Hi Folks! As our annual “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day” draws nigh (does “nigh” ever get used without the verb draw?), here’s a lovely piece about why it is GREAT for kids to get out and play, on their own, without a coach, program or parents to organize (or limit!) them.

The idea of the holiday is simple: We take our kids, age 7 or 8 and up, to the local park at 10 a.m. That way, they meet up with other kids from the neighborhood. We wave goodbye and the kids are on their own to come up with something to do. Boredom works in their favor — eventually they start playing because NOT playing is so painfully dull. By the time they’re through — it could be half an hour or half a day later — chances are they’ll want to do it again. And so Sunday becomes “Our kids are going to the park on their own” day, as do  most days thereafter!

If you’ve got younger kids — great. Go to the park and witness what your kids will be able to do in only a few years. Meantime, you’re there on the bench, creating the kind of community that reassures the parents waving their older kids goodbye.


The idea is not radical. It’s simply a way to “re-seed” the all-too-empty playgrounds and parks with children. There’s no reason kids can’t play on their own. Crime is down since when we parents were kids. Diabetes and obesity — the twin scourges of sitting inside — are up. What’s more, it is SAFER for kids to play than not to play, and this study (if you need to wave one around) says that letting kids play UNSUPERVISED is one of the best things a parent can do for a child:

Professor Roger Mackett, who led the study, said: “Allowing children to leave the house without an accompanying adult has significant benefits.

“The health benefits are clear, but without action the less tangible benefits of increased independence and self-reliance will be lost.

“That may be a very great loss with many implications.”

Fight the fear that has kept kids indoors or only in supervised programs. Go forth to Facebook and Twitter and the PTA to spread the word about Take Our Children to the Park… and Leave Them There Day!  And let us know if you get some traction! –  L

41 Responses

  1. I just have one problem with this…

    EVERY DAY is already “Leave your kid at the park day” for my son and has been since he was 7.

  2. Yay! Mine are def. too young for this, but one day! (They are 4 and 1. Not quite at “leave them alone outside” age, even for a free ranger).

    Also, yours was a rhetorical question – but I feel compelled to note that a Girl Scout song that I sang for years has “nigh” without “draw.” 🙂

    Day is done
    Gone the sun
    from the lakes and the hills and the skies
    All is well
    Safely rest
    God is nigh

  3. “The end is nigh”

  4. Our neighborhood park is usually empty but that is because it consists of a single picnic table and a playground, or rather a pathetic excuse for one, that my son mastered by the age of two. Still, I won’t see a big change in our neighborhood because kids are always out playing unsupervised.

  5. Umm, second annual? Does that mean we were supposed to get them back after the last one?

  6. Verse four from the Christmas carol Away in a Manger:
    I love Thee, Lord Jesus
    Look down from the sky
    And stay by my cradle,
    ‘Til morning is nigh.

  7. Was at the park today with my kids (4.5 & 3 …too young to leave alone yet), reading my book. A local daycare had walked their kids over. Omg – these kids couldn’t do anything! No playing outside of the bark area. Which means, no playing on the grass. They couldn’t climb up a slide, when it was totally empty. No hanging upside down off of a railing – kids were told multiples times ‘you might fall & get hurt’. These kids were 3-5 years old.

    My 4.5 year old son is pretty active. He & some of the boys were sliding down the slide, all together, hanging on to each other. That was frowned upon by the teachers (more like wardens). My 3 year old son is a late bloomer & not adventurous at all. Doesn’t like the slide, swings, won’t climb anything. That’s our Sean! Lol he usually just wanders around, playing on his own.

    I’m sure the daycare is confined to rules & regulations about safety but how about common sense? Our oldest son goes to pre-school. Its much more relaxed. The teacher is ‘old school’ ie ‘yes, you can wrestle, but if you get hurt, the wrestling stops’.

    This is off topic, but is it standard to have telephones in every classroom these days. I was talking to a teacher at work one day (sbux) & she was saying how happy she was to have her class phone repaired. I asked – is it even nec to have a phone in a classroom? She replied ‘oh yes, I couldn’t go without 1’; whay if a kid had an allergic reaction? Um, another kid runs down to the office & they call 911? Meanwhile, how often does that really happen? If a kid has an actual allergy to a substance that requires immed attention, they usually carry an epi pen.
    I just think its sad these days that a phone is needed in a classroom. Don’t teachers walk to the office or a kid walk to the office for info anymore?

