Leave Your Kids in the Park Day

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, is declaring May 22 a national holiday: "Take Our Children to the Park...And Leave Them There Day." Today she explains why.


Lenore Skenazy

Comments [47]


There is literally a 100 times better chance that your kid will die in your car while you're driving them somewhere than they will be abducted and killed by a stranger. I'll bet that none of you worry even 100th as much about strapping them into a car as leaving them at the park alone. You need thinking lessons.

May. 20 2011 06:00 PM


May. 30 2010 05:47 AM
DAT from Nathan Straus Projects

This woman is taking unnecessary chances
with the life, the well being, of her child and urging others to do the same.

Getting locked up and for leaving her kid alone,
is not the worst that can happen.

Having someone abduct her child or molest
her child is the very worst case scenario
and well within one of the possible outcomes.

She's silly, giving bad advice.

The kids are not the problem, they are smart.

But adults and even some other kids
can make that child a target.

This is NYC, not Kansas.

May. 23 2010 02:36 PM
peter from vancouver

when i lived in switzerland, i noticed that its normal for children to go to school by themselves (on foot or on public transport), all the way down to children in kindergarten! its believed this instills self-reliance; a rather underrated quality imo.

May. 21 2010 06:24 PM
Jake the Snake from Brooklyn

I am not equating the two situations, obviously one is more extreme. However, as a society the trend is toward a more nurturing environment. Who is going to be there when they steal that first apple and like it? "Too much freedom makes everyone a prisoner"-anonymous

May. 21 2010 03:26 PM
Ira from Upper West Side

While infanticide has been the norm rather than the exception throughout history, leaving a child that is under a certain age in a national park is irresponsible. Bears, raccoons, ants and other predators are just waiting for such an opportunity. Even a city park has such dangers, although admittedly not as extreme (still having ants and raccoons!) So I think age (and distance) is an important factor to consider before adopting such a policy of leaving your children at various locations and waiting for them to find their way home.

May. 21 2010 03:14 PM

why are u comparing going to the park for a few hours alone to street urchinsy?

May. 21 2010 03:14 PM
Jake the Snake from Brooklyn

I saw a documentary on street urchins on the 30's and, while self-sufficient, generally ended up with a short life expectancy or in jail. In any case, they were not very successful in the various categories of self-fufillment. So, the question becomes: self-sufficient or self-fufilled?

May. 21 2010 02:26 PM

some of u people are hysterical (in both senses of the word)
your kids will be a mess. stop watching them 24/7. teacher them well and let them be.
where does your fear come from. on the other hand a see a lot of fear everywhere in society. what is becoming of us.

May. 21 2010 12:14 PM
Josh from Brooklyn

For me, its the age, not the practise.

May. 21 2010 11:59 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Ok, I’m done. No more WNYC for the week/weekend. The abandon your kids in the park to draw the prophet quip was just plain tasteless.
Hope your advertisers read your comment pages. I’m sure the New York Philharmonic, Symphony Space and Penguin Books have all the money they need and don’t need my ears or eyeballs to advertise to.

May. 21 2010 11:57 AM
Patrick from Cary, North Carolina

When I was 10 (in 1960), my mother dropped me off at the 179 st subway (Jamaica) and I traveled alone to visit my grandmother (in Jersey City). I took the E train to the Port Authority and took the Public Service bus to Jersey city. This was a trip I had taken many times with my mother before. I had standing instructions that if I needed help, to ask a person with a uniform (police, bus driver, conductor, mailman are examples of people in uniform). I feel that this type of confidence from my parents helped me to mature in a responsible manner. Times have changed, but helicopter parents need to learn to release their supervision.

May. 21 2010 11:55 AM
Maya from Brooklyn, NY

For some parents, simply taking the kid to the park and then going and sitting on a bench and NOT HOVERING is the equivalent of leaving the kid alone. Sit on the bench, read the paper, don't interfere. And here's another radical idea: take the kid to the park without food or drinks! I watch some parents arrive at the park with enough provisions to feed an army, and they offer their playing kids food and drink every ten minutes (I timed it). So tempted to say, "Hey, why don't you wait until they express hunger or thirst instead of anticipating their every need?"

May. 21 2010 11:55 AM
Edward from NJ

@Steve from Brooklyn, the parents with their older children in strollers aren't necessarily coddling there kids. They may just need to get somewhere at a speed greater than one mile per hour.

