Kids alone outside

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Joined: 12/10/05
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Kids alone outside

At what age do you think it is appropriate to let kids ride bikes without supervision?

To make things easier, assume that you live in a fairly quiet, residential neighbourhood and you know most of the neighbours.

Does it make a difference if they are alone vs. with a sibling or friend?

Joined: 06/26/02
Posts: 20

This is one I struggle with weekly. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer. I'd say it's situational. There are neighborhoods a 7 yr old could easily ride around the block and there other neighborhoods that he couldn't. There is always strength in numbers.

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

We have recently started letting our older two (age 4 and 5) ride bikes in front of our house together. Part of me thinks it is too young, but part of me thinks it is fine. My DH thinks they should have been allowed months ago.

MommyJannah's picture
Joined: 08/25/08
Posts: 109

Last summer was the first summer we allowed the girls to play outside by themselves. (Well, except for the back yard, we have a fenced back yard). They were turning 9 and 7. I think it depends on the neighborhood and the kid, but even living in a very low crime area with very little traffic, I wasn't comfortable letting my kids ride around the neighborhood unsupervised. A lot of our neighbors let their kids ride around the block, but I still think they're awfully young to be unsupervised.
I think it also depends on how easily you can see the street from your house. Where we live, we can only see 3 or 4 houses in each direction because of the way the street is bent. If they were in the driveway I'd feel differently than them going all the way up/down the street.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

We let them ride without supervision but they can't go very far, we are very rural and are at the end of the road, and our neighbors we trust.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

8 if there are sidewalks. Yes, I realize they are supposed to use the street, but I have absolutely no intentions of trusting anyone under the age of 13 on the same pavement as a motorized vehicle without me being outside with them.

daniellevmt's picture
Joined: 07/25/06
Posts: 213

For my kid, I can't say yet. I imagine I'll feel comfortable once I'm certain he is mature enough and knows how to react to various situations if he's alone.

Joined: 06/22/10
Posts: 5602

i have no idea, but it will probably be quite awhile.

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

For our family where we live, 3 is the age we started at. If he violates rules then he loses the priviledge of playing around in the cul-de-sac.

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

I have a 3 and 6 y.o. and they are allowed to play in the fenced in backyard unattended. They know not to even touch the gates or they lose that privilege. When they're out I always have the blinds open so I can see them, and they're so loud you can always hear them. I'd never let them play out in the street this young. That would feel neglectful to me.....

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

My kids can play on the back deck alone right now while I am cooking. It is gated and I can see it from my kitchen. They are 3 and 4.

I can see this happening by 7 or so given where we actually live/our street/no fence etc. That said, we won't be living here when they are 7, so who knows.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"Alana*sMommy" wrote:

That would feel neglectful to me.....

I think that that is a strong word. I know plenty of 6 year olds who live in safe, controlled neighborhoods who absolutely have the personal responsibility level to play outside alone in a cul de sac or in other friends yards.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

I don't think something like this can given a set-in-stone "not before date". It totally depends on the child (not just age, but also maturity) as well as one's neighbourhood... and the parents' comfort level.

Mine are 9.5 and 5.5. They've both probably been playing outside alone since they were 4ish. When dd was that age we lived in a duplex on a VERY quiet street that had a fenced backyard and I would allow her to play in an area of the yard and up to a certain point in the driveway where I was able to see her if I looked out my kitchen window/the door (we had no windows facing the back anywhere). As long as she obeyed the rules, fine... otherwise she lost the privilege. We moved to where we live now before ds hit that age... and this place is on the corner of a very busy road and a very quiet dead-end street. I do allow the kids outside by themselves but they must stay in the backyard/up to a certain point of the driveway and are NOT allowed to play in the front yard at all (busy road side). Again... they breech my rules, they don't go outside. I haven't had any issues though. With regards to bikes, neither child is proficient enough yet on bikes for me to feel overly comfortable with them riding them anywhere (other than the driveway) without us.... though I would, theoretically, allow dd to ride to the end of the dead-end street and back if she was more steady. They also are allowed to go back and forth (as long as I am aware of it) across the quiet street between our house and the neighbour's.

