Take your kids to the park.....and leave them!

Sarah - posted on 05/26/2010 ( 23 moms have responded )

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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_an...

I know we've debated this before, but thought this was an interesting article about being a "free range"parent.
I know i was going off and playing on my own or with friends when i was about 8 or 9.
My kids aren't old enough for that decision to be made yet, but i do hope i'm brave enough to let them go off and play like i did when the time comes.

So are these "free range" parents mad?
Is the media to blame for scaremongering parents into keeping their kids under lock and key?

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Jodi - posted on 05/26/2010

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Forget the park, I sent my 12 and 10 year old to do the shopping for me a few months ago......handed them the money and the list and off they went. They did a FANTASTIC job, and as part of the deal, the next morning, they got to go to the shops and buy an ice cream then head off to the skate park with their scooters. Why not give them some freedom if they can prove some responsibility. Yes, I worry. But heck, the older one will be behind the wheel of a car in 3 1/2 years, so I figure I need to get over it, and just give them a little bit of freedom at a time.

*Lisa* - posted on 05/28/2010

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Unfortunately, our kids these days are more likely to fall prey to someone we actually know, like in our own family, rather than some random stranger lurking in the local park. :(

Esther - posted on 05/27/2010

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But that's the thing - crime is actually lower now (all around) then it was when we were kids. We just hear about it more so we feel unsafe even though we are actually safer.

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Emma - posted on 06/01/2010

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I was a free-range kid when i was young, but i can not afored my kids the same level of freedom i had as a kid, when i was 10 we lived in a very small village in the UK where everyone knew everyone. I now live in a city in South Africa so it goes with out saying things are different hear regarding safety.
I will let my kids when older walk to a friends house up the street but only if i call the friends mom and say they are on there way and she calls to say they got there safe.

I think the amount of freedom is relative to where you live and the maturity of the individual child,

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I would feel comfortable with allowing my daughter to walk to the park at age 7 or 8. We have tons of relatives and friends in the neighborhood, so if she were to get into trouble or feel unsafe, all she'd have to do is go to one of their homes (if she were closer to there than our home).

And, yes, I do realize that most of the time children are harmed by people they already know. That is where teaching them how to defend themselves and teaching them what is inappropriate touching comes into play.

?? - posted on 05/28/2010

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From the time I can remember we ran around the neighborhood without parental supervision... there were always at least 2 kids, never alone though. The buddy system, ahhh, those were the days.

We would climb the mountain behind the house, play in the woods in the backyard, run down to the park, we'd go between our place and our grandparents place with nothing more than a yell at the house to let mom know where we were headed and if we were at the park and went to Poppa and Nanny's we'd call from there and just say where we were and if we were goin back to the park or over to the school or down to the beach or back home.

Granted.. I lived in itty bitty town. Where there were houses surrounding a baseball field and small playground and that's about it. So everyone looked out for everyone and we all knew each other.

We had to worry more about bears and cougars and coyotes than strange humans lol

That being said, I'll be teaching my son the same stuff I was taught. How to deal with strangers as well as how to deal with strange animals!

Johnny - posted on 05/28/2010

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When I was a kid, I was allowed to run up into the next block when I was 5, I walked to and from school on my own by the time I was 7, and I was allowed to go downtown with friends by age 13. When I was young, there was a serial killer in our city kidnapping and murdering young girls and boys, named Clifford Olsen. And there was a spate of other single events like this. Things here are much safer than they were when I was growing up, and the crime rate has gone down significantly. Obviously, things can and may still happen, but there is little aside from keeping your children permanently locked in the house, that you can do to prevent them from stranger abduction. But most crimes and victimization of children is done by people they know, not strangers on the street. Keeping them locked away or supervised constantly won't protect them from that.

I plan to do similar to the way my parents did things. They constantly reinforced street smarts and safety, from when I was very young and I think it worked. When I was 11 my friend and I were by the train tracks and were flashed by a passing jogger. We ran straight to the road, flagged down a car driven by a woman, and told her to call the police. When I was 14 a man posing as a security guard at a mall tried to convince me and my friend that he'd seen us shoplifting and that we had to "come with him". Who knows to where. We told him to call the police and he took off. My parents were careful to teach me not to trust strangers and the confidence to stand up for my own safety. I hope I can do as well with my daughter. She'll be allowed to play in our complex playground alone by the time she's 5, although I can see it easily from my kitchen.

