Like many moms, Shannon A. wonders at what age it's appropriate to let your child play without supervision in your yard, at the arcade, or at your neighborhood playground.
“Free Range Kids” blogger Lenore Skenazy’s recent declaration on CNN that children should be allowed to go to the neighborhood park alone by age eight spawned much debate about the best answer. The concensus among Circle of Moms members is that every child and situation is unique and that there’s no such things as a one-size-fits-all deadline for beginning to allow your child to go out unsupervised. Rather, they suggest the following seven indicators that it’s time to “loosen the umbilical cord.”
1. Traffic Savvy
Street savvy is an important factor to evaluate. Does your child pay attention to his surroundings? A Circle of Moms member named Jodi relays that children don't develop strong peripheral vision until they are around 8-9 years of age, "making crossing busy roads a greater risk.” As a result, it's extra important that your child be able to remember and consistently follow rules for crossing streets before you allow him to do so on his own.
Monica T. wisely advises assessing whether your child is able to remember important information in case he needs to get in touch with you. Your child should not only be able to use a cell phone, but also be able to recall his phone number and full address.
Another sign of readiness is when your child earns your trust. For example, a member named Holly says her eight-year-old daughter earned the right to play unsupervised with the neighbor’s kids by meeting certain ground rules: she had to stay within a certain area, ask before going to a friend’s house, and carry an emergency card.
4. Your Neighborhood
Even when you trust your own child, several Circle of Moms note that you shouldn’t let your child go solo unless you are comfortable with the neighborhood. A mom named Kelly, for example, hasn’t made the leap to giving her six-year-old son full independence to get to the playground by himself because there is a lake nearby that doesn’t have a lifeguard, not to mention teen drivers who sometimes speed in the neighborhood.
5. Other Parents
Teresa B. notes that "No town is automatically ‘safer’ than another because of its size," and she's among several members who suggest making an effort to meet your child’s friends and their parents to strengthen your community. Not only that, adds Teresa, you'll get a lot out of developing good relationships "with all moms and dads that [your] children befriend."
Most important, says Yelena F., is that your child be mature enough to avoid risks and to make decisions in emergency/crisis situations. Before going out alone, “The child needs to show signs that they will know what to do if something [were] to happen,” agrees Mary C. “Not all children at the same age will do the same thing.”
7. Growing Independence
Keeping a close watch on how your child handles increasing independence is another way to gauge readiness. For instance, Mary’s seven-year-old son proved his readiness to her gradually, first by riding his bike to the church next door and waiting for her, as she asked, then by sticking to the neighborhood boundaries she set for him — venturing only one block in each direction from their home. Similarly, Juliette M. intends to let her kids venture beyond their cul-de-sac once they show her that they can cross a busy street and stay away from the dangerous things along their route ("big dogs and high-voltage boxes"). As they get older and “demonstrate good judgment and responsibility, they will get to go further,” she shares.
This gradual loosening of the reins works best when you allow the pace to be guided by your child's growing maturity, as well as the factors above. As a member named Jodi concludes, "I believe that we need to allow our children to take calculated risks and learn to be independent in order for them to be able to make healthy choices as they move into their teen years.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.