Freedom; all adults want it and so do your children. However, in this day and age, many parents are
constantly worried about allowing their children too much freedom when it comes to where they go, what
they do, and with whom they associate. Yes, the world can be a scary place. However, a child’s liberty is
important, as it is the key to a happy and fulfilling childhood.
Remember Your Own Childhood Experiences
Some of us rode in cars without seat belts, on bicycles with no helmets, drank out of water faucets, and talked to strangers. We survived.
There is a difference between adventurous behavior and risky behavior. It is important to help your child recognize and distinguish between the two. Adventurous behavior involves exploration, creative thinking, and imagination. Risky behavior, as the name implies, involves a dangerous activity.
If you think back to your childhood, the memories which stand out probably involve some type of adventure. I remember following the drainage ditch behind the golf course and retrieving lost golf balls, we would then sell them and use our earnings for ice cream and candy at the corner store. When we lived up north, all the houses on our block backed up to an area that was originally an alley. No longer
used, it was overgrown with brush and trees. Our children spent hours playing in what was alternately
called a “jungle” and the “forest.”
Search Out and Create Opportunities for Freedom
Summer and Day Camps
Camps provide supervised activities away from a child’s normal daily routine. Many programs offer
recreational activities, however, there are many camps catering to specific interests. Karate camp, theatre
camp, and cooking camps are only a few of the many specialized camp experiences available for
children. Check local availability by contacting churches, schools, service organizations, and your local
Areas to Explore in Your Community
Allowing your children freedom does not require leaving them completely alone. A park playground can
provide a safe environment for exploration as you sit in the shade on a bench reading and occasionally
glancing up to assure safe behavior. Also, explore nearby zoos, aquariums, and art museums. Many
have child specific activities and exhibits appealing to children.
Use Your Own Backyard
Provide jars for collecting, examining, and then releasing specimens. If this makes you nervous, a
sketchpad and pencil is a good alternative. Young children love playhouses and older children tree
houses. A good swing set provides hours of entertainment. Place it in sight of a window if you really want
to keep an eye on your child.
Be Realistic About Actual Dangers
Sometimes we worry about danger unrealistically. Only five or six people in the U.S. die from snakebite
each year. Moreover, it is estimated that there are 115 child “stranger abduction” cases each year, which
means the child was taken by an unknown person. It is actually more dangerous to take your child to school in the morning than to let them roam the woods behind your house or walk to the neighborhood store for a treat.
With a bit of thought, you can find places close to home and even in your own backyard to provide
opportunities for your child to experience the liberty that is a key to a happy and fulfilling childhood.