Take Our Children To the Park…and Leave Them There Day: THIS SATURDAY, MAY 21!

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This Saturday will be our sixth annual Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day. That means I have six other blog posts explaining it. Allow me the favor of reprinting one of them, here:

Yes nhyzdtzstn
folks, this Saturday is international Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day, the Free-Range holiday that’s celebrated just the way it sounds: We all take our kids to our local park and, if they’re 7 or 8 or older, leave them there for a while, starting at 10 a.m. That way, they meet up with other kids from the neighborhood — even ones that go to different schools.

After we wave goodbye, the kids will have to come up with something to do without an adult directing them.  This may be a completely novel experience. But by the time they’re done  — half an hour, or even half a day later — chances are they’ll want to do this amazingly fun thing called “playing” again. So Sunday becomes unofficial “Our kids are going to the park on their own day,”  as do  most days thereafter. Suddenly, the empty parks are full of kids again!

That is the whole point.

If you’ve got younger children, you can participate, too. Just sit on the bench while they play. Your presence creates the kind of community that reassures the parents leaving their older kids there.

“BUT TIMES HAVE CHANGED!” 

This simple, old-fashioned idea will, of course, seem radical to some. They will say they loved playing on their own when they were kids, but now it’s too dangerous. Please show them this Pew study on gun violence that states: “Firearm homicide rates in the late 2000s were equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.”  That’s right — gun crime is down to the level it was BEFORE COLOR TV.

Meantime, diabetes and obesity — the twin scourges of sitting inside — are up. What’s more, it is SAFER for kids to play than not to play. Here are some studies to wave around, if any of your friends are skeptical:

Kids NEED “adult-free play in diverse environments,” says this book review in Psychology Today, noting that a “growing body of scientific evidence confirming a direct relationship between play, evolution and brain growth.” Kids get SMART BY PLAYING.

Is it dangerous? More kids go to hospital for falling out of bed than trees. Moreover: Girls who play in dirt are healthier.

And yet: 1 in 4 kids, ages 6 to 12, NEVER goes outside without a parent. The outdoors is treated like supervised yard time at prison.

Fight the misplaced fear that has kept kids indoors or only in supervised programs. Go forth to Facebook and Twitter and the PTA to spread the word about Take Our Children to the Park… and Leave Them There Day!

And tell us how it goes! –  L

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It's a lot more fun when a bunch of kids start hanging out at the park.

Please do not let this be the official photo for “Take Our Children to the Park..and Leave Them There Day.” 

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23 Responses to Take Our Children To the Park…and Leave Them There Day: THIS SATURDAY, MAY 21!

  1. Alexandra May 18, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    I love this iniative!

  2. Workshop May 18, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    That’s my plan – get the kids to the park. Stymied by the potential for rain, and the start of garage sale season (my youngest likes to go looking for “treasures”).

    Barring lightning and downpours, we will be at a park, and I will be a discreet distance away (my oldest is 6, youngest is 3).

  3. Amy May 18, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    I wish this was earlier in the year. I realize that in some parts of the country it’s just starting to get warm, but here in Tucson, we’re already well over 100 degrees this time of year. The kids don’t want to be outside for long in the summer, unless there is a pool involved.

  4. John May 18, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    I don’t have any kids to take to the park and leave BUT I think this is a fantastic idea Lenore! Perhaps I’ll post it on my Facebook account for all of my friends who are parents of young children to see. But I’m just curious. You say, “Girls who play in the dirt are healthier.” Well, aren’t BOYS who play in the dirt healthier too??

  5. Vaughan Evans May 18, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Perhaps the best favour that adults could do is:
    -to give hem a foundation of knowledge-with which they can use-to make heir own fun-and impart games to their peers.
    MY EXPERIENCE
    On August 24, 1979, I taught a search game-t six boys(This took place at a Community Centre Picnic-for International Year of the Child(The Children’s Programmer allowed me to do that.)
    – 29 children watched me skip and scamper-with the six boys.
    Two weeks later, a young boy approached me-He told me that since then SIXTY additional children had tried the game.
    Books on games recommend that game for the 9-12 age group. But younger children can learn(by imitation-and imparting of concepts to them)

    By October the WHOLE of the local elementary school was playing it
    The children simply carried on the work that I began.
    I will add that ever since people have been living in that neighbourhood*(since 1862)it has ALWAYS been highly cosmopolitan,
    In Vancouver, then as now, there are about 100 languages spoken in Vancouver.
    In 1979 there were Vietnamese boat people.
    Even so, the children successfully imparted the rules-to non-English speakers.
    I am very proud of them.
    NOTE: For further information, you may e-mail me at;
    [email protected]
    NOTE: In 1991, I taught this game to the 1979 Children’s Programmer, his wife, and his 3 daughter.
    We played four rounds of it-at a regional park.

