My 8 Year Old Went to the Park Alone!

Readers, nrekkdffhn
I think we need some good news for this lovely summer weekend. So:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I think the subject title says it all!  Last year, I was despairing of a summer stuck to my son’s side because he wouldn’t leave our yard alone.  This summer he has gone to 2 different parks within walking distance of our home… alone!   He came home after an hour of playing and told me that he felt “so grown up!”  The smile of pride on his face was worth the wait!

While at the park, there was only a guy mowing a lawn, my son said.  That man asked him if his parents knew where he was.  My son said yes.  My son almost gave up and went home, but then a bus load of kids from a summer camp came, and he had fun.

Hooray! — -Gina

Yes, hooray! And remember, you can always print out a free Free-Range Kids membership card that says, “I’m not lost. I’m a Free-Range Kid!” with space for your phone number, your signature and your child’s. Enjoy the summer!!!!

Kids! Come visit me! I am  your summer and I'm waiting!

Kids! Come visit me! I am your summer and I’ want to play!

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22 Responses to My 8 Year Old Went to the Park Alone!

  1. no rest for the weary June 27, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    That is one rusty slide in the photo! LOL

  2. Heather June 27, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    My 8 year old daughter asked to go to a public garden down the street alone to write poetry. So off she went. She came home 30 min later with 3 new poems and a huge smile. One adult questioned her, but she assured the lady that her mom knew where she was and all was fine. I need one of those membership cards! However, I am glad she handled it on her own. Maybe next time she will feel confident enough to stay for an hour. Thanks for helping parents feel normal for letting our kids be themselves! For letting them grow up! With confidence!

  3. Backroads June 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    I recall being very young and heading to the park on my own. That being the one around the corner with no streets to cross… and the one where we had to descend down a weed-covered hill behind my grandma’s house and walk through a very large, multi-field park to get to the playground.

  4. Kathy June 27, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    That’s awesome. I’m moving to a neighborhood that partly seemed awesome because of the kids walking around. Without adults and in groups. Charming. Especially after I keep having parents in my current city block my efforts at letting my children learn to be their age.

    One instance is when I let my extremely cautious and mature 6 yr old cross a 1 way street after repeating to me the rules on when to cross. I went to look for her when she didn’t come back only to find her held up by an adult making sure she was ok. And 2 other moms gaping that I would allow her in the first place. And my friends just saying how THEY wouldn’t do it, but… I’m sure I crossed streets at 6. Now, I know 8 yr Olds that can’t cross. Sheesh. This turned into a rant. Sorry. So many stories…

  5. K June 27, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Our neighborhood has a few high school age kids that hardly move at all for cars. One day one of them will get hit and then parents will be supposed to supervise until the kids are 18.

  6. SOA June 27, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    Good for them! I have also seen that look of pride and joy in my kid’s eyes when they do something independent that makes them proud of themselves. It is a great feeling to see that in them. So we got to give them opportunities to do so!

  7. ChicagoDad June 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Not long ago, my wife and I were walking with the baby in his stroller while our kids (3 & 5) rode ahead on their bikes. The kids got to the end of the block and waited, like they are supposed to. We were taking a long time, about 200 feet behind, and the cars at the corner had stopped and were waiving the kids through the intersection. We watched from afar as the kids looked both ways and decided to cross safely together. We were proud of them. They had evidently listened to all the street-crossing lessons we had given them since they were toddlers, and they made it safely. No police were called, no problems resulted. And in that moment, our kids grew up a little bit,

  8. Jill June 28, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    OK. I can understand why a three-year-old being alone in a park might be a matter of concern, but asking an eight-year-old if his mother knows where he is just seems weird. It’s a park, not a bar, for Pete’s sake!

    I’m kind of surprised that the man mowing the grass approached the boy in the first place. A strange man talking to a kid in a park could have resulted in a sticky situation for Mr. lawnmower guy, if someone had chosen to call the police.

    If a child doesn’t seem to be distressed or in any kind of danger, just leave him alone. Adults never paid any attention to me and my friends when we were at the park. Back then, kids and adults moved in separate worlds, and both sides were just fine with that.

