years, and I even though I teach at some of these kids school, I am still known as Eva’s Mum). It must look very funny if someone new sees this picture of me walking past some kids, say hi to them and they all run off in different directions to their homes.

  18. Aimee March 11, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    My parents went to Israel a couple of years ago. As well as visiting all the (Christian) tourist sites, the did get a tiny, sheltered taste of the culture (they were on a bus tour). My mother indignantly remarked to me a couple of times, “they let their kids run WILD there – no parents around at all! There’s 10 year olds looking after 3 year olds!” Each time this came up, I always insisted to her that that’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to be. That she wasn’t highly supervised her whole life (just the opposite). She replied, “I just can’t believe their parents aren’t worried about them getting stolen!”


    My mother has had a giant glass of the Kool-Aid.