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Let the children play outside, darn it!

English: Children in Khorixas, Namibia Deutsch...
Why aren’t American kids allowed to play outside anymore; Children in Khorixas, Namibia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


While summer may just be getting into full swing in my neck of the woods, it’s almost over for most everyone else (*sob!*). It seems everyone is trying to take advantage of a few last weekends of summer before school starts back up. But for some kids, that is a lot harder than it sounds. Free Range Kids recently posted about separate instances of a mom and a dad getting in trouble for letting their kids play outside unattended.


The mom’s story:


Today the police visited my home after one of my neighbors called in about my children being outside alone…in our yard with a home on two sides and six foot fence on the other two sides. The officer said, “Don’t have me called back out.” So now, do I have to go outside with my children every time they go out? I have a chronic illness and sitting outside all day sucks for me. They love being outside. They come in for bathroom breaks, they come in to tattle, they come in to say “I Love You”… they are in and out every 5-10 minutes. I check on them anytime I pass the door, and I lay or sit next to an open window. If I call for them, they come to the door/window and answer as a “check in.” They will literally stay outside from wake up to 9 pm, when I force them to come in, with breaks for the above and for food. They were perfectly safe. I don’t know what to do.


The dad’s story:


Dear Lenore: A neighbor of mine called the Texas CPS (Child Protective Services) and the Police on my wife and I because we allow our children, ages 6 and 8, to play in the courtyard directly in front of our apartment. CPS has been investigating my family since April 4th 2012, it is now August 12 2012, and all they have come up with is the one report to Police about my 6-year-old being outside in front of his home. Now we are dealing with the courts in a “Negligent Supervision” case, which makes absolutely no sense because my child wasn’t hurt or asking anyone for help. I was outside with my son when the Police arrived, but the CPS caseworker insists that I take drug tests and parenting classes. People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes. – A Texas Dad


Unfortunately the Free Range Kids blog has waaaay too many examples of this kind of reaction from authorities.


I find this really concerning, since we’re basically telling children they can’t be responsible for themselves when parents are trying to teach their children independence and responsibility, we’re not allowing them unstructured play time which is crucial for learning and brain development, that it is a way more dangerous world out there than it really is, AND it discourages them from exploring and getting exposure to nature and natural sunlight, both things that are crucial for growing bodies.


Why are children no longer allowed to play in their own front yards? I’m sorry if this comes off as a rant, but I feel not letting children play outside and learn on their own is a serious problem if we are simultaneously so concerned about “winning” the education race against other nations.

Aside from yelling at CPS and the police, what can we do as concerned citizens, either with children or without, to encourage and enable children to play outside and allow parents to let their children roam a little bit freer and get the unstructured, unsupervised play time they need in order to develop normally? Ideas welcome in the comments below.




2 thoughts on “Let the children play outside, darn it!

  1. I have a few issues with the premise of free range kids. Yes, we who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s might have thought we were running around unsupervised, but we weren’t. We were outside playing with other children that lived next door or across the street. Most of the mothers in my neighborhood were stay at home and there was always one sitting on the front porch ‘knitting’ but in reality were watching what was going on. And believe me, if you misbehaved your playmates would tattle and the mom on duty would have told your mother before you got home. I lived on a dead end and we knew when it was dinner time because the only time cars drove down the street were fathers coming home from work. My parents live in the same house. But now there are cars flying down the street all day and there are only 2 kids living on the block, instead of the 26 when I was a kid. I send my kids out to play but its so sad when they come back in complaining that there is no one to play with.

  2. Thanks for your comment. However, the fact that you even let your kids go outside to play on the sidewalk shows that you are willing to be more hands-off than the neighbors of these two parents think they should be. Rather than keep an eye on the kids, like the mothers used to do during your childhood, the neighbors called the cops on the parents for letting their children play “unsupervised” in their own front yards. THAT is where I get concerned about not letting children (and their parents) have a little responsibility and breathing room.

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