Hi Readers! It is time for our second annual Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day: Saturday, May 21!
Last year this was an idea derided by the media right and left. “A predator’s picnic,” is how one radio station described it. “Bizarre!” exclaimed the front page of The New York Daily News, which went on to lambaste it. And when TV was talking about the day, most stations automatically showed footage of 3-year-olds in the park, as if that’s what the day was about: Leaving toddlers to fend for themselves.
In fact, the day is all about getting our kids outside to meet each other and figure out how to have some fun. The idea is for us to take our kids to the park and, if they are about 7 or 8 or older, leave them there for a little while, with each other. Why?
Because without us directing their activities and running over every time they yelp out of boredom or distress, they will actually learn how to do that thing many kids (including, to a certain extent, my own) have never really gotten the hang of: How to entertain themselves, without the help of adults or electronics. How to organize a game. How to, uh, play.
Play is not only important for all sorts of developmental reasons (here’s a piece I wrote about it), it’s FUN. But if YOUR kid looks out the window and says, “There’s nobody outside,” and MY kid looks out the window and says the same thing, neither of them will budge. So I figured a day when we ALL make sure our kids are outside is a lovely way to begin the summer. Because once kids DO find each other out there, they just may want to go outside the next day and the next and the next.
That is my “bizarre” and dangerous idea. And please remember, our parks and lawns are actually SAFER now than they were when we were kids. Crime is DOWN since the mid-’70s and all of the ’80s. (Here is an article about how crime is down, but perception of crime is up.)
So please spread the word about May 21. The idea is to get our kids to a local park, so they can meet other local kids, at about 10 in the morning. That way, instead of me bringing my kids at 11 and you bringing yours at 3, they won’t miss each other.
Last year I heard from folks from Alaska to Australia who participated and reported their kids had had fun.
Oh the horror! — Lenore