Not Every Country Bubblewraps Its Kids

Hi zshrizbrid
Readers — It’s hard to believe, but the rest of the world is not exactly like America except with different condiments at McDonald’s. Here’s a note from far away:

Dear Free-Range Kids: We have definitely tried to embrace as much of the Free-Rangeness as possible into our kids’ life. One twist we have is that our children are both Type1 diabetic, which makes us a bit overprotective to begin with (how do you feel, are you feeling low, tell us before you eat, yadda yadda yadda).

Our family recently moved to Germany for a work opportunity. Our kids are 6 (Girl) and 8 (Boy). Both are confident and great at dealing with change. Upon arrival, the thing that was absolutely shocking to me was how un-overprotective the Germans were with their kids. You might see, for example, a pack of 6-year-old kids walking to school with no parents in sight. 8-year-olds riding the train by themselves to get to school. Giant rope parks and cool huge slides that had no safety devices you would expect to see in the States (and the parents OK with it).

Our view of the world changed again when we enrolled the kids into German public school. The lady who finds schools for kids was Type1 diabetic herself. Her first question was, “Is the 8-year-old giving himself his own insulin shots?”

Excuse me?! The thought hand’t  even crossed our minds. Apparently all Type1 kids in Germany learn to give themselves injections when they are diagnosed. No such recommendation was ever given to us in the States (and we take the kids to a progressive university research hospital).

In a note the headmistress at school sent home to the parents, there were quotes like, “Please don’t come upstairs with your kids to drop them off,” and, “Wait outside for the children when you pick them up, they know where to go.” And, “Don’t wait around – drop your kids off and leave.”

If you look around German life, this type of upbringing makes sense. The country is filled with strong, independent people who can fend for themselves in the world. It also helps that they have a VERY orderly and rules-based society, but raising kids to be confident has a massive impact on society.

My wife and I talk about this almost every night. It’s truly amazing how much just a little more leeway with your kids can bring out even more confidence in their life. Aiden (8) is learning to give himself his own insulin and he has exceeded our expectations in this matter. Why didn’t we think of this before? Makes me wonder how we will adapt back to the bubble-wrapped world of the USA when we return. — Fred Thiel

49 Responses to Not Every Country Bubblewraps Its Kids

  1. Derek K. Miller October 18, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    While I didn’t develop Type I diabetes till I was 21, I’m pretty sure kids here in Canada learn to dispense their own insulin pretty when diagnosed as well, as long as they’re not toddlers. It only makes sense — they need some sense of control over this thing.

  2. Nicola October 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm #


    How could you *want* to come back here after that? Wait til your kids are 18, then come back… that way they can grow up sane.

  3. Bret October 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    That’s ironic — nations that tend to “bubblewrap” their adults, but not their children.

    Is it too much to ask to not be “bubblewrapped” at all?

  4. Andy in Germany October 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    I guess this is so normal to us that we don’t notice it here, but yes, we do pack our 6 year old off to school on his own every schoolday morning. He meets a friend a few streets away.

    When he’s older the nearest school will be about five kilometres away in the next town. If he goes there he’ll likely cycle, and if he goes to one further than that he’ll have to use the bus/metro.

    It’s also common for children to take the metro through the centre of Stuttgart to go to the park and meet friends.

    And yes, they do become much more confident and capable than the young adults in the UK. One lad who I work with is already doing an apprenticeship, and serving on at least two charity boards, working to promote cycling and leading a weekly children’s club. He is 18.

  5. Amanda October 18, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    We’ve just spent three months in the Solomon Islands with our four children (aged 4-10) and there was no such thing as ‘hovercraft parenting’ over there! Our children have experienced freedom (to play, learn and discover) like never before, and loved every minute of it.

  6. Dave in Edinburgh October 18, 2009 at 4:02 pm #

    Many posts here recently have got me wondering about the effects of bubble-wrapping our kids on their later lives – specifically, their possible college and early adult years.

    Andy in Germany mentions young adults here in the UK, and he think he’s got a really valid point. Teenagers and young adults are so often feared here – especially when combined with alcohol – and it’s got to be said: not always with no reason. The level of irresponsibility you can witness in town on a friday night from kids either too young to drink in the first place or with no ability to control themselves can get rather alarming. (Personally I’ve great memories of doing exactly the same stuff, so I shouldn’t really be so preachy!)

    In contrast, teenagers on the continent seem to be able to control themselves a fair bit more. Generalising hugely, I know, but it’s an observation I’ve heard repeated countless times.

