May 21: Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Again!

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

Good lord! Are those children having FUN on their OWN? It's an outrage!

93 Responses

  1. I think Dara O’Brien put is best in

    “Crime is down”.
    “But fear of crime is high!”
    “So may fear of zombies!”

    (Heavily paraphrased)

  2. Hey Lenore, May 21 is supposedly the day the world is going to end. You just picked that date so you can get the last word in. 😉

  3. I so wish I could participate…I’m anxiously awaiting the 6th annual Take Your Kids to the Park…And Leave Them Day!!! I would go straight to Starbucks and bring a nice book.

  4. “May 21 is supposedly the day the world is going to end”

    And I thought it was Dec. 21, 2012. But if you have a take your children to the park and leave them there day in May…I suppose there will at least be cries that the world is ending.

  5. Shucks. I was kinda hoping this year’s TOCTTP day would happen over the summer months, when we’re in town (given flights rates get cheap enough, God willing). Oh well. Anyway, wishing loads of fun to all on the day.

  6. Why can’t my daughter grow out of being 3 already so I do it?! I guess for the next little bit I’ll have to settle for “Send My Kid Into The Back Yard And Leave Her There.”

  7. TeresaRay: Or you could “take your kid to the park and stand back 20 feet”

  8. Tuppence: It’s not just a NYC thing

  9. KyohakuKeisanki: I no longer live in the country. I’d be happy to make it a “Germany” thing, too, out of solidarity (although kids here, from school age on, go to the park alone anyway, so it’d just be like, symbolic), but that’s the day of my daughter’s b-day party, so probably won’t be happenin.

  10. Before I participate, can I get some statistics on the abductions that occurred last year during this event?

    What? There were none?


  11. @ Tuppence, where in Germany do you live? Like you said, every day is leave your kids at the park day here in Germany. I’ll have to make sure my son and his friends go to a park or playground that day to show solidarity. I’m sure they will, unless there’s pouring rain (and being preteen boys, they just might go anyway).

    I was also hoping that it would be in August or early September because I would be in the States at that time. I’d be curious to see how many kids were in the local parks without their parents that day.

  12. When my kids are old enough I will take part in this! Mine are only 3 almost 4 so not yet, but when they are about 7 or 8 I am down!

  13. Great idea.

    Refreshing that we were at a big park (with woods, and an unfenced working railroad running through it!) yesterday & in the toddler playground most of the parents were sitting around chatting while the kids ran around on their own. The only exceptions were the parents of the very tiny ones. The big kids were roaring around the bike path.

    I stopped watching mainstream news years ago, which greatly improved my view of the world. Why is it the media are so determined to scare everyone silly, anyway? And why aren’t schools teaching kids to think critically about the media messages anyway? That’s not just about free-range childhood, but about learning to be a functioning citizen, isn’t it?

    I know, it’s partly parental responsibility, but obviously not all parents have the skills themselves.

  14. Well, my little dude is still too little to be left (not even two)…but I was seriously thinking about going to the park with him anyway that day to see if there were any people who are participating (we could just sit back and chill at the baby swings)…but then realized my husband’s old roommate is getting married that day and we’ll be fairly busy.

    Hopefully we’ll be able to go and observe participants next year and for a few years after that and then be able to actually participate around the time of the seventh or eighth annual day!!

  15. Why are there so many people who live in Germany reading this site? Also, to someone living there, is it true that elementary and jr high (grades/years 1-9) are basically half-day school there, and that even high school (10-13) is shorter than it is the USA?

  16. Julie: See what I said to Tuppence.

  17. I thought about this event when I was at the park with my boys yesterday evening. At the entrance to the park is posted a four-foot-high sign that screams in big letters, “ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED AT ALL TIMES. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILD UNATTENDED.”

    …So what happens if you do? I wasn’t aware that it was illegal to do that.

    There was also a warning on the playground equipment that children under five were not permitted to use the equipment. Guess my 2-year-old was breaking the law yesterday as he happily went up and down the stairs to play around and chase his older brother. Oh, and slide down the “big kids” slide. The horror!

  18. Hey Lenore – I totally get it. When my kids run out of play mojo they look to me to fix it. I’ve become a total 70s mom who says, “Your fun is up to you, work it out.” Having said that a man attempted to abduct me when I was 6 years old walking home from school alone. True story. Car pulls up to the sidewalk I’m walking on, the guy leans across the bench seat and opens the passenger door. Says, “Hey sweetie, your mom asked me to pick you up.” I stepped off the curb, put one knee on the bench seat then realized I didn’t recognize him. ‘Who are you?” I asked. If he’d said he was a friend of my mom’s I would’ve gotten into the car, but he said, “I’m your uncle.” And I knew he wasn’t. I stepped back and ran home. So I’m a bit of a Thwapper (sound of my helicopter rotors). Just can’t risk being the tiny statistic.

  19. I don’t know what parks around here are actually good (I only know of the one with drug dealers and shallow graves – Hooray Baltimore City) but I’d love to go out with my five-month-old and try out the baby swings at least. Probably toss a box of bandaids in the diaper bag on the off chance some kids are there alone and need a patch-up from a stranger.

  20. Mary Garner: There’s no real law that enforces those signs, but the owners (in this case the parks department) have the rights to kick anyone out for any reason. The sign is there to prevent discrimination lawsuits. In other words, you should be fine in both cases as long as it’s not a pool or something like that.

  21. @KyohauKeisanki, I heard about Lenore and this site through watching Dr. Phil on the Armed Forces Network here. There are a lot of other Americans living in Germany who work for the US military or government. Maybe they also heard about this site the same way. I can only speak for myself.