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When I was little my mom let me (6) and my 2 brothers (8&9) walk to and from school maybe a half a mile? But then the town we lived in was like half as big and we did encounter a guy driving by asking if we wanted a ride a few times... We then moved to a smaller area and I would walk across the street to go play with my friend when I was 9...So maybe when my son is 9 I'd let him go to a neighbor friends by himself? I've got 6 yrs to think about it :) The closest park is 15 min. walk. He will not be going there alone! I know that they need their freedom and all that BS but what is soo wrong with sitting at the park watching your kid? Take the time to read a book? IDK...then again, the park isn't a block away from me? Maybe if it were I'd feel different...I live next to a road and my kids are not able to go outside alone...My neighbor lets her 7 yr old play outside alone, while she checks on her outside...It always makes me feel uncomfortable...but my oldest is almost 4? I don't plan on living here in 5 yrs so we'll see how it goes where we end up!

Ava - posted on 05/27/2010

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When I was a kid, I could go to the park by myself or with friends and play all day and be fine. I used to go to the public pool alone and be there from opening to closing time without supervision. . . but when I was a kid, I also used to be able to drink water out of the hose behind my house and not taste disgusting minerals or get parasites and get sick. Times have changed. Although we would love the idea of getting the break and being able to trust our neighbors to make sure nothing bad happens, it just isn't like that anymore. The stories of the abductions that occur even on kids' own front lawns are HORRIFYING and I would NEVER let my daughter go play at a park without my supervision unless she's under the supervision of another parent, or in a LARGE group of friends her age and will be staying in public where everybody can see the whole time.

Joanna - posted on 05/26/2010

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I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone, so my parents had no problems letting me and my brother wander when we were little. We were always going up the block to play with our friends, or to the park, even at 5 years old.

Now, however, I'm a little more hesitant, living in a super busy part of Southern California. We live in really nice area right now and the park is a block away, so maybe when my daughter was 7 or 8 I'd let her go there with friends. But my husband works right near Compton in LA and wants us to move closer to work, so it'd be in a less safe neighborhood (no way it'd be Compton, but it'd be in the surrounding area), so I don't think I'd let her go out unattended then. It really depends on where you live.

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My 11 and 9 year old are allowed pretty much most places within a mile radius. I always know where they are and they both have mobile phones so i can get in touch with them if i need them or they can phone me to tell me if they are going somewhere different to where they told me. I think once they get to a certain age and if they are responsible enough then they should be allowed out on their own saying that i find it a lot easier knowing theres two of them together.

Celia - posted on 05/26/2010

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just bought a house within eyesight of a park so I hope my son will go there without me one day!! lol
Gives him the freedom and me the peace of mind of being able to go to the kitchen window and see him once in awile

Esther - posted on 05/26/2010

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I agree with the majority here. I think you have to use your own judgement in what your particular child can handle and the area you live in. In my case, my son is 2 so I'll have to wait and see how responsible he is at 6 or 7, but I do plan to give him a pretty free range existence. I too live in NJ and where I live, I don't think I would have any problem with him going to the nearby park by himself or with a friend. Nor would I have any problem with him walking over to a friends house. When I was growing up people didn't even think about these things. It was a given that kids went outside to play in the neighborhood. It was a given that they would ride their bikes to school (I'm Dutch, it's mandated ;). I must have been about 6 or so when I started riding my bike to school by myself and it was probably a 2 mile ride. Once my brother started going to kindergarten he would ride on the back of my bike and off we went (so we were 8 and 4 or so). I was hit by a car twice but only suffered some bruises. My mom would come to the school to make sure we were OK and then went home and if my bike was still in one piece I would ride it home again that very afternoon. My friend and I would just randomly ride our bikes (detect a theme here?) around for hours on end and purposely TRY to get lost (we always found our way back). Mind you, this was well before cell phones. I think it's important to give your kids a sense of independence and to give them some responsibility and let them know that you trust them to be able to handle themselves. I now work for someone who has a 20 year old daughter and when she has to come into the city, he STILL has to go with her because she's scared to get on a train and a subway by herself. I plan to make sure my son won't be like that.

Becky - posted on 05/26/2010

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I think you have to find a balance. I agree that we probably do shelter our kids too much and are a little over-paranoid as a society. I know I am. The other day, we took our boys to the park (the oldest is only 2, so they're way too young to go alone) and there was this older guy - probably in his 40s - there, all alone, driving around his remote controlled car. We got twitchy about him and left - what does an older single guy need to be doing alone in a children's playground? There was a group of 4 kids there, probably 10-11 years old, without parents, and I felt so nervous leaving them there with that guy. I just had to trust that their parents had taught them to be wary! I never heard of any abductions on the news, so I guess they were fine! Chances are, the guy wasn't a pedophile either, just wanted to enjoy the park on a nice holiday Monday, but I just think that's how paranoid our society has become when you suspect anyone who is the least bit out of the ordinary.
Anyways, I think you have to use common sense. I agree, 10 years old is old enough to go to the park alone - but, it depends on the park. If it's the neighborhood park just down the street from our house, sure. If it's the big city park which is probably a 20 minute walk away and is full of all kinds of people, including drug dealers, and has a large river flowing through it, no way! But when I see small kids - 4,5,6 years old, riding their bikes or playing in the playground with no parent (or older sibling) in sight, well, I just think that's stupidity on the part of the parent.
I know that it will be hard for me and I'll be nervous, but I hope that when my kids are older, I'll be able to let them go places on their own, within reason. I think that as long as you teach them good common sense and decision making skills and have some sort of safety plan in place with them, they will be fine.
I agree though, it does depend on where you live too. We're just moving to what seems to be a very quiet, family-friendly neighborhood, so I think I'll feel a lot better about it than if we lived, say, downtown, or in the "hood."

