Kids Playing Outside: The Line Between Safety & Being Overprotective

I grew up in a small town where children played outside all day long riding bikes, walking to friends’ houses, buying ice cream at the local convenience store and more. It was a picturesque time of my life where my only concern was getting back home for dinner before the street lights came on.

As a mom of four kids, I often long for the era when kids could play outside and the world was safe enough for them to do so freely. I know that things will never be like they were when I was growing up, but there are some ways to let your kids have some independence while still protecting them.

Set a timer. It obviously depends on the area in which you live, but at least in our neighborhood, I allow my kids to play outside in a small group several times a day without my immediate supervision. I make sure the door is open, and I have a good view of them from within the house at all times. I also set a timer to go off every 20 minutes, then I check on them to make sure everything is OK.

Trust the older neighborhood kids. We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where there are a lot of kids older than mine. If you’re lucky too, allow your kids outside to play, and put the trustworthy, older kids in charge. Allowing younger kids some time to explore without parental hovering is great and helps them to gradually become more independent, plus it will provide leadership skills to the older kids. Make sure everyone knows the parameters of where to play, and it’s okay to still set a timer and check on the kids periodically.

Practice safety. The best thing you can do for your kids is to teach them what to do in case of an emergency. Teaching them about “stranger danger” and what to do if a stranger approaches them is definitely an important skill set to have if you plan on allowing your kids to play outside. There are great videos online that provide excellent, practical tips for young children without scaring them. The Safe Side video is one our favorites.

Get other parents’ points of view. Parenting styles come in many different sizes and shapes. Go online and search for advice and tips when it comes to helicopter and free-range parenting. You’ll discover a wealth of different advice based on your own situation and comfort levels. Here are a few article suggestions that will get you started:

In short, although kids don’t run free in most places like we did growing up, they can still enjoy some independence outside without us, especially because it can be a good learning experience. Childhood has changed, but we can change with it without stripping from our kids the opportunity to experience a little freedom and exploration.

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