For the past five years, Free-Range Kids has been sponsoring Take Our Children to the Park… and Leave Them There Day. This year, in honor of the Meitivs of Maryland, we are also encouraging kids to walk home on their own—but only if they feel they are ready.
It works like this: At 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 9, we take our kids to the local park (or they go by themselves). That way, with any luck, kids in the neighborhood who might not even know each other—different schools, different grades, different soccer programs—get to meet up. When the adults say goodbye, it's the kids' jobs to come up with something to do. We used to have a name for this activity. (Hint: playing.)
Free-Range Kids doesn't want any parents getting arrested, of course, so if you would like to participate but worry that your local authorities may harass you, please call your local police department and make sure that this is not an actionable offense. (How sad if it is!) If you get a straight answer, please post it here, along with your ZIP code, so others can find it.
If, however, you can't get a straight answer, try to find some other parents who are all for the de-criminalization of childhood, and arrange to have your kids walk home together in a group. If the cops insist that no children are allowed to walk in the community, even in groups, until they're 35 or 36, then go to the park with your kids and signs demanding: "Why is this town discriminating against children in public?" "Who wants empty parks?" "What kind of community criminalizes kids outside?" And, "Free-Range Kid Communities Have Higher Home Values!" (I'm not sure that's true, but the London Times says Free-Range neighborhoods are all the rage.)
Also, please remind your local officials that according to The Washington Post, "There Has Never Been A Safer Time to Be a Kid in America."
The rest of the globe sends it kids off to school on their own—walking, riding bikes, taking transit—at age 7. That seems about the right age to let kids play in the park unsupervised. But if you want to wait till the kids are 8 or 9 or 10, there's no magic number to Free-Range. And if your kids are too young to play unsupervised, stay with them! That way there are even more people in the park. This is precisely how spontaneous communities form.
If you'd like to find other local folks eager to participate in a day designed to break the ice for a whole summer of outdoor fun, you can go to freerangefriend.com. Put in your ZIP or postal code and find nearby Free-Rangers. Or, if you would like to leave a comment below with the name of your neighborhood and a way to reach you, you can try to find others right here.
Meantime, down in Maryland, Russell Max Simon of Empower Kids Maryland is organizing an event in the same park where the Meitiv kids were playing before they were detained by the police. Here's the Facebook page.
I will be at Central Park in New York City on May 9, at one of the playgrounds. Details to follow—and perhaps the announcement of a special guest.