Wonder of Wonders: Kids Play Outside, Other Kids Join ‘Em

This is the kind of letter Free-Range Kids loves to see! It comes from a mom in New Mexico. Voila:

You know what I noticed in my neighborhood which really makes me so happy?

We’ve been here for 6 years and in the summer, there was one (and I mean that) one kid that would be outside playing alone.

Well, my kids finally hit 7 and 8 and I finally grew some common sense, and let them hit the street.  For a good month they were the only kids outside.  They were neighborly, too – chatting it up and getting to know “the people in our neighborhood.”

Slowly but surely, I started to notice more kids outside.  A couple on scooters, then a couple on bikes… don’t you know, that there are now around 10 kids that end up playing outside during the day? 

My daughter told me today that next door was almost like a party – all the kids were playing together and when they got hot, they’d sit in the garage.  They’re swapping bikes and scooters and having the best time.

Thank goodness… I am so delighted to know that people noticed my kids outside and started letting their kids have some freedom too.  Before – you’d think this place was void of children.  It’s so refreshing.

Just thought I’d share.  It’s becoming a blissful world in my neck of the woods. 🙂

 

Her advice for making this happen? Simple:

 

I can’t honestly say I did anything but tell my kids to be nice and respectful to the neighbors (so that meant no screaming and yelling when playing and staying out of people’s yard areas).  Outside of that, they’ve always seen me chat with neighbors when we’d walk the dog, and wave to them when we drive, so it was natural for them not to fear the neighbors, but to chat to them too.

They’re always coming home with something now – people enjoy giving them bottles of water, suckers, freezer pops… wanna talk about people freaking out over treats in school!  Ha ha!

The best advice I can give to people is get out there, get neighborly, let your kids see you doing it, let people see you with your kids so that when they’re on their own they are familiar with the parents’ faces too, even if not names, and make sure your kids are capable of being respectful, courteous, and safe.

Here’s to more stories with happy endings like this one — especially as summer beckons! — Lenore

30 Responses

  1. Our neighborhood is like that. I got reamed on a parenting site when I said I went to go to the store but first I had to “find” my kids who were off playing with friends. They were at a friend’s house down the street with about 12 other kids (between the 2 houses) including several in the 3-4yo bracket (my 3yo was with them). I kind of felt bad for the parents because their yard was just filled with kids but they didn’t seem to mind and the kids were having a blast just hanging out, trading scooters and playing ball.
    I was told I was negligent because I didn’t know exactly where my children were and what was I thinking letting my 3yo wonder more then 3 feet from me.
    I knew they were safe. They were either in our yard or at my son’s best friend’s house (3 houses away) or where I found them. And they weren’t hard to find with the elevendy billion kids running around, lol. I thought it was great to find a mass of kids just hanging out and goofing off (the girls were out front getting lessons on cartwheels from an older girl).
    Most of the blocks around here are like that and I’m glad.

  2. The kids across the street are ALWAYS in their front yard – name a sport (any sport! except cricket) and they are playing it. If the weather is between 45 – 90 degrees out (any season) they are OUTSIDE. I love that I have this great example for my own kids, who now BEG to go in the front yard.

    This spring, we began allowing my my 3.5 yo son to play outside in our front yard. I am grateful that I have this nice neighborhood that allows US to do that.

  3. I live on a cul-de sac and the just a few of us parents lets the kids ride their bikes in it alone. Most parents dont let their kids out of sight.

    While I’m not terrible worried about abductions, I am worried about the traffic, and my 6 year old isn’t ready to be riding further than that yet, as he doesn’t pay enough attention to cars. The cul-de-sac suits him fin for now.

  4. What a wonderful post and comment. When kids are out playing together it isn’t long before neighborhood parents are communicating more, initially about the kids and then becoming friends with a sense of caring and trust about all the children and folks in the hood. You may end up with that “Village” it takes to raise children. And if there ever is a dangerous person in the neighborhood there are lots of trusted adults to notice and listen to children’s concerns and keep them safe. This neighborhood sounds a lot safer than the ones that keeps families isolated and the kids locked in the house all day.

