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!!!


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