La - posted on 05/26/2010

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I live in NJ...there aren't many places I would ever feel safe leaving my children. Have you seen the sex offender registry for this state?! We are infested with perverts in every city. Every parent who ever had a child abducted or molested always said they didn't think it could happen to their children...I don't want to take the chance of being that parent just to give my 9/10yr old a bit of freedom.

ME - posted on 05/26/2010

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We have babies, so I haven't had to make this decision yet...but, if we are still in this neighborhood, my kids won't be going anywhere by themselves. I've had people offer me drugs while I was pushing my baby in a stroller! Hopefully, we won't be tho...SO, I think it will be VERY hard for ME, but my hubby is way laid back...he will make sure that I don't get too controlling or too limiting of their freedoms...

Tah - posted on 05/26/2010

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i can see the park from my bedroom, living room, kitchen and the patio off of my living room..so when my 13, 8 and 3 year old go to the park to get them out of the house while i clean or do some reading..i am peeking every 5 seconds to make sure that my 13 year old is watching the 8 and 3 year old and i am watching him and i just end up going over....but i also think they should have freedom...i am in the middle..my parents were super protective, but we learned independence at the same time..my sisters had to map out their bike route..like literally..we are making a right on 57th street..a right on springfield, a left on belmont...yes...but we also learned how to get around the city at a young age on the buses and trains...i used to travel to south philly by myself for dance class and summer camp for a long time..then my brother started going..for the art program of course..lol..and we learned from there...

LaCi - posted on 05/26/2010

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I was off and going to the park and friends houses and such when I was about 7. I think that's a good age. I also think it depends on the kid. I'm fairly comfortable in my current neighborhood, there is one grade school across the street from me, so I'm totally comfortable with him going there young, another is about five blocks away, pretty comfortable with that one as well. I would be a little more concerned with the city park which is not too much farther away, but is across a main road. However, once hes a little older I will probably be more comfortable with that one, because the town is in the process of installing a BUNCH of new stop lights and sidewalks so the road is nearly as scary. It does depend on the kid though, I have to be confident that he's alright doing all these things on his own ;) As for going to friends and such, I would imagine he'll have a lot of friends right here. My neighborhood is basically kids. Containing the 2 grade schools, middle and high school it's more attractive for parents looking to buy homes than anything, so there is no shortage of kids for him to play with around here ;)

Lady - posted on 05/26/2010

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It's hard to let your kids go but I think we have to just bite the bullet and do it. I was 5 and walking back and forth to school myself (well with a friend of the same age) but my son was 8 before I let him walk home and the school was even closer - it was just along a straight road with no big roads to cross and houses almost the whole way, the only time he wasn't right beside houses was where I could see him from an upstairs window. My 9 year old now walks back and forth to school every day and although I worry about her I know realistically there are other children and parents about all the time and she actually enjoys it. My oldest is 11 now and goes off quite happily by himself all over the village where we live on his bike of by foot - he has his phone so we can keep in contact and my 9 year old is allowed to all the different parks as long as we know where she is. I think it's important to allow children freedom because how else are they going to learn about the world. We are breeding a world full of children who can't problem solve or do anything for themselves. They rely on mum or dad to take them everywhere and do everything for them. If they are tied to the house or the apron strings at all times they will become afraid of being out on their own and exploring. It's important to teach them safety and know where they are and who they are with but at some point we need to learn to let go a little.

Caitlin - posted on 05/26/2010

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I guess it depends where you leave. Here I don't think it would be overlyu dangerous for my daughter to go to the park when she was old enough, but the mommy in me would have a hard time letting her do it. For her it would only happen when she is able to administer her epi-pen and the friends she is with would know what to do if she has an allergic reaction. I'm going to consider getting her one of those phones with only 3 phone numbers and 9-1-1 pre programmed in case of an emergency like that...

*Lisa* - posted on 05/26/2010

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This is an interesting one Sarah! I am in 2 minds about it. I think 10 years old is old enough to go to the park alone but still my stomach churns at the thought of letting my boy out of my sight when he grows up. I was pretty much allowed to run around wherever I wanted but unfortunately that didn't make me wary of strangers. In fact when I was 9 I got in the car with a stranger much to the horror of my mum!

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