May. 21 2010 11:52 AM
Tony from Forest Hills

I don't understand why parents feel less safe right now. When I was growing up in the early 80's, I had to ride the subway alone to school when I was 8 years old. If we were ever lost, we would know to find some adults (like the police) and ask for help. NYC in the early 80s is not "a walk in the park" either. Nowadays, even a 6 years old child has a cell phone. If they are lost, they can simply press the speed dial on their phone to call their parent. The GPS in the phone would help adults to quickly locate the child.

Kids need to learn responsibility. I strongly believe that the earlier they learn them, the better person they will become as an adult. If they start to learn to take care of themselves at 16 years old, then how can we expect them to be independent when they head off to the college? How can we expect them to go out to the world when they become an adult?

May. 21 2010 11:52 AM from Fort Green

Growing up in NH I spent from sun rise to sun set deep in the woods alone and often trusted to be left home alone from the as long as I can remember.
I think parents are raising a bunch of winy wimps these days or as I like to call it "the PUSS-AF-CASION of American kids"

and no I dont have kids yet...

May. 21 2010 11:49 AM
Josh from Brooklyn

You have to be kidding me. 9?! I started riding the subway by myself at 12. But 9?. I took a plane by myself at 10, but it was a controlled area.

Anybody remember Etan Patz? Where is he? He was 7, and it was a two block walk to a bus stop. What happens if he gets attacked? The guest said, 7 was normal. Does she have kids? What happens if he gets lost, and has no Identification or money? Look what happened to that Steven kid. Yes they are specific examples. But how many out there are there?

I am a strong proponent of teaching independence and confidence by letting them find out things on their own. But to leave a 9 year old to fend for themselves in the middle of NYC is just irresponsible. I truly hope nothing happens to him. 9 is too young to fend for themselves. I could see leaving him with a group of 9 year olds, or have him meet you somewhere else and go home together, but just leave him there is shortsighted. We are not in a farming community in Iowa.

May. 21 2010 11:47 AM
Merrill Clark from New York

I hate to sound male and technical, but doesn't this boil down to risk? Do we protect kids when there is small chance of harm? Where do we draw the line?

I am guessing with more single parents who are time-strapped, there is less independence for the kids.

I am grateful at age 50 for parents that let me roam around NYC alone on the subways in 1970, which was not a good time for the City. Alot of who I am today is because the freedom my parents gave me.
I recently read about the marshmellow experiment: tell four year olds here is a marshmellow or wait 15 minutes and you can have two marshmellows. Those that waited generally did better in life. See Jonah Lehrer, “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control,” New Yorker, May 18, 2009, 26–27.

May. 21 2010 11:47 AM
Theresa from Brooklyn

An entire culture that existed for hundreds of years-- kid culture-- ha been lost in the last fifty. There is a painting by Brueghel from the 16th century of children playing the same games my mother played in the street when she was a child. Now, there are no kids outside.

I wish people would just consider the possibility that all this hovering parenting is more to manage the parents' separation anxiety than to really benefit the kids.

May. 21 2010 11:46 AM

I teach college and deal every day with all of the 'kids' who still don't know how to 'be left in the park alone' or how to self-regulate.....I'm all for anyone who's talking about how all these 'helicopter' parents are actually raising completely dysfunctional adults.

May. 21 2010 11:45 AM
Maya from Brooklyn, NY

Sue - those missing kids are at sports, lessons, scouts, clubs, activities....there is so little unstructured play time! And I am with you that is a CRIME to have a beautiful porch and not sit on it!

May. 21 2010 11:44 AM
Keith from Bronx

Do not do this. I frequently defend parents in Bronx Family Court who lose their chilldren to foster care for far less. ACS has removed children who walk home from school alone and who are left in an apartment while a parent dashes down to the bodega or laundry mat.

May. 21 2010 11:44 AM
Jeff from BK

Have you pledged yet? I did and made sure to do so during Brian's show.

As a latch-key kid beginning at age 9, I learned to cook for myself at a very young age -- also allowed me to gauge how much fun was TOO much fun to have after school.

Keep in mind, often times a well-placed phone call is the best tether a parent can have, worked for me!

May. 21 2010 11:43 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

I split my time between Brooklyn and Baltimore, and I notice in Baltimore kids who can walk do walk often holding hands with a parent. In Brooklyn, kids are pushed around in strollers until they're enormous. I have a 9 mo old and as soon as she's walking, she will be charged with her own locomotion.