    To answer your question about German schools…Elementary school (grades 1-4) is basically a half day. My son started elementary school every day at 8. Some days he finished at 11:30, other days at 12:10, and others at 12:55. German secondary school starts in 5th grade and, depending on the level, goes to 9th, 10th, or 12th grade. There are three levels of secondary school. Last year my son started in the highest level of secondary school. His day was 7:45-12:45 four days a week and until 2:30 on the 5th, when he had a supplemental German course. This year he goes from 7:45-12:45 three days a week, 7:45 to 4 one day and 7:45 to 2:30 on the 5th.

    Kids don’t necessarily get a lot of assigned homework, but they’re expected to study on their own at home. Even in 5th grade the teachers won’t tell the students which pages to read in their textbooks. The kids have to look through their books to find the information that was discussed in class and read it. They are also expected to do all of the math problems in a lesson, even if the teacher doesn’t assign them. From an early age, students are expected to be fairly independent. Nothing is spoon-fed to them.

  22. @Shannon Colleary, I had a similar experience when I was 15. I was going to summer school and would walk about 1/2 mile along a main street to meet my friend and her mom, who gave me a ride to school. As I was walking, a car pulled up and the driver (a man) asked if I wanted a ride. I told him, “No thank you” and walked on. About a week later the same man stopped and asked if I wanted a ride. That time I said an emphatic, “NO!” then ran the rest of the way to meet my friend and her mother. As the man drove away, I got his license number. When I got home from school that day, I called the police about that man stopping twice to offer me a ride. It turned out that that man was a serial rapist. His MO was finding young girls who were walking to or from school alone and offering them a ride. Fortunately, my parents had told me never to accept rides from people I didn’t know. They also taught me well about what to do if a stranger offered me a ride. That experience has neither made me wary of strangers not turned me into a helicopter mom. But it did make me realize that as my son became old enough to walk places on his own to make sure that he knew only to accept rides from people that he knew.

  23. Here in Upstate New York, we have projected highs of mid-40s all this week, and rain, high winds and clouds. Here’s hoping May 21 isn’t more like pull the down comforter over the kids and leave it there day!

  24. Woo hoo!!!! Love this! The neighbors and I have started sending our 10 year olds out around the ‘hood and they have a blast, and don’t get into trouble. AND there’s less whining at home!

    We’ll be at Maker Faire that whole weekend, but will do our version there. The 10 year old will be bringing another 10 year old friend, and they’ll have the run of the place, with the occasional check in. Everyone will have a blast, parents not dealing with whining 10 year old included!!!!

  25. To anyone living in Germany (or almost any other nation where English is not the official language): Are you sure you want to participate in this? It is likely less independent than what they’re doing already. So, let your kids take themselves to the park (or wherever they go… I’ve heard some pretty interesting things about Germany in particular) like they always do; don’t take the title literally.

    Also, is this post I read on another blog an accurate picture of international child-raising? (remove spaces from link; sometimes the spam filters refuse links)

    http : // wattsu pwiththat . com / 2011 / 04 / 29 / friday-funny-science-safety-run-amok / #comment-651278

  26. Hallelujah to Sue. There have always been serial rapists in the world; the trick is to have your set of skills ready should you encounter one. These skills have been taught to children for centuries, but only now do we imagine that it’s better to simply sit children under our warm butts in a nest rather than teaching them how to flap their wings and navigate.

    Here is what I remember being told:

    1. “Don’t take candy from strangers.” This was a bit perplexing to me, because I got lollipops at the bank when we went there and I didn’t know the teller. And let’s not even go there with Halloween. When I asked about it, I was told this:

    2. “Don’t take candy or treats from anyone who approaches you on the street or in a car.” This too was hard to imagine; I’d never encountered anyone handing out candy in the street, nor had anyone leaned out of a car window and thrown candy at me, so when I asked about this, I was told:

    3. “If someone stops their car next to you when you are walking down the street and offers you a ride, or candy, or anything at all, run away and find help.” This one really intrigued us. We (my little friends in the neighbourhood and I, we were probably ages 4 – 7, yes, we played outside unsupervised at that age in the 1970s in Ohio) would spend many a summer day sitting on the curb eating popsicles and wondering if this car or that car was going to slow down and try to lure us somehow. One girl, particularly creative, made up a story of a man who had driven by her and held a scissors out the window, slowly snipping in the air. “Liar,” we all said. She described the car as “white” and the man as “bald” but we all knew she was just trying to get a rise out of us.

    Believe me, if anyone HAD ever offered me a ride, I was prepared to say NO. I have taught my kids that they should grill someone thoroughly if they are ever approached this way, as in, “How do you know my mom? What is my mom’s name? What’s the secret password?” I have told them that I will NEVER send someone they don’t know to get them without giving them the secret password.

    The flip side of this is that these days, kids are hardly ever out walking somewhere alone, and the adults these days are alarmed, often, to see it, so they “ride in to the rescue” as if the child were injured. I have taught my kids to accept help from strangers when they are injured or lost, but if they know where they are going, to say “No thanks.” However, more and more, I am hearing from my 10-year-old (who looks a little younger because he’s short) that well-meaning (I assume) women are offering him rides when he’s simply running an errand on foot.

    In the 1970s, I was never offered a ride by anyone, friend or foe, as I walked to school, unless maybe it was pouring rain and a neighbour took pity… but these days, a kid walking to school alone arouses fear in people… go figure.

    So I bet kids these days are offered more rides from strangers than they were back in the day… ironic, no?

