Here’s a cool idea I got from the gal who runs the blog Mommy Wizdom. She said: Why not post a Free-Range Challenge and have folks write in to say how it went?
Sounds good to me! So here’s Free-Range Challenge #1, based on a comment that just came into this site. A reader wrote:
I live in a typical residential subdivision with my seven-year-old son. I honestly cannot remember ever seeing any kids riding their bikes or walking around the neighborhood in the 3+ years we’ve been living here. Everyone stays on their own block or in their own cul-de-sac.
Not anymore. I’m making it my goal to change that sad fact. By the time I was seven, I had explored my entire neighborhood and the nearby woods and creek. I carried my own money and spent it on candy and trading cards at one of the stores up the street (and I walked there without my parents). And so did every other kid in my neighborhood!
So yesterday I decided it’s time for my son to start doing the same kinds of things I did when I was that age. When I got home from work, I told him he could ride his bike all the way around the block by himself. That may not seem like a big deal (because it’s not), but none of our neighbors had ever let their kids do that. So off he went. And guess what? He made it back! Same goes for the three subsequent trips he made.
I made it clear that he needs to tell us before he sets off on an adventure around the neighborhood, but no longer will he be constrained to our isolated cul-de-sac. With any luck it will rub off on the other parents in the neighborhood.
So Free-Range Challenge #1 is to do what that parent did: Teach your child how to ride his/her bike — safely! — just a little further than before. Not downtown to the strip club. Not over to the rickety bridge at night. Not to the local chapter of NAMBLA. (Don’t ask.) Just another block or so beyond the old limits, after you have duly checked out the nabe and the street crossings, etc. etc. etc. (I know — I’m sounding like a lawyer.)
In other words, just push your envelope ever so slightly and see if this feels good or nutty, and see how your kid feels about it, too. Because, after all, Free-Range Kids is not just dedicated to grrrr-ing about uptight busybodies and ridiculous regulations. (Satisfying though that is.) It’s also about making neighborhoods friendly and open again, and bringing back community, and giving kids something to do besides spending 6-plus hours a day staring at a screen, which is what the average 8 to 10-year-old now does. Getting kids out and about makes everyone happier and safer (and for what it’s worth: skinnier).
I know some of your kids are too young to bike, and some are so old they’re biking through ancient ruins in Indonesia. But for those of you who fit the bill — let us know what transpires! Your kids can write a comment too, of course. That would be great! Happy Free-Range trails! — Lenore
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