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Would You Let Your Kids Play at the Park Alone?

Writer Lenore Skenazy created a firestorm of controversy a few years ago when she wrote about letting her 9-year-old son take the subway alone without a cell phone (although he did have quarters to call home, and money to take a cab). Her son made it home safely, but Skenazy got called a child abuser and America’s worst mom.

Undeterred, Skenazy has parlayed the chatter into the free-range kids movement, in which she encourages parents to let their kids have more freedom, and to not let scary news stories – which are news-worthy because they are so rare – lead us to overprotect our kids. Although she has her detractors, she also have plenty of parents who are applauding her anti-helicopter approach.

This Saturday, Skenazy is proposing a Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day. She is challenging parents of kids over 7 or 8 to leave their kids alone at the park -- for an hour, a half hour, even just for a few minutes while Mom walks around the block. The idea is to get back to the lost art of playing outside, like we did when we were kids, without parents hovering and shouting “great job swinging!” from the sidelines.

My kids are too young, so I don’t know if by age 7 or 8 if they’d be ready. However, as an overinvolved parent who now has a 5-year-old almost completely incapable of playing by herself, I find a lot of wisdom in her approach. However, I get the paranoia that unthinkable can happen to you; I cannot watch violence against a child in a TV show or movie without feeling sick to my stomach with fear.

What do you think – could you do it? Do you think today’s parents hover too much?