  27. KyohakuKeisanki, it’s my understanding that Lenore’s spam filters only filter your post if there’s more than one link in it.

  28. Like some of the commenters above I have a little guy (3) and live in NYC so probably won’t drop him alone but maybe team up with parents of older kids. Surely a 12 y/o can watch a 3 y/o for an hour or two (we watched newborns when we were that age for Christ’s sake).

  29. Library Diva: That’s why they should do that every month or every 3 months instead. Heck, maybe even every month. BUT, don’t do it any more than that… you’re flirting with danger from all the ghosts haunting city parks. And the numerous dinosaur attacks that have been witnessed recently. And whatever you do, don’t *gasp* let your children go faster than 3.14 miles per hour. They might get a life-threatening knee bruise if they were to fall or run into something. Oh, and NO MATTER WHAT, DO NOT GO FARTHER THAN 314.159 FEET FROM YOUR CHILD. After all, everyone knows that kidnappers will attack any child whose parents are 315 feet away, but they won’t if they are 313 feet away. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, AS THE PARK IS NOWHERE FOR A CHILD TO BE ALONE UNLESS THEY ARE BEING WATCHED FROM AFAR. Every child should be constantly watched, as they have been for the past several hundred years. Some may say this last statement is not true. However, past events have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and memories agree upon. Though the past is alterable, it has never been altered in any specific instance. For when it has been recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version IS the past, and no different past can ever have existed. You must hold two contradictory beliefs in your mind simultaneously, and accept both of them. You must tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, and forget any fact that has become inconvenient. After all, 1983 is over. LET THE NEW YEAR RING!!!

  30. I have been trying to be more free range lately by making my kids play more on their own. I enjoy playing with them at times, but yes, I need a break. So I have been more saying “Okay you can go play together or with other kids by yourselves, or we can go home, but mommy is going to just observe today.” At first they rioted and were angry but then they got up and went off and played alone. It was nice. I kept an eye on them but I felt quite liberated and I am sure they did too. 🙂

  31. Rachel, NYC is actually one of the safest cities in the nation. We’re ranked as the 4th safest city out of all cities in the US with over 500,000 people.

    Certain individual neighborhoods may be particularly unsafe, you presumably have a good feel for how safe your own neighborhood is, and of course certain children are less likely to act safely than others – for example, three year olds in general 🙂

    But as a rule, “Oh, I live in NYC!” is not a reason to justify acting more protective than you *want* to be.

    Maybe if you lived in St. Louis.

  32. Every day is play outside alone day for my 6 and 9 year old! They love the privilege. There’s a pack of school friends who call up on the door-buzzer of our apartment every day to see if our kids can play.

    We live in St Petersburg, Russia, and I can guarentee that the child-abduction statistics are much scarier than in the States. And the police more corrupt, etc. (I’d love to find statistics on this, since some Russian moms are just as scared as westerners, and I’m not confident to challenge them without knowing the numbers!)

    But in a building with 500 apartments, there is almost always someone outside. I also kmow that bad things do happen. The world is fallen, and no matter how much we try to control everything, it may happen to us. But my children are learning life-long health, social and survival skills. We can be wise, but don’t need to guard against every remote possibility.

  33. […] it comes to raising children prompted Lenore Skenazy to write Free Range Kids, a book and now a blog.  In it, she reminds us that kids need to go out and play and have fun.  If they end up with […]

  34. @kyohakuKeisanki — I’m sure Sue, like myself, meant the “solidarity” would take place in her head, because, yeah, nobody here would notice the difference that your kid’s in the park by him/herself. Like I wrote earlier, won’t be doing so in any case, got something else on that day.

    I live in the educational-reform-happy state of Bremen. Whose educational policy motto seems to be: Why not try everything once? (Each state in Germany makes its own educational policy, so where Sue lives may be very different from where I live. This is also true of test scores: Some states scored very high, some states, like mine, did abysmally.) One of the latest “fashions” they’re pushing through here is all day schools which last from 8am-4pm. Until now, the school day was from 8-1pm, with optional after school care available till 3pm and up to, I believe, 5pm. Many schools are still only till 1pm (and after school care) though. And to the surprise of the reformers — apparently they are the schools where the city’s middle class are placing their children. (School choice- year before last’s reform de jeur)

    And Dr.Phil has a lot to answer for, but me finding this website is not one of them.

  35. Well, actually this year May 21st is “Please drop off your kids that I don’t know at my house and try not to go crazy during my son’s 10th birthday” Day. They’ll be running around like crazy with waterguns. I’ll be on the porch to make sure that they don’t scare the neighbor’s cat or spray the dogs.

  36. I think its a great idea if your child is too young to play at the park by themselves to let them play without adult interaction. Bring a book or something and park yourself on a bench and read. Let them do whatever it is that that kids do when left to their own devices.

  37. How do you respond to ‘Crime is down’ compainers who say that crime is down BECAUSE there aren’t kids going around by themselves and they are hyper supervised now? They say that snatching a kid is difficult now because there aren’t many out and about on their own anymore.

  38. Elissa, our son is 10 months old, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. He can’t walk yet, so letting him play ‘by himself’ is easy-peasy (plus, it’s what he really wants).

  39. @Dawn: Tell her that kids are like alcoholic beverages.

  40. Aah sorry I accidentally pressed post too early. What I meant to say was:

    @Dawn: Tell her that kids are like alcoholic beverages. Lock them away from good-natured people and bad guys will still find a way to snatch one. (remember Prohibition?)

    If she is someone who believes Prohibition worked, then say the same thing, but replace “alcoholic beverages” with “guns”.

