Ready to Loosen the Apron Strings?

cartwheeling

We’ve talked about the Free Range Kids concept (and book!) here at TGSG before.

We’ve talked about helicopter parents, allowing children more freedom and room to roam, real versus perceived danger, and the importance of free play and time in nature.

So, the questions is this: Are you ready to do more than talk?

Saturday, May 22nd is the first, “Take Your Child to the Park…& Leave Them There Day.”

Yup, that’s right.

Now, before you put your head between your knees — we’re talking 7-8 year olds and up.  Not toddlers or preschoolers.

But still — it might just give you pause.

But consider this: Parents often lament they don’t send their kids outside to play because there aren’t other children outside playing. And there’s the rub.

No chicken — no egg. Empty yards, parks, and sidewalks.

Check out more info on the day and what others are saying about it on Lenore Skenazy’s blog, Free Range Kids.

Regardless if you are ready to participate this year or not — it’s a great conversation to have with your spouse, significant other — or simply yourself.

See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

Outdoor Safety Tips for Kids

Family Hiking

TGSG Note: I am happy to have the fine folks at Play Outdoors guest blog this week. As BIG outdoor enthusiasts, they know a thing or two about fun in the sun and safety for the entire family! Now, get ready to hit the ground running with these tips to make your outdoor adventures as safe as they are fun!

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Spring is the time for bike rides, hikes, camping, trips to the lake and all sorts of other fun outdoor activities! Experiencing nature is an important part of life. Both kids and adults should take the time to play outside, especially once the weather turns nice! It is both necessary and fun for families to enjoy the outdoors and participate in outdoor activities together.

This spring, plan to get outside with your kids as often as you can. Have a family picnic at the lake — grab a blanket, pack a picnic basket and spend the day splashing in the water and playing tag! Hiking in the woods is another fun family activity; sing a song or point out different animals and insects along the way. Bike riding around the neighborhood, to the local park or to and from school is always fun; be sure to wear helmets and look both ways before crossing the road!

Getting outside with the family is fun, but kids outdoor safety is an important factor not to be overlooked when planning an outdoor adventure.

Safety Tips For Playing Outdoors This Spring & Summer:

1. Be aware of the sun when outdoors by dressing your kids in a sun hat, sunglasses and always wear sunscreen!

2. Always have children wear life jackets or PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) when playing in or near any body of water.

3. Protect little heads when riding bikes! It is important for little ones (and parents, too!) to always wear a bike helmet. Whether it’s a ride around the block or a long mountain bike trip, don’t leave without wearing a protective helmet.

sunset

4. Stay hydrated! It is important to carry lots of water and healthy snacks when playing outside. No matter how long the adventure, pack a water bottle, hydration pack and sack full of nutritious, energy-filled goodies.

5. Put your best foot forward. Walking on the trail, running in the sand on a public beach or walking around the neighborhood park requires activity-appropriate footwear. Pack the sturdy walking shoes for trek in the woods. Water sandals are great for trips to the beach or pool!

6. Always carry a complete first aid kit. Keep a kit on hand with bandages, antiseptic, hand sanitizer, bug spray, and allergy medication (you never know when a little one will develop allergies!).

Big adventures always require a bit more planning, but don’t be daunted. With these quick tips, you are ready for your time in the sun.

Free-Range Kids: Readers Weigh-In

Photo via Amazon.com

Photo via Amazon.com

A few weeks ago, I ran a post  on Free-Range Kids. Coined by writer and mom, Lenore Skenazy, the term Free-Range Kids refers to children that are allowed to move about their communities independently — walking to  school, friends’  houses, or the park — much as most of us did as children. Obviously, we are not talking about 4 year-olds, but children old enough to understand boundaries and learn simple precautions, etc.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to read the post, which discusses the concept of perceived versus real risks. Also, I encourage you to follow Lenore’s work on the subject. It’s an important topic, and one that will make you think, and perhaps challenge some of your notions on the subject. Agree or disagree, Lenore’s work will give you pause, which is always good in my book.

Obviously, the amount of freedom or free-range to roam a child has will impact their play, their perceptions of their community, as well as their development. In a follow-up poll, I asked TGSG readers to weigh-in on two simple questions related to Free-Range Kids and the results are in. Below are the top three answers to each of  the questions:

  1. Do you let your children play outside unattended?
  • 32% said Yes;
  • 21% said Yes, but only in the backyard; and
  • In a tie — 10% said Yes, but only with a group of friends and 10% said No.

2.  What is the PRIMARY reason you do not let your child play outside unattended?

  • 44% said Child’s age (too young);
  • 24% said No reason, they let their children play outdoors unattended; and
  • 19% said Fear of stranger danger.

Actually, I was surprised and encouraged by the numbers, with over 50% of  respondents’ kids being allowed to have independent time outdoors — even if it is in the backyard, it’s a positive step. Child-directed, independent play is key in developing a sense of self, the ability to assess risk and test boundaries, decision making, and a variety of other skills. Trusting your child and modeling a sense of comfort with your neighborhood and community — and for that matter, society at large — will help your child grow into a confident adult. I am not suggesting that we live in a Utopia, where there is no reason for concern or proper precautions. However, I am suggesting that we be aware of real versus perceived dangers, as well as the real danger of raising a generation steeped in fear.

Of course, the level of independence you feel comfortable with will depend upon the age of your child and the area where you live. I would love to discuss strategies here — things we can put in place in neighborhoods and communities that would help parents feel safe, as well as tips to share with kids about time on own or time with friends without we adults hovering around. We want them to feel comfortable and safe, too — not just the grown-ups. I invite you to leave comments and ideas, and in the coming weeks, I will put together a post with the top tips and suggestions.

If your interested in reading more on the topic, there is a great article by David Derbyshire, How Children Lost Their Right to Roam in Four Generations. As with any issue, we can’t just raise awareness. For things to change we have to educate, inform, and take steps — move thoughts into action.

We can’t just say we want to restore childhood, but we have to actively move in that direction. Make changes in our daily lives, our schools, our communities, and society at large. I’m all in. How about you?

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

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