How far do your kids go without you? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 26 Old 02-14-2012, 07:33 PM - Thread Starter
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And at what age?  I live across the street from a park with a playground.  There is hill to go over so you can't see the playground from my house.  Since I'm in a semi-detached I actually have no window access to the park.  I have never let my kids go there alone even though it is very close.  They are 6, 9, and 11 this year and I am starting to considering whether they are old enough to go to the park alone.  I am terried of child molesters or kidnappers to be honest and I am scared someone will try and get at them.  I consider it my goal in my life for my kids not to become a statistic.  I was thinking maybe I could let them go but give the 9 year old (the 11 year old has special needs and is not as responsible as her) a good quality walkie talkie so that I can keep in contact with them.  Opinions? How far do your kids go without you and at what age?

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#2 of 26 Old 02-14-2012, 07:59 PM
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You know, it's funny, but I've been thinking about how I grew up.  I remember that around 4 or 5, my mother would kick us out of the house in the morning and we would probably only come back for lunch and finally for dinner.  We roamed far beyond the reaches of our lawn.  I probably walked a good half mile to kindergarten and by fourth grade, I was walking through woods and ravines to and from school.  I don't think my parents ever thought twice about it.  And, this was the era before cell phones, etc.  We were just roamers and free-spirits from an early age and everyone seemed to take it for granted.


Fast forward to now, when I think that because of the on-slaught of media and awareness of the crimes in the most remote areas, people tend to be hyper-aware and protective.  We live in a very densely populated city with high volume of traffic, and at five, I don't think I'm ready to let DD walk to school alone yet (she's five and it is about half a mile).  I actually think she would okay (as far as looking out for turning cars, etc.) but neither DD or myself are ready yet.  We had a very horrific murder near our neighborhood last summer that involved a nine-year-old child and a stranger and everyone is still pretty raw about it.  It is understandable to have fears.


That being said, I think that sometimes we are too fearful given the circumstance.  I don't think there is any appropriate age once you weigh the child's knowledge and ability to react and to know what to do in a stranger situation.  I don't think that crime happens any more frequently than it did when I was a child, I just think that we are more aware of the crimes that do happen, and that instills a sense of fear.  One of the things that seemed be common when I was a free-range kid is that all the kids seemed to travel in packs (brothers/sisters/neighbors).  Personally I would be hesitant to send my five-year-old to a park where I couldn't have visual contact from afar.  If she had an older sibling or was with a group of kids, then I would be more likely to let them travel afar.  This is based on the circumstances of where I live, though.  I have to weigh more factors, other than age, into the decision.  Her own maturity (in knowing what to do) is a factor too.

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#3 of 26 Old 02-14-2012, 08:06 PM
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My 11 yr old can bike the 2 miles each way to the library/park complex.  Last summer when he was 10 he went with 3-4 friend to the city pool (about a 5 min walk from the friends house).  The 2 miles each way is the same distance he would need to go if he went to public school, just a different direction.  DS has his own cell phone and knows what to do in an emergency.

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#4 of 26 Old 02-14-2012, 08:15 PM
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dd is 9. she has been allowed in the library alone. however i drop her and pick her up. its two blocks away. 


she has been left home alone with the neighbors keeping an eye on her. 

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#5 of 26 Old 02-14-2012, 10:52 PM
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My kids are 7 and 10. The 7 year old can go around the block by herself, or down and around the corner to a friend's house.


The 10 year old can go further -- down about 3 short blocks to a friend's house. I'd let him go to the park with a group of kids, if any other kids in the neighborhood were allowed. The park is about 3 blocks away. I wouldn't let him go alone.


Next year, when he's 11, he wants to walk to middle school, which is about 3/4 of a mile from our house. I'm fine with that.


I think that the walkie talkies are a good idea, especially since the more responsible child of the group is only 9. One of our neighbors has his sons (10 and 8) carry walkie talkies, especially when they come over to our house after dinner.

