Monday, August 13, 2012

Go Outside and Play!

I've just been reading a bunch of articles, posts, responses, etcetera on line about whether or not kids should be allowed to play outside unsupervised.  There are a LOT of people who think its an outrage and even neglectful to do so.  What drives me nuts is, in all that I read, nowhere is a discussion of circumstances.  How old are said kids? How responsible are they?  Are they playing next to a busy street where gunfire abounds?  Do their parents check on them every once in a while?  Can they go in the house if they need to?
There seems to be a whole lot of paranoia out there about abduction.  One mom actually said she was wouldn't let her kids play in the fenced-in BACKyard alone, because sexual predators might be observing her kids' play schedule and planning to snatch them.  Really?
I know child abduction happens.  It is every parent's worst nightmare.  But how often does it really happen?  Hardly ever, actually.  And it is responsible to teach children how to deal with a stranger who asks them to get in a car or tries to force or coerce them into it.  My tag line with Jack is, "Don't go off with strangers," or with anyone actually, without telling me.  We've also had the conversation that, if someone tries to force him to go with them, he's to kick and scream and fight like hell.  That being said, I don't anticipate he'll actually need any of that advice.  If I thought there were a good chance he would, we'd move.
My current outside play policy is this:  Jack is four and a half.  He can play outside in the backyard by himself as long as he wants.  He usually comes running in screaming at the top of his lungs ten minutes after I've gone in because of a wasp, though.  Only recently, I've allowed him to play in the front yard by himself, as long as I am downstairs and can check on him frequently, and with the reminder that he stay in our yard.  I think it makes him nervous after too long, though, because he's never out there for more than ten or fifteen minutes.  Gage is, of course, not allowed outside by himself, as he is eighteen months old and has a fondness for picking up bugs, even wasps, and I wouldn't put it past him to taste one, either.
That being said, if another parents didn't allow their four year old outside by him/herself, I'd respect that.  Jack is a cautious kid.  He's not going to run into the street or forget he's not supposed to leave the yard.  He also not going to stay out there very long without me.  In this particular situation, his cautious, sometimes fearful nature can actually be a virtue.  Every child is different and is ready to handle responsibilities at different times. I think it's vital we let kids have some independence so they can grow up feeling competent and confident in their abilities, and also that we trust other parents to know their own kids and what they can handle.  So my question to you is this (yes, I really want an answer via comment):  Do you let your kids play in the front yard unsupervised?  And/or at what age do you think you'd let them, if ever?  What do you think of other parents who let their kids play outside unsupervised?

1 comment:

  1. Ruby is almost three, so not yet. Our front yard has a drop-off, and car speeds can reach 40 easily. But you did make me think, and I think it would be sometime between four and five. I agree that kids need independence early to gain competence and confidence. What you reminded me (thank you) was that it's important to trust that other parents know what their kids need.