Surgeon General Endorses “Take Our Children to the Park…” Day (Sort Of. Indirectly. And not actually the CURRENT Surgeon General…)

Hi Readers! Getting lots of interest in Take Our Kids to the Park…And Leave Them There Day. Watch for it/me on CNN on Thursday at about 11:30 a.m. EST, and in a whole bunch of radio interviews and newspaper articles over the next few days.  Meantime, here is a GREAT QUOTE from the former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

He appears along with a lot of other well-known and loved New Yorkers, including Regis Philbin and Ray Romano, on a new DVD called New York Street Games (which also comes with rules for the old-fashioned games, like stickball, and ringoleavio). And here’s what he says in the film:

“If you want to say how can we step into childhood and make it better for
them, I would start at the activity level.  I’d like to say let your kids go
out and play.  Then I’d say you’re not going to do that are you? Make your
kids go out and play.  Kids ought to grow up the way you and I grew up and
we grew up fifty years apart or maybe more.  But we did the same things.
Now who’s out playing in the afternoon?  Nobody.  Risks I think are the
thing that make life important and everything that you and I do is risk vs.
benefit.  Is there a risk to sending your kid out?  Absolutely.  Is there a
benefit?  It exceeds the risk.”

Koop rocks!

Your kids can have fun the way we did! (But with softer ground.)

18 Responses

  1. Isn’t this the third time we’ve seen that pic? 😛

  2. I love it! Do you think we can get a warning label made? Something about the risks of keeping kids in all the time being worse than letting them go play on their own.

  3. Ah, now if someone would just mention that to the President next time he proposes LENGTHENING the school day.

  4. “Risks are the thing that make life important,” that’s AWESOME! And I would add, “Interesting.” The feeling of having successfully navigated a potentially risky endeavor is an absolute rush! Which has actually been proven, BTW, to stimulate the dopamine pleasure reward system in the brain. Just like sex and chocolate!

  5. So glad, this movement is catching on. And catching in a positive light. Sounds like there are more of us that believe in Free-Range Kids than previously known. Hopefully it well hope those that are still paranoid to be less fearful. Baby steps, or should I say kid steps…free-range style. Looking forward to the CNN segment.

  6. What a great quote! Perhaps you can find a permanent place on your blog for it. You might enjoy reading about Dr. Koop’s background at wikipedia – a lot of stuff most people don’t know.

    It would be great to see a chapter from him in your next book. Ask him.

  7. Okay, I couldn’t help wanting to post this from the wikipedia entry on Dr. Koop. It’s especially interesting considering the quote that Lenore referenced:


    “In the spring of 1968, Koop’s son David was killed in a rock climbing accident on Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire during his junior year at Dartmouth College. While he was hammering a piton into the rock, a large section of the cliff sheared off from the mountain face, carrying him with it. The death was devastating for the family. Dr. Koop later wrote that because of his son’s death he thought, “I might be better able to help parents of dying children, but for quite a while I felt less able, too emotionally involved. And from that time on, I could rarely discuss the death of a child without tears welling up into my eyes.” Years later, he and his wife wrote a book to help others who had lost a child. It was called Sometimes Mountains Move and described David’s story and how the Koop family members each dealt with the grieving process.”

  8. part of parenting is allowing your kids to take small educated risks to help them learn. Something that im not great at 🙂

  9. What a wonderful, wonderful post. I often tell people that the weekend things we do are the result of weighing costs versus benefits. Backpacking, or caving, or rock climbing, or bike touring? Yes, there are risks, but the benefits are clearly greater.

    How about the risks of staying inside? Anybody want to look up the estimated percentage of the US population who will die from illnesses directly related to a sedentary lifestyle?

  10. Hi Lenore – that is a great quote, and all the more striking given the tragic story of Dr Koop’s son. My recent short report for the English Outdoor Council – entitled ‘Nothing Ventured… Balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors’ makes similar arguments. It may be of interest to readers of your blog.

    Find it here:

    Keep up the good work!

  11. You’re really getting traction, Lenore! [insert rubber-playground joke here]

  12. I hope when you are on CNN on Thursday that you make the point about how the belief that someone may grab a child is shaped by the news focusing on repeating the same rare stories and what ifs. Instead it may be more productive that when kids are missing emphasize that they turned out safe.
    Nancy Graceless on CNN’s sister station HLN is one of the worst fear offenders at exploiting fear of sex offenders.

  13. About risk: In addition to rearing our own children, I was a school volunteer for many years, with plenty of opportunity to make observations. One thing that struck me forcefully was that children, especially boys, and most especially teenage boys, crave risk. They need to test and prove themselves.

    This is nothing new, but what is new is how few opportunities they have to encounter “safe” risk. I can’t help speculating that this is a significant contributing factor in the rise of truly dangerous, even stupid, risky behavior with drugs and sex. Even video game addiction can be seen as ersatz risk.

    Give me rock climbing — well-taught, intelligently planned, carefully executed rock climbing — any day, even though the unthinkable and unbearable occasionally happens. If the unthinkable happened to a (hypothetical) rock-climbing child of mine, would I wish he had never taken up the sport? Of course. But I’ve learned from experience that one can’t always prevent the unbearable, and that bearing it is better than the crippling consequences of trying to prevent all risk.

  14. What a great quote from Dr. Koop!

    I was really hoping that getting kids outside playing again would be a cornerstone of Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood obesity campaign. Of course, that would be a more controversial topic than gay marriage or universal healthcare.

  15. When I was a kid, we lived across the street from a school yard. Children of all ages were out there playing without any adult supervision at all times of the day and evening. I think we ranged from 2nd or 3rd grade on up to junior high. I’m talking late 70’s through the mid 80’s. It was never a problem. We were always riding our bicycles all over Brooklyn at an early age. It’s what kids are supposed to do. Granted, I wouldn’t want a 7 or 8 year old child of mine riding the subway alone. But taking the MTA bus to school at 9 or 10 seems reasonable to me. I know we rode the bus to day-camp at age 12 without adult supervision. You’ve got to teach your children some level of independence and self-reliance at an early age. If you don’t, you’re putting them at a disadvantage when they grow up.

  16. Thank you thank you and THANK YOU! I grew up in the bush of Alaska and my brother and I (6 and 7) roamed the village all day long – large child swallowing river, scary drunks and rabid dogs included. We never got so much as a scrape so I’m looking forward to allowing my daughter the same freedoms (within reason) that I had. I’m incredibly protective of my little daughter but I also know she has to experience bumps and bruises on her own and that children do NOT get snatched off the street ‘every day’ as the media wants us to believe. Overprotective parenting makes for apathetic and helpless young adults. I like to have a little faith in the developmentally appropriate personal responsibility of my child.

  17. Hmmm. Lenore points out a famous medical doctor who made a very Free-Range Kids type of statement. And he made the statement years after his own son fell off a mountain and died. And the post gets very few comments.

    I wonder why?

  18. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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