    Perhaps it all comes down to the degree to which our children are controlled throughout their early years. Give them the trust and responsibility they need to grow up and they’ll do just that. On the other hand, hide them away from the outside world, restrict their lives to constant rules and testing, engender a fear of society and lack of personal responsibility, and what do you get when they eventually ARE released into the wild, unable to cope? Spring Break.

    Sorry. A bit negative there, I’m rather tarring whole age groups and entire nations with the same brush which is completely unfair. Still, just a thought…

  7. Leigh October 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    My husband, daughter and I just got back from spending 5 days in Munich Germany a few weeks ago(we live in Italy now). We were driving around the Garmish area around noon enjoying the scenery, and looking to have some lunch.
    I see all these school age children from 6 to teenagers with their backpacks walking, some alone, some in groups. I assumed they were going home for lunch, or it was some kind of half day. Anyhow, I look over to my husband and say, do notice anything? Their is not a parent in sight. How wonderful it was. All these children, walking home(I assume, but walking!), by themselves. Not a single one was abducted, nor even strayed into the traffic lane.
    My daughter is 9, I want to move to Bavaria, and just the parenting attitude of it is at the top of my list as one of the reasons why!

  8. Chelly October 18, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    I love being in Germany. The local pool house only requests parents attend to kids under the age of 5, unless they have been taught to swim! My kids are not in a German school, since we live on base, they attend the base school. I have thought of taking my oldest out and putting him into a German school, but we will only be here another two years, and I feel it would hurt his education a little in the long run. The base has a mild version of American bubble-wrapped rules, such as kids being at the park at a certain age alone. My older kids have IDs to get on and off base. Once they feel confident they have learned how to get to local German parks and activities, I have told them I have no problem letting them go alone. Most of the parks are a long walk, but my kids are up to it. They can even walk to the local pool house since I got them a pass.

  9. Andy in Germany October 18, 2009 at 6:25 pm #

    It’s great to see so much positive comment about Germany. Sadly on international blogs we too often end up with dark mutterings about Nati*nal S*cialism etc.

    Leigh: The children you saw were going home for the day. Germany still has half-day school in most places but a lot of homework. Our eldest son got 30 minutes a day from the first week and now in second grade he has an hour. Children typically start at 0745 or 0830 depending on lessons and are allowed home after their final lesson to have lunch, play, do activities (We have a circus school, for example) and be kids.

    There are some mutterings about ‘standards’ from some educational ‘Experts’ who seem to think a full day stuffing kids with facts is more important, but that’s not happening yet, thankfully.

  10. Marion October 18, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    A nice blog to read, if you want to know how children go to school in The Netherlands, is David Hembrow’s ‘A View from the Cycle Path’.
    David, his wife Judith and their two teenage daugters moved from Great Britain to Assen in the Netherlands a couple of years ago because they all love to cycle and the Dutch cycling infrastructure is second to none.
    His blog is therefore a cycling blog, but he comes up with wonderful bits about the way children over here cycle to school (roundtrips up to 40 km a day!) and have afterschoolactivities, going everywhere on their bikes, being quite SAFE.

    Have a quick look, if you like:

  11. Marion October 18, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    PS if you want to see some more about after school children things in David’s blog, then type ‘children’ in the search thingy, top left.

  12. Andromeda October 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    Back when I was teaching, the mother of one of my advisees was German. We got to chatting at her son’s basketball game, and this reserved and sophisticated woman ended up on a total rant about how in *Germany* six-year-olds get sent to the corner store to buy bread all the time and here no one would ever do that. My sympathies, of course, were with her.

    (There’s a pretty big intersection you have to cross to get to our corner store, but it has a good pedestrian light. My two-year-old knows the way there already. Maybe at six she *will* be able to go by herself.)

  13. Tom Accuosti October 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    Not specifically about children, but this brought to mind something I noticed on our honeymoon in Mexico 20 years ago.

    We were in Cancun, and as we were only a 2 hour bus trip from Chichen Itza, I had to see the Mayan ruins. On the Great Pyramid, the only accommodation to safety was a low-slung iron chain that had been installed on one face of the pyramid to assist those who might have difficulty up (or down) the steep sides (the stairs were taller than they were wide).

    Later, we were sitting at a dockside bar having dinner, when I realized that the only thing separating a diner from the drink was a rope placed about knee high along the walkway. Indeed, one tipsy patron almost tripped over the rope and was saved by his friend.

