The Day I Let My Kids Play Out!
Like most parents the thought of letting my kids play out the front of my house has always filled me with terror. That in turn fills me with sorrow as I think back to my childhood. The happy memories that I have are of playing 40:40 with the rest of the kids in my road, having skateboard races up and down outside my house, racing round the estate on my bike with about six other kids.
To me, this is what life should be like for a child. In my house we have an Xbox, a wii, a wii u, kindles……….we have succumbed to the electronics that I always said I would never have. I would love to tell you that I limit my boys to an hour a day on them but try as I might, it is never that easy. There is dinner to be made, three separate lots of homework to be done, a toddler to chase around…… In amongst this chaos, calm can be found in the use of these said electronics, whether I like to admit it or not.
My six and eight year old have been asking me more and more lately whether they can go to play out the front of our house. We live at the end of a cul de sac with a big circle at the end of it. It was made for kids to play in! There are no less than seventeen children under the age of twelve living in my street right now and not one of us has let them play out the front unsupervised – ever! The two main reasons are obviously cars and strangers as every parent will know only too well.
Today this all changed though as my husband and I made the tough decision to let our two eldest play outside unsupervised. I had been thinking about this long and hard for a week now and had asked for advice from friends, family and even readers of my blog. The responses were mixed with some parents feeling that it was time to cut the apron strings and let them go and others feeling that there was no way they would ever let their children out to play, no matter what their age.
So what made us change our minds today? Well, we had just had a lovely walk out in the country with our puppy and the boys had enjoyed a lemonade and a packet of crisps in the pub. We were pulling into our driveway and my six and eight year old asked if we could go out the front to play handball. My husband had promised my four year old that he would play wii Mario brothers with him and I had to wash the dog that had jumped in a muddy pond and then cook dinner. My husband and I said to each other, what harm could it do letting them out for half an hour together. My husband could keep an eye on them from the lounge window. We gave them a very strict talking to about stranger danger and road safety and off they went.
The next half hour turned into an hour as they ran around laughing and playing just like kids should. They were joined by some other children in the street and after ten minutes of watching them, their mum decided to take the plunge and leave them as well. My neighbour put a scooter slightly out in the road so that a car could still get round it but they would have to slow down and think ‘children playing’ instead of just racing in so this is something I will always do now too. I will also speak to neighbours and ask them to ask their friends to slow down when coming into the road – a non-confrontational way of asking them to slow down a bit too!
After a while the children all then ran into our back garden and continued playing there before everyone had to go to their own houses for dinner.
This brought back so many happy memories from my childhood and I knew that I had made the right decision to give my two eldest this little bit of freedom. Instead of spending an hour gazing at a screen as they tapped away on remote controllers they ran around outside getting fresh air, exercise and socialising with other kids. I know that letting your children play outside is a very personal decision and I would never tell anyone that they were right or wrong for whatever they decide as it is entirely their choice. But given the relative safety of the village we live in coupled with the perfect position of our house at the end of a cul de sac I have decided that it was the right choice for us and something that will now be a regular occurrence for both my kids and the other kids in the street.