  41. @ Kyo – I thought that was the start of a joke…LOL! 🙂

    Kids are like alcoholic beverages – the more you have the more you want to drink, or the more you have the crazier you get. or something like that. LOL 🙂

  42. Yeah, or some people (not me… then again, I’m not even in college yet) would say “you should have them in moderation”. Although, I do believe you should enjoy them in moderation… as in don’t overdo it with wanting to spend every minute with them. In most cases they don’t like it.

  43. I thought Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day was EVERYDAY. Well, poop. I’ve been doing it all wrong! Of course, the park here is only about a block away, inside our trailer park, so I just make them walk themselves, not even taking them, but whatever! They are there now, even. Probably should go collect them soon, since it’s almost time for dinner!

  44. I did it last year when my kids were 6 and 4, and look forward to doing it again this year. Of course, they already wander around outside in our neighborhood unsupervised, but I love the idea of taking them to the park and not following them around. Much prefer sitting in the car listening to NPR and reading the paper.

  45. As someone with a degree in Justice Studies, I wonder if the “crime rate” is truly reflective of anything. I’ve been very curious as to why the crime rates, which ebbed and flowed with a constancy until the 1980s peaked around 1993, then fell sharply. What I find odd is the theories as to why the crime wave has dropped so suddenly has failed to look at why it rose so sharply.

    I have one interesting theory, much of it has to do with with a “new” awareness of a crime type. For example, both the National Crime Victimization Survey and the Uniform Crime Reports formed new categories of sexually based offenses due to increased “awareness” of a sexual abuse “epidemic” (primarily the later disproved “ritual abuse” panics). The UCR depends upon the FBI designations, which have evolved over the years, and the NCVS underwent major changes in the late 1980s again around 1993. During those times, record number of crimes were reported. Thus, how we recorded crimes, or in the NCVS, the number of believed attempted crimes, changed dramatically and standards were actually lowered.

    The 1980s was a substantially fearful time. After all, AIDS began, satanic cults ran daycare centers to win your kids over to the Dark Side, teens were killing their parents after playing Dungeons and Dragons while listening to Iron Maiden and Slayer on backwards-playing record players, the advent of crack cocaine and subsequent “war on drugs,” and that idiot John Walsh’s scare us with milk carton’s campaigns.

    Ultimately, it wasn’t much of an increase of crime more than it was of crime REPORTING. After all, the NCVS relies on surveyed person’s opinions as to what constitutes a crime.

  46. Hi Lenore, I’m looking forward to my girls enjoying their time alone in the park (a little way off yet as the oldest is not yet 3) but in the meantime I’d like to offer this anecdote about how creatively kids can play. Whilst in a playground recently my daughter (2) and a friend (3) were happily running about while I sat off to the side and chatted with Friend’s parents. We noticed that they’d been joined by the other three kids in the playground, all about the same age. Together, they spontaneously decided to have a party and sat themselves around a picnic table and passed each other imaginary party food and drinks. (It reminded me of the scene from Hook in which Robin Williams and the Lost Boys share and imaginary feast – only this didn’t end in a food fight). They also found a discarded foil chip bag and used that as a container for the barkchips that the playground has over the ground. One child then carefully distributed shares of the ‘snacks’ to the others who pretended to eat and commented on the yumminess of it all. (Some might say ‘eiww, dirty’ but I think playgrounds are good places for getting dirty and none of the kids were young/silly enough to actually eat the bark). They then held hands in a chain and did a lap around the play equipment before splitting off and getting back to the business of sliding, climbing, swinging, etc. It may not sound like much but to me it was really lovely to see their imaginations working so well and so independently. This wouldn’t have happened if the parents hadn’t been detached from the group of kids.

  47. “How do you respond to ‘Crime is down’ compainers who say that crime is down BECAUSE there aren’t kids going around by themselves and they are hyper supervised now?”

    By saying:

    (a) that ALL crime is down, not just crimes against children. If the cause of child molestation being down was that kids are locked away, then other crimes would not also be on the decline.
    (b) kids who are kidnapped are not all kidnapped from the playground. Elizabeth Smart, Polly Klaus, Danielle Van Damm, JonBenet Ramsey, Stephanie Crowe – all taken from their own bedrooms while their parents slept. If a kidnapper wants your child, he’ll get him.

  48. What a difference a year makes. Last year we missed the event because my daughter ended up having a Girl Scout event that day and we were busy. It was right around that time, though, that I started letting the kids go to our local playground in Chicago alone. I always worried (mostly about them getting hit by a car on their way there or back).
    A year later we are living in a small town in WA and there isn’t even a need for the event. All the kids in our neighborhood are all over the place. It’s so great. Yesterday it was about 70F out and I barely even saw the kids (10, 9, 8 and 5). They came in a handful of times for drinks and to eat but otherwise they were outside…doing what and where I have no idea. They run from house to house and to the park a couple blocks away. I don’t worry about them at all. Our neighborhood is made up of a bunch of streets that just loop around (basically start and stop at the same intersection). The only people around here are people that live here, there are no stores and no other reason to come into the area.
    They even take their baby brother (9 months) for walks all over and I don’t worry about him at all. I know he is in good hands with the kids.

  49. My son is almost 9 months old, and just starting to walk, but we will be going to the park. Can’t leave him, but he can play by himself, at least for a little bit.

