Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Allowing Kids to Play with Danger, Part One

Is it just me or do kids play less and less outside? Summer is officially over and I noticed over the past few months that during the course of the summer I saw very few kids playing outside. I do realize that it is not 1950 and kids these days cannot ride their bikes to the local ice cream shop, or can they? I guess it depends on where you live. The local ice cream shop for us is across the freeway, so unfortunately our kiddos will probably never get to make that venture by themselves. Putting all of that aside, what about simply playing in the front yard? Last week I drove around my neighborhood and not one time did I see kids playing outside. I remember my mom having to literally drag me in for dinner when I was younger. We played out in the street all the time and no one was ever hit by a car or kidnapped by a crazy person. Yes, we had rules, and we knew our boundaries. I’m afraid that kids these days or should I say parents these days are so scared to give their kids these precious privileges, with limits of course. I am guilty of doing the same thing, but I really am working on teaching my kids the rules and limitations of playing outside, without constant supervision.

They have been playing out in the backyard for sometime without me peering over their shoulder. I have noticed when I am out there with them they are constantly asking for something “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, Can you push me, Can you play with us, I want a different toy, etc. When I leave them to their own defenses they learn how to fend for themselves. If they need something they go get it. What a genius idea!

Recently I have tried to allow them to play in the front without me being an arms reach away. We have always played out in the front yard. I grew up doing that and I think it helps the kids feel like they live in a safe and welcoming place when they are allowed to frolic about outside. The problem is we were the only ones doing it. While I was out there with them we always talked about how far down the street is a safe distance to go, what to do if someone comes up to you that you don’t know, what do you do when you see a car, etc. Even when they could barely talk, they could follow these rules. Once I felt they were ready I moved my “supervision post” up the driveway, then to the porch, then in the door way, and now they can play with me all the way inside. They know to check back every once in a while and I peek out at them while dinner is cooking. They have such a great feeling of freedom and responsibility. For now I still leave the door open and our trusty yellow lab lays by the door with his head halfway out watching them play, he is always on duty. Doing this has helped them become such independent and creative thinkers. They have come up with some great outdoor games that require very few toys or none at all. They ask a lot of questions about what I did when I was little and have started to adapt those games for themselves, which will be an entire blog post in itself next week.

I love when they come in all dirty, sweaty and most importantly tired. They also have seemed to find some rather slimy and crawly creatures out there as well, which they bring home in their pockets on a regular bases. Sometimes these friends make it to the dinner table before I notice, but at least not to school….. yet!

Do your kids play outside? Have you allowed them to play unsupervised? If so, what are their limitations?

A great blog to visit http://www.freerangekids.wordpress.com/, the author of this blog, Lenore, has also written a great book, Free Range Kids (link to get her book is below). I highly recommend it!!!


  1. this is something I struggle with already and my boys are only 2 and 3. right now they can play on our back porch by themselves, they are unable to open the doors out into the yard. But since we have their bikes, sandbox, balls and most of their outdoor toys on the porch. We do play out in our backyard together, but never on their own. We are working to establish those boundaries.

    it does bother me that there aren't that many other children playing outside anymore. I do get concerned about letting them play out front by themselves, and often even with us there. I'm sure that concern will lessen with age

  2. I struggle with this. Jack is fine outside by himself but Will tends to wander off. We have some neighbors with grandkids that visit and these are the only kids that play outside so when they are visiting I let Jack and Will play out front unsupervised. But not Sam. He's too leave out there by himself. And where our house is positioned there are a lot of cars that whiz by. I remember those days of playing outside until dark every night as a kid...such fun times!

  3. I have a sexual offender who lives one street over. My kids do not go in the front yard unless I am out there. They play in the backyard constantly.

  4. We live right on the corner to a court and we know everyone in the court and their are a total of 14 kids that play together in the court, so yes they go outside alot and they are not always supervised by us, but by some other adult. I am so thankful to have so many neighbors that I trust and kids that my kids can play with.

  5. What a great post. I agree that kids just don't do much outside anymore. Imagination is lacking and pretty much gone. When we visit friends on post I allow my daughter to play but were we live there is no yard so she doesn't play outside.

  6. Love your post and couldn't agree more!!! We live on 4 acres, not really any neighbors, but we have a in-ground pool. It does have a gate around it so we let Braxton play outside when Junior is outside. Junior will be doing something in the shop and Braxton will be riding his tricycle, playing with the animals or playing in the sandbox. I love looking out my back window and 'spying' on him!!!

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