Leave Your Kids at the Park? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 34 Old 05-20-2013, 08:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Apparently, this past Saturday was the 4th annual "Take Our Children to the Park...and Leave Them There Day."

 

This day is an effort to encourage children aged 7 or 8 and up to have undirected and unsupervised play by taking them to a local park, and leaving them there. 

 

In an article on Slate.com, Lenore Skenazy writes:

 

Quote:

Playing is that powerful. It's addictive. It's what children have done since the beginning of time...till about a generation ago, when we decided, as a country, that letting kids go outside on their own is just "too dangerous."

Do you know how many kids play outside on their own these days? One study I read said that in a typical week, the number is down to six percent. That's kids ages nine to 13—the sweet spot for goofing around and, incidentally, becoming independent. But instead of exercising their bodies and minds and ability to organize ANYTHING on their own, including a couple hours of free time, most kids are either supervised in leagues or stuck inside, usually with a screen.

 

She then goes on to talk about how crime is at an all-time low in the US, yet most women are convinced that the world is more dangerous than ever. I think she makes some good points about how the media affects our sense of safety, but I also think her article fails to take into account quite a few things. I could list them, but Drew Magary, also on Slate.com, has done it far more humorously than I could. Read his response here

 

In the end, I agree with the premise that children need time and space to play without adult direction or supervision, especially as they get older. But I won't be driving my kid to the park and leaving him there anytime in the forseeable future. 

 

What do you think?

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#2 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 08:20 AM
 
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My kid is 2 months, so I definitely wouldn't be leaving her at the park.

 

But in general, I agree with Lenore's thinking here (and having read more about what she says, she does believe in taking into account age/location/etc., so it's not fair to act like it's so simple).  If I felt my kid was responsible enough to hang out at a park in a reasonable area of town where we feel comfortable, yes, I would take her there and leave her there.  


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#3 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 08:25 AM
 
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My oldest son is 7 and I would leave him with an older, responsible friend (he plays with 10-13 year olds a lot), and often do, if I were a block away or less. As a group I'll leave the 4 year old with them too for short times. Once he is 9 or so maybe I'd have less caveats. We don't actually have a park, just the yards outside and the forest, we live in the country.

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#4 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 11:41 AM
 
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My kids are 7 and 8 now. We live in burlington vt a small college city but we are on the outside more family party of the city. behind our hours are woods and to the side of the woods a soccerfield and playground with tennis basketball and bathrooms. If they went with an older child (they have many older friends here) I might consider it they do play in the woods and soccer field alone. I love them playing alone but I also like to be able to yell to them

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#5 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 12:01 PM
 
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What do I think...Awesome.  Just did that with my kid and a friends kid a couple weeks ago.  They are 9 and 10.  They loved it and after reading Lenore's book and starting a book club with it, I have seen emotional growth out of my son.  Growth I didn't know he was capable of.  


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#6 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 12:16 PM
 
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Did you see the counterpoint?  While the guy that wrote it is quite rude (inappropriate to call children "stupid") it has a lot of merit.

 

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/05/17/leave_your_kid_at_the_park_day_is_a_rotten_idea_and_should_be_abolished.html

 

Since my babe is only 2ish the whole leaving your kid alone thing doesn't come into play yet, but living in NYC, surrounded by lots and lots and lots and lots of people I have already had to deal with some of this type of stuff in playgrounds.

 

1) People don't shut playground gates.  Why?  Maybe their kids are old enough to understand how to stay in the playground and not, you know, run out into the street.  Maybe their kids stick around them rather than make a beeline for the perimeter and all gates.

2) Playgrounds in NYC are often for multiple age groups.  And let me tell you, some of these kids (6-10) (who's parents are waaaayy over there hanging out drinking coffee and chatting) are telling me that the giant (GIANT) jungle gym is where they are playing and that my kid is too little and he can't be there.  Funny enough, this has happened enough times for me to believe that the self-entitled parents are passing that self-entitlement onto their kids. 

3) Older children on swings are not looking out for toddlers.  Period.