  50. hey it falls on my birthday !! wohoo drop off my kid (11) and go for coffee!! sans child!!! of course near the park..cuz she is not walking all that way home…i’d have to hear about it for a month … feet hurt…why did we have to walk so far…she’s mostly free range…but freaking lazy!! lol

  51. My biggest problem is finding other parents who will allow their 7 or 8 year olds any freedom at all! I am A-OK with my 8 year old daughter hanging out at a park with other kids, and in fact would be fine with her riding her bike there sans grown-up (she is awesomely aware of cars and I have complete confidence in her abilities to navigate the bike path), but I am finding that other parents in my neighborhood are very reluctant to allow their children anywhere much beyond our street. I have been working on one of my neighbors who has a 7 year old boy who likes to play with my daughter, (in fact, I’ve recommended Lenore’s book to her), and am hopeful that by the end of the summer those two will be tooling around on their bikes, visiting the many parks in our area, getting into the very mild sort of mischief kids that age can get into, and letting them feel like they rule the world. It is so encouraging to hear from other parents who don’t think it’s a Child Protective Services level offense to not keep eyes on a 7 or 8 year old kid every minute.

  52. @Tressaray, We can have, “Take Your Kids to the Park and Refuse to Push them on the Swing Day.”

  53. Oh well darn. We’ve got a birthday party to go to that morning. I would have loved to have dropped off my 9 & 10yr old.

  54. When I was a kid, I often heard “there’s safety in numbers.” If crime rates are down, they’d probably be down even more if more kids were outdoors and the “safety in numbers” could kick in.

    I know I feel a hundred times better sending both of my preschoolers together (vs. separately), to go out of my sight in public. Even though I know they will probably get more “bad [but benign] ideas” that way.

    I’ll be traveling that weekend, but hope everyone else has fun!

  55. Why the heck do I have to TAKE them there? Why can’t they go alone?

  56. @bequirox:
    LOL! That’s actually my politics when I take my kids to the park: “if you can’t climb onto that on your own, maybe you shouldn’t be up there in the first place”. I’ve witnessed too many silly accidents caused by solicitous parents…
    And until they get physically able to ride the swings on their own, my kids have found multiple ways to have fun with them (mainly twisting them round and round as far as they can, and then let go, so they get all dizzy).

  57. Last month my son announced he was going to go to Belgium, no itinerary, no contact or emergency plans, just a backpack and high youthful hopes.

    I was body slammed with the realization that I was not AT ALL as “free range” as I thought I was.

    …but I choked it down, wished him the best of times, and tried not to leave claw marks on my computer screen the two weeks he was gone.

    I’m sitting here with a spoonful of Speculoos in my mouth, an empty box of chocolates and a lunch date at the Cheeky Monk to sample expensive Belgium beers. With my son. Who I am so very, very proud of.

    What a goof I was….

  58. Oooh, gosh, SgtMom, did you get some Cote D’Or? That’s the good stuff. I’ve finally found a place to pick it up in the city, I have been DYING for some good chocolate forEVer!

    (Of course, it’s very important to make and retain ties with other Belgian-Americans. There’s more of us running around than you think. It’s like the secret social group nobody ever talks about.)

  59. Sgt Mom, Did he bring back some of the famous fruit beers? When I was in Belgium in the mid ’90s I drank Kriek (cherry beer) and Framboise (raspberry beer). They sound weird, but they’re actually quite good.

    I’m glad that your son had a great time.

  60. Pretty lazy journalism in the New York Daily News link.
    Argument 1: Yes, people let their children out more in the olden days, but that was because it was safer then. And how do we know it was safer then? Because people let their children out more then, so it must have been.
    Argument 2: I know someone who once arrested a pedophile.
    Oh yes, pretty compelling stuff.

  61. How old can my kids be before I take them to the park and leave them EVERY day? What’s the concensus on this board?

  62. I can’t figure out how to contact you, so I’ll leave a comment. I figure you all will want to see this video:

  63. Elfir- I’m from Baltimore (county, not city)- if you’re willing to go just outside the city, Meadowwood is a beautiful park.. Right on Falls Rd and off of 83. Don’t live in the area anymore, but used to take the kids when I nannied.

    No shallow graves, but a fair amount of yuppies 🙂

  64. SKL, my son started going to the park alone when he was eight.

    In terms of when it’s socially acceptable, God knows. Each birthday from eight onwards I’ve been thinking surely NOW no one will bat an eyelid if he goes to the park or walks home from school alone, But no. Even coming up to 10 it’s not looking good.

    Eleven seems to be the age in my neck of the woods where it’s no longer an issue, but it will probably have crept up again by the time we get there.

  65. SKL, I would say 8 or 9 or so if the kids can get themselves to the park. Probably a little older before it’s socially acceptable to drive them to the park, drop them off and leave to come back later. I’m not sure exactly why but that seems a less socially acceptable, sad in our life built around cars instead of walking.

  66. My kids can walk to the park, but it’s a mile away through suburban streets and involves crossing 1 (not busy) street. I would like to think they are ready to go as soon as I can 100% trust them to cross the street (maybe age 5 or 6). But who knows what the neighbors along the way would say.

  67. @SKL – I think it would depend on the circumstance and not just a blanket statement.

    For instance, when I went to visit my grandma in small town Iowa, the park was down the block and around the corner and next to the corn fields. There was literally no traffic and so we were free to wander down there once one of the cousins was old enough to remember where grandma lived. The oldest was probably 6 and the rest of us were 3-5. We started riding our bikes across town to the pool when we were 10 in that town.

    My other grandma lived within walking distance (4 blocks so it was a short walk) of a school, but on the busiest street in town, and my little brother (3 years younger) and I could go when we could be trusted to watch for cars. I was probably 10 and he was 7.