  9. DirtyHooker June 28, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    My daughter is only 17 months old, and already she seems so happy when I let her climb the stairs by herself. She’s a rockstar at it, so I just leave the gate open and let her follow me. Now she wants to climb stairs everywhere we go.

  10. 70's Mom June 28, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    We have plenty of kids in our neighborhood and a local playground/field complex about 1/8 mile away in a very small town suburb. As a kid of the 70’s, there would be tons of kids there playing without adults all the time. Today, if I sent my kid there to play, he probably wouldn’t see another kid there (unless there were games going on), and no, I’m not thrilled with my kid playing alone in a park with no one else around. At least in the 70’s, free play was the norm and you were never really alone playing in the park–there were tons of kids. I miss those days when kids could just go outside and connect with other neighborhood kids 🙁

  11. nina June 28, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    I want to share a funny story that I happened last summer. We had a bunch of kids playing in our backyard. At some point my oldest who was 12 at the time left to visit with his friend a few miles away. I was left with a 10 yo, 11 yo, 9 yo, 6 yo and a 3 yo. Older kids wanted to go to localppark to play man hunt. My 3 yo daughter wanted to go with big kids so I grabbed a book and went with them. While I was sitting in the shade enjoying my book all the kids, including the little one, went to play in the “woods”. At some point a heavily pregnant mom with a small todler showed up at the playground and proseeded following her child every step. Occasionally she’d give me a dirty look. I’m 5 ft tall and hardly a 100lb and don’t generally look threatening, though my husband might disagree :). In about half an hour I noticed my 3 yo daughter running from the woods, grinning and screaming mama. The older kids were a few yards behind and still hidden by vegetation. At the same time my oldest boy was approaching on his bike at full speed from the opposite direction also screaming mama just for fun. You should see the look of total horror on the face of that woman. And then the other 4 boys emerged from the woods and in a matter of seconds the playground was overtaken by children. Once the other mom got her bearings back she asked me if all the kids were mine. I said just the 3, the rest are neighborhood kids. Then she asked me at what age it was ok to stop following children around. So I pointed to her that her little boy was perfectly fine going down the slide by himself while she was talking to me. She was completely shocked he could do it. But she actually set down next to me and we had a nice chat while her son played with my daughter.

  12. SOA June 29, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    I asked a little girl at the mall today if she was lost. She was about 4 and was by herself standing in the middle of the walk area kinda wide eyed looking. I just said “Sweetie are you lost? Where is your mom? and she confidently pointed behind me and said “My Pappy”. I smiled and said “Oh just wanted to make sure you were not lost.” He smiled and said “She ran ahead”.

    It is good to see a little girl like that so confident to be able to speak up and communicate with a “STRANGER!!!”. Sometimes you don’t get that much anymore. I get dirty stares if I speak to kids in public sometimes from the parents but this Pappy was all smiles. The kids kinda look at the strange adults in total fear even a nice looking mom with kids with her. Plus this little girl was smart enough to not get too far ahead and turn around and wait up for her Pappy before heading up the escalator.

    Good to know not everyone is crazy out there nowadays.

  13. Melinda Tripp June 29, 2014 at 12:54 am #

    Good story!

  14. J- June 29, 2014 at 1:39 am #


    I hope you have a good defense lawyer on retainer.

  15. Arianne June 29, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    I love hearing good stories like this. I also have one to share. A friend of mine and I were talking about the recent article by the woman who left her son in the car for a few minutes, only to have a stranger record it and report her to the police. I remarked that, even if you are genuinely concerned, calling the police is a strange first instinct.

    Then she said that recently, she was driving around town and saw two children walking down the street, about 2 and 4 years of age. She pulled over and asked, “Excuse me, does your mom know where you two are?” They enthusiastically answered, “Nope!” So she got her 4 young kids out, asked the kids to show her where they lived, and walked them home. She said that when an older child answered the door, he and their mother were very surprised to see the little ones out, and said that they were supposed to be in the backyard. Now, how does my friend’s response not make the most sense to people when they encounter a situation that concerns them, but is not immediately threatening? How different could that situation have gone if someone had decided to call the police instead?

