It can be painful to think about the freedom we had — the bike riding, the kicking around, the going to get candy — that many of our kids don’t. Here’s one story of how to get it back.
Dear Free-Range Kids:
Here in Toronto, I started a group called the Toronto Free Play Co-op. The point was to find other people in the neighbourhood who are on the same page as far as being free range and valuing free play. It’s worked quite well–there is power in numbers, and in having these conversations.
We started last summer by doing a “loose-parts play” at the park with a pot luck on a weekly basis last summer. We also rented a fire pit in the winter and got the kids outside then. And just knowing other parents who feel the same way has been great. My 8 year old now plays with some of her friends at the park without adult supervision (of course there are lots of adults around with younger kids, just not us), and now I know I’m not the only one who feels it’s important to have this independence. And even when we’re doing something as a community with all of the parents there, its so nice that it’s a different “culture”–there’s no hovering, and the parents let the kids work things out. No recriminations.
We also connected with our local play advocacy organization which really helped (EarthDay Canada, and their EarthPlay program). We’ve supported them in starting a StreetPlay pilot so kids can play in the streets (it involves weekly street closures). Of course not all places will have this kind of institutional support. But without starting the group in the first place we never would have connected with EarthDay and never would have known what was possible.
We started with a Facebook group, which is what I recommend. It’s an easy way to get started and find like-minded people in your area, and then you can decide what comes next as a group.
You can’t be the only one in your neighborhood who wishes your kids would play outside more, and make more local friends. Let us know if you try any of these ideas and get somewhere. Like…outside! – L