May. 21 2010 11:42 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

@ IC from M&M,
Good points, but there’s a fine line between teaching children to be independent and negligence.
I will have no—absolutely zero—sympathy or empathy for negligent parents and I will not financially support advertisers or corporate sponsors who give money to media companies who broadcast these sob stories or advocate negligence.
What I will do is support any district attorney or attorney general who wishes to prosecute negligent parents to the fullest extent of the law including but not limited to imprisonment and revoking parental rights.

May. 21 2010 11:42 AM
Sue from North Salem, NY

I live in the suburbs and I swear I feel like I am the only one in the neighborhood who lets my kids play outside. I drive around beautiful neighborhoods and developments, houses with swingsets, trampolines and basketball hoops.....and NOBODY IS OUTSIDE. Houses with gorgeous wraparound porches and nobody sitting on them. Where is everyone?! My children just need to tell me when they go outside, they do not leave the property, and I regularly review stranger-and-street policy. GO OUTSIDE!!

May. 21 2010 11:41 AM
Elizabeth E. from Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn

I love the idea in theory, but isn't it a bad idea to advertise it to the world in this way? Then all the creeps/pedophiles in the city will see this day as a unique opportunity to accost kids.

May. 21 2010 11:40 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Keith, very good point. The fear of stranger abduction is so widespread because it's so sensational, but the reality that there are far more likely dangers (eg. car accidents, drowning, household accidents) that get far less media coverage and that people just don't think about as much.

May. 21 2010 11:40 AM
maryann Stewart from nyc

In response to your first caller: I am the mother of a 20 yr old college student. He is independent, works hard, gets good grades. He's currently surfing on Diamond Head in Hawaii. By himself. But.....when he was 10 I would have never let him stay alone in the park. I think your guest has the privilege of a clear head because she never suffered the consequence of a tragedy. Or rather, her innocent child never suffered the consequences of her naive assumptions about protecting her child.

May. 21 2010 11:39 AM
George from astoria

Great Idea!!

When i was 5 i was in central park by the zoo and i lost sight of my parents for about 10 minutes. I was lost. and i'l never forget thinking why dont i have a token to get home and even if i did why dont i know how to get home.
It sparked something in my mind that has stayed with me since. to be self sufficient and to grow up.
My mother came and found me after and all was well. but i will never forget that moment. dont remeber anything else from 5 yrs old but that left its mark.

May. 21 2010 11:39 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Maya, excellent point.

May. 21 2010 11:38 AM
Maya from Brooklyn, NY

I think the point is to leave the kids in the park TOGETHER. Don't play alone, play in pairs, in groups, stick together, watch out for each other, two heads are better than one. Stress the importance of safety in numbers.

May. 21 2010 11:37 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Regarding our kids' need to be entertained - I took my son to the playground with a friend one time. My son immediately took off for the sandbox and played happily, while the other kid kept hanging around me and watching me, as if he were expecting me to tap dance or something. I do think that a lot of kids have no idea how to generate their own entertainment.

May. 21 2010 11:37 AM
Poppy Orchier from Upper East Side

This woman ought to be reported to Child Services! She's a publicity-seeking nut. This isn't "Leave it to Beaver." It's New York City, 2010.

May. 21 2010 11:36 AM
Rebecca from New Haven

Children need to feel safe. What happens to kids who live in bad neighborhoods or with an abusive parent or who otherwise grow up in an insecure environment? No sane parent wants that for their child. It looks like maybe waspy guilt is making some privledged parents think that if they just give their kids a dose of the "real world" then it'll make up for all the coddling they get the rest of the time. Sure, maybe the park is safe, but that's completely besides the point. Your child may well just end up feeling like you're abandoning them, even if nothing bad happens. Plus, I find it offensive that you'd use your children as the bait in an experiment to find out how safe the parks are.

May. 21 2010 11:33 AM
renata De Oliveira

I found interesting that in Brazil, a country much more violent and dangerous than America, that kids roam around more freely then here. But the difference is that brazilian people, in general, are more protective of their youth. When you are in public, strangers will start conversations with your kids and most of the times, even touch them, in a kind way, on their head or their faces, with a gentle caress, kinda like what people do here with dogs. At first, my kids were very uncomfortable, but as time went by, they got used to it, and actually felt safer to roam around more freely. So many times, I got in trouble here, for trying to interfere with kid's fights, or trying to help a kid at the park, only to get reprimanded by the parent, as if I were "stalking" the kid. I do love the idea though..