But again... it all depends so much on the child. I have a nephew who is 6.5 and I would not trust him to be outside by himself (without a fenced/gated yard).

carg0612's picture
Joined: 09/23/09
Posts: 1554

For us we live on a huge cul-de-sac with a large green space in the middle. We let the 3 oldest kids ride without us out there. If the 4 1/2 yr old wants to go out too one of us needs to be out there (he doesn't listen very well so there you have it).

If my DD (the 9 1/2 yr old) wants to go out to the circle with one of her friends I let her but I always insist she at least has a friend.

I will let the kids play in the back yard while I'm cooking or feeding the baby because I can see them.

I also think it depends on the situation, the family, the individual child's disposition too. I guess as a parent you take all those things into consideration and try to make the best decision possible.

RebeccaA'07's picture
Joined: 11/19/07
Posts: 1628

Totally depends on the neighborhood enviroment and personal comfort level. For us, we have a large fenced in back yard, I've let my two year old play for a few minutes by herself outside while I watched through the blinds. She did fine but it still made me nervous. So actually playing near a road, will probably not happen for a long while until she is able to recognize danger or cars or other people and knows how to react properly.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

In OUR neighbourhood there's no way I'm letting the kids play unsupervised outside until at least 6 or 7, and even that's a stretch. We have an unfenced corner lot (although it will be fenced this spring, IF the snow ever leaves) and the street running down the side of our property is some sort of cut-through for traffic like delivery trucks and school buses. They freaking fly down that street with no regard whatsoever to children who might be playing. Scares the $hit out of me. If we lived in a more rural area with no busy streets so close by I'd probably be a bit less paranoid about letting the kids play outside.

Some of our neighbours don't share my concern about the traffic, however. I've seen several very young kids playing unsupervised in their unfenced yards - some as young as 22 months!:eek: The next door neighbours' young daughter is always riding her bike alone out in the street, sometimes well after sunset. I guess she's maybe 5, and she never looks out for cars

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"Potter75" wrote:

I think that that is a strong word. I know plenty of 6 year olds who live in safe, controlled neighborhoods who absolutely have the personal responsibility level to play outside alone in a cul de sac or in other friends yards.

Yep. It totally depends on the child, the area you live in, the culture, etc. and to say it is neglectful at any point is silly ( well exceptfor maybe an infant, but even then I remember seeing that doc. Babies where that little baby in Mongolia was left in the stroller outside. That's not negelctful for that area and culture.).

When my kids were 5 and 8, we lived in Arkansas and it was the first and only time I felt completely safe letting my kids not only ride bikes and play in fron of the house, but walk to their friends house down the street. I had my windows open but not really watching them 100%. I can't tell you why I felt so safe, but it is the only place and time I have. My kids are older now and I don't feel as safe here in FL., even though we live in a good neighborhood and all.

It just depends.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"culturedmom" wrote:

Yep. It totally depends on the child, the area you live in, the culture, etc. and to say it is neglectful at any point is silly ( well exceptfor maybe an infant, but even then I remember seeing that doc. Babies where that little baby in Mongolia was left in the stroller outside. That's not negelctful for that area and culture.)

Yeah. I was born in England in the really early 70s. On Saturdays it was the dads' turn to take the babies out in their prams. They'd walk them down to the pub and park the sleeping babies outside the pub! Of course, they'd sit in front of the window where they could see them (kinda). My mom used to leave me outside, sleeping in the driveway and the dog would keep watch. Different time and place....

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

Even supposing the street is super quiet (like one car/30 minutes) and the only people who drive it are residents (no thru road)? If you live in a "Leave it to Beaver"-like utopia?