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#6 of 26 Old 02-15-2012, 08:28 AM
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I started letting DD1 walk up to our subdivision playground alone at age 8. She had been walking to friend's houses by herself since 7. Both places she routinely walks to are about 3 blocks away. We live in a regular subdivision that is 7 miles out of town off a highway but it is very rural here. Town is 15K people and in the middle of nowhere. DD1 is also allowed to walk downtown from DH's office to gymnastics, that was 2 blocks, now 3 or 4 since he moved. 

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#7 of 26 Old 02-15-2012, 03:54 PM
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My 10 year old roams the neighborhood with his buddies. He has definite boundaries and he knows what is allowed and not allowed. If he goes into a friend's house or backyard, he has to call and let me know. I'm in close communication with the neighborhood moms  by texting and calling throughout the day to each other on the whereabouts of the boys. It's been a good experience for my son. He loves his freedom and enjoys just being a kid without constant supervision. He's been doing this since he was 9 years old.Oh, and he usually has his walkie talkie with him. He has one, I have one. It is a good one, with a few miles radius.


My 7 year old is allowed in our front yard and to ride bikes outside with friends in front of our house without supervision. I usually go outside and check in with her a few times an hour. She isn't allowed to go with brother or around the block on her bike unsupervised. 

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#8 of 26 Old 02-16-2012, 09:52 AM
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My 10-year-old roams the neighborhood at will and has since she was about 8 or so. Before that she had to stay in our part of the neighborhood. From about 4 to 6 she had to be in our backyard or the backyards of our immediate neighbors.

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#9 of 26 Old 02-16-2012, 11:42 AM
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Mine are 5 and 7. We have a playground setup almost same as yours OP. Soccer field in back of our house, and playground down to the left, but I can not see them from the house. I have to go out to the hedges in the backyard. In any case, I let them go to the playground by themselves, and have for the last 2 years. They are allowed to walk to friends houses on the next street or two. Next year DS will be allowed to walk to and from school by himself, if he wants to. That's 3 blocks away. Note that I don't live in the states. So this kind of freedom is very typical.

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#10 of 26 Old 02-16-2012, 12:16 PM
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No playground that is walkable in our n'hood, but I do allow our 7 and 5 yo DD's to roam our street. There are always kids out playing, plus we know almost everyone on the street. One of the little girls (she's 9) carries around a walkie talkie so she can keep her parents up to speed on where she is. I love that idea and think that would be a great way to know your kids are safe at the park. Additonally, I always walk outside every 15-20 minutes and check in with my kids...even if I just hear their voices from a few backyards away, that's enough. Maybe the first few times you send them to the playground, you could walk up the hill every 15 minutes or so to check in on them? Not very relaxing but good "training" for all of you. I'd also send them with a time limit and a watch so they can come home at the right time. Start off 20 minutes. If they are home on time three times in a row, then they can stay for 30 minutes.
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#11 of 26 Old 02-16-2012, 08:26 PM
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My 8YO is a responsible kid.  We talk about what to do if.... someone needs directions, needs help finding their dog etc, just wants you to go with them... He is allowed to go around the large block, to the park in the center or to the school which is through the woods.  We've been doing this for over a year now and it works for us.  There are lots of kids in the area that he plays with, and some are not allowed to even walk to school by themselves (Really? a ParaPro is stationed in the woods on the path every day...) and lots of kids walk to school. 


I would suggest reading Free Range Kids, by lenore skenazy.  While some of the stuff is a little out there, I LOVE the overall concept and the facts that she puts behind them!

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#12 of 26 Old 02-17-2012, 08:12 AM
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Ds is 11 and he's got about a 1 mile radius that he has the freedom to roam.  It's not the limit, that's just about how big "town" is :)  He can still hit up a pond, the woods, 2 parks, 3 baseball fields and a bunch of stores and restaurants.  My 6 year old is allowed to be outside where I can see her, no more.  If she's with "the boys" she can go pretty much where ever they go, but I prefer that she travels with the pack, rather than just ds.  She's so little compared to them and they treat her like a pet so she's super safe with them.  Dd and ds ride their bikes to the park, library and go to the lake together a lot, but it's all very close.