  8. Wanted to celebrate with the FRK folks about a move I just made: we’re putting our house on the market, and since it’s hard enough to keep a house clean and in show condition when it’s just two adults living there, with four grade-schoolers we figured it was nigh on impossible (the “nigh” is for you, Lenore) so we packed everything up and are renting a 50’s rambler 40 FEET AWAY FROM THE LITTLE LEAUGE FIELD.

    Best decision I ever made, to move us about 1/4 mile and trade creature comforts and water views for the real stuff of life: community! Play! Fun! My son, who is 11, LIVES at this particular park, and now, he’s thrilled to bring all his buddies home to see our chickens in their coop and tromp through the house in search of popsicles.

    Saturday night, he met some teens playing soccer in the field and learned some moves. It was getting dark, so I did my piercing whistle and yelled his name to call him in. I called him in with a whistle! Now that’s more like it! My daughter, about to turn 8, delights in throwing me a backward wave and saying, “I’m just going to go to the playground for a while,” then returning ten minutes later for a snack and then running back again. The first day, she fell off a swing trying a new trick and came home in tears. After a quick drink of water she went back for more! My step-kids haven’t been with us this week (they are 6 and 10), and they’ve been pouting over at their mom’s because “it’s not fair! The other kids are having all the fun.”

    It’s unlikely we’ll stay here beyond September 1, but I think it will be the hardest move I’ll make in my life, leaving this crappy old rotting mouldy cracker box right next to the playground! My son has already asked if we can buy the place. “It’s a tear-down,” I told him. “The landlord will raze it within five years and build something else.” He just looked at me. “Well, that gives us a couple of years at least, so can we just stay here and rent?” We’ll see. If nothing else, I think this summer will be the one the kids remember most fondly.

    I know what matters to me. Free Range Kids matter to me. Community matters to me. Finding a way to create a life that includes these values is my passion. So grateful this place came up on Craigslist! Wahoo!!!!!

  9. Nigh unto 47 years ago, I was born. I’m sure some of us have heard the “nigh unto” construction before.

  10. Now if only there was a park in American Samoa …

  11. That’s my son’s birthday. Think I could get away with “take your kids to the park and leave them there” as a theme for the party? LOL

  12. Kim, we always had phones in our classrooms growing up. It’s a lot more convenient than always having to send a kid down when you need to carry a message.

  13. Seriously, classroom phones aren’t a new phenomenon (full disclosure: if your classroom in the late 80s to mid 90s had a phone, it was probably hooked up to a system for which I designed the central processor board and wrote about half the software). Even back in the late 60s to mid 70s, every classroom I was ever in had an intercom connecting it to the main office. Their normal usage was to deliver routine administrative messages from the office to the teacher, not to report emergencies originating in the classroom.

    However, nowadays all manufacturers of such systems (including the one I worked for) market them based on how well they could have performed on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School outside of Littleton Colorado (seriously, the kind I worked on would have helped a little with rumor control, but wouldn’t have saved any lives).

  14. I live in Illinois, and there is actually a legal age – 14 – that you can leave a child home alone. If you leave a child younger than 14 home alone, you can be in trouble with the law. So if I were to leave my 10 year old alone at the park, would the same law apply? It’s not leaving them home alone, but it IS leaving them unsupervised. Any thoughts? Here is a state by state list, just in case anyone is interested:

  15. Classroom phones are nothing new and probably the result of convenience, as Uly says, rather than paranoia. My junior high had them in the late 70’s, and since it was built in the early 70’s, I think they were originally installed. My high school also had them. In a large, busy school, the office staff has things to do besides running all over the school carrying messages, if a teacher or student needs to be contacted during class time.

  16. Unsubscribing

  17. I graduated in 1999 and remember phones in the classrooms all though out my schooling. In our high school they were all right next to the door and the teacher’s desk was typically at the opposite end of the classroom. One teacher got some wires and rigged it so his phone was on his desk. It started to bug the other teachers because he would call for any little thing and not only would they have to get up and walk over to the phone but if they were actually teaching it obviously interrupted their lesson. Anyway, another teacher had stopped by our classroom and the phone rang so he answered it as he was standing right next to it. He said, “Oh Russ, I thought I was phoning Gregg,” and hung up. Well, another teacher was passing by so Russ grabbed him and had him answer the phone instead while he grabbed yet a different teacher from another classroom. On the third phone call where yet someone else picked up, the annoying teacher said, “There’s something wrong with these phones. I’m calling the office.” It was hilarious although I’m not sure if he quit calling for every little thing after that or not.

