Is My Child Ready to Play Outdoors Alone?

by Jane Groysman

Is My Child Ready to Play Outdoors Alone?

Sitting outside and watching your kid play is likely one chore you can’t wait to check off your to-do list. Michele Borba, ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, helps you decide if she’s really ready for a solo outing.

What’s your neighborhood like?
Are you on a busy street with a lot of traffic or nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac? Is your yard wide-open or fenced off? Do you know your neighbors well and would they notice if your child needed help? Bottom line: You want to feel relatively confident she’ll be safe.

What’s her temperament like?
Does your child mostly listen to you and follow directions, or is she likely to ignore your rules the moment you go inside? If she seems trustworthy enough, review what she can and can’t do before she goes out: stay in the backyard, no climbing the huge elm tree, no turning on the hose, and absolutely no visiting the neighbor’s pool.

Will you be able to see her from inside?
Can you keep a window or screened door open so you can hear her? You’ll also want to take a look outside every ten minutes or so; hold off on taking that shower, rummaging in the attic, or any activity that will prevent you from seeing or hearing her for too long.

Does she understand about stranger danger?
Review the rules: Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know even if he looks “safe” or “friendly.” If someone approaches you, run inside and find an adult, even if it means going into a neighbor’s house because it’s closer.