4) My kid bites. I'm working on it, daycare is working on it.  It's just him and it will pass but I have to keep a close eye on him at the playground.  Many other parents have said to me that they believe in they "just let them work it out" philosophy.   I know for a fact that they would not be quite as happy when my kid bites theirs.  I thought I believed in that philosophy, until I had a kid that bites.  I continue to try to let him figure stuff out on his own but it's difficult. 

 

My favorite playground in Prospect Park Brooklyn is called The Imagination Playground http://www.prospectpark.org/visit/places/play#imagination

 

Despite it being rated #1 somewhere (Time Out NY?) it's often not very crowded. 

 

Thing is - this is a playground where you can let your kid roam.  There are only 2 entrances and they are more often than not kept closed.  There are a few things to play on with, a stage, but no slides etc.  I've always had a much better interactions with families in this playground than the other playgrounds.  I've seen kids from 12 mo to 12 years play together and/or simultaneously.  And the older kids are usually looking out for the younger ones - whether or not they're siblings - not ot telling them that they can't play on something or another.

 

So to summarize this ramble.  I love the idea of the "leave your kids in the park day" but in NYC at least I just don't think it's a good idea. 

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#7 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 12:37 PM
 
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I don't take my kids to the park and leave them... they are old enough to walk down there by themselves. orngtongue.gif

We live in a safe, boring, suburban neighborhood, the kind of place where kids walk home from school (the elementary school is actually *in* the neighborhood) and then run around outside until the streetlights come on. I let my oldest two start playing outside without me when they were like 7 or 8. Then I started letting my younger kids join them (playing together) as each one hit about age 6. I very carefully taught them about traffic safety (which is really the only danger they're going to encounter around here), they mostly stay together in groups (either of their siblings, or other kids), they don't go inside anyone's house without talking to me, and they know never to leave the neighborhood. They go to friends' houses, two parks (one that has a playground and one that is just a big open green space), the school playground, and the church playground.

The only problems they've ever had were with grumpy old neighbors. There's one lady who comes out and yells at the kids when they knock on their friend's door across the street from her. She'll come out and yell, "Don't knock on their door! Leave them alone! Go home!" She also yelled at me once when she was walking her chihuahua off-leash (NOT legal!), and I was walking my German Shepherd on his leash, and her dog ran over and started jumping all over my dog, who obviously freaked out and started growling and trying to get away. She got hysterical and screamed at me to keep my dog away from her baby. So, you know, mentally stable she is not. I tell my kids to just stay as far away from her as they can.
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#8 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 01:43 PM
 
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We have far too many kids in the 7-10 age range that are big, fast, rude and completely oblivious/inconsiderate of how their play is affecting others. Sure, many children in that range are aware enough to know how to play around little kids, but most seem not to be. One they are closer to 10, they seem less into the rock-throwing, chasing, war games on the playground and tend to stay more in the perimeters (thus leaving the playground to the younger set).

Unless it's a big open field or multi-use park (rather than playground), I don't feel it is a responsible choice to leave smaller children at the unsupervised mercy of your child. I think Lenore likely meant something more like the multi-use city park more than a playground setting. That seems reasonable and wonderful for someone around 8 or older. Obviously, much of that depends on the sensibility of the child.

I will let my son play unsupervised as soon as I know he is well aware of how his actions affect others and their boundaries. Also, he would need to have access to emergency service, be it park patrol, a local business nearby or phone access.
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#9 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 04:18 PM
 
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I've had problems several times with kids (7-10) alone at the playground latching on to me. It seems that, at least in these cases, they really would be better off with an adult there. It's very awkward to have an unrelated child asking you to boost them onto monkey bars and push them on swings, and even more awkward to have to keep saying no, while my own toddler keeps demanding to know why I can't let the kid share the tire swing, etc. I've also had these kids tell me WAY more than they should about their personal lives. I think roaming the neighborhood is okay at a younger age, but the playground is more complex. I also think it wasn't as common to take babies and toddlers to the playgrounds of yore, so it was a more appropriate place for unattended school-aged kids.
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#10 of 34 Old 05-21-2013, 09:53 PM
 
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Hmm My 7 yr old wants to go places by himself but i don't let him. I let them run around a bit but i like to be able to call his name and him respond so i know he is ok. Maybe crime is at an all time low because people aren't letting there kids wander like we used to when we were little? I don't know i just know too many people that were molested as kids. 