  18. I never had a classroom with a phone but my mother did in 1963. Students were assigned days to answer the phone. My mother distinctly remembers that it was her day to answer the phone on November 22.

  19. Oh, I soooo want to be in…. it will be big test to leave my 7 year-old on the playground and walk away, but I’m clear that the test will be for me, not her!! Thanks for the push, Lenore.

  20. Well since every day is “kids go to the park alone day”…

    My kids even take their 1yo to the park. Yesterday I took him and it was the first time I’d ever actually been to the playground in the almost 2 years we’ve lived here. There were a ton of people there: kids just hanging out, a family having some kind of BBQ, an older gentleman reading in the shade, a softball team practicing, people walking dogs, people walking around the 1/4 mile track around the park for exercise. My kids scrounged up a frisbee from someone and I got the kids playing by standing on the hill and throwing it as far as I could. They chased it all over while the 1yo ran up and down the hill about 20 feet from me. They all had fun and this is a pretty typical day in our neighborhood.

    So, for the special occasion I think I’ll change it to Kids Independently Walking Themselves to a Park Not in Their Immediate Neighborhood Day. Which they’ve done before, actually. I thought it was great when my 10 1/2yo son and 9 1/2yo daughter offered to take their 6yo sister with them to a park about 1 1/2 miles away. After they walked all through town (2 miles away). A river goes through the park and it has a merry go round.

    And, again, there’s nothing unusual about that in our town. The parks are always full of kids there without parents. YAY!

  21. Debra, The law doesn’t say that you can’t leave children alone under 14, that is a big simplification. Here is more information:

    Basically, under the Juvenile Court Act, it’s child neglect to leave a minor under 14 years of age “without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.”

    So as long as the time period is reasonable and you have taken measures to provide for his or her safety, you are good.

    So leave those kids at the park!

  22. @Debra, that law in Illinois is not hard and fast. It states

    “Under the Juvenile Court Act, it’s child neglect to leave a minor under 14 years of age “without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.” The same 15 factors from the Criminal Code are supposed to be taken into consideration when deciding whether a child is really neglected.”

    And this is the statute for child abandonment that lists the factors to be taken into consideration when determining if a child was abandoned or neglected. The long and short of it is, if your child is capable of taking care of themselves, has access to food, water and all of the other common sense stuff we talk about here on a daily basis, it’s ok.

    As far as whether it’s legal to let them go to the park on their own, I would think that the same rules would apply here.

  23. One of my dearest friends is a retired Illinois police officer, so I asked her about this statute when I was considering leaving my 11 year-old daughter home by herself after school in 6th grade.

    She said it’s evaluated on a situational basis, and the maturity level of the child. But she knows my daughter, and thought it would be fine.

    Our neighbor is usually home, my mother-in-law is a phone call and 5 minutes away, and I work 5 minutes away, so we are pretty well covered.

    Now if she would just do her ding-dang chores when she got home!

  24. […] by other citizens. If you feel like rebelling against this nonsense, mark your calendars for Take Your Child to the Park…and Leave Them There Day. You might want to skip this holiday if you live in Australia because you could be […]

  25. I actually lived in Australia for just under two years, and I saw kids riding bikes, skateboarding, walking to and from school (or the corner store to get Popsicles), and swimming/surfing/body boarding without adult supervision on a fairly regular basis. Maybe it’s because I lived in the relatively quiet city of Wollongong, or maybe it’s because Australia’s warmer climate allowed for more outdoor play in general (so, parents would have more opportunities over the years to get used to the idea of their kids taking smart, safe, calculated risks outside). Whatever it was, it seemed like a really good thing. We also played bobbing for apples the real way (as in, apples in a tub of water, theoretically swimming in bacteria) at International House, and at Girl Guides as well, when I was volunteering as a Unit Helper. So, my point is, I’m all for Take Your Kids To The Park and Leave Them There Day–I just wish it could be EVERY day, because when more people start doing something, it becomes commonplace, and then slowly but surely, our consciousness shifts to redefine this new phenomenon as being acceptable.

  26. About the phone in the classroom. I love having it. I can call the nurse, or the front office and I’m not having to scream over the overhead intercom. Especially when the issue has privacy concern. For example I had a kid this week who was hacking up a lung – it was allergies not a sick cough. I tried to call her Mom. Couldn’t get hold of her. I called nurse to see what we could do. Nurse gave her crushed ice to sooth her throat – and she could keep calling the Mom till she got a reply.

