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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Catherine Lavallee

I love Lenore!  She just advocates for the same type of childhood that most of us enjoyed.

I refuse to let irrational fear and paranoia destroy my own kid's childhood.  They are entitled to the same freedom and enjoyment I had as a kid!  Think about it, really.  What were your happiest memories?  Were they of being off with your friends having fun or having your parents standing there watching everything you did? 

Roxan... Roxanne71

"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."

NO, IT IS NOT!  It only seems more dangerous due to increased media coverage.  And children were abducted in broad daylight 40 or 50 years ago too.  BTW, did you know that most children are abducted by family members and friends rather than strangers?  And what law are you talking about?  Are you saying it's against the law to allow an 8 year old to play in the park by themselves?


Catherine Lavallee

Roxanne, people really need to stop using Law and Order SVU as their idea of what reality is.

I feel sorry for kids today!  Back when we were growing up, never being allowed out of your parent's sight was called being "grounded."

How do parents ground their kids these days anyway?  When kids aren't allowed outside without a parent until they are 21... what do you do? 

PinkB... PinkButterfly66


I beg to differ with you.  There are neighborhoods with gangs and drug paraphernalia on the streets.  There weren't serial child killers either.  You may not be aware of Richard Evonitz, but I sure am.  Those three girls that he murdered lived in my state and lived only an hour or two away from me.  Thanks to John Allen Mohommad, many public elementary schools my state require parents to come and sign their kids out to go home every afternoon. No the world is not the same as it was 40 or 50 years ago.  Two little girls disappeared one afternoon riding their bikes.  Two other little girls were found murdered in a ditch by a severely mentally ill man.  I could go on.  The larger the city you live in the less likely you are to know your neighbors.  I live in a very big city and I don't.  I only know the people on either side of my and across the street and maybe 4 or 5 more and that is it.


kiri8 kiri8

I think the pay-for-me-to-not-watch-your-kids-playgroup idea is silly, but in general I really respect Lenore Skenazy and I love her blog.  Before you criticize her, go check out the Free Range Kids blog, and read some of it.

Yes, it is true that your child could break a finger on the slide.  It is also true that your child could break a finger in the kitchen, or at preschool, or in the backyard.  You can't watch your child 24 hours a day, and you shouldn't.

But if you're worried about danger, please stop putting your child in a car.  That's the most dangerous thing of all!  Odds of your child getting hurt in a car accident are SO much higher than the odds of your child getting kidnapped from a playground.  Most people don't keep actual statistics in mind when they start panicking and freaking out about "bad mothers."

Roxan... Roxanne71

"I beg to differ with you.  There are neighborhoods with gangs and drug paraphernalia on the streets.  There weren't serial child killers either."

Gangs and drugs have existed for centuries.  So have serial killers.  My god woman you are ignorant.



Lauren Wasinger

Ummmm... Not for nothing but why would I pay someone $350 to notbe with my kids?? I mean, there's a few billion people on this planet who aren't with my kids all the time, and they do it for free!

weird... weirdkids

i am more than happy to let my kids go off and play by themselves at home or at the park, however i am always within earshot at least. my 11yos dont have a cell phone though they probably should as they walk to and from school but i haent gotten them one yet. would i drop them off at a park alone and leave? no. i know my kids. if one of them doesnt get injured someone else does due to their stunts. 

i do however let my kids walk to their friends house unsupervised and to school and back unsupervised(even if i am having an anxiety attack the entire time until school starts) This way not only do they learn independance(which was very hard for my son at first) but responsibility too. 

**Just as a side note we have friends that live all up and down their route to school as well as friends at the coffee shop they pass. there are always eyes on them.

nonmember avatar kris

OK she is just stupid and crazy im not paying a woman to just leave my 4and 6yr old in a park has she not looked at the world around there r kidnappers and child molesters and she really thinks its OK to leave ur kids alone in a park yeah OK I will take my kids to a park and let them run free and climb and jump around like kids but never will I leave my kids to defend for themselfs alone if something was to happen

Tasha Elsnau

 Lauren, but back in the day we actually use to do something about the serial killers,gangs,and such. Now they run the show, with little to nothing done to them. Also not all cities are as safe as they use to be, I grew up in my city and the city I live in today is nothing compared to the city I grew up in.  There has been NO park in my city that hasn't been found with dirty needles, or other paraphernalia, heck my family has found 2 needles in our alley, and 6 others in a trailer on my parents' property. B&E is now the "norm" when it use to be rare.

 I supervise my younger children at the park because I am not ignorant to how my city is today. It's not fear, it's called aware.

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