    To me, it depends on if you live in a quiet suburb or urban setting. If its a quiet suburb where everyone watches out for kids when they drive through, I’d say probably 7 for the oldest one or alone.

    If its urban and there are streets to cross and cars to watch for and people who don’t watch for kids, I’d probably say 10.

    And then, you have to consider the people at the park. If there are older kids there who have a history (not just speculation) of giving little kids a hard time, then I would probably factor that in as well based on how tough/assertive my kid was.

  68. Funny you should ask….

    The one down side to his not being overly prepared was having almost all his goodies taken from him at customs.

    He TRIED to bring back a LOT of beers and chocolates, but except for a few items in his check through bag, it was all confiscated.

    When I asked why he couldn’t say – her explaination was in Dutch.

    Being the chocolate fiend I am, the chocolates were devoured in a flash – I didn’t read the name…

    I CAN assure everyone that Speculoos has it going on ALL OVER Vegemite! My son teamed up with an Aussie and they plan to meet up again in Australia this summer.

    Makes me wistful I’d been more free ranging in my youth…

  69. A man in a blue sedan with his hat pulled low over his face offered my sister and me a ride once when I was a kid.

    When we said “No”, he angrily cursed at us and sped off.

    We told Mom about it, Mom praised us for being smart enough to have listened about not getting into cars with strangers, and that was that.

    Now days when an incident like that happens it’s breathlessly plastered on the 6:00 news with flashing lights and sirens. Practically.

    “Child offered ride at bus stop! News at 6” followed by “How to keep you child from being kidnapped” informationals.

    You can’t help getting caught up in it.

  70. As last year, I’ll let my kids walk the two blocks to the school playground if they want to go that day. If not, they don’t have to. But they can do this on any given day.

    But in my neck of the woods, it just isn’t remarkable, so there’s no real “social movement” value in whether I do it or not, on a specific day.

  71. @ SKL – Our closest playground is almost a mile away and there is no way I would let my 5.5 year old walk that far without someone older (not necessarily an adult). I don’t worry about crossing streets (she does that well) or abductions. I worry about her losing focus, following a dog or another child or a butterfly and ending up completely lost. I’d let her walk to the park a couple blocks away with no problem (sadly nothing much to do there) but a mile alone is a bit much for my taste. They are just still too easily distracted at 5.

  72. “My kids can walk to the park, but it’s a mile away through suburban streets and involves crossing 1 (not busy) street. I would like to think they are ready to go as soon as I can 100% trust them to cross the street (maybe age 5 or 6). But who knows what the neighbors along the way would say.”
    For my own children, I would feel 5 or 6 was just a shy too young. I would say 7, or when they have been in 1st grade for awhile, whichever comes first. I think some time in school adds a little maturity and greater awareness of rules and procedures and how to deal with unknown children, etc. My own mother would not have left me alone at a park at 5 or 6; I would have had an older sibling of 9 or 10 with me. I noticed a big difference in maturity between Kindergarten and 1st grade with my daughter. Though of course every child is different, I noticed this difference for a lot of her friends and my friend’s children as well.

  73. Well we have a park just a few houses down the street and another one a couple streets over and my kids love to go and play at both without me any day the weather is nice. I have 8 ( yes that us true) children, and the little ones go with the big ones. We have never had a problem worse than a stolen jacket or teenagers standing around swearing. so sure, my kids can go again by themselves May 21st. Maybe I will even let my 5 and 6 year olds go to the closer one together in the morning. We used to live on Long Island and I did find the city parks in Manhattan a bit creepy. But I think it was the Nanny’s hovering around the toddlers with three juice cups and a dozen different kinds of crackers.

  74. […] May 21: Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Again! « FreeRangeKids.   If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing […]

  75. Funny story. When I was very little like maybe 3 or 4 I was at a Toys R Us playing inside one of the playhouses on display. This nice man looked inside the house. I think he just wanted to look at it to see about buying it. He did not know I was even inside. I saw him and screamed out at the top of my lungs “THIS MAN IS BOTHERING ME!” The poor man looked mortified according to my mother. Everyone at the store turned and stared at us. My mom had told me if a stranger is bothering me to scream out for help and I was demonstrating that. LOL.

  76. Its weird because my mom was very free range when I was small. They would drop me and a friend off at the movies or mall or let us roam the neighborhood from about 8 up. Nothing remotely bad happened whatsoever. I even would walk the mile to my best friend’s house alongside a busy street. My mom never batted an eye. But to hear her tell it, that did not happen and she always knew exactly where I was. I don’t know how she thinks that happened.

    She was not free range once I became a teenager. Which was stupid because I was a totally nerdy well behaved never get in trouble teenager but she constantly freaked out on me about stuff. She still would call me every Halloween when I was in college to warn me not to run over trick or Treaters if I drive somewhere. Thanks Mom for that totally necessary warning since I have never had a wreck.

    Its really weird because she freaked out when I told her about letting my kids be free range. So what was okay for me at that age is not okay for them when they actually have a twin to be with them at all times. I was alone a lot of the time when I was playing in the neighborhood. She watches the news all day long so that probably has something to do with it.

  77. A warning note received just today in our neighborhood in Atlanta:

    Some of you asked for this info this morning so here it is:
    Subject:***ALERT*** Possible Child Predator In the NEighborhood
    This is all the information I have right now- will post more if I hear
    anything. Please tell your neighbors.