May. 21 2010 11:33 AM
Rae from Ditmas Park

I remember running freely from back yard to back yard with neighborhood children when I was 4 or 5 years old in Hartford, Connecticut, but I assume that neighborhood moms and retirees were keeping an eye on us then—looking out the back window, etc. So the park is a little different—no neighborhood eyes watching out in the background. (I have Prospect Park in mind.) My son is only 20 months old, so he's obviously too young to be on his own in the park. At what age might he be old enough? What skills does he need to have to be in the park on his own?

May. 21 2010 11:31 AM
Sarah from Rego Park

I have three kids, the oldest of whom is 16 and I encourage all of them to do things on their own. Past generations gained self-confidence and learned responsibility by being given opportunities to play by themselves, run errands and travel to friends' houses. Our generation shelters children and then throws them at the world with very little transition. My kids will play in the park by themselves tomorrow as they do every day.

May. 21 2010 11:31 AM
Nick from Upper West Side

We are all alone in the park, every minute, from the first to the last day of our lives. I started riding the NY subway and buses by myself at age 10. My father, a die hard and native New Yorker, encouraged this fully. I've never been more grateful for anything than that sense of independence at an early age. Yes, we are overprotective; we live in an absurd and infantilized nanny environment that discourages children becoming adults. Feh, what crap.

May. 21 2010 11:27 AM
keith from Inwood

I would be curious to see an actual stastical analysis about the risks of kids being outside in NYC or elsewhere. More accidents occur in the home than anywhere (of course more time is spent there). How many kids are hurt, endangered, abducted, etc by people they know or registered,approved places as opposed to the mythical stranger (not saying the danger doesn't exist, just expressing this as an archetype) waiting to do harm to kids.
As kids, we did wander the (rural NC) neighborhood on our own with other neighborhood kids. Now, you could be the only one, which would reduce the safety in numbers.

May. 21 2010 11:27 AM
Tara from Bronx, NY

This woman is a total idiot! I heard her when she was on last time. How would she feel if something terrible DID happen to her child? How would she feel then? What would she have to say to parents whose children have been kidnapped, murdered, molested? I have nothing but contempt for people who experiment with their children to prove their ideologies. Someone should report her to ACS!

May. 21 2010 11:25 AM
IC from Manhattan & Montreal

I would definitely leave my kid, except he's 15 now. But when he was 9 and even younger, I'd sent him on errands via bus & subway, to the park etc, on his own. Good instructions, values, teachings and trust will help our kids go a long way. We need to help our kids feel confident and independent, something all too many people fail to do.
, and I see it even in my son's high school class mates, the sheltered immature lives the kids lead.N

May. 21 2010 11:24 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

I loved this woman's last appearance on the show - looking forward to hearing her again!

May. 21 2010 11:21 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Is this WNYC’s version of sweeps? Yesterday was Hate Bait and Mock Religion (But Not the Christians and Jews) Day and today’s Get Your Kid Abducted or Worst Day.
Then again, as long as I don’t have to hear about someone boohooing over a dead cartoonist or their abducted child, why should I care.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” –Galatians 6:7

May. 21 2010 11:00 AM
bernie from bklyn

brian- why do you pay so much attention to this women? her "writing" is the equivalent of a child acting out to get attention.
i can sum up the whole segment right here- brian will repeat the outlandish child rearing ideas she has, then she will back away from it and say it's just a metaphor for the way we overprotect our kids. blahblahblah.....please don't her anymore air time. thanks.

May. 21 2010 10:29 AM

I'm very sympathetic to Lenore Skenazy's view. By the time I was 8 and my brother 7, we were running all over the place without parents, but that was upstate New York in the 70s -- before Etan Patz and whole lot more. We also never wore bike helmets, didn't worry about seat belts in the back seat ... you name it.

I think my 8 year old is quite able to judge when to judge when the street is safe to cross (when I'm with her, I let her decide when it's safe). She knows her way home from Prospect Park. She knows which bus or subway stop is which.

But ... New York adults are frequently _less_ responsible than our kids. I trust the kids more than I do the adults.

May. 21 2010 10:28 AM
Lenny from Queens

By announcing this, have we also not given notice to those with nefarious intentions that there will be unprotected children in the parks? Will Police presence in parks be upped to watch out for those who would take advantage of this situation?

May. 21 2010 10:12 AM

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