Unsupervised Play: Is It a Thing of the Past?


We live in the South, a place where the winters are mild, the summers are hot and there are only a few weeks in the year that cannot be classified as “outdoor weather.”

Having just emerged from that brief period when the temperature is too low for me to be convinced to venture outside for one second longer than the time it takes for me to walk to my car, my children are losing their minds in anticipation of rolling around in the yard and I am so ready to let them.

I want them to have fond memories of running wild outside…or do I?

When I was Anders’ age it was not uncommon for me and the other kids in the neighborhood to leave the house in the morning and not return until the streetlights flickered on. We’d ride bicycles, build forts in the woods, make mud pies, and climb trees. Hours would pass outside of adult supervision. Our parents had a general idea of our whereabouts, but if they needed us quickly, a bit of a search would be involved.

Over the years, I have often reminisced about those carefree summer days spent riding down hills and swinging from branches, but once I had children my thoughts on them changed. The freedom of that time in my life now seems reckless, dangerous even.

It was a different time then. This I know, but it’s hard for me to imagine I would parent my children any differently had our lives been shifted back two decades. I can’t fathom letting my grade schooler mount his bike and pedal out of sight for hours on end.

I envy our parents and the time in which they raised us and I mourn these memories my children won’t have. Of course there will still be bike rides and trees to climb and pies of mud, but these are things that we’ll do together.

How comfortable are you allowing your child to play in the neighborhood without adult supervision?

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