    At the time, I remember thinking about how any business in the States would be sued out of existence if they didn’t have dozens of safety measures to prevent 99% of potential accidents.

    Really, the safety measures that we expect for our children started happening a generation ago when we stopped being responsible for ourselves, and started expecting the courts to safeguard us, or at least to award us lots of cash afterward.

  14. Ender October 19, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    You means the buses and trains in the US aren’t full of bloody school kids? We haven’t had that sort of peace on public transport in the UK since Victorian times, when kids were seen and not heard!

    Are there other benefits of this bubblewrap society? Do kids not run, ride and skate up and down your street at all hours screaming like they’re killing each other?

    Maybe I’ll start, where I campaign for children in London to be safer, by not being allowed to play in the street (or on the common for that matter), and have their free transport passes taken away for their own safety — I might even get a seat on the bus then!

  15. Jan S October 19, 2009 at 1:14 am #

    I have to say that I dropped my kids off at the pool in Washington State, there are lifeguards present and no specific rule against it, although 5 seems a bit young to me. Many kids in that (small) town walk or bike down to the public pool, which is basically run by college kids.

  16. Jan S October 19, 2009 at 1:16 am #

    Also, specifically speaking of Germany, homeschooling is basically illegal there. It’s a different culture, very nice I agree, but no paradise. People are expected to obey authority much more there I believe.

  17. kherbert October 19, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    @ender – The majority of US does not have efficient public transportation.

    Growing up we had to pass a swim test, and have a history of good behavior before the life guards would give our parents permission to let us stay on our own. To me that makes more sense than an age rule. It was a private swim club. Sis and I kept our privilege even after I was nearly burned by a whole 25 lbs bucket of chlorine being accidentally dumped into the pool. I couldn’t hear the evaluation whistles because I was swimming from deep to shallow end under water. Sis jumped in and pulled me out.

    Sis also fell off the high dive over the concrete because she walked off the side. (Dispute I say she had her eyes closed on a dare. She says she was talking to a friend on the low dive) She caught her the railing and with the head guard’s guidance pulled herself back up onto the board. Mom walked in in the middle of this happening. After the guard checked sis out – they made her go off the dive 10 times in a row.

  18. Sky October 19, 2009 at 2:26 am #

    If you really want kids to be more free range, perhaps it must all begin with tort reform. It’s the rational fear of litigation, far more than the irrational fear of random kidnappings by strangers, that makes over-protection so widespread here.

    I like the idea of a half-day of school with extra homework, personally, and think it would do a great deal of good especially for our ADD/ADHD kids, and I wish we had that arrangement here. It would also give parents more control over their kid’s educations, without having to bear the entire burden of that education themselves.

    I do think things that work well in one country (or state or city or town), however, may simply not work in another becuase of cultural differences and differences in development/traffic etc. And there’s always tradeoff.

    When I grew up (U.S.), we were permitted to swim alone at the pool, I believe, at age 8 and up IF we passed a swim test first. I usually rode my bike to the pool and back.

    Hmmm…I wonder how much the county would save by just giving kids free passes on public transport and making them walk over using a fleet of school buses with viritual door to door service…but, yeah, it would be a major annoyance for the business commuters, and the buses don’t run often enough to make it work well.

  19. kcab October 19, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    I think Sky may be right about the tort reform.

    My family had a similar experience in Switzerland and it was terrific for the kids. My middle-schooler really benefited from her experience in the local Swiss school with its higher expectations. We were only there a short time, but the transition back to US culture is difficult.

    One thing about authority and rules, I found that it’s a lot easier to live with reasonable rules that *everyone* follows than to be one of the few following the rules.

    Anyway, a positive sign, I’ve noticed more and more families walking to school from our neighborhood, and more kids walking themselves. There are more people walking to and from the market too, than a year or two ago. (Though, I wish there was a better walking route!)

  20. Andy in Germany October 19, 2009 at 4:44 am #


    “Also, specifically speaking of Germany, homeschooling is basically illegal there. It’s a different culture, very nice I agree, but no paradise. People are expected to obey authority much more there I believe.”

    Yes it is: I forgot that point, although there are non-state schools all over the place, even in our village, and the standard is very good in state schools anyway.

