Toddlers Explore the Streets Without Parents in New Series That Challenges Our Inner Helicopter Moms

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In parenting, there's a fine line between protecting your kids and being overbearing, and it's not always easy to tell where that line is. We rant about wanting our kids to enjoy the same carefree, adventurous childhoods we remember having ourselves, but we also live in a world where we're constantly bombarded with news about school shootings, sexual abuse, kidnappings, and kids dying in random household accidents. It's scary to let kids have a little freedom. But a new video series that features toddlers wandering city streets alone makes a compelling case for why we should loosen the reins.

  • The series, entitled Young Explorers Club, shows what toddlers do when they're free to roam without parental interference.

    The videos, created by filmmaker and father of two Jacob Krupnick, feature lone toddlers climbing on skateboarding ramps, wandering unattended through stores, and -- in the video above -- crossing a busy Manhattan street without a hand to hold.

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  • For nervous parents, the videos offer more than a few "omg" moments.

    I don't usually think of myself as a helicopter mom, yet watching these kids climb retaining walls and stumble across crosswalks, I found myself fighting the urge to reach through the screen and grab their little hands.

  • Even something as simple as a toddler climbing in a skateboarding park made my blood pressure rise.

    "He's going to fall," I instinctively thought, as visions of crocodile tears and scraped faces danced through my head. But he didn't. He was fine. And watching the videos in the series, I started to realize that in so many situations, I don't give my kids very much freedom at all. I am forever yelling at them to slow down, watch where they're going, stay on the "right" side of the aisle at the grocery store so they don't get pummeled by a shopping cart. I don't have much faith in their ability to handle things without my guidance.

    And it's exactly that impulse to protect and course-correct that inspired Krupnick's series. On his Instagram, he writes, "Kids do not want to be contained -- they are built for adventure. But we tend to overprotect them, shielding them from happy accidents and mistakes they might learn from."

  • The father of two told that one of his main focuses in filming the series is watching how the adults in the background react.

    "In order to do that, we have to put kids in a situation where they have more freedom than they'd normally have," he explained. He also pointed out that even though the US has gotten safer for kids with each passing decade, most American parents are still shocked at the idea of a kid being anywhere alone, ever.

    And we shouldn't be. According to the Pew Research Center, violent crime rates have fallen 48 percent since 1993. In 2016, just 1 percent of the missing child cases handled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were classified as non-family abductions. Yet, 25 percent of parents say they fear someone will "attack" their child, 14 percent of parents fear their child will be abducted by a stranger, and 23 percent of parents feel their children don't or can't feel safe in the world. Could it be that our own overblown fears, more than the actual threats, are contributing to the problem?

  • Ultimately, Krupnick's video series is less about kids themselves, and more of a mirror for parents to see our own helicopter tendencies in action.

    Parents are really good at foreseeing danger, but we're not always so great at predicting how our kids will react to it. Watching a video, we have time to assess our own reactions and see that, oh, actually the kids are fine; it's okay to let them be.

    Many of us will never become the parents who let their toddlers cross a busy street without holding hands. But we could become the parents who let them stumble; who let them see what the world looks like 10 paces ahead of us on a crowded sidewalk; who let them trust their own instincts more often than not. And Krupnick's videos succeed in showing unwitting helicopter parents like myself that maybe if we stop constantly saving our kids from imaginary dangers, they'll figure out for themselves how to avoid the real ones.

    You can check out the rest of the Young Explorers video series here.

safety toddlers