Take your children to the park this weekend, and leave them there

Take your children to the park this weekend, and leave them there. That's the advice of our free-range parenting expert, who explains how simply taking your kids to the park can strengthen communities and instill independence.

Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor
Take your children to the park this weekend, and leave them there. Simply taking your kids to the park can strengthen communities and instill independence.Tavi Barun, 7, front, with her friend Sophia Schmitz, 7, slide down a slide together at a neighborhood playground during a scheduled play date in Alameda, California, Dec. 26, 2011.

Hi Folks! As our annual "Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day" draws nigh (does “nigh” ever get used without the verb draw?), it's good to remember why it is so great for kids to get out and play, on their own, without a coach, program or parents to organize (or limit!) them.

The idea of the holiday is simple: On May 19 (Saturday), we take our kids, age 7 or 8 and up, to the local park at 10 a.m. That way, they meet up with other kids from the neighborhood. We wave goodbye and the kids are on their own to come up with something to do. Boredom works in their favor – eventually they start playing because not playing is so painfully dull.

By the time they’re through – it could be half an hour or half a day later – chances are they’ll want to do it again. And so Sunday becomes “Our kids are going to the park on their own” day, as do  most days thereafter!

If you’ve got younger kids – great. Go to the park and witness what your kids will be able to do in only a few years. Meantime, you’re there on the bench, creating the kind of community that reassures the parents waving their older kids goodbye.

Spread the word!

The idea is not radical. It’s simply a way to “re-seed” the all-too-empty playgrounds and parks with children. There’s no reason kids can’t play on their own. Crime is down since when we parents were kids. Diabetes and obesity — the twin scourges of sitting inside — are up. What’s more, it is safer for kids to play than not to play, and this study (if you need to wave one around) says that letting kids play unsupervised is one of the best things a parent can do for a child:

Professor Roger Mackett, who led the study, said: “Allowing children to leave the house without an accompanying adult has significant benefits. The health benefits are clear, but without action the less tangible benefits of increased independence and self-reliance will be lost.That may be a very great loss with many implications.”

Fight the fear that has kept kids indoors or only in supervised programs. Go forth to Facebook and Twitter and the PTA to spread the word about Take Our Children to the Park… and Leave Them There Day!  And let us know if you get some traction!

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lenore Skenazy blogs at Free-Range Kids.

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