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Do You Let Your Child Play Outside Alone with Neighborhood Kids?

We did for the first time this weekend. And it makes me happy…and sad…and a little worried.

On a recent Sunday morning Olivia (age 5) said, “Mama – can I ask you something,” “Sure,” I replied. “Do you think some day I can play with the girls that live next door?”

Playing OutsideI was happily surprised by this question. You see – I wouldn’t say that Olivia is shy but she tends to be pretty reserved about instigating change and typically sticks close with a couple of friends rather than mingle. In fact, I can be the same way and felt as if maybe I wasn’t helping Olivia to make neighborhood friends.

What I didn’t realize was that all those times I saw kids playing in our neighborhood and wishing that Olivia would join in that she was hoping for the same thing. So how was I going to help her navigate this social experience? I recognized this as a big step in her growing independence and I didn’t want to mess it up.

Daddy to the rescue. Fast forward a week to a group of kids playing in the yard across the street. Olivia is playing alone in her room. Daddy calls her down to ask her if she wants to join them. I never saw her run so fast to get her shoes on. Of course she needs a wing man. Since Owen was being fussy Daddy takes this one too and walks her across the street.

I watch from the window. She hides behind daddy. He chats with the kids. She moves closer to the group. He leaves. She stands alone in the driveway. We watch from the window. One of the kids asks her to sit down closer to the other kids. She sits down. The kids get up to play tag. She joins in. They play basketball. She is running and smiling. Mommy is tearing up. Daddy is happy she’s finally outside playing with the neighbors and not watching TV. Success!

She ends up playing for a couple of hours before all the kids disperse for dinner. I have flashbacks to my childhood and countless hours of playing outside with various neighbors. I’m happy but sad – soon my little girl will no longer need me (or daddy) to navigate her friendships and oversee her play.

And it also has me worrying about her going off to play at a “not so near we can look out the window” neighbor’s house. We’ve never let her leave the yard without one of us accompanying her. I know we’ll have to establish rules that go along with this new independence. But she still seems fairly young to play “mostly” unsupervised even in our very safe neighborhood where we know all the families around us.

So how do you do it? Do you let your child play outside alone with neighborhood kids outside your yard? If so, what rules have you set up with your child? Do you constrain them to one child’s house unless being notified? Do you coordinate with the other neighborhood parents about who will be “on watch”? How do you teach your child to respond to an emergency (i.e. injury)?

 

9 comments

  1. Kris-Ann, Progressive Mom

    Progressive Mom May 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Great post! Such a sweet story and I can’t wait to hear what others have to say about this. It’s something I’m afraid of (letting my kids play outside on their own) so I’ll be following the comments along with you.

    • Sarah September 24, 2015 at 6:08 am

      My 4 years old daughter every afternoon seeing all the neighborhood kids in our apartment complex playing and I’m happy for her when she’s joining them and plays along them but also it brakes my heart and her heart to see other times they ignore her and don’t want to play with her or share their toys… I see these kids sometimes smile and wave at her and other times completely stagers help me to help her what to do ?

  2. Gina May 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Hey Sista. Yay, Olivia! Yay, you! Neighborhood play has been a godsend for us. Just as the boys will be getting on each other’s nerves on a long, boring afternoon, a “knock, knock” on the door will often rescued us. We keep the boundaries simple…a friend’s house up the street. Generally, they need to tell us when they will be playing inside someone’s house instead of outside. There are only 3 or 4 places that they would be, so it’s easy to track them down. When they were little, there would be lots of calls back and forth: “do you have them?”. It’s been great. You and Olivia will navigate the rules and make them fit. Just be gentle when she breaks one every now and then….

  3. Aretina May 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I started to let my son play alone with friends outside around August of last year. My son was 7 years old and I was nervous the first couple of times but I check on him every 10-15 minutes. I told him that he can not go into a friends house with out my permission and he can not leave the area with out letting me know or asking. I believe since he enjoy playing with his friends outside he obeys by the rules and we have not had a problem yet. I am so happy to have a child that obeys the rules and listens.

  4. andy May 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Interesting fact that I came across.. 1 of every 5 kid in America lives within short walking distance to a playground ! You can add a playground where you live and share it with other parents near you using Kidzloop.

    You can even signup at http://www.kidzloop.com .. once live , the parents will absolutely love the iPhone app !

  5. Rachel May 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    My 3-year-old has decided he’s ready to go out in the backyard by himself. We, of course, do not agree. I wonder if it’ll be helpful — when he’s insisting on going out the door on his own — if we tell him he’ll get to do so when he’s 5 … or 7 … or maybe 17.

  6. Amy

    Amy May 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Sounds like the top solution is being clear about rules but also reviewing them as she shows responsibility and matures. Or I can lock her up until she’s 17 – sort of like that one too!

    Thanks all for the advice.

  7. Faith Smith May 23, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    It’s never bad to let kids play alone with neighborhood kids, what we just have to remember as parents is that no matter what, we always have to keep an eye on our kids, know their whereabouts; what they do, who they are with, etc. I am a parent and I’m worried and I don’t want anyone to experience threatening cases like this especially my kids. As a way of helping everyone especially the parents, who still find it quite hard to manage issues like this, I found this great application which featured safety app which gets me connected to a Safety Network or escalate my call to the nearest 911 when needed, it has other cool features that are helpful for your kids with just a press of a Panic Button. Check it here: http://www.SafeKidZone.com

  8. Vanesa August 22, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    very good but have one of u mothers seen documentaries about child adbuction or predators

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