    Also, I saw this on my news today and thought I’d share it here.

  16. EricS June 29, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Awesome! The only downside to this story, is that the boy had to wait so long before any other kids showed up. 😉

    Question is, how many parents showed up with the bus as well. lol

  17. EricS June 29, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    @Jill, it’s the mentality of people today. Media has changed the views of society, and society spreads the irrational fear mongering to others. So much, that people just take others word for it without ever second guessing. And even people that have an old school/free range attitude, find themselves “wondering”.

    I’m a proponent of the old ways of rearing up children. And now, whenever I see kids under the age of 11 walking by themselves, I often look around to see if their parent(s) were close by. Ok, it’s not exactly fearing for the kid, but more to see if they are being hovered. But it’s an automatic thing, just like people asking children on their own, if their parents knew where they were.

    Even back before the internet age, some parents would ask us if our parents knew where we were. But that’s usually if they see us still wandering about when the street lights came on. But they were the few. And “yup” was a sufficient answer, with no raised eye brows, or calling the authorities. The only times the authorities would be called on us and our parents, was when we actually did something wrong or unlawful. ie. break a window, damage a car, toilet paper a house, poo in a bag and set it on fire, etc… Not playing by ourselves, without supervision.

    And as some have said, if the child doesn’t look lost, and/or distressed, leave them be. Smile back even, and say “good day”. Kids need to understand the world isn’t a bad place. It can be bad, but it isn’t a bad one. That there are more good people, than bad. Not only do they learn, to distinguish between the two, but also have the confidence, self-esteem, and street smarts to deal with comes their way. Instead of fearing getting into trouble by the police or other people, for just having fun by themselves, or with friends, and no adults.

  18. hineata June 29, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    Gosh, I wish mine still would. The teen mall years suck….though the girls go bushwalking etc with Scouts I guess, and the boy plays basketball in different places.

    I do miss the simple ‘hanging out with the neighborhood’ days, though 🙁

  19. Arianne June 29, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    Ok, so this is kind of ironic, but the friend I just commented on earlier today who walked some tiny kids home (rather than calling the cops) just called me to say that someone called the cops on her TODAY because they disapproved of her parenting. We were just talking about this yesterday! Thankfully, the police who responded (inside a restaurant, no less) were sensible about the situation. Crazy. All I can do is shake my head.

  20. Dirk June 30, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    Finally, a kid who can explain himself and not get busted!

  21. Beth June 30, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Good for you! I also started letting my son walk or ride his bike to the playground alone when he was 8. I have even let him take his 6-year old brother now that the older one is 9. I trust them and know they would never leave each other.

    I had a similar proud free-range moment yesterday. My 9-yr old son rode his bide to a friend’s house and the pool. Later, the two boys showed up to grab my son’s ipad and head back to the friend’s house. They were rushing because a thunderstorm was coming in and they wanted to beat the rain. I sat in the living room watching out the window as my son struggled to fit his stuff in his backpack and get it on his back as the raindrops started falling. He was extremely frustrated and almost panicking but I did nothing. They left as the sky darkened and a few minutes later the skies opened up. I knew the boys could only be halfway to the friend’s house and most certainly were caught in the downpour. I did not go after them. Ten minutes later, I called and confirmed that they had arrived safely. My son told me he fell off his bike and scraped his arm and was crying, but his friend helped him, they made it to the house, and he was “fine.” Am I a bad mom for not rescuing him from getting caught in a thunderstorm? NO WAY!! He was so proud of himself for dealing with a challenging situation.

  22. A Finn June 30, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    I think I used to go swimming (by bike) to a beach by a lake as an 8-year-old with a friend who was of the same age. And of course there were no lifeguards. (When you are surrounded by lakes you get used to going swimming anywhere it’s convenient. The “rule” was not to go in too deep.) I think the kids of today do the same thing, and of course they start walking to school when they are about 7, alone or with friends…