Lenore Skenazy, mom-made-famous for putting her nine-year-old on a New York subway alone, has declared May 22nd “Take Our Children to the Park … And Leave Them There Day” on her blog Free Range Kids.
Kids need a minimum of an hour of exercise every day, so taking them to the park is a great idea. But, leaving them there alone? Skenazy says that, yes, that’s the idea.
Skenazy’s philosophy is that our modern helicopter-style parenting philosophy puts kids at risk. At risk for child obesity from sitting “safely” inside all day, at risk of a stifled imagination, at risk for never learning how to take risks themselves, or even to take care of themselves. In her “Why Free Range?” section on her website, Skenazy writes:
We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence. Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.
As a mother of two girls, I agree with a lot of what Skenazy has to say. Kids belong outside as much as possible, and kids don’t need parents interfering in their play every twenty seconds.
But, her new “holiday” is creating plenty of controversy. On her blog, Skenazy explains why she created it:
Most of us used to play outside in the park, without our parents, without cell phones, without Purell or bottled water and we survived! Thrived! We cherish the memories! And if you believe the million studies that I’m always publishing here, kids are healthier, happier and better-adjusted if they get to spend some time each day in “free play,” without adults hovering.
I know there will be shrill voices insisting, “Predators are going to love this holiday!” but keep a level head. Crime is down. Awareness is up. There is safety in numbers, which means getting kids outside again, together. This won’t happen until we actually start DOING IT.
So spread the word and be not afraid. Free-Range Kids never says there is no risk in the world, only that the risk is small and worth taking, as it always has been. The trade-off is kids who make up games, who solve problems, who discover nature and get moving (to coin a phrase). Kids who don’t need a screen to entertain them. Playing outside, on their own, is what kids all over the world do. We have forgotten how vital and wonderful it is.
On reading this, I was one of those shrill voices. Mind you, my kids are young, five and seven, so leaving them alone at a park seems absurd and dangerous (Skenazy may argue with me that the seven-year-old is ready). But, then I remembered at eleven, I was biking three miles into town alone to watch three kids—ages ten, seven, and one—for an entire summer.
Child obesity rates are high, and a recent study showed our kids are connected to some sort of media for up to eight hours every day. Encouraging a return to outdoor play is a philosophy I can get behind. I’d just like to be somewhere nearby—like maybe walking laps around the park.
What do you think about Skenazy’s idea?
This post was originally published on Diet-Blog.com