I read an article yesterday that got me thinking again about free range kids. A mom let her 10 year old son walk 1/3 of a mile to the park, but he was stopped by the police and brought home. The officer claimed she was endangering him by allowing him to walk so far alone.
In a quiet, generally safe neighborhood.
Thank goodness the Chief of Police, when contacted, disagreed with what the officer had done.
My kids aren’t yet of an age that I’ll let them go free range. The older two are 4 and 6, and I already know that my 6 year old will still run out into the street without looking for cars first. That’s one of my big criteria for letting her do things like walk alone to school.
I strongly approve of letting children roam in age appropriate ways. It’s important for their development and self confidence.
Kids in my area are definitely walking home from school on their own by 10 years old. It’s a nice neighborhood, and certainly safe enough even for kids a bit younger than that to walk home alone. Heck, I was walking home with my older sisters when I was in preschool, and my oldest sister was just 3 years older than I was. There were some other daycare kids too, but I don’t know their ages. Just that no grown ups were involved.
Despite what some people think, the world hasn’t gotten more dangerous. We are significantly more aware of the dangers, and that’s a big part of why parents are so fearful of letting their children roam.
Think about it. We can look online and see maps of where registered sex offenders are living. We hear stories from across the nation about children being snatched, sometimes in broad daylight. It’s so easy to hear about the worst that can happen that it’s hard to recognize how rare it is.
My kids are starting to get a little more freedom, mostly due to the kids next door. The oldest ones there are old enough to supervise the others in the front yard. None of them roam like I did at their ages though, at least so far as I see.
They also get to roam ahead of me when we walk to school or go hiking. It’s a very small freedom, but it means they can explore at a bit more of their own pace rather than waiting for me or my husband to point things out to them.
No, letting your kids go free range isn’t completely safe. Nothing is. Accidents can happen no matter how careful you are.
But kids need to learn how to be responsible and confident when they are out on their own. You don’t want your kids to be adults who are afraid to do anything alone. You want them to be confident and competent. The way to develop those skills is to give them little freedoms as they grow and teach them how to do things on their own safely.