    As to following rules… yes, and then no. There is a general feeling of law-abidement, (especially in this region) but it’s not a strict as people think, and a lot more flexibility than you expect when you make a mistake. Guess how I know this…

  21. Karen October 19, 2009 at 5:08 am #

    What Sky said. It is the concern for liability that drives many–maybe most–of the insane safety regulations. Just one example: my kids went to a daycamp at the local rec center that is five blocks from our house. As they are 9 and 11 it seemed perfectly fine to me for them to walk themselves there and back as long as they stayed together. But no. All campers have to be signed in and out of camp by a parent or other adult guardian. When I pressed for a reason, the camp director admitted that he was as sure as I was that 4th-6th graders could walk safely to and from camp. The sign in/sign out thing was so that it would be absolutely clear when the camp was legally responsible for the kids and when they were not so that there would be no question in case of a liability suit.

  22. Lafe October 19, 2009 at 5:53 am #

    @Karen, @Sky, et al,

    The fear of litigation is the root cause of many rules like these (no cans on the school bus, etc.) I agree that it’s fear of litigation, but it should not be that way.

    Tort reform could help. Also, ordinary people need to realize that the “What if…?” mindset is removing our freedom to do perfectly ordinary things (like let our kids walk to the daycamp or take a piece of sporting equipment on the bus).

    We need to stand up to the daycamp or the school board or dozens of other “concerned” organizations and say, “Your worries about what *might* happen ‘if this’ or ‘if that’ is not substantial enough of a reason for you to take away my freedom to raise my family as I see fit. Demonstrate a real threat, show me real statistics, or show me some real event that has happened and is likely to happen again, and prove that it cannot be solved by some more sensible means, and I may agree to give up a freedom here and there — but I and a thousand other parents are not required to follow your rules when they are based on potentially avoiding an improbable event that most likely will never happen.”

    We seriously need to start fighting back on these things.

  23. Nicola October 19, 2009 at 6:55 am #

    I’ve been an advocate of tort reform from the word go. Just as a recent brainless example: T-Mobile (my husband works for them) had an outage for 4 days (data service on the sidekick – so if you had a sidekick, you couldn’t get email or web for 4 days). T-Mobile gave them all a free month of service to apologize for it… something they didn’t have to do given that it’s in the service agreement that they do not guarantee service 100%. What happened? Class action lawsuit against T-Mobile for data outage for 4 days.

    It’s simply disgusting… really.

    I won’t even get started on all the other idiot-proofing rules people have come up with. Ladders top my list. ‘Be careful – falls from heights can be dangerous, even fatal.’ Thanks sticker on the ladder. Without your words of warning, I might have climbed up that two story ladder and jumped off on the assumption I could fly! (Though I guess I wouldn’t know that as a child of the modern age – no one would have let me jump from anything long enough to learn the lesson!)

  24. Jacqui October 19, 2009 at 7:21 am #

    A teacher of mine said this to me the other day:

    “Some cultures view children as competent, and some view children as objects of care.”

  25. danielle October 19, 2009 at 8:25 am #


    Cans on the school bus? Do you mean soda cans?

  26. blotzphoto October 19, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    @all you Tort Reformers
    Be very careful what you wish for. It would be a shame if the Free-Range Kids movement were allowed to become a stalking horse for regressive attempts to infringe on our First Amendment rights to “petition the government for a redress of grievances”. There’s a reason tort reform has been a conservative talking point for the as long as I can remember, limiting the penalties that can be awarded via lawsuit would be an immense windfall for corporate America. Ask anyone who lived near Love Canal or drove a Pinto whether we can trust our corporations to provide us with safe products without the threat of penalty if they screw up.

  27. ebohlman October 19, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    Re tort reform: One reason many countries are a lot less litigious than the US is that they have universal health care, so if someone gets injured there’s no question as to who will cover their medical expenses. In the US, on the other hand, even if someone has health insurance their insurance company will balk at paying their expenses if someone else can be held legally liable for paying them.

    All non-Americans here (and hopefully many Americans) will already know this, but it’s worth pointing out the universal health care does not automatically mean a system like the one in the UK where the national government actually runs all aspects of the healthcare system. In almost all countries with UHC, doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers, pharmacies, device manufacturers, supply distributors, etc. are all private entities just as they are in the US. And in many of those countries, financing (insurance) of healthcare is provided by private entities; they’re just much more tightly regulated than they are in the US, being treated like public utilities whose first obligation is to provide service to their customers and only then to provide a profit to their owners. The system doesn’t stifle innovation of the good sort (creation of better ways to treat patients), only the purely financial “innovation” that consists of finding ways to take in more money as premiums while paying out less in claims.

    Germany, if I recall correctly, was the first country to implement a system like the one I’m talking about (it’s actually called the “Bismarck model”); it would be nice for German (or expat living in Germany) posters to talk a little about it.