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#13 of 26 Old 02-21-2012, 04:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Heavenly View Post

I am terried of child molesters or kidnappers to be honest and I am scared someone will try and get at them.  I consider it my goal in my life for my kids not to become a statistic.


I don't have any advice for the "what age" question, but this part of your post really stood out to me. I strongly suggest reading "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin de Beker, and maybe doing a little research on "availability heuristic."  thumb.gif

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#14 of 26 Old 02-27-2012, 10:41 PM
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   My boys are 7 and 4. They can play anywhere that I can see them out the window to check on them. We are lucky to have a small patch of woods in the back, and a bike path with some trees in the front. My oldest walks to the bus stop by himself, which is a 5min. walk but I can see it from my house. We also have a large park nearby with several playgrounds, and they feel free to roam around with friends there while I talk to other moms, sew, read etc. If I had another child, I am sure the boys would become more independent out of necessity and I think that has great benefits. 

   Where I live if a 4 and 7 year old were alone I'm pretty sure someone would call the police-that's my fear. I've seen this happen both at the park and the library :( . Hyper, Mainline PA parents. I stay within eye/ear shot, at least for now. That way I can assure curious people that the kids are, indeed, being watched. 

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#15 of 26 Old 02-28-2012, 06:54 PM
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Glad to see everyone's opinions, I often wonder when the right age will be for my daughter.  I lived in a trailor park (fenced) in the Phoenix area when I was a kid, I remember running around in it around ages 7  and up, but it was in a confined area.  So now we actually live in a neighborhood of single family houses and am totally unfamiliar with what appropriate ages kids are allowed to wander.  

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#16 of 26 Old 03-06-2012, 01:18 AM
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My DD is almost 16 and my DS is 14. They can go across town and back without me or my DH - we have good mass transit. They have been going around town by themselves since the age of 11 (when they started secondary school).


They started walking from primary school to my workplace when they were about 8 or 9; a 5-10 minute walk with a sidewalk and not-too busy road.


Last year, ,my DD took the bus to the airport by herself to meet a school group to go to Shanghai. She came home from the airport herself too.



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#17 of 26 Old 03-09-2012, 12:18 PM
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My daughter is five years old. We live in a higher crime area (as in there have been several shootins within a few blocks of us, one including a ten year old). My daughter is allowed in the courtyard of the building and right out in front of the building. Because gangs hang out in the park right next to our building, she's not allowed there by herself.

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#18 of 26 Old 03-09-2012, 12:54 PM
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You are the parent, so its up to you. How capable are your kids, have you been giving them increasing levels or freedom as they grow?

You just have to do what feels right for you and your kids, only you will know what that "age" is.


I have a 5 and 7 year old. They are out of my sight playing with friends down the street a lot.

They are within ear shot and sometimes I can walk to the edge of the yard and get a visual on them.

If they don't come when I call or break the rules they are grounded, meaning they have to stay on our property, for some length of time.

The rule that has been broken is going into a friends house without asking me first.


The rules are:

Stay Outside

Don't go anywhere with anyone

Watch Out for cars in the road

Listen to your gut

Have fun


Also they usually play near another child's house so I know that parent is keeping an eye out.

Just like I keep an eye out if they are in my yard.

But I don't hang with them, just peek out the window now and again.


There is no park in walking distance, wish there were.


When we go to the playground they just run off and play and I either walk the track or read a book or something.

I don't worry about people lurking around waiting to snatch my kids, the likelihood is really small.

I would worry more about them injuring themselves, so I have asked my oldest to get down off the top of the monkey bars, though she is a good climber.

We have also gone over what to do if someone tried to take them and they know to stick together when playing.


Hopefully when the now youngest is maybe 9 and the oldest 11 they can bike the 2 miles to town and hang out at the park and go to stores, without me.

They will probably have walkies or a phone in case they run into trouble.