  6. Vaughan Evans May 18, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    Sometimes adults are playing for the very things that children are guilty of.
    One little girl approached me at a park-and asked if she could play with my skipping rope.
    I said, “Yes>” I do not want to act like a PRUDE>
    WARNING:
    A child should be told that if he/she approaches someone -CHILD or ADULT-for any reason-he muts disclose that he/she approached him.
    It isI RRELEVANT-the person’s sexual preferemce, or whether he/she has a mental problem. He or she is either behaving in a civil and proper manner or is not

  7. Andrea May 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

    Is anyone in Chicago doing this?

  8. Backroads May 18, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    I do look forward to this. My eldest is three, so I will be the mom sitting on the bench with an infant and an adult coloring book.

  9. Mrs. H May 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    SO excited for this! We were out of town and busy last year, and my daughter was too young before that. We will definitely participate — anyone else out there near Harmony Playground in Prospect Park?

  10. Donald May 18, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    How is the news about this? I remember that when you first stated this, the news was outraged. They acted as though it was a child abductor’s smorgasbord. People acted as though they though that you were worse than a terrorist! You were advertising for pedophiles to pounce!

    I’m glad the news isn’t reacting this way anymore.

  11. Jenny Islander May 18, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

    It’s Wandering Juvenile Bear Season, so the local rule is not to go where there aren’t other people (more eyes = more warning) and always carry a cell phone. Nevertheless, after I pick up my older two from a slumber party at a house I’m not even going to see because it’s on a military base and it’s less fuss and bother all around for the mom (who is married! to a man!!!!) to pick them up at the gate, I’m planning to turn them loose to go to the park. Or wherever. The youngest got a fractured humerus with a complication that his orthopedist has only seen twice in 30 years: axillary nerve palsy, which means that he whanged the big nerve that runs down the outer side of the bone so hard that it shut off. So he’s in a sling, and cannot jump/bounce/swing/romp/roll/bike/climb until the middle of next month. But we’re going for a nice long walk, weather permitting.

  12. Warren May 19, 2016 at 12:22 am #

    Falls on a bad weekend for Canadian parents. It is a long weekend that typically sees everyone traveling. On the other hand at quite a number of the family get togethers all the kids will most likely be left alone to play as they want.

  13. tbsbet May 19, 2016 at 3:06 am #

    Yes folks, this Saturday is international Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day, the Free-Range holiday that’s celebrated just the way it sounds: We all take our kids to our local park and, if they’re 7 or 8 or older.

  14. sexhysteria May 19, 2016 at 3:23 am #

    Great idea!

  15. david zaitzeff May 19, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    kids tend to be out of school from the end of June to the first week in September. How about a park day in that time period?

    Also, here in Seattle, you have picked the day of the u-district street fair. There are probably other cities that have fairs or festivals on this day. You could expand your project to “allow the kid to wander the fair on his or her own for several hours,” if the parents and kid could figure out a place to meet later!

  16. Yocheved May 19, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    The parks by me are all geared for much younger kids, but I will be taking my daughter to the beach, where she can go snorkeling in water well over her head. No, she will NOT be within arm’s reach of me the whole time! I like to tread water and shmooze with my friends, and we have to drag her out of the water when it’s time to go.

  17. Heather May 19, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    @Amy

    Tucson native here (though live in WA currently)…what about taking them to one of the parks with splash pads around town?

  18. Donna May 20, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    “kids tend to be out of school from the end of June to the first week in September.”

    In about half the country. Many of us, particularly in the south, are out of school before Memorial Day (today is our last day) and go back at the beginning of August.