  5. Harley AMEN, and amen to Ms. Skenazy and everyone else. We have a great neighborhood and if I was locking my kids up a) we’d never meet any dogs, and b) I wouldn’t have the support network I have now. My spouse works long hours and weekends, and if God forbid anything happens and I need to hit the doctor or the ER, I can just send the non-sick/injured kids across the street to a neighbor at a moment’s notice without a thought at any time of day or night. Or, you know, GO TO THE GROCERY STORE BY MYSELF! Revelation . . .😉

    On Saturdays the houses in my neighborhood are like one big progressive meal; once the million kids finish the fruit at one person’s house, they move on to popsicles at the next person’s house, cupcakes at a third . . . you get the picture. I love that my kids are growing up with a real “kid community”.

  6. I love hearing about these great neighborhoods where kids are out and about, and everyone’s getting to know each other. I live in a neighborhood just like that, and 5 years ago when we moved in I felt like I was in “Leave It To Beaver” land. It seemed so unusual, and great! It’s just what I always wanted for my kids, because I had that growing up both in a small town and in a suburb of Minneapolis in the 70s/80s.

    Keep the stories coming. It shows that it’s not all horrible out there, and that hopefully encourages others to make a change.

  7. My neighborhood, in fact my whole city is like this. My kids started transversing our town on bikes in 4th grade, by bus in 6th grade, and subway in 7th grade. We have kids that congregate in our village centers, depending on age. The youngest kids choose the village with the toy store that welcomes them, and a penny candy bar. The middle school kids hang out in the city center where there are clothing stores as well as pizza and burger places (but no chain restaurants at all), and by high school the kids are hanging at the various parks playing ultimate frisbee and other pickup games. Kids are out on their own, in groups, and in crowds hanging out and playing. It’s what makes our city so nice to live in.

  8. My kids are too young yet to be out and about alone (2 years, and 5 months) – but as I want that kind of neighborhood for them, we are organizing for all neighbors with kids to get to know each other. Just recently we hosted a ‘neighborhood kids party’ and invited all families in a 10-house radius who have kids (below teenagers.) It was a great success – we had about 40 people at our house, pot-luck style, and I think if we keep doing this, it will go a long way towards making all of us parents feel ok, a few years down the road, having our kids run around between our houses.

    That’s how I grew up – and how I would like for my little ones to grow up, too.

  9. The neighborhood I live in is very active with kids, too. That’s why we moved here, actually. Kids are out and playing in the street, in people’s yards and out on the lake when it freezes in the winter. My oldest is just getting to the age where we feel somewhat comfortable with him out with other kids without us watching, but it’s a great neighborhood. Who would have thought we’d find such a situation in New Jersey?

  10. My neighborhood has been doing better like that lately. It took a long time because at first my kids were the only ones on our street. Finally a few other families with kids of various ages have moved in.

    It’s my neighbor’s house that is the center of activity. I keep inviting her to send her kids to my house too, but it never happens. But my kids run back and forth quite freely whenever the neighbors say they can come over.

    We’re about to move, and I hope we can find kids for mine to play with sooner. I don’t mind a crowd of kids either… busy kids are so much happier.

  11. Well, it’s almost 8:30 pm, I guess I should go find my kids soon! But really, it is great to have a neighborhood where all the kids are out and about. One thing that really helped us meet more of our neighbors was getting a dog. This forced us out several times a day. The older neighbors like to visit with us, and talk about a watchdog system! I don’t think anything could happen in this neighborhood without at least 2 people noticing. Our older neighbors started a petition to lower the speed limit in the neighborhood, because they are afraid for the young children!