  27. Emily, oh how I wish my town had a name like Wollongong!

  28. Because Lenore knows your child and your neighborhood better than you do, and has decided that ANY 7-year-old in ANY neighborhood is safe alone in the playground. Because Lenore assumes that children can ONLY play independently if you are far out of sight and the children are isolated from caring adults, unlike in many countries and cultures where parents and neighbors alike enjoy a park while children play all around them.
    My child has played independently, to varying degrees, since she has been able to walk. Yes, it’s ridiculous that parents of 3-year-olds feel the need to intervene in every social interaction, every burp, every smudge on a white sweater in the playground.
    It’s also ridiculous that Lenore thinks children can “learn” how to protect themselves by swimming with the sharks.
    Crime against children is down because parents these days protect their children. Duuuuh.
    We now know that all those kids in the 1930s and 1950s and whenever who disappeared didn’t just “run away to the circus,” they were murdered or kidnapped into prostitution.

  29. RheaGray, I don’t recall Lenore ever saying these things. I don’t know what you are angry at, but I think a calming cup of tea is just the thing right now. Maybe a nice sugar wafer. Whatever the problem is, I’m confident it doesn’t lie with Lenore. There! Feel better now?

  30. RheaGray, not only did Lenore never say any of those things, she’s said the opposite of nearly every one of them. She’s all about knowing what your child is ready for, and the LETTING THEM.

  31. Hello all, I don’t often post, but I am all about having free-range kids. I have pretty much the most free-range kids in our neighborhood. They are out of the house as often as I can get them to leave. They are forever riding off on their bikes to play with other kids.

    However, I do take issue with one little comment in this post. The implication that diabetes is caused by not playing outside.Two of them are diabetic. They have Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. It is an auto-immune disease and was not caused by any kind of lifestyle habits. In fact my son was diagnosed when he was just 18 months old. Neither of my T1s is obese.

    I am really proud of my T1 kids, especially that they do not fear going out away from mom and dad. This is a frightening disease to live with. We are currently working on getting a service dog (Diabetic Alert Dog) to go with them when they are playing to alert them to highs and lows in their blood sugars. I want them to be as “free-range,” independent and confident as possible.

    Please note that not all diabetics are Type 2 (the type you usually hear about on tv) which is affected by lifestyle, but also in a large part by genetics.
    My request is that you educate yourself about chronic illnesses in children before implying that parents are at fault for their illnesses.

  32. […] it’s Take Our Children to the Park. . . And Leave Them There Day, brought to you by Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids. If you’d like to participate, I know […]

  33. […] of the Free Range Kids movement that it’s not enough to bring your kids to the park – you have to leave them alone; otherwise you’re a Smother, a Helicopter Parent, and a pearl-clutching peodphilo-phobic […]

  34. […] that kids can have outside, on their own, reminds everyone to celebrate Saturday’s holiday: TAKE OUR CHILDREN TO THE PARK…AND LEAVE THEM THERE DAY! Spread the […]

  35. […] park, you leave, they play for a while, and then you go pick them up and bring them home. On their official website, they say: The idea of the holiday is simple: We take our kids, age 7 or 8 and up, to the local […]

  36. […] In case you didn’t hear, last Saturday was the third annual “Take our children to the park and leave them there day.” […]

  37. This is seriously the STUPIDEST thing i ever read in my entire life!!! I only hope for those moms who do that theyre children dont get abducted, molested, raped or even killed! watch your kids!!!!!! We dont live in LALA LAND!!!!!!!!

  38. I’m still waiting for the post about how this day went. I didn’t hear about it until it was past. I’d really be interested in hearing people’s experience with how it went.

  39. Feel better now?

  40. […] recently, I never considered the local park to be an option. Last Saturday was the third annual “Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day,” organized by Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free Range Parenting […]

  41. […] Third Annual “TAKE OUR CHILDREN TO THE PARK…AND LEAVE THEM THERE DAY” coming up SA…( Our Most Popular ArticlesThree Things We Need To Stop Doing to Newborns!29414 views When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night!? You Want the Good News or the Bad News First?6246 views Here’s Some Formula Just In Case4030 views Bed Sharing and Sex, You’re Not Doing It Right2835 views nRelate.getNrelatePosts(""); nRelate.fixHeight("nrelate_popular_6");nRelate.adAnimation("nrelate_popular_6");nRelate.tracking("mp"); Share this:FacebookEmail […]

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