My 5 yo just learned to ride his bike and his 4 yo sister isn't far behind. All they want to do is ride their bikes, like for hours. I can stand out there with them for a while, but reality is I have stuff to do and two other little ones to look after. So, we set boundaries. Our fence line on one side (because there is a corner a couple houses past and I don't want them near the corner) and three houses down the road the other way. We know all our neighbours, most have young families as well. They know not to say anything to strangers besides "hi" and if *anyone* asks them a question they are to come get me. They have been playing on the road with supervision since they were walking (riding tricycles, sidewalk chalk - our driveway is really short) and race to the side of the road if a car so much as starts its engine down the other end of the road. Of course I peek out the window every few minutes too.

My DH is much more relaxed with the kids than I am, but I agreed to this after happening to read an article that said more kids at 6 know how to play computer/video games than ride a bike and the impact of trapping them indoors out of fear on obesity, endurance, strength, etc.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I have been letting my not-quite-three year old play alone in our backyard while I am in the kitchen cooking. This is a new development that has only happened in about the past month since it has been warming up again. We have a fenced in back yard with a 6 foot privacy fence, and I can see about 90% of the backyard from my kitchen window. He's not allowed to go in to the side yard though, because I can't see it from the kitchen and that is where the gate is. The gate latches securely and is actually hard for an adult to open. But still.

I don't know yet when I will feel comfortable letting him go unsupervised in the front yard, or ride his bike on the sidewalk unsupervised. I can say that I can remember doing this when I was no older than 6 (maybe younger, I just don't remember) but somehow the world seems like it was safer in the mid-80's in fairly small town Ohio than the 20-teens in a more major metro area. I half suspect that feeling is mostly just that I'm an adult now and aware of the potential dangers where I wasn't aware of them during the mid-80's.

It's hard, but I know that I do want my kid to be as "free range" as I think is appropriate for his age and maturity. I am already working on this by letting him go upstairs and play in his room by himself, even though my first instinct is to keep him in my sight at all times. It makes me realize that to a certain extent, my hesitation has more to do with my own anxiety than it does his readiness level or safety. Our house is very well baby proofed (especially his room) so there's not actually much trouble he can probably get himself into, but I still have to fight this anxiety to let him do it. I think maybe that's going to be an issue as he grows up, and his appropriate "free range" area expands, but I realize that it's my issue, because I don't want him to grow up thinking that the world is a scary place that should not be explored, if that makes any sense.

I remind myself of my mom. We live literally 9 doors down from my parents in a nice quiet suburb, but it drives her CRAZY that I insist on walking the 9 doors in all but the most dire of weather conditions, particularly at night. If I leave her house after dark, I have to call her when I get home, and I'm 30 years old. She is also not a fan of the fact that I jog around my neighborhood and on the trails behind our house. My point is, I see where I get this tendency towards anxiety, but I'm trying like anything to fight it back because I don't want to pass too much of that on to my own kids.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

I'd say we've been introducing this gradually. We have no front yard, just a wide sidewalk, and while it's not a particularly busy street, it's a well-used street. But there's also cars parked all along it, so the risk of stepping off the sidewalk into an oncoming car isn't as great as on a suburban street might be. Our building's garbage room, which leads to the storage rooms, opens to the front sidewalk. When Tiven was little, we'd take her into the garbage room & close the door when we were getting or putting away our bicycles or her stroller. Then we started letting her play right in front of the open door, and then in front of our building with the door open, while we did those things. Now we let her ride her bike "from this tree to that tree" which is about a third of the block, but only when one of us is doing something in the garbage room or our storage room & we have the door open. I'm actually more concerned about a car backing out of a driveway & hitting her, than I am about her being abducted. We regularly discuss appropriate stranger behavior, and not to go near any car with a person in it or into anyone's home unless Mama or Papa has told her in person it's OK, but every single time she's on her bike or running down the street, we tell her to watch the driveways.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

We allowed DSD to ride out front of the house at about 9/10 and then when she was 11/12 she was allowed to ride to the store and in the side street directly around us (never more than 2 blocks from the house). We live near a busy street and our street is often used as a through way. She was also a child that did not necessarily always pay good attention to her surroundings so we waited longer.