  28. Jenne Heise October 19, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    Just found myself browsing a book that we were holding for a patron:
    The culture of fear : why Americans are afraid of the wrong things / Barry Glassner. (1999)
    It touches on how American fears have been shaped by the media and especially fears about children.

  29. Molly Santa Croce October 19, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    I love it!!

  30. Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 19, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    My husband is German and perhaps some of our Free- Range ideas come from his upbringing. However, even though we consider ourselves mostly Free Range parents we were still shocked in some cases by the things our friends let their children do in Germany. As an example, our friends’ 3 year old was crawling and rolling on the ground in empty parking spaces in a busy public parking while her parents unpacked the stroller, diaper bag, and oodles and oodles of baby gear for their 10 month old. They were so concerned about having every single baby item imaginable (while we popped our baby into a wrap and shoved one diaper in a purse), but yet were allowing their older child to roll around in a parking lot???

  31. Karen October 19, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    And yet it is not the large corporations that are instituting these crazy safety regs. It is non-profits like schools, churches, city rec departments, scout camps, etc. who do NOT have deep pockets and cannot risk being sued.

  32. Helen October 19, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    I don’t think universal health care is the key to stopping these sorts of regulations (though I’m a big supporter of UHC for other reasons).

    In the UK, where there is universal health care and things used to be a lot more free range, schools and non-profit groups started bringing in more and more silly rules once no-win, no-fee contracts became legal for lawyers. And it was because they started to get sued. When I was in school it was virtually unheard of to have a school being sued. Now-a-days they generally have a line item in the budget for legal fees. In my opinion there is a very clear line between the ability of people to sue schools etc. and the introduction of rules that assume people lack common sense.

    That doesn’t mean I think there was no benefit to introducing no-win no-fee (previously someone who wasn’t well off couldn’t really consider using the civil court system). But I do think there needs to be something that addresses the current imbalance because the impact for non-commercial organizations particularly is really damaging to society.

  33. Leigh October 19, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    Andy-very interesting to know about how their school day goes. I hope that the movement to have them in school full day, does not come to fruition. I firmly believe that just because they sit in a classroom for 8 hours a day does not mean they are getting a better education.

    Enjoy Germany, I am very jealous. Although we have been living in Italy for almost 3 years, on the occasions we have visited Germany, I have completely fallen in love. My husband tells me we can retire and have a summer home there, only because he does not want to shovel snow. I wonder if he will fufill that promise? LOL

  34. Sean October 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    Bret said “That’s ironic — nations that tend to “bubblewrap” their adults, but not their children.”

    Now that, is hitting it right on the head…..

  35. Andy in Germany October 19, 2009 at 7:26 pm #

    @Leigh: Don’t worry, we know how fortunate we are. The amazing part of it is that a Japanese/British couple can fit into here and be accepted.

    @Bret/Sean: If you mayn health insurance, don’t worry: There’s very little bubble-wrap there, and a lot of encouragement to look after yourself. You pay for it too.

    What I find is a bit bubble wrap was the expectation, especially in the traditional south, that you get qualified, get a trade, and get insurance for everything: We had a letter suggesting we take out a pension for our kids, a week after they were born.

    Fortunately this is now changing as people realise you can’t insure yourself against life, and start changing career and getting retrained more often, rather than living in a rut.

  36. andreas October 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    Well…I hate to throw any cold water on this, but….have you ever thought of over-protection as a reaction to a pluralistic society? I, too, lived in Germany for a while and loved it. I would live there in a heartbeat. And, it does have a less homogenous culture all the time—–but it still doesn’t come anywhere close to having the multicultural layers of an American City. One thing that is also true in Germany and that if your kids are doing something wrong, and Frau will call them back into line and everyone is in pretty close agreement about what social mores they are dealing with. Not so for us crazy Americans. Where I live my kids could walk around the block (and to be clear, they do) and be given about six different versions of appropriate behavior.

    I really do feel like safety anxiety/stranger danger is closely related to xenophobia.

    something to think about…

  37. Amy October 19, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    The comments about tort reform remind me of a trip we took to China, where people generally spend more time outside in public spaces than we do here in the US. We took our kids to a park and they had a huge assortment of play structures and exercise equipment that I’d never seen. When I asked rhetorically, “Why don’t we have parks like this in the US?” my husband, who works in insurance, answered “Lawsuits.” It’s sad that he’s right.