The only thing me and DH worry about is them being on a 1/4 mile stretch of road with no sidewalk until they get to the off the road path to town.


But that is the stretch I walk with them a lot (going to a "neighbor's" house) so they are already getting practice on how to navigate that safely.

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#19 of 26 Old 03-09-2012, 07:27 PM
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Mine are 5, 3, and 1.. They are allowed outside if Im on my way out there just have to grab something for the baby. No more than probably 3-5 minutes at a time. My 2 main concerns are people driving like maniacs on the road (someone actually lost control in the rain and ended up sliding onto our front yard since we live right at a curve) and there are a couple of very large dogs left to run wild when their owners are out. Im working on getting animal control to come one of the times the dogs are loose, the only problem is it takes them so long to respond to a call by the time they get there the owners are back and have the dogs inside. These dogs are NOT nice dogs, I had to turn a hose on them because they were attacking a cat (I was smart enough to grab the hose and go inside so I could slam the door when they turned towards me, otherwise they would have turned on me.. like I said, these are dangerous animals).


If I felt safer I would allow them to play in the backyard by themselves to 10-15 minutes since I can see them out there and they are good at following directions.

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#20 of 26 Old 03-12-2012, 03:31 PM
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I love the blog and I hope to give my son a lot of freedom as he grows older. I'm only 25 and in the late 90's in Jr. High I biked all over the place. I knew how to find a phone and call mom if I needed to. I would bike a good 5 miles into town by myself I'd hang out with Friends next to a pretty big and dangerous river with little or no supervision. I LOVED it. Even at only 1 year old let my son go pretty far from me at parks and in the yard, and I let my nearly 3 year old nephew go out in my fenced yard alone, and run around the park out of my view. 


I think the best thing my mom did was introduce her self to everyone in our neighborhood and tell them about her kids, there were protective eyes everywhere and I barely knew it! Very much like the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, my mom was a lot closer than I knew. :) I hope to do the same for M some day. I'd like to avoid a cell phone as long as possible and I like the Walkie Talkie Idea, We are moving to acreage and I think that might be a good option to let him have freedom a little earlier.  


My biggest fear is how CUTE my son is and that he's a red head, for some reason I feel like that might make him more of a target for creeps and baby snatchers, but I remind myself how insanely rare things like kidnapping are and try to get over it. 


Honestly I think 9 years old is more than old enough to go to the park alone assuming they know a few basics about life and mostly to come home if anything is wrong or seems off or even just if they get scared! Talk to all the other families that go there a lot, or live close enough to see the park ask them to keep an eye out. Most likely they are just like you and then you can keep an eye out for thier kids too. Close knit communities are the safest places for kids to go out and explore. 

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#21 of 26 Old 03-13-2012, 06:02 PM
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I read something once that made me feel better about giving my kids more outside freedom:


What we worry about most (stranger kidnappers and molesters) is very, very, very rare.


What is statistically most likely to happen, though, if we keep our kids inside, is obesity, and that could easily kill them (at an older age.) 



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#22 of 26 Old 03-15-2012, 05:35 AM
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Strongly suggest you all watch The Lost Adventures of Childhood documentary...  can't recommend this documentary enough for making you think about it all.

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#23 of 26 Old 03-15-2012, 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Butterflykate View Post

Strongly suggest you all watch The Lost Adventures of Childhood documentary...  can't recommend this documentary enough for making you think about it all.

Butterflykate thanks for sharing that.


OP by age 10 my eldest was taking the city bus on his own and was able to bike a couple of kms on his own.  He's 13 now and ready to travel between cities on his own (he's planning on heading to Toronto by train next month to spend the day at the ROM). By the time he was 11 he was able to take some/all of his siblings downtown by bus or bike to the library, or to run an errand for me.


My middles are now 10 and they have similar freedom as their older brother did at that age, although we've moved to a smaller town (no buses).  My daughter has a medical condition so we have a cell phone now for her so she can check in about meds etc but beyond that they are pretty free.