If she was with a friend she got a bit more freedom than if she was by herself. It is the safety in number theory.

With DD, I am not going to feel comfortable with her outside by herself (in the back yard or riding out front) until I know that she knows how to be safe. I am not going to assign any age but wait to see her be ready.

bunnyfufu's picture
Joined: 10/21/05
Posts: 203

For us it's a gradual process as well. My nearly 5 yr old is allowed to bike on the drive or play in the front garden alone but we are so rural that I actually have to worry about the creek or the deer as a hazard for the littles. Our yard has a lot of places that are just not visible from the house.

SoxyToo's picture
Joined: 03/19/10
Posts: 44

With friends I would say around 5ish (staying right outside so they can be seen through the window or at friends house with neighbor watching). I would say alone, without any friends or supervision, at least 8 or 9.

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

"Potter75" wrote:

I think that that is a strong word. I know plenty of 6 year olds who live in safe, controlled neighborhoods who absolutely have the personal responsibility level to play outside alone in a cul de sac or in other friends yards.

That's fine, but I was talking about ME and MY kids (and I was referring to the street, not the yard).

HeatherAnn817's picture
Joined: 05/28/04
Posts: 139

My neighborhood is very leave it to beaverish. We are talking most streets are cul-de-sacs, has a little "town square" with a pharmacy, pediatrician's office (where he lives as well!), cafe, etc. Think Gilmore Girls!

But I honestly can't say when I will be comfortable with this. Even after living here for almost 2 years, I am amazed at the young children who seem to just play outside alone all day! I mean, I have has 8 year olds show up at my house to play and stay for hours! When I tell them to call home, they usually say they just have to be home at X time. I always make them call anyway so the parents know where they are!

I do trust and like my neighbors, but fully believe you can never be too safe. My kids (age 5) are not allowed to play outside without my husband or I. The only way they can is if I know one of the few neighbors who feel the same way as us, is outside and we ask them to keep an eye on the kids.

I know that I am a very paranoid mother (have never left my children with a non-family member babysitter). Sending them off to full day school this year was very hard for me!

I just cannot get past the fact that the majority of child abductors are people who the child "knows" (member of the community, etc.).

My kids are probably going to need therapy!

ceres's picture
Joined: 03/29/05
Posts: 115

My 5 year old has a lot of freedom I suppose. I let him play by himself out in the front yard and in the other yards around our house. There are usually a bunch of other kids out there (like 5 or more) and they all play together and run from yard to yard. I can see the whole street if I step out my front door so I can check on him from time to time. He also walks to and from his bus stop alone everyday for school at his request. His bus picks him up and drops him off at a park that is about 2 blocks away. For a while I was either walking with him or driving him,(when it was really cold) but pretty much all the other kids were going by themselves so he felt left out and requested to go by himself so he could walk with his friends. My neighborhood is all families with kids my sons age. There are probably at least 20 kids that live on my street alone.

I think it really depends on the child, where you live, and your comfort level. My 3 year old would love to go out and play with all the kids but I think he is just not mature enough and he tends to stray from the group a lot. If he stayed with his brother I would be fine with him going out too.

HeatherAnn817's picture
Joined: 05/28/04
Posts: 139

"ceres" wrote:

My 5 year old has a lot of freedom I suppose. I let him play by himself out in the front yard and in the other yards around our house. There are usually a bunch of other kids out there (like 5 or more) and they all play together and run from yard to yard. I can see the whole street if I step out my front door so I can check on him from time to time. He also walks to and from his bus stop alone everyday for school at his request. His bus picks him up and drops him off at a park that is about 2 blocks away. For a while I was either walking with him or driving him,(when it was really cold) but pretty much all the other kids were going by themselves so he felt left out and requested to go by himself so he could walk with his friends. My neighborhood is all families with kids my sons age. There are probably at least 20 kids that live on my street alone.

I think it really depends on the child, where you live, and your comfort level. My 3 year old would love to go out and play with all the kids but I think he is just not mature enough and he tends to stray from the group a lot. If he stayed with his brother I would be fine with him going out too.