  38. Nico October 20, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    I visited Holland earlier this year to meet family and a few times I was left speechless ( and happily so) as the two young lads of my aunt’s were allowed a soda, and to run free amongst castle grounds, and generally be kids. Kids seem to be more integrated with everyone, they don’t kid-focus everything, but kids have their niche in the structure of society.

    A few days later in London, more kids, walking to and from school and navigating the underground….

    In canada, we just don’t see much of that. Kids not shadowed by parents…We’re in the process of planning to move, not just for the saner parenting methods but I’ll confess it’s a big one.

    Those two kids? Polite, wellspoken, and they respect their parents. And we had a blast. A few times they were up and down the walls of a restaurant, who wouldn’t be a bit wired when visitors are in town?

  39. Myriam October 20, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    To Ender: What part of London do you live in? I live in Walthamstow and I never see six-year-olds and only very rarely eight-year-olds for that matter unaccompanied on buses or running around on the streets or walking to school without parents. Maybe you’re thinking of older children.
    Interesting about Germany. I know a woman living here in London who is married to a German and so in a position to contrast and compare. Her husband says that children in Germany are shown more respect in general and, interestingly, are better behaved.

  40. Jen Wagner October 20, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    We currently have a German exchange student living in our home, and this letter was 100% accurate. Our 16 yo “daughter” is independent, responsible and very bright. I completely attribute all of this to her German upbringing allowing her to be “free range”. I am trying very hard to forget that I live here and should not care what the helicopter parents think about how I raise my children.

  41. Amber October 23, 2009 at 2:16 am #

    Now I understand why my German professor, despite eating loads of sweets and pastries when she was a child, is a tall but petite ( I estimate she is about 5’6′ and about 115 pounds) lady as her mother made her walk two miles to school both ways. During the winter she put on her boots and snow shoes and walked the trek to school in snow and ice, and also her school had days where they would go skiing and ice skating during that time of year.

  42. Laura K. October 25, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    I am an American in The Netherlands and one example of free ranging I DO NOT agree with is that mothers leave their babies home alone. The first times I went to the school to get my son alone, many people made comments that were nonchalant assuming the baby was asleep at home alone. Ummm what if there was a fire? Or she woke up and wondered where Mommy went?

    Other then that, I like how kids are brought up here with respect to free ranging. I see 5 yr olds walk to school alone. My son is 6 and begs to but I won’t let him because one street is very busy and I can barely get cars to stop for me with 2 kids and a stroller! And this is at a crosswalk!!!

    The best I can allow is to let him go that last street alone, but we’re getting there!

  43. maura October 25, 2009 at 2:16 am #

    I think another big problem in the us is that because most people have cars, public transportation isn’t very good. the area where I live has very few bus stops, and the nearest one is more than an hour walk, which really isn’t practical most of the time. maybe when it becomes easier for kids to get places alone, people will start thinking that maybe they can let their kids go alone.

  44. roberta October 27, 2009 at 6:33 am #

    We lived in Germany for 11 months and I agree that it’s a much more Free Range society. I walked the kids to regular German school (2 km) in the morning or biked with them and we saw lots of kids alone or in groups, some with and some without an adult. The “afternoon pickup” traffic jam was about 10 cars. After a few months I was comfortable letting my 9-year-old walk home alone, because I realized I wasn’t going to get hassled by the other parents. She loved it. If we had lived closer I would have let my 5-year-old come home alone too. My older daughter never got sent home with field trip permission forms. The first thing I knew about them was when she’d come home and say “Today we went on a field trip.” I have to sign an entire page of legal permissions for the simplest walk to the swimming pool here in Canada.

    The playground were awesome – my kids loved the “dangerous” bits the most. One note: a German relative did complain that German society was much too restrictive; “you have to prove you can swim before you can take swimming lessons” was his (not entirely serious) description. So I guess it’s relative.

  45. Fred Thiele November 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    Hi everyone – Thanks for the comments! Very interesting viewpoints all around. We are thoroughly enjoying our time in Germany and the kids are adapting pretty well. Overall, everything has been very positive. The kids are enrolled in an all-day program at school. They go from 8-12 for classes, eat lunch, then they are signed up for activities until 16:30. The full day has really helped with their integration and their ability to make new friends at school.

    School is about 1.5km away and we haven’t let them walk alone yet. I’m sure we will let them in good time, but it’s one of those big milestones to get over as a parent. The T1 diabetes always complicates the situation, but for the most part, the kids are very responsible and I have no doubt that they can handle walking alone.

    Great link on “a view from the cycle path”. Awesome website.

    Take Care

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