  12. This just makes me sigh and say, “Amen”.

  13. Had a great free range week. Sunday my three grandchildren sat on the stoop, we live in Brooklyn and sold iced tea, brace yourself, to neighbors and strangers passing the house, My 5 year old grandson ran up and down the block inviting people to buy his product. After awhile some kids from around the corner joined and it became a neighborhood kids event. They made $40.

    Two days later the kids from around the corner saw us outside and asked if my older granddaughter, (10) could come out and play. It was after dinner but still light out side. They went around the corner and played in the street like I did at their age. For the first time I got to say those magic words, “Be home when the street lights come on.”

  14. Children DESPERATELY need plenty of outdoor time, especially in this age of techno-overdrive. The importance of children and imagination and the outdoors is so, so crucial to a healthy development. Not a “kill your television” type of person, but we (parents) have got to get more strict with making our children (teens included) get the heck outside more. A fantastic organization working on this very issue is: http://WWW.ALLIANCEFORCHILDHOOD.ORG. Check it out!

  15. I’m all for getting the kids outside. I often wish I could send them out to play, like my mom did. We knew to stay on the block and that was fine. Now though, we have a registered sex offender living around the corner, so I’m more careful. If they’re out, I’m out, and I know where they are. I want the world to be as safe as my kids believe it is.

  16. If young kids got less homework, they’d have more time to play outside. So many times, it’s a beautiful day, I want my kids out, but homework is due. As a mom, I don’t want to teach my kids to blow off their work, but it’s difficult when you think 21st century priorities for little kids are out-of-wack.

  17. I wish very much that this was possible where I live. My immediate neighborhood has mostly older couples with grown children so there aren’t any other young kids close by for my daughter to play with outside. But also, we live on a very, Very, VERY busy street and my biggest fear is that she might run into the street after a ball or something and get hurt by a car. If and when we eventually move, finding a neighborhood with kids and a street free from lots of car traffic is my greatest wish. In the meanwhile I kick her to the backyard whenever the weather permits!

  18. We have a great backyard, but the kids always want to play out front — that way they can see who else is out. When we bought our house we were looking for a basement and schools, what sealed the deal was the neighbors hanging out in the street and the statement, “you’ve just GOT to be here for Halloween.” Since then, I did a good bit of real estate PR. One developer told this story: He lived in an old house, not because he liked home improvement, but because the neighbors were always out and about. One of his neighbors left, bought a fancy new house, in a fancy new subdivision, but every Halloween, they came back to the old neighborhood. Why, because no one was out in his fancy new neighborhood. People buy a house, but they live in a neighborhood and when it comes down to it, we all want someone close by for a playdate. So get out and let the kids out, it’s good for your property values.

  19. On these warm, light summer nights my 2 y.o. and I go out walking after supper almost every night. I have to say I am kind of flabbergasted at how few kids are around. I know our neighborhood’s full of them and we see lots of people (mostly adults walking dogs), but very few kids. It’s sad, really. That said, my son will grow up knowing our neighbors (at least the adults with dogs!) and I fully intend to let him out and about independently once he’s old enough.

    I will say that the kids in our neighborhood walk or bike to school, mostly unaccompanied by adults, so I’m not sure that it’s that parents don’t want them out by themselves or whether they are (a) staying in to watch tv/play indoors or (b) engaged in scheduled activities elsewhere.

  20. Lesley: Do some research to find out how that sex offender got on the registry. The odds are about 2:1 that it was for some reason not involving rape or child abuse. Getting caught having sex as a teenager can put you on the registry; even trivial stuff like public urination or skinny-dipping, stuff that’s punishable with a small fine, can do it (states get Federal money based on the size of their registries, so they have an incentive to put people on them for long-ago youthful indiscretions).

    Contrary to popular belief, people who abduct and rape kids get long sentences; there are very few people at large in the community who have done that. It’s true that high-profile child-molestation cases often result in acquital, but that’s because in the vast majority of genuine cases, the offender immediately confesses and pleads guilty. The high-profile cases occur when the evidence is poor but the district attorney is running for re-election; there was stronger evidence in the Salem witch trials than there is in most such cases, and a lot of the high-profile cases get reversed on appeal (and note that most of the questionable cases involve accusations of incest).