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#11 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 08:24 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaritaa View Post

 Maybe crime is at an all time low because people aren't letting there kids wander like we used to when we were little? I don't know i just know too many people that were molested as kids. 

If the crime were down just because we aren't letting kids wander, we would see a difference in crime against ages... and we don't.  Besides, statistically, the vast majority of molestations are done by people the kid knows (family members, family friends, etc.)

 

I'm not advocating idiocy, but it's my belief that a kid who is confident in his surroundings has a much better chance than a kid who is terrified to go anywhere.

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#12 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 09:52 AM
 
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Umm, no. I think it's crazy at 7 or 8 for all children and even for those older depending on personality. We don't live in a world where everyone is looking out for my child and my children shouldn't have to be responsible for their own safety.

I know that crime is lower but what about someone calling CPS? That is a very real risk if you leave your children alone anywhere at that age. The involvement of CPS in my family even if it's just an interview is not worth the supposed benefit of leaving them alone at the park. It's about weighing risk vs benefit right?

My kids play outside in the back yard by themselves, I let them handle conflict with each other, I don't hover at all. I'm very satisfied that they are developing the skills they need.

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#13 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 10:01 AM
 
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Lenore Skenazy is trying to change the culture by making people more used to seeing kids out playing, so if the culture changes, people will stop seeing it as something to call CPS over, and CPS will not respond.

My daughter is 11 and has been running around the neighborhood (and the one we lived in previously) with other neighborhood kids since 7 or 8. I'd let her play at a park at her age without me so long as she was there with another friend. But she and her friends usually just run around the neighborhood. In fact, when we moved, I specifically looked for a neighborhood where I saw kids running around, because that's the neighborhood culture I want to live in. Another neighbor told me the same thing. He said he and his wife were looking at the house they ended up buying, and saw kids get off the bus, run home and throw their backpacks inside, and then run back out again to play. They decided right then to buy that house. I think the culture is changing and it's becoming more common again.

I'm not concerned about CPS. I'm not going to keep my kid locked up over fear of them checking on her.
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#14 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 01:23 PM
 
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It depends on the community.  I've lived in a small citiy where I was comfortable leaving my seven year old to play while I ran errands (at shops across the street); the park was full of people we knew and I'd make sure he knew where to find me.  There were always other parents or grandparents sitting around anyway and it was the norm for adults in that community to keep an eye on the kids in general, even if they weren't your own.  We've since moved and again, I'll let him go around town alone, but he's 12 now.  I'm more cautious here because, although we're in the "family friendly" suburbs, everyone keeps to themselves and there is almost no one on the street or in the parks.  I don't allow his 9 year old sister the same freedoms he had at the same age, simply because of the environment.  Playing outside on the block with neighbors is fine, but I'll walk with her to the park, just three blocks away.

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#15 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 01:45 PM
 
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I remember riding bikes with my older brother to the neighborhood park when I was 6 or 7 (so he would have been 10-11). I remember rising bikes all around with the neighborhood kids, trying to see if we could get lost. And starting around 9 or 10 I would ride with friends to the ice cream shop or the public pool or the grocery store. And we did it without cell phones.

I think you need to prep them for being out on their own, have guidelines and a list of places they're allowed to go, mandatory check-ins. I think it does wonderful things for their confidence, fostering self-reliance and independence. If you're just shoving them out the door to get them out of your hair without discussing what and where is okay and not okay, then that could be problematic.

Our neighborhood park is not a place for older kids. It's a toddler park, not designed for kids over 5, and heavily populated by toddlers and preschoolers. We've had issues with 8-10 year olds hanging out there and not being aware of the little kids, knocking them down accidentally. That would not be an okay place to let your older kid hang out alone. But generally speaking, I think it's great to let older kids roam alone.



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#16 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 02:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by michelleepotter View Post

I don't take my kids to the park and leave them... they are old enough to walk down there by themselves. orngtongue.gif

This!