The bus stop part of this scares the daylights of me! I am thankful that our Distict has a policy that they will not let the children Grades k through 2 (it might be grade 3) off the school bus if the child's parent or caregiver is not there waiting. They are taken back to the school to await pick up!

Minx_Kristi's picture
Joined: 01/02/09
Posts: 1261

I would say that as a parent you would know when your child is ready to be able to go out 'alone'.

Are you worried about traffic or dangers like kidnapping?

xx

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I think I'm more worried about traffic at this point.

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

"Minx_Kristi" wrote:

Are you worried about traffic or dangers like kidnapping?

xx

Neither particularly... They are outside riding their bikes on the street right now Wink

HeatherAnn817's picture
Joined: 05/28/04
Posts: 139

"Minx_Kristi" wrote:

I would say that as a parent you would know when your child is ready to be able to go out 'alone'.

Are you worried about traffic or dangers like kidnapping?

xx

Kidnapping for sure! There are only 6 houses in our cul-de-sac, so not really worries about traffic.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

Neither in my neighborhood, but I have prepped the boys for both.
Traffic - if you see a car, pull onto the grass..(off the gravel drive/road).

Kidnapping - Do not go anywhere with anyone PERIOD. Not even into the neighbors house without asking. I scare the crap out of them and they obey it well.

Joined: 05/13/02
Posts: 414

I'm much more laid-back about this now that my oldest is 12 and the youngest is 7. When the weather is nice, they're outside pretty much the entire day playing outside with the friends. They are allowed to ride their bikes and scooters around the neighborhood as well. Our street isn't too busy, but I do make them stay on the sidewalk.

ange84's picture
Joined: 12/28/09
Posts: 6564

For me we live fairly close (like I can see it from the window ofmy house close) to a river. the nearest park is right on the river front so unless we get a fence it will be quite some time before I feel DS is able to play outside alone. In all other aspects I feel pretty safe, we live in a neighbourhood of old people, something like 5 of my neighbours are older people and I have seen almost no young families around.

FLSunshineMom's picture
Joined: 06/07/06
Posts: 3859

I think it depends on the child and their personality/maturity level.

As for MY 4-yr old:

Alone: No, never. I don't care what kind of neighborhood it is. The only exception being a fenced in yard and I could see her at all times.

With a trusted 12 yr old or older, and in my neighborhood: Yes. She has been outside alone with her 13-yr old and 10-yr old cousins when they came to visit and she did just fine. However, I still checked on them periodically.

FLSunshineMom's picture
Joined: 06/07/06
Posts: 3859

PS: I should clarify: I have let her go outside alone for brief periods of time, knowing that she will stay in the area I tell her to. However, we live on a large piece of property at least two miles from any kind of busy road and we only have two neighbors, who can be trusted.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

I'm not particularly worried about either, but of the two, traffic worries me more. I don't understand the posters who say their street isn't very busy, or they don't have neighbors nearby, etc. So the ones you have, you trust, but there's also no one around who might see a kidnapper grab your kid or who will be close enough to hear your kid scream if they're being grabbed. I think it's false security. I'd rather have the dozens or hundreds of neighbors that I don't really know, but who all come out or at least lean out the window when they hear a kid scream & are close enough to do something about it.

FLSunshineMom's picture
Joined: 06/07/06
Posts: 3859

"Spacers" wrote:

I'm not particularly worried about either, but of the two, traffic worries me more. I don't understand the posters who say their street isn't very busy, or they don't have neighbors nearby, etc. So the ones you have, you trust, but there's also no one around who might see a kidnapper grab your kid or who will be close enough to hear your kid scream if they're being grabbed. I think it's false security. I'd rather have the dozens or hundreds of neighbors that I don't really know, but who all come out or at least lean out the window when they hear a kid scream & are close enough to do something about it.

