More News of Tide Turning! Two Girls Make Own Playdate!

Hi Readers! This just in! Yes, it is the tale of an extremely normal childhood moment, but in this day and age it counts as Big News!  Ring the bells, hoist a juice box and read on!

Dear Free-Range Kids: I had a Free-Range victory yesterday as well! My 8-year-old daughter (third grade) has a girl in her class this year who lives in the same little section of our neighborhood as we do. It takes about five minutes to walk to her house.

The girls have played together several times throughout the school year. Usually they all (the mom and her two daughters) come by our house on the way to the park or something or we (moms) arrange something by phone. The last couple of times that they have invited my daughter over, my daughter has walked down to their house without me.

Yesterday their daughter came to our house all by herself, knocked on the door, and asked if our daughter could go to her house to play. The two of them walked together back to the girl’s house.

I was so excited! We have three kids ages 5, 6, and 8 and we have children the same ages all over our neighborhood. This is the first time any child has ever come over by themselves and asked to play.

I go back and forth between being ecstatic and being slightly depressed that I would be so happy about something that was so commonplace when I was growing up. Baby steps… — Susan

16 Responses

  1. Just yesterday at dinner, my 6 year old daughter told us that while playing in the front yard afterschool (by herself) a woman walked by with a dog. My daughter struck up a conversation with the woman, asked to pet the dog and asked a few questions about the adorable dog. I believe my daughter told us because of the ‘stranger danger’ info she gets at school (which I support). I think she was checking to see if what she did was ‘ok’. And it was! And I’m glad she felt comfortable to follow her gut instinct in the moment. And I’m glad she checked with me after the fact!

  2. It floors me that this is the reality.

  3. It _is_ kind of sad, that this would be something one would get ecstatic about as it should be the rule. We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, and they go knock on each other’s door all the time, they meet out on the playground, and they stroll around the neighborhood. It used to be that there were only two other boys my son would play with, and they didn’t have to tell us moms when they went over into a friend’s house to play — we knew where to look for them anyway (and where to get a cup of coffee, ;-)). Now there are more boys, so he needs to tell me, when he goes to somebody else’s houses, so I don’t have to run all over the neighborhood to look for him, ;-). Actually, we are in the midst of negotiations on the things he has to let me know about and others that I don’t even want to know about … I’m kidding, I mean: the things that are okay for him to do without asking for permission first.

    But it was only, when the gang started to leave the neighborhood to go on “excursions” that I felt, they were actually “free rangeing” and becoming independent (and having fun).

    So long,

  4. Wow, hadn’t realized that even this was unusual now. It was a daily occurrence when I was 5 years old in 1986 in suburban California. By the time I was 7, people would be in my back yard before I got home because we were in different schools that let out at different times and mom had let them in.

  5. inna –

    I’m one of those guys who is frequently guilty of “walking while male” (It’s the new Driving While Black!) in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, and frequently – as in almost always – have a 40-pound rescue mutt who loves kids on a leash. Doubt if one kid out of 20 in the ‘hood knows my name, but if I am alone I get asked several times a block “Where’s Spot?” because they love to run to the sidewalk and pet him. I love my neighborhood!

  6. This topic always is confusing to me, because it IS common in my neighborhood! My yard is constantly full of kids in the summer (we have a pool and a trampoline). The last time I arranged a play date for either of my kids was when they were preschoolers.

  7. WOW. I must say, I understand that this is somewhat of a big deal now, but this was the only way to play when I was the age of the girls mentioned (and even younger!) there were several other families with children on our block, and the group of us loved to run wild through the neighborhood, the thin strip of woods that separated the subdivisions, and around and through each other’s houses. the only time I recall my mother arranging play dates was for friends from school who lived too far away to walk.

    and I was that age in the early 90’s, when crime was evidently at its peak! I guess it just goes to show how paranoid so many people have gotten… I still can’t hardly process people who would call the police on a child walking alone.

  8. Lenore, every time I read your blog I’m alternately horrified and energized at the prospect of starting a family next year. Horrified to think that Free-Range is now considered ground-breaking and energized at the thought that I can play a role in making it “normal” again.