 

Taking the kids to the park implies that they are reliant on me to get them safely there and back.  Leaving them at the park unsupervised is essentially temporarily abandoning them.

 

If they can get to and from the park on their own, it's a different story. One situation allows for self-regulation. The other does not.


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#17 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 02:27 PM
 
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I wish my kids could have the childhood I had. This was in a different country, but when I was 7+ years old we would run around outside in a huge communal yard surrounded by four 9 story apartment buildings. We lived on the 8th floor and once in a while my mom would pop out the window to check on us or call us for dinner time. We would also venture to other places around the neighborhood after telling mom first. BUT now, 20 years later people no longer do that really where we lived. 

 

In our neighborhood here in MA I cannot leave the kids anywhere, not even in our shared backyard (town home) because all the neighbors are nuts, they live in fear and like to impose their views on everyone. If they saw my 4.5 year old outside (where I can see her out the window) without me they would probably call CPS, so that's not an option. Our neighborhood is one where I wouldn't leave my kids outside to play without me at any time of day or any age. Yeah, I hope we move soon. 

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#18 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 04:53 PM
 
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I would do this in a heartbeat... if it weren't for fear of judgement of other parents/adults. Or (as others have noted) someone calling CPS- Yikes! My kid is more than responsible and independent enough, and when he's 7 I would trust him completely, if it was a safe neighborhood. I think it's sad that the world we live in is so fearful of the worst all of the time.

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#19 of 34 Old 05-22-2013, 05:20 PM
 
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I was fortunate enough to get to attend a seminar by Lenore Skenazy through our co-op preschool.  What she had to say was so appealing to me because it sounded just like my childhood in the 70s and 80s - in smallish towns.  I live in a suburb of a large metropolitan area now so I'm not sure how well the comfort that I felt in a small town back then translates to my world today.  I think I'll just see how things feel as my daughter grows older (she's 4 now). But what prompted me to comment here was the naysayers concerns about nobody looking out for the kids.  It all starts there - developing a community where we do all look out for each other's kids.  Being part of a co-op preschool helped me learn that.  Living on a wonderful, low-traffic street with other young families that we have gotten to know very well helps a lot, too.  Volunteering to coach my daughter's PeeWee soccer team has also been community-building for me.  I care for the children at the preschool, on my street and my soccer team like they are my nieces and nephews.  And I believe the other parents feel that way about my daughter, too.  That's the sense of comfort I had growing up, "playing in the streets" and that's the kind of community I hope my daughter gets to experience.  Already she spends most of her afternoons running around with the other kids on the street who range in age from 4 to 11.  They're either on bikes on the sidewalks or playing in each other's backyards or houses (usually outside unless it's too rainy).  For the most part, there is usually at least one parent keeping an eye on the crew, if only from a kitchen window.  And a beneficial side-effect is that it's way easier to let her play with the neighbors (or at a nearby park) than to arrange play dates that we have to drive her to.  :)

 

It's up to us parents to develop that loving community for our children rather than a world of fear and "stranger danger".

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#20 of 34 Old 05-23-2013, 06:42 AM
 
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no i would not. 

 

just lately there have been several abductions in my area. just last week, 2 girls aged 12 and 14 i believe, were picked up walking home from school. they got into his truck. the 12 yr old got away and took his gun out of his truck. they still havent found the older girl and the guy committed suicide. that one was in the news. there have been other children reported missing eithin the last month. and a big case about a year ago of 2 girls who were 9 and 12 i think. they were just riding their bikes around their very small safe town. 

 

i live in an area where people would think everyone would be safe. small towns, nice people, etc. I am very scared of losing my children like that. it doesnt matter what the statistics are when it is your child who is missing. 

 

i take my kids to and from school. sometimes we walk together, other times i give them rides. we go to the park where they run around and do whatever, where i can see them. they do not get free run of the town like i did as a kid. i grew up where we live. 


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#21 of 34 Old 05-23-2013, 09:06 AM
 
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I don't think I would leave them alone, just because of the entitlement mentality of the other parents there who would feel no qualms about bossing my kids around. Why not stay there, or in the car, reading or something. Then you are there if needed, but not micromanaging their play.
 