    My kid is not allowed to do anything fun on Saturday until she does something with all her school stuff (do they really have to send home every single thing my child has touched at the end of school?), cleans her room and packs for her first solo plane ride happening on Sunday, so she will not be participating in Take Our Children to the Park Day.

  19. Papilio May 20, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    @Amy: Wouldn’t a body of water and water guns take care of that issue…? I may not live anywhere near Tucson but I do know it’s kinda hard to overheat when your clothes are soaking wet 🙂

  20. Havva May 20, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    Lenore, this is either an amazing coincidence, or someone over at the National Park Trust really liked your idea but couldn’t officially endorse the leaving your kids at the park half. I got a note from a fried that she was thinking of going to a local event for “National Kids to Parks Day” on, you guessed it… May 21st! I did a total double take.

    https://parktrust.org/youthprograms/national-kids-to-parks-day

    They are showing over half a million people pledging to go to “National Kids to Parks Day”

  21. david zaitzeff May 20, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    I don’t know if this fits your wish, but I would tell you the story.

    There is a man-made lake in the Seattle area which is called Greenlake. The lake is very pretty and there is a walking path and lawns for playing and sunbathing and tennis courts and other similar things. There are about 6 short piers.

    I walk at Greenlake but in an unusual way. I usually walk with a free hugs sign and I generally walk in skimpy undies. The city of Seattle has chosen to tolerate me. I don’t know all the reasons. Part of it has to do with the ambiguity of the indecent exposure law and part of it is that Seattle has a population of vocal and at times passionate clothing-optional practitioners or activists. The result is that I can and do walk at this lake in what might be ok in Hawaii or what is subject to debate in various parts of Florida.

    The vast majority of interactions I have are with adults or at times mid-teens and above. Kids who are younger tend to ask their mom or dad about me, if they comment or ask.

    I was walking today and near the ending of my walk, there was a group of about ten kids. I estimate they were of grades 4 to 8. Several of them were certainly of elementary age.

    On this day, Thursday, as they saw me, they said out loud, “There he is again,” and some of them started to wave me inward on the pier. I came partly in and a kid came outwards and we hugged. Then, he had about 4 of his friends using their cell phone to tell photos of the kid and I standing next to each other. I would have side-hugged him, but he didn’t seem to wish that. So, we stood side by side and I extended my arm around him, but without touching him.

    Various of his friends male and female took some photos. As we were finishing, a set of Chinese speaking people joined me and then requested to do photos with me. So, I then did photos with two different Chinese women as the others of the Chinese people took our photos. I could be wrong, but the kids might have taken some photos of “us” as we were posing as well.

    I did not particularly perceive a parent with the kids of elementary age and we kind of assume that if there had been an adult, the adult would not have set up photos of their kids with a clothing-challenged adult. In any case, the kids were not harmed and seemed to find the experience interesting. They also may have learned the word “bise,” since one of them asked what that was.

  22. MichaelF May 21, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    We have a town celebration going on, a birthday party, and a party for incoming Middle School kids to hang out at the middle school tonight…I think we’ve got plenty of opportunities going on. =)