    Yesterday at 6:15pm a neighbor on Ranier was outside with her
    daughter- she had
    the door open to the car and was behind it so you couldn’t see her. Her
    daughter was looking under a rock in the front and she was waiting for her to
    get in the car. A man stopped looked around- was looking at her daughter-
    looked around again and then got out of his car and really fast and
    was walking
    towards her daughter. He walked on to their property. He was startled to
    see the mother and turned around and walked really quickly to his car
    and drove
    off. She watched the whole thing and initially thought, “do I know this guy?”
    She said everything about this just was not right.

    Here is a description:
    Middle aged White Male Medium Build
    Brownish hair
    Driving Dingy Silver colored late model Toyota Land Cruiser or 4 Runner with
    slightly tinted windows.

    PLEASE- if you see this car or this man CALL 911 and realize his car may

    Update to the details:
    The man pulled on to Ranier- a dead end street- drove around the
    culdsac slowly
    and backed up when he saw her daughter. His windows were slightly tinted but
    the mother could see him looking at her daughter and then looking around. From
    behind the car door she could see everything, but he could not see
    her. He left
    his car on the other side of her street pointed towards West Paces Ferry -for
    what she thinks was a quick exit -and then walked across the street, on to her
    property aimed for the little girl. She said he was focused on her daughter.
    She is 4 years old. He never said a word to the mother. She says he was very
    startled to see her and turned quickly, leaving her property, jumped
    in his car
    and sped off- this is a very short street- maybe 5 houses. In this time to
    process what occured, the mother says beyond a shadow of a doubt he was coming
    for her daughter and really just cannot believe this happened.

    She has contacted the police and they will be increasing their patrol of our
    neighborhood but it is truly up to us that live here to be on the lookout.
    Thorpe has also been notified but Please tell your nannies, housekeepers,
    gardeners, handy men all to be on the lookout.

    Just an FYI- Ranier was adopted as part of the Kingswood’s Association last
    year and is one street west of Rembrandt. It, like the rest of Kingswood,
    receives no outside traffic since it offers no cut through and is a dead end

  78. James, who sent you this information?

  79. Hey james, baa baa, got any wool?

  80. Uly – Thanks for what you wrote re: NYC — you’re totally right. I keep asking myself — why can’t he play alone outside the way I did at his age? I was free to wander anywhere in a huge apartment complex that included a pool, pond and woods, and was bordered by a major road. Would that be a reasonable thing to do — drop him at a playground, provided he understood not to leave — and return in an hour or so? I really am curious if anyone would do that.

  81. where i live, there are often kids playing…shock horror…alone in the park. my kids can’t wait until they are old enough to do the same – say 8 or 9.
    Great blog!

  82. This should at least be a twice-a-year thing. Here in AZ, this would be a great way to celebrate the END of Summer (which happens about November . . .).

  83. Would love to do this with my 7 and 8 y.o., alas we will be soaking up the mayhem at Disney World! Maybe they and their cousins can wander around the hotel play area!
    Count me in for next year – Chesapeake, VA will never be the same!

  84. I’m definitely in sync with Lenore’s thoughts on raising our children the way of many decades past…as Free Range Kids!! I want my child capable, confident and independent. I do not want her coddled and babied and I do not want to be the parent who “shelters” their young.

    If I shelter her now, then yes she might grow up without stitches or broken bones or drugs and alcohol in her life. Until she hits 18 and moves out of my supervision… I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on keeping my eyes locked on my daughter for the rest of her life to make sure she doesn’t get hurt or experience anything ever that might be harmful….talk about a 40 year old virgin.

    If I coddle her now, how will she take care of herself later when I’m not there to prevent things? If she enters the world on her own for the FIRST time at the age of 18 and she’s always been protected by me before…how will she know to protect herself? Too many children these days are babied by their parents and when finally released into the world, can barely function as adults. Or if they’ve been sheltered too much so they haven’t experienced worldly things I’ve seen them go almost crazy with drugs or alcohol at that age because it was never presented before in a way that could have steered them away.

    I was left alone as a child in my room or outside without supervision!! My brothers and I would disappear for hours upon hours on a hike through the woods with our BB-Guns or 22 Long Rifles, backpacks full of sandwiches (WE MADE OURSELVES), camouflage attire and whatever dog decided to follow us. Mom would holler for us across the 5 acre parcel if 6+ hours went by and she hadn’t heard us. We’d fire a shot for her to hear or scream back that we were fine and eventually come home. When we did come home, we were tired, dirty, bruised or sometimes broken. Mom and dad were there to greet us, tell us they were glad we had fun and bandage up anything we couldn’t fix ourselves. We took our own showers and baths, we knew how to put our own dirty clothes in the washing machine and we ate the dinner mom cooked whether we liked it or not.

    My 5-year old has been to people’s houses before for a play date or babysitting while I was busy and when I got her back they said “She didn’t hardly eat anything, I couldn’t get her to eat.” I ask if they told her to eat and they said she told them she didn’t like it or wasn’t hungry. Well did you TELL her to eat what you put in front of her? No…they did not. Because if they had, she would have done it just like she does at home.

    The other day my daughter asked me if she could go outside and play since it was nice out. I opened the garage for her and went back inside as I was working on my computer that day. Against society’s wishes, I refused to let myself get up and look out the window for her repeatedly. An hour went by and she came back inside to ask if she could cross the street (which is actually the cul-de-sac since I’m the last house on it) to play with the kids at the neighbors. I had no idea which neighbors she was talking about, but I gave her permission and she headed back out. Another hour went by and she came back inside again to ask if she could go into their house since she was invited inside to play and color. Again…I did not even know which neighbors she was referring to. I TRUSTED my child and gave her permission to go play as long as she knew she was expected to leave if they started dinner or requested she head home, since she would be having dinner that evening with her grandparents.