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#22 of 34 Old 05-23-2013, 11:03 AM
 
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I find it interesting that there doesn't seem to be much info after the fact. I would love to know how many kids showed up and where.

Judging by the lack of negative post-event press, it would seem that it went on without incident.
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#23 of 34 Old 05-23-2013, 01:30 PM
 
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I think it depends very much on the kid and the park.

 

My son is 8.  We live in a low-crime city neighborhood.  He is allowed to walk to or from school by himself--a distance of 5 blocks, with a crossing guard at the one high-traffic intersection--and is gradually increasing how often he does this rather than having me or his dad walk with him.  When it's agreed that he will be walking himself home, he is allowed to stay and play in the schoolyard for a while (a lot of kids do) but he has to wear his watch and come home by 3:30 (40 minutes after dismissal).  He is not allowed to go anywhere else or accept a ride in anyone's car without calling his dad first to ask if it's okay.  He is allowed to walk around our block anytime as long as he tells us he's going; our block includes a busy gas station, but he has demonstrated that he's very careful about crossing its driveways.  He is allowed to play in our front yard and on the sidewalks up and down the block.

 

He tells me that sometimes when he's walking, an adult will ask him if he's okay.  Usually these are people he recognizes but not always.  This annoys him, but I told him it's a good sign that people care about him, and he can just tell them he is okay and his parents know where he is. 

 

There are two playgrounds (other than the school's) about the same distance from our house as the school, but so far he has not gone there alone.  I expect he'll be doing so within the next couple of years.  Right now, his usual time to play at one park is after school on Fridays, when a lot of his friends go there--all of them accompanied by a parent.  His dad (I'm usually at work when school lets out) has been taking him there for the past 3 years and gradually decreasing his involvement/supervision as our son becomes more independent; he's there in case of skinned knee or whatever, but he talks to the other parents or works on his laptop while the kids run around, whereas when our son was little he would insist that a parent actively play with him on the playground.

 

We feel he probably would be safe at this playground alone, but because all his friends have parents there, we don't want our child to feel neglected or the other parents to feel like we're unfairly expecting them to supervise him.  We'll wait until his friends are going alone or until he asks to go alone at another time.


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#24 of 34 Old 05-23-2013, 06:14 PM
 
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No, I would never leave my kids at the park at 7 or 8. There are safer alternatives to teaching your kids independence. I am by no means a helicopter mom, and I let my 3 toddlers run in different directions at the park all the time, but as long as I can see them, it's fine. However dropping off a 7 year old is just stupid. If the kid can walk there and back (and its safe), that is different. Too many times, the unattended kids end up being watched by OTHER parents anyway (who are strangers), which is just rude and irritating to those parents.
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#25 of 34 Old 05-24-2013, 11:25 AM
 
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No, I would never leave my kids at the park at 7 or 8. There are safer alternatives to teaching your kids independence. I am by no means a helicopter mom, and I let my 3 toddlers run in different directions at the park all the time, but as long as I can see them, it's fine. However dropping off a 7 year old is just stupid. If the kid can walk there and back (and its safe), that is different. Too many times, the unattended kids end up being watched by OTHER parents anyway (who are strangers), which is just rude and irritating to those parents.

This is something to think about. When I was a kid, we walked to the park by ourselves all the time from a very young age... because the park was around the block.  When we were a little older (maybe 9?) we would walk by ourselves to the elementary school playground (about three blocks away) or when visiting our grandmother down the hill and across the field to a different playground.  As an adult, I still have no problem with this.  Yet leaving them at a distant park does seem a bit strange. On the other hand, I believe this is the 4th year in a row this event has gone on without any incident.  But if they are able to get to the park themselves, that's a good sign of independence.

 

As for other parents watching the kids, I have mixed feelings on that.  On one hand, it's a good sign of community. On the other hand, the kids went to the park BY THEMSELVES.  I don't think parents, when things look to be going well, should feel obligated to watch other kids. In other words, it's their own fault for watching these kids and then getting upset over it.

