Now Our Kids are Too Delicate to Handle the Glare of Notebook Paper?

Readers — I just got some “helpful” back-to-school tips from a famous sunscreen company. (Hint: Think dog and little girl and bathingsuit.) Not only does that company really want kids to wear — this’ll surprise you — sunscreen when they go out for recess, but it had some other suggestions. Well, two, actually, one of which was for kids to wear a comfortable (as opposed to uncomfortable) backpack. Never woulda thought of that! The one single other “tip”?

Students spend so much time staring at paper, it may surprise you to know that the higher the contrast, the more strain on your son or daughter’s eyes. If the school allows it, give your child yellow or green paper. These colors actually offer reduced contrast and brightness, easing the strain on their eyes.

So basically, the sunscreen company is suggesting that, ever since Guttenberg, our kids have been going blind, or at least under difficult visual duress, thanks to that darn white paper.

As for the sunscreen company: I understand that you have to gussy up your “tip list” with other ideas, so it didn’t look like all you care about is selling more sunscreen. But it sure looks like all you care about is selling more sunscreen (and coming up with ridiculous new worries, so the idea of kids slathering themselves in sunscreen for 15 minutes of recess seems less extreme.) — L

Am I the Only One Sickened by These “Tips”?

Hi Readers — One of you sent me this link to Moms Who Think. Apparently these are Moms Who Think TOO MUCH. They make outdoor play sound like sending your kid off to the Crusades. Voila:

…unlike schoolwork, outdoor play can present physical dangers that you may find downright disturbing.

Children can easily fall and hurt themselves, play dangerous games that result in harm to others, or even become targets for adult predators outside. So how can you allow your children the outdoor exercise they need without either stifling them or signing them up for an unplanned trip to the emergency room?

That sure makes outdoor play sound inviting. Hmm, should I send my kids out  or do I want  them to LIVE? Guess I’ll keep ’em inside!

The “tips” in the article include SUPERVISING the kids (big surprise), but  it never says when you are allowed to stop. Maybe never! That’s not an inconvenience, is it? And, of course, you are also expected to canvass the playground for all sorts of DANGER. They forgot to add that parents should always pack a healthy lunch, gallons of sunscreen and an Uzi.  — Lenore

This does not look safe at ALL! Where is the supervision?!

Help Needed! How Can We Let Our Kids Free-Range Without Us Getting Scolded (Or Arrested)?

Hi Readers! The question that Emily poses, below, is so central to Free-Ranging that I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t have a truly killer response.  But when in need,  as we teach our kids, ask for help. So that is what I’m doing –asking all of you: How can we let our kids do things on their own at an age that WE consider appropriate, if much of the rest of society does NOT?

I’d love to hear from any of you who have done this successfully, as well as those who have not. I’d also appreciate any feedback and/or tips from people who work in child protection, the police department or the law.

I really do want to come up with some simple, usable strategies beyond the ones I’ve suggested before, which include:

* Give your child a “Free-Range Kids Membership Card” that states his name and the fact that you, the parent, approve of him being on his own. (It also includes your phone number, so a skeptical adult can confirm this.)

* Get other kids involved, so there’s strength in numbers.

* Try giving a talk to the PTA about the fact that violent crime is down since the ’70s and ’80s, which means today’s kids are NOT more in danger than we were.

*Yuppie Jujitsu: When parents say children need hovering,  tell them recent studies show that unsupervised “free play” makes children less depressed, more fit AND it builds their cognitive capabilities. (Yuppies love the word “cognitive”!)

*And…what else? Eagerly awaiting your two cents! — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids:  Sometimes I get so discouraged. I have a 7 year old boy, a 2.5 year old girl and a 1 year old boy. We live in an apartment building with no yard of our own. It’s also on the corner of two very busy streets. A few miles down the road, however, my father has a nice house in a suburban neighborhood. Two blocks away there are a playground, pool, library, grocery store and various small shops. When I was younger (7 or so), my best friend, younger brother and I would spend all day in this plaza, by ourselves. My lucky mother, haha! I would love a break like that!

Anyway, my son visits there often and I’d like him to be able to ride his bike around the neighborhood, go to the playground, and waste his allowance on candy at the store. I’d like him and his sister to be able to play in the (un-fenced-in) yard at my dad’s house. But I get SO many negative comments from just about everyone. Did I know my kids were on the porch ALONE?? Did I know my son rode his bike five houses away? Did I know my children were playing in THE DIRT????

Yes, I did. Thank you for your concern. Now please go away. Haha. I’m afraid that if I let my son go to the playground by himself, he’ll be accosted by every busybody along the way, and I’m even more worried that they’ll call the police.

Also, when we go out shopping, I let my son go to the toy aisle while I do my shopping nearby. When I go to “collect” him, there is always some other mom hovering and when she sees me she’ll say something like, “Oh, good, I just wanted to make sure he was safe.” Also while at the store, I occasionally have to take my 2 yr old to the bathroom. Rather than bring the baby in with us (which is ALWAYS a disaster), I’d like to leave him in the cart, by the door, with my older son. Yet, I fear the good-intentioned masses.

I’d appreciate any advice you can give me. Thank you! — Emily

Stranger Danger? Wise Words from a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Nurse

Hey Readers — Short, sweet and safe. Wise words lifted from a comment that just landed here:

“Dear Free- Range Kids: [I am a] Peds ICU nurse and can tell you that the real dangers are overlooked.    Lock your second story windows, make sure your kids understand car and bike safety.  Model safe behavior.  Don’t talk and text while driving. It really is simple.  Also, I can tell you that I have NEVER once taken care of a kid who was assaulted by a stranger.  I have taken care of MANY who have been critically injured by a family member.”