    I did not hear from her for two and a half hours. She could have been dead or kidnapped and raped or as I assumed…calmly playing with other children indoors. Heaven forbid. At one point I had gone outside to have a cigarette like usual in the garage and glanced around the end of the cul-de-sac to see if I could somehow mind-read where she was, but there was no evidence as to which home she was in.

    When she finally came home she was in an incredibly upbeat mood and told me she loved me and I was her sunshine. She had been notified earlier that day that she would need to clean her room before she was going to be allowed to leave with Grandma and Papa that evening for dinner since she was staying over at their house that night. She melted me so much calling me her sunshine and had made me so proud of her actions that day requesting my permission for each change, but carrying it out independently…that I gave her the choice of going back outside to play or cleaning her room. She’s five so she opted to play outside again.

    When Grandma and Papa showed up on their motorcycles to pick her up she was still playing across the street with the other kids helping rake the area where they were getting the soil ready to plant some flowers. I called her home, got her all suited up in her chaps, Fox biker gloves, leather jacket and pink helmet, kissed her goodbye and plopped her on the back of Papa’s motorcycle for the 45 minute ride to their house on the back of his cruiser. She barely weighs 40 lbs and she’s managing her own life and riding motorcycles.

    I would say the number of times I am told I’m a horrible, uncaring or uninvolved mother for the way I raise my child is almost equal to the number of times a perfect stranger or a good friend has told me how amazingly astute, independent and well behaved my child is. She is happy and so am I. She is a Free Range Kid and I am proud to be her mother and her sunshine. Happy Mother’s Day to all of us.


  85. I love the neighborhood we live in. There are always kids around for my kids to run and play with. We don’t have an actual playground or even a park but they run around the yards. They discovered an area between some yards with some trees and free space. They call it Childrens Hill, and they all love to play there 🙂

  86. For some reason, as free-range as I am, the concept of leaving my children in the local park (which is only about 200 yards from my house) for any length of time just didn’t sit right with me. Moreso because of worry over interfering busybodies than mistrust of my children or random strangers.

    However, on the weekend, my husband was out the front with a colleague digging plants out of our garden. My 8yo, 4yo and one of my twin 2yos were with him, just hanging around. They wanted to go for a walk – he let them walk up the street on our block (they go out of sight over a rise for a bit).

    Then, unbeknownst to me, he let them cross the road and walk to the park. When I saw them walking back, I thought they’d just walked down and back, as the whole path is visible from our front gate. But no, they’d played there (DD8 complained, “DS2 wanted thirty swings!).

    What had happened to them? Nothing. They’d practised responsibility (the 8yo), listening to authority figures other than their parents (presumably the 4yo and the 2yo), and had the joy of play unfettered by parental supervision.

    So, 21st May? I might just send them all (the other 2yo and the 6yo included) to the park. And leave them there.

  87. There are usually between 10-15 kids at our neighborhood park (it’s a closed school with playground, b-ball court, tennis court, baseball diamond, and big blacktop area). My kids are 2 and 4 so I am always with them, but I am always the ONLY parent there. There are usually several 2,3, and 4 year olds there under the supervision of their 12-ish year old siblings. I don’t have a single problem with any of this EXCEPT this (and I need advice please): those 12 year olds are VERY distracted with each other, socializing, chasing, teasing, etc. and NOT watching their little charges. I end up watching these littles and keeping them away from the street and helping them up on the big kid playscape. Second problem is the potty-mouths that the 8-12 year olds have. I know this is because they are alone so they are practicing their freedom of speech with no parents around, but at the expense of my little ones’ ears! Can I ask the big ones to watch their siblings? And ask the middle kids to watch their nasty mouths? Or just take my kids home?

  88. I let my daughter (9yo) walk down to the neighborhood park — only about 100 yards from our house. We have a rule — she must come straight home if there are no other kids– or only older kids (sometimes the middle schoolers and high schoolers hang out there– I think they scare me more than the adults.) I have to admit I often worry about her while she is gone, but I want her to have freedom and self reliance. I grew up playing outside til the street lights came on. I knew about strangers and what to do and so does she.

  89. […] station described it. “Bizarre!” exclaimed the front page of The New York Daily […] FreeRangeKids Related Posts:Oh Please! “Terrifying”? The Latest “Alarming!” News?Frustrated in […]

  90. […] May 21 is Take Your Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day. This is the second annual demonstration aimed at getting children (roughly 7 years and older) out […]

  91. It makes me sad to think that our kids don’t have the freedom to explore on their own like we did but unfortunately the reality is child abduction is very prevalent in our society as well as some kids will be more prone to bully knowing no parents are around. I think we all like the idea of leaving our children at the park without supervision but let’s face it, once this event gains momentum and predators hear about it wouldn’t it be a prime location for them? Is announcing this day publicly and the park not exposing our children to those risks? I guess it is one of those things where until it happens we’ll all just pretend the world is a safe place for our children to be left alone at that age? Wouldn’t it be better to organize two or three adults to supervise and make it a weekly thing and rotate supervision? As far as letting them figure things out on their own, how about going to the park and if they get a scrape or have difficulties with other children, you just let them figure it out and only intervene when it’s absolutely necessary. I see too many parents hover over their children for every little thing rather than give them enough credit to figure things out on their own and gain independence. I think you can supervise your children from a distance without being a “helicopter” parent. Isn’t that a more sensible solution??? I don’t know, just wondering….

  92. So, as usual, no one is going to say a thing to Tanya who plans to drop her 4 & 6 year olds off at the park alone? Really?

  93. […] you know it was “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day” on  Saturday, May […]

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