  9. Sometimes I think my block is a little haven.

    It’s a string of small blocks, and while we’re surrounded by busy streets (on the two corners nearest us (excepting my own block) there are literally three or four accidents – each! – every year. There’s barriers up, but they have to be replaced periodically) the block I’m on and the ones it immediately connects two are full of kids running back and forth, playing right in the street itself. People sit on their porches and talk, many of the houses are three generation families, or they’re full of cousins and aunts and uncles, and I’ve known many of my neighbors for close to two decades now. (LOL, we’re positively newcomers to some of them!)

    It’s not unusual for my nieces to pop outside and go to a friend’s house down the block, and over the past week each of them spontaneously went to a further-afield friend after school. And while I don’t always love my neighbors, I love that I can trust them to tell my nieces to behave, or to inform me if they think the kids were acting unsafely. (Of course, some of my neighbors seem to think the seven year old is five, so they think she can’t do things every other child on the block could do at her age, but I’d rather they look out for her than not.)

  10. My neighbor and I laugh (not in a funny way) because when my oldest (17yo, hers 19yo) were younger there were 8 boys in the neighborhood around the same age it was kids “everywhere” all the time!!! We use to pass them around yards! Go play at the Smith’s!!!

    The not so funny part is now there are 8 younger boys (we counted) (8-13yo, ours included) and no one leaves their house, except ours! In just a few short years, the “new” trend seems to be the kids themselves dont even want to play outside!

    Example, the boys were out playing, my 2 younger sons and my neighbor’s younger son and they were looking for a 4th for a game of football. I said, why dont you ask Alex? (not real name) and my son says “well we did but Alex doesnt go out when it’s rainiii….actually, he doesnt go out in….. weather”
    Scary to me that a 10yo doesnt go out in “weather”!!

    What is that??????????

  11. I’ll be honest here.. I JUST started letting my daughter (8) go around our neighborhood more freely with the other kids around here, but that’s partially because before this school year most of the kids were a few blocks farther away. This school year (2nd grade) 3 of the kids in her class are now within 3 blocks of our place. Now, as long as she’s done her chores and etc. and we’re home, she gets an hour to 90 minutes of just hanging out with her friends around the neighborhood, more on the weekends. Before even if the other kids were closer, most probably wouldn’t have let them wander off on their own, I know last year I had to talk with quite a few moms before my daughter was allowed to go over there or theirs to come to my house. Now they all kinda wander back and forth between each others houses on their bikes and scooters, having fun just being kids, and I’m just relieved. Life seems much easier not worrying quite so much.

  12. From the age of about six, I was usually the one who phoned to arrange visits to my friends, and after about seven I would walk about 8 minutes to my best friend’s house.

  13. I think these things are worth celebrating even if it’s a shame that they have to be celebrated. Denying that kids are too restricted doesn’t solve the problem — an encouraging attitude toward those willing to branch out from the restrictions can only help. Of course we shouldn’t throw big parties and over-praise people who do things that ought to just be normal, but we should at least treat baby steps as positive steps, rather than decrying the fact that we even have to talk about them.

  14. My 8 year old does this all the time, most often taking her 5 year old brother along. I love that they get so much time to play with friends.

    What saddens me is that none of the other kids come over to our house to play, even if invited. We got one friend over once, but the mom got upset that her daughter went into our house to get into the backyard. This is a mom I’ve spoken to on a number of occasions, so it’s not even that I’m a stranger to her. Ever since then, every invitation to our house turns into our kids playing at her place… in their backyard, mind you.

    Their friends are anywhere from 3 to 11 years old. The 11 year olds I don’t think I’ve ever seen playing out front without their parents. How I hope I’ve missed something.

    My kids know that they just need to let me know whose house they’ll be at, and if it’s the front yard or the back. It works well so far and they’re loving the independence.

  15. My own son, age 7, recently discovered a boy about 3 minutes (if that) away from our house who is just a year older. I have been so thrilled to watch the two of them become friends and walk over to the other’s house to ask to play! What a delight!

  16. As someone in my mid-twenties without any kids, this blows my mind. I had no idea that parents arrange “playdates” for their kids. Even when I was growing up in the early ’90s, I would go over to kids’ houses and ask if they could come out and play. It seems ridiculous to me that parents are expected to be kids’ secretaries.

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