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Would You Let Your Kids Play Alone in Central Park?

Jaclyn LoRaso

We’ve written before about the controversial free-range parenting movement, including Take Your Kid to the Park…and Leave Them There Day. Now the woman behind the idea, Lenore Skenazy, is taking things to a new level. Yesterday, she held the first “I Won’t Supervise Your Kids” class, where she charges parents $350 (she offers scholarships, and says parents don't have to pay a penny) to drop their kids off for an 8 week free-play class, where kids make their own fun in the beautiful outdoors, just like we did when we were kids, while she sits in a coffee shop nearby.

So how did it go? Did anyone show up? We reached out to Lenore to find out.

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In the end, four kids attended, although three of them were friends. Nothing bad happened to them. She’s not hopeful anyone will be there next week, but she’ll show up just in case. 

However, the media came out and helped her spread her message, which she summarized for us:

I really want parents to understand two things:

1. Free play is not a waste of time. It is as valuable as the other classes we put our kids in (and spend money on!).   

2. Crime is lower today than when we were kids and our parents let us play outside without a security detail. Our parents knew that there were creeps around. They did not live in a bubble. That's why they told us, "don't take candy from strangers." But that knowledge did not mean that they never let us go outside on our own. Yhey had a grip -- they could keep their perspective that the odds were hugely in our favor, and they understood that part of the business of childhood IS to play. So they let us.

All I want is for us to give our kids the kind of freedom our parents gave us. And for today's parents to appreciate the fact that we are living in very safe times, rather than using "worst-first" thinking -- jumping to the worst-case scenario first and proceeding as if it's likely to happen. We THINK that's what a good parent does. I think a good parent trains her kids to be smart, savvy, good at crossing the street and great at standing up for themselves -- and then sends them out.

What do you think? Would you ever do it? Even if leaving your kid in Central Park alone is too extreme for you, do you agree with the idea that kids need more space and time to just play? Leave a comment.