  23. Cerellia May 29, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    G. made his first “baby steps” out alone around 3 (at this time, I would be checking on him very frequently). We live in the suburbs of a medium sized Irish town in an estate that consists of a big park and small roads with slow-down- ramps around it. There are car parks in front of the houses and since no one uses ours, its a good place to practice walking on stilts, ect. On the green space, there are always football matches going on and little children hide in bushes making mud potions. G. knows that he must ask me before he goes into somebody’s house or garden and I like to know more or less where he is, that’s the only restriction (and he must wear sun protection and a helmet when cycling or skating – I’m very strict on that!).
    Since he was able to crawl, I would let him move away from me and come back in safe spaces such as a park, expanding his radius gradually. On playgrounds, I would trust him to climb up as high as he wanted (but never helped him anywhere where he couldn’t get himself). This way, he has developed an impressive motor capability and a healthy risk assessing skill.
    I can see a trend here, that parents drive children of all ages everywhere from school to sport clubs and play-dates. Without having a car, I neither can, nor want to join in that. We walk or cycle everywhere and while – for the time being – I accompany G. when he has to go somewhere outside the estate, I defentitly want him to do these runs by himself, once he is 8 or 9. I also think it is ridiculous that you can’t use public transport here before 12!!! Where I grew up, it was normal to take the bus or tram to school from the beginning.
    Traffic education starts when the child is old enough to walk a few paces by himself. Even though it was more time consuming than just putting him in a stroller, I would let G. walk to shops, bus stations, ect. From that time, when crossing a road, I would take his hand and model how to cross it safely. This way, G. internalised from the beginning that crossing a road is something that requires attention and care. Since he got his first bike at age 3, he has always waited for me on the roads and he always looks very carefully before crossing the road in our estate.
    Over time, the radius, he moved away from our house, grew. Sometimes I would feel a bit uneasy about it but generally, I’m enjoying the ever-greater independence. Our estate is surrounded by bushes which are like a little forrest for the children. You can imagine the fright I got, when for the first time, I was looking for G. and couldn’t find him anywhere. Of course , he was just hiding in the bushes, but even I couldn’t shake the unreasonable panic about abduction. Now, at five, he has conquered the whole estate, moves about 500m away from the house and sometimes goes shopping at the corner store.
    I sometimes send him there on errands and he is so proud, when he buys stamps and posts an important letter, ect. He has also discovered that he can turn his pocket money into sweets there. That’s a development, I’m not so happy about, but we could discuss this and find a compromise (anyway, he is saving for something special now, which has solved the issue). One morning, he had gone to the shop to by buns, tidied the kitchen and set the table before we woke up. This was a nice suprise! He also learned to calculte with money, this way.
    Stranger danger is always a big fear but rationally, the threat of abduction is so enormosly small that I don’t see it worth while to jeopardise the healthy development towards independence for the sake of it. It is much more likely that children experience harm by people who are known to the family. Anyway, the best defence you can give your child is a healthy confidence. I know that G. would scream load enough to be heard in the whole estate if somebody was doing anything against his will.

    Most people in the neighbourhood handle things similarily to us. Our neighbourhood is culturally mixed and I can see a tendency of Irish parents being a bit more helicopter-like than the Eastern Europeans, Africans and us Germans. What I can see is that the children of the more helicopter-sort of parents tend to be slower in their motor development. They don’t truts themselves to master challenges when their parents don’t trust them. G. and his friends race around on bikes, scooters and inline-skates, blance on walls, climb trees and hammer nails into wooden logs. On the other hand, I see kids who can’t ride a bike at age 5 or whose parents would freak out if they were using a real hammer.
    I like spending time with my child, read stories, cuddle in the morning and at bed time, take time for family meals, for crafting projects and for cycling trips. ect. but at the same time, everyone, the child as well as the mother, need some time for themselves (once the baby time is over). I can’t imagine it to be pleasant when somebody is supervising you all the time. Just imagine your husband hovering over you while you are handing out with your firends. It’s really not so much different when the children are playing.
    G. goes to a school with a strong focus on nature. They go to the woods once per week and spend a lot of time in the fields and in the garden. I’m glad that they are always allowed to climb trees and use tools such as hammers, saws and carving knifes, but they are always pretty closely supervised (this is the way it has to be done in schools). I suppose for the neighbour children, who go to a more conventional school, with lots of sitting-down and little ourdoor time, the free ranging in the afternoon is a life-saver. We also go to a more “free-range” playgroup in the woods where the parents sit and chat and the children roam around and play and only come back when they need something (most of the times, it’s food).
    I think it is important that G. always knows that he can come back to me. I wouldn’t go anywhere while he is playing outside, althogh I’m almost sure he won’t need me. If he does, I want to be there.
    Now that the weather is so nice, even the more “helicopter” type of families come out of their houses. I know one of these mothers from pre-school and since I had nothing else to do, I once went out for a chat with her. The first thing I noticed was, that G. was behaving differently when I was around (as opposed to usually when I would just be peeping occasionally through the window). He wasn’t immersing into play as well being conscious that he was observerd. Even more remarkable, I found the behaviour of a 7-year old supervised child, when she ran to her mom complaning that her friend had stuck the tongue out to her. Our free-range children learn to settle those little conflicts among themselves.
    This and many other important life skills get lost, if we don’t allow our children some independence.