Good point. I admit to worrying a little about that sort of thing being in more of a "country" setting. However, I can also hear it if someone drives up, and if they try to do it on foot, all I can say is, they'd better be running pretty fast!!! Wink

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"Spacers" wrote:

I'm not particularly worried about either, but of the two, traffic worries me more. I don't understand the posters who say their street isn't very busy, or they don't have neighbors nearby, etc. So the ones you have, you trust, but there's also no one around who might see a kidnapper grab your kid or who will be close enough to hear your kid scream if they're being grabbed. I think it's false security. I'd rather have the dozens or hundreds of neighbors that I don't really know, but who all come out or at least lean out the window when they hear a kid scream & are close enough to do something about it.

I honestly don't worry a lot about kidnappers. Maybe that makes me...I dunno....negligent or something. I just honestly believe that most people are good and that there aren't kidnappers and pedophiles lurking around every corner. I read somewhere that the number of kids that get kidnapped in the US by strangers is something like 150 annually. Out of literally millions of children, that's just such a statistically small risk. Of course that is 150 too many, and I would probably kill myself if T was one of those 150, but it's still such a small risk that honestly I just don't worry about it that much. Traffic worries me much more because a good person could still easily hit a kid who runs out in the street.

I just ordered a copy of Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. I'll let you know what I think after I read that.

Kate83's picture
Joined: 01/04/11
Posts: 587

My children are 4 and 6 and can play in our back yard alone. But they know to never go on the side or front of house, we live on a busy road (busy as this little town gets anyway, which isnt much)

I think it depends on the child. We have friends who's 5 & 6 year old can play a bit too close to the road.

momW's picture
Joined: 09/29/09
Posts: 5634

"Spacers" wrote:

I'm not particularly worried about either, but of the two, traffic worries me more. I don't understand the posters who say their street isn't very busy, or they don't have neighbors nearby, etc. So the ones you have, you trust, but there's also no one around who might see a kidnapper grab your kid or who will be close enough to hear your kid scream if they're being grabbed. I think it's false security. I'd rather have the dozens or hundreds of neighbors that I don't really know, but who all come out or at least lean out the window when they hear a kid scream & are close enough to do something about it.

I'll take my chances. I'm pretty sure if you tried to steal one of my kids, you'd have a boxer attached to your jugular. There have only been like 2 kidnapping attempts made anywhere around us in YEARS and they were both in town.

momW's picture
Joined: 09/29/09
Posts: 5634

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I just ordered a copy of Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. I'll let you know what I think after I read that.

Reading it now and loving it.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"momW" wrote:

Reading it now and loving it.

Me too!

I was talking to DH about it, and he is very "Free Range" just by nature. He was like "Why is it that you will listen to this writer, but you won't listen to me????" Blum 3 But like I told him, I love that she actually gives the statistics and research on things. DH's typical argument is "Why are you even worried about that? That's dumb." Not a compelling argument! But to read that a kid has like a .000007% chance of being abducted by a stranger? I find that compelling!

momW's picture
Joined: 09/29/09
Posts: 5634

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Me too!

I was talking to DH about it, and he is very "Free Range" just by nature. He was like "Why is it that you will listen to this writer, but you won't listen to me????" Blum 3 But like I told him, I love that she actually gives the statistics and research on things. DH's typical argument is "Why are you even worried about that? That's dumb." Not a compelling argument! But to read that a kid has like a .000007% chance of being abducted by a stranger? I find that compelling!

I completely agree, that is the part I really like too. I have to admit, I'm a recovering Law and Order junkie and I currently have an addiction to all things CSI. I like where she talks about what you watch and how it affects your parenting. I am by nature a free range parent, but I have found lately (like over the last 4 years since my t.v. viewing has increased up to about 4 hours a week) that I have been fighting this unknown-to-me fear. I swear, she is right on about the t.v. stuff. I'm not much of a t.v. watcher and when DD1 was little, I was working and going to school, there was no time for t.v. for me. Now I watch a little and I do have some irrational fears with DS that I never had before with DD1 and things in my town and in society overall have not changed in that short 10 years.

I know a lot of moms that would benefit from this book! Biggrin (myself included)