Abandon Your Kid at the Park for the Low, Low Price of $350!

Say What!? 56

playgroundYou remember Lenore Skenazy, don't you? How could you forget the mom who let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone and turned the publicity into an entire parenting movement? Well the guru of free-range parenting is back with another harebrained scheme to make good parents feel bad about themselves. She wants to charge you $350 so your kid can play in the park without supervision.

Oh, Skenazy will be there for her eight-week "playgroup" ... sort of. She'll sit in a coffee shop about a block away with a cellphone in her hand in case of some sort of emergency.

From the sounds of it, the playgroup is not so much a money making venture as Skenazy trying yet again to make a point about how leaving kids unsupervised is good for them. She wants to make parents back off and let their kids have free play arranged by her because it will encourage creativity and actually get them playing.

More from The Stir: Mom Arrested & Sent to Jail for Letting Her Kids Play Outside

I'm with her ... to a point. I don't support hovering parents at all. And I do agree that today's kids are being stifled, that they spend too much time indoors and too little time actually acting like kids. In part I blame the schools that heap so much homework on kids' shoulders that there is little time for after-school play. In part I blame a society where there are two working parents who don't have time to take their kids to the park as often as they want to.

But once again Skenazy is deliberating missing the point of supervising our kids when they're playing in a park or a playground. The truth is, kids can play quite freely while their parents are in the general vicinity. Mine does it all the time.

I'm a strong believer that structured play is a problem for kids. So I let her do her own thing. I tend to park my butt on a bench and chat with a mom friend when we hit the playground. Sometimes I bring a book to read. I rarely play with her -- not because I don't like my daughter but because there is other stuff for her to do and kids for her to play with. That's the point of taking her to the park: to encourage her to have free play.

So why am I there? Well, for starters, I'm her ride to town. But I stay because I believe it's my responsibility to provide basic safety ... and I'm not talking about safety from pedophiles.

I'm there because part of free play for kids is learning to take risks. They're supposed to be thinking, "Is that jungle gym too high? I don't know, let me find out!" It's part of being a kid.

It's also rather dangerous.

Fact: little kids can't drive themselves to the hospital if something bad happens and they shouldn't have their own cellphones -- at least not at 8, which is the base age for Skenazy's little program -- to call for help if something happens. This is why it's useful to have an adult around when kids are playing; because we are handy in emergencies. And you never know when an emergency is going to crop up, because, of course, if you did, they wouldn't be emergencies, would they?

I don't need to leave so my kid will learn to have fun, take risks, get creative. She seems to do pretty well at ignoring me on her own ... until she gets a bee sting, and all that stuff in my purse makes me useful again.

What do you think of Skenazy's scheme? Would you pay someone to take your kid out for "unsupervised" play? 


Image via laffy4k/Flickr

independence, safety


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Erica Kean

If I wanted my children to have unsupervised play, I would fence in my backyard and let them do their thing while I did housework. In fact, when my child is older, he will do just that, along with any siblings he may have by then. Unsupervised has come to have different a meaning apparently. When I was a child, being "unsupervised" meant an adult or responsible older sibling was nearby, within reasonable distance should something bad happen. I'm also not talking about pedophiles or kidnappers, when I was a kid I don't think parents worried about that nearly as much as we do now. There's a difference between allowing your child "free play" and being irresponsible as a parent. I feel leaving a group of 8 year olds, or even one 8 year old, completely unsupervised, is beyond irresponsible. Then again, I also feel Schenazy is totally off her rocker.

Kari Sue Stokes

Good lord Lacey, Children do not "disappear from their backyards everyday." Child abductions are rare and are almost always family. I'm not saying leave your kids unattended blocks away but they can play outside without someone sitting on them.

nikki... nikkipeachy

I disagree that 8 year olds shouldn't have cell phones.  My son is 8 and has a phone.  We decided that was best for our family.  Not to say it's best for everyone, but it is for us.  He rarely uses it, but it is there in case of emergency, when he's riding his bike (dead end road), playing at the neighbors house, etc. 

nonmember avatar Lori

Wow. I'm surprised by the response. I've read Skenazy's book and in today's society of hovering parents, it's refreshing. She has done her research and may take an extreme stance on occassion, but she is certainly not crazy! Fear of pedophiles, kidnappers and our penchant for blaming parents when accidents happen all prevent us from letting our kids be kids. As a child, can you imagine, not being able to cross the street until you were 12? That's crazy. You may not support her playgroup idea, but discounting her contributions b/c of it is silly.

Jaime Swift Sundin

What the hell is this woman thinking my kids go to the park all of the time it doesnt mean that i ditch them there like my mom did with us. Times have changed and you need to always be mindful of where your kids are and what they are doing.  It doesnt mean they need to be up your butt or you up theirs.

Miriam Kennedy

Well considering that she is talking about kids clear up to the age of 18 - which are adults, I think at some point it becomes appropriate for them to have some space (I'm thinking teenagers) but how does she justify such a large fee? I take van fulls of teenagers to rock concerts and only ask for gas money, so I'd like to figure out how to cash in on something like this. 

Hunter Clarke-Fields

I'm also surprised by the comments. These poor children who can never leave their mother's sight - how will they learn to negotiate with the world. When I was 8 and up (third grade +), I walked to school by myself and walked home by myself all the time. I went to the corner store by myself and bought bubblegum, etc., and all the research has told us that the 80s had much more crime than today. As parents, we have to make sure we have real information, not just inflammatory local news to make these calls with. Lenore's a little kooky, but she has really researched her facts about this and knows how safe it is.

Think about: a bunch of kids, 8, 9, 10, 11+ playing in the playground with friend with a cellphone a block away - if something happens, one or more of the kids is going to run to the cell phone. Not really that scary.

Roxan... Roxanne71

@ krenke414

That is truly a sick comment.  Even if you're kidding that's a horrible thing to say.  Disgusting.


Elise48 Elise48

Yes, Hunter Clarke-Fields! I agree with you 100%. Nothing wrong with a bunch of 8-year-olds alone in the park (assuming a safe neighborhood, of course, which most are). If anything, I'd be more worried about today's kids being distructive and disrespectful and causing issues than them being on the receiving end of anything horrible. It's much more likely.

PinkB... PinkButterfly66

The world is a more dangerous place that it was 40 or 50 years ago.  The fact is, children do get abducted in broad daylight.  Kids need supervision -- in fact it's required by law.  

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