I’m not a free-range parent per se, but I like a lot of the ideas put forth by American mom Lenore Skenazy in her book Free-Range Kids. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing her twice — once for a piece I wrote for the Calgary Herald about safe neighbourhoods, and again for a feature I wrote for Avenue magazine about the free-range philosophy, running in an upcoming issue.
Skenazy is a bastion of common sense. And spunk. I like her. So, when she e-mailed me yesterday morning to let me know that Saturday is Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day, I thought, this is a holiday I can get behind.
The premise behind the 4th annual event, spearheaded by Skenazy, is simple: Our children are much more sedentary than generations past and childhood diabetes and obesity are on the rise. The antidote is turning them loose in nature and outdoor play spaces, an idea supported by a whack of studies that show how kids benefit from time outdoors. If you think parks and playgrounds aren’t safe, says Skenazy, think again — evidently, more children go to hospital from falling out of bed than from falling out of a tree.
But Skenazy doesn’t just want you to take your kids to the local playground. If they’re seven or eight or older she wants you to leave them there unsupervised, for a half hour or for the afternoon. Part of the free-range philosophy says that children need time for free play unsupervised by adults. It may sound a little Lord of the Flies, but it’s actually good for them to negotiate games and play activities on their own without adult intervention — this kind of collaborative play with peers hones decision making skills and spurs creativity. If you’re still feeling anxious, remember they won’t be alone — they’ll be with other kids and perhaps even the parents of children too young to be left at the park.
Avery just turned eight and she’s been walking our puppy by herself in the field across from our house. Maybe she’s ready for some play time away from me at the local playground…with some friends, of course. What do you think? Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day — yea or nay?