  21. We moved in May from a neighborhood where all the kids congregated outside to play almost daily to a neighborhood where we have a park directly behind our house that was completely empty. My kids have always played outdoors since they were big enough to walk and they were thrilled to have an actual park out our back door but were disappointed at the lack of kids. After a couple of weeks we saw a couple of kids coming out more often, now six weeks later our park is packed with kids and my kids are loving life again. Like they say, the power of one can make all the difference.

  22. Yay for playing outside!
    My boys used to be out all the time but the kid’s have grown up and all that’s left is my littlest and no one to play with without orchestrating a date. I love living in the country but it would be so nice for my boy to have the childhood that I had where it was out the door in the morning and back for lunch, then gone again til dinner. I had an approximately four square mile radius to roam and kids everywhere. *sigh*

  23. Wonderful to see this! One of the things I love about my neighborhood is the fact that kids are always outside playing. At first, the neighbors assumed I wouldn’t want them in my yard because I’m childless, but I made it clear that I loved having them there as long as they don’t trample my flowers. And so far, so good. I enjoy hearing them out there playing, and they love playing with my (also free-range) cats and even helping me in my garden.

    The only other rule I insist on is that if they come inside my house for any reason they have to let their parents know first.

    Overall, I think it’s wonderful. There is a wooded area that borders our neighborhood and the kids love to explore there. They also walk, skateboard,or ride their bikes everywhere. These kids are fit, healthy, and very much in touch with the natural world–everything that is good for them, and all for free.

  24. I put in special efforts to ensure my kids went to a school where they still got 2 recess periods and a full hour of play at lunchtime. This was as much for their sanity as my own – I don’t want to be dealing with kids who, at 4pm, have had NO physical activity all day.

    Children are like wild animals and pets – they belong OUTSIDE.

    Jeni
    http://highlyirritated.wordpress.com

  25. Our block has become like this too, there was one little girlalways banging on doors, “Can so-and-so come out to play?” and they did, and now, when I thought we literally had NO kids (other than her and my children-18mo &newborn) on our block, we found out we have 8!! Husband and I always eat outside everyday during the spring/summer/fall as do another couple across the street. If there was anyone concerned for safety, surely we four adults could see anything going on in broad daylight!
    And don’t come back in until the street lights go on!🙂
    Sarah M

  26. My kids have been playing more and more in the front yard, and yes other kids join in from the neighborhood. One day some of the older boys (ages 10-12) walked around the alleys to find stuff to try to make some kind of scooter thing). Often times it’s a game of baseball or playing with the hose and water balloons. It’s not every day, but it’s a start. We live in Arizona so sometimes it’s too hot to play outside for long, but that is what hoses are for.

  27. Typically, I think kids are very social. When there are kids playing outside, it makes other kids more out to come out and play. When everyone gets along – it’s wonderful. And when they don’t…well, that’s life.

  28. Highlyirritable,
    Where did you find a school that offers 2 recesses and an hour lunch?! This must be a private school since I cannot imagine any public school being that intelligent to understand that it is more beneficial to their children (although, not their state test scores, which clearly is the main concern in any public system) to be outside at length instead of sitting quietly for hours inside 4 brick walls?! Do share! Our children barely get a 20 minute lunch and recess is taken away if you didn’t do your homework! Its a travesty.
    http://www.allianceforchildhood.org

  29. And I should add…while this may not be the norm for Ontario, my daughter is in grade 4, and has had no more than 3 hours of homework COMBINED in all her years. Even when she was away on vacation, or off sick for a week, her teachers have always found a way to make it work, without making her do EXTRA work.

  30. Well Ontarios got it going on!!! Way to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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