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#26 of 34 Old 05-24-2013, 11:29 AM
 
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We used to walk to a park near our house as a kid and it was no big deal, but I think back then (1970s) it would have been normal to drop your kids off at a park while you went grocery shopping too and then pick them up afterward. Not one kid, but two or more.
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#27 of 34 Old 05-24-2013, 02:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanyam926 View Post

Umm, no. I think it's crazy at 7 or 8 for all children and even for those older depending on personality. We don't live in a world where everyone is looking out for my child and my children shouldn't have to be responsible for their own safety.

I know that crime is lower but what about someone calling CPS? That is a very real risk if you leave your children alone anywhere at that age. The involvement of CPS in my family even if it's just an interview is not worth the supposed benefit of leaving them alone at the park. It's about weighing risk vs benefit right?

My kids play outside in the back yard by themselves, I let them handle conflict with each other, I don't hover at all. I'm very satisfied that they are developing the skills they need.

Exactly !  Im sure the laws vary from state to state but I know its illegal ( for good reason) in most to leave a seven year old unattended  in your own home let alone in a public place .

Why take the chance.
Kids are growing up fast enough these days as it is, why add to it by making them learn how to be alone in the world at 7 years old ???

We are called to nurture and protect them till adulthood I have never seen good come from  leaving children to fend for themselves on a regular basis as a parenting practice.

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#28 of 34 Old 05-24-2013, 08:04 PM
 
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I dont know .. my kids just aren't old enough to think about this. I have teenagers that go places on their own but my 7 yr old and 4 yr have to stay close to home. They aren't scared of the world they would love to roam...I'm just not ok with it. Lots of kids in this area go to the park by themselves etc but I'm not ok with my kids doing it... to each his own


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#29 of 34 Old 05-24-2013, 08:10 PM
 
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Well, when I was about 10 I encountered a sick pedophile at a park near my home, so I'm very much against leaving kids unsupervised...ever, even older children.  I have to say, I grew up very much free range and had many other miserable experiences because of it....and I know my free range peers did, too.  My free range upbringing was....well...traumatic.  That's why I shamelessly watch my children pretty closely.   Honestly, I think Skenazy is way too flippant when she encourages people to free range based on (usually) the single statistic that they likely won't be abducted, as if no other dangers exist in the world.   Also, on her website, there often tends to be a disturbing attitude as if children should just be hardened to "reality" or that encounters with danger or injuries will somehow toughen children up somehow...prepare them for life.  Well, whatever....I don't want my child to be hardened. 

Skenazy also fails to acknowledge very few people live in outright safe communities, and no matter where you live there are real and common dangers: bike or skateboard accidents, car accidents, unsafe playground equipment or older children/teens playing dangerously, emotional and physical abuse from peers or older children, violent games, dare-deviling, railroad tracks, poisons or chemicals, child molestation, guns, stray dogs, drugs, alcohol, smoking, drowning, gangs, bad crowds or influences.  If your kids aren't white, there is racism to deal with.   If you have an older kid, there is also the danger from friends driving or drinking and driving. These dangers are NOT uncommon, not at all. I had encounters, or knew of kids in my community growing up who had encounters, with most of these dangers I listed.  Some ended up seriously injured or dead, and lots just messed up.


So, please don't blindly follow all this free-range stuff!  Trust me, it is not all fun and games.  I would have so much happier, as a child, had someone helped me spend my time more productively and made sure I was better supervised! 

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#30 of 34 Old 05-25-2013, 06:16 AM
 
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[Ooops! It's too late to quote now, but this is in response to MamaRaya's comments about there being laws about leaving children home alone]

I used to think it was illegal to leave my kids home alone. But there was an issue with a neighbor that to handle myself I would have had to leave the house, so I called the police. I asked for their assistance, but they laughed at me! I said, "So I should break the law, leave my baby and 4 year old home alone, and go over there?" And he said there is no law against leaving your children home alone, at any age. I was shocked and said, "Well I won't say it should be a law, since we have too many of them already, but that is something I will not do."

 

There are also, in many places, no actual laws about leaving children unattended in a vehicle (look for them in your state - I found nothing in MA). These are things that conscientious people do not do, or do very strategically, under only the best conditions. But thinking there should be laws against these things, and them actually existing, are two different things:)

 

Tracy

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