My youngest is 8. My kids usually travel in packs with their siblings but she can run down to the library or post office on her own (about a 3 block radius). She has to cross a somewhat busy street to get there but there are lights and crosswalks.


All my kids by about age 6-7 or so were free to play at the school that was down the street from our old house or the park a block away as long as they had a buddy (friend or sibling) with them. For a little while they had walkie talkies they took with them but they sort of fell by the wayside.  They had free reign of the neighbourhood (4 adjacent blocks) without checking in but needed to let me know if they were going further than that.


You know your own children and living situation best but I would suggest that unless it is truly unsafe where you are that your kids are old enough that they may benefit from more freedom. Your oldest is only 2 or 3 years from high school age. If he's not inclined/able to behave responsibly, I would think that would be all the more reason to start giving him small freedoms and expectations so he can learn those skills gradually and be prepared when school and society expects him to have those skills and experiences.  


Good luck with your decision.


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#24 of 26 Old 03-16-2012, 12:48 PM
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I just mentioned yesterday on another thread that we have a playground across the street from our house, and I let my 7, 9 and 12 yo play there alone. I have received flack for this from my mother, my sister in law and from complete strangers.  Someone asked my children once where their parents were, and why they were on their own. I was pretty surprised. They are all pretty savvy and responsible.


My husband nearly lost his mind this winter when I allowed the three of them to go two blocks away on their own to go skating at a pubic outdoor rink WITH helmets. Wait til I tell him that I plan on allowing DD1 (12 years old) take the city bus to school on her own this fall.


People think the world is fraught with child molesters and abductors. I am going to venture to say that there were just as many when WE were kids, but the media didn't warp us all into freaked out, paranoid ninnies.


Call me crazy, but I was allowed to do much more as a child at their ages, and I am grateful to my parents for this.

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#25 of 26 Old 03-18-2012, 01:47 AM
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coming back to add - if i didnt have CPS looming over me (from strangers who thought i would be negligent) i would have let dd go 3 - 4 blocks without me since age 6 to the local store and friends house. 


at 8 she was allowed to walk one block in our cul-de-sac because i knew the neighbors wouldnt call CPS on me.


in my state (my county esp.) CPS workers take any complaint against any child under 12 VERY seriously. the line 'under 12' is very blurry as there is no law, so it is left at the discretion of the CPS worker and police. they are much more lenient from about age 10 and 11 (and usually go with the parents decision of how mature the parents feel their child is). but under no circumstances is 9 considered mature enough.


so while i would have allowed dd more freedom earlier on - i dont. 


because i dont have that fear of meddling neighbors when dd is home - i have no qualms leaving her home alone. 


when she turns 10 she will be allowed to walk 3 blocks to the library by herself and 3 blocks to the corner market/book store/hair cutting place by herself (very busy street but has lights and crosswalks). 

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#26 of 26 Old 03-27-2012, 03:53 PM
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I agree with most of what others have said and just want to add that the confidence that kids get from being able to take some responsibility for themselves is priceless. They NEED these lessons to grow into strong, independent adults. We all have fears, and of course parents want to keep their kids out of harms way, but the recognition that harm is not lurking around every corner and the chance to explore independently is empowering for kids is key.


My kids are 7, 5, 3 and 5 months. My oldest two roam all over the block. They must ask permission to cross the street and they only do so when they want to go to a friends house who lives over there. My oldest will walk 1 mile home from school next year with a friend and is allowed to go a couple of blocks up to friends houses when he is playing. We live in a quiet neighborhood with sidewalks and lots of kids. I give my 5 yo little errands, like running a thank you note to neighbors that live across the street and down the block, etc. My 3yo plays outside without me as long as his older brothers are with him. But I do check on him every 10 minutes or so. 


I watch them play outside sometimes and I catch glimpses of a "kid world" that I remember experiencing as a child. The negotiations with other neighborhood kids, the hierarchies, the creative games, the fights and the reconciliations. I think its important to let them experience that by themselves and its hard for all that to happen when they aren't free to roam and explore by themselves. 

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