While I’m a big fan of free range parenting, playing out safely is my priority. Before he started playing out, Boy Child and I had lots discussions about how to stay safe. We talked about lots of different scenarios and how he would handle them. This helped to reassure me that he was ready. I thought it would be useful to share our rules for playing out safely.
Boundaries for Playing Out Safely
In order to play out safely, it’s important to be clear about where your child is and isn’t allowed to go. You’ll need to wait until they are mature enough to respect those boundaries, even when their friends are all going off somewhere else, before you let them playing out can be safe. Boy Child is allowed to play on the green and the walkway between our house and the green and his Gran’s house and the green.
You’ll also need to put into place rules about other people’s houses. Boy Child is allowed to go into a specific friend’s house. He just has to ask her Mum to text me to let me know he’s there.
We also have a rule that if his friends aren’t out, he comes home. I believe playing out alone is much less safe than playing out with friends so, for now at least, he’s only allowed out when his friends are out.
Road Safety for Playing Out
This is the big one for us. We live on a fairly busy road, which needs to be crossed to get to the much safer green area where the children play. It’s a road we cross together everyday on the way to school. We have been letting Boy Child make the the decision about when it’s safe to cross as practice for doing it on his own. Even if the road your child needs to cross isn’t one you cross everyday, you can still go and do some practice crosses to reassure yourself they are capable of making safe decisions.
Another way to prepare children for dealing with roads in their own is to talk about what would happen in specific circumstances. What would they do if their friend’s are already on the other side and they are still waiting to cross? What would they do if their ball rolled into the road? How would they choose a different place to cross if their usual one was blocked for some reason.
It can be difficult to talk to children about stranger danger without scaring them too much but it is important for playing out safely. Girl Child is a worrier so with her, I have explained that there are a small number of bad people in the world. It’s such a small number that she’s hugely unlikely to come across one, but she needs to know that they do exist. To give her an idea, we looked at a large bag of rice and talked about how most of the rice was good, but their was one bad grain in it.
One of the things I’ve made clear to my children is that, if they feel afraid, they don’t need to worry about being polite. They are free to walk away, scream, shout, do whatever they need to to be safe.
I’ve also been careful to point out that, if an adult needs help, they will ask another adult. This is particularly important for Boy Child because he loves to help!
In case of emergency
To keep your child safe when they play out, it’s a good idea to make a plan so they know what to do if something goes wrong. While they should be staying within the boundaries you’ve set, what would they do if they some how got lost? For us, we’ve agreed that he will stay put until he see’s an adult he either knows or one who has children with them and then ask them to help him. Making sure they know their address is obviously useful for this.
You may also want to talk about what they would do if they hurt themselves. Would they ask a friend to come and get you? Is there a neighbour near where they play who they could ask for help? Boy Child is only allowed to play on the local green at the moment and he knows a few families that live there so would go to one of them for help.
Friendship Issues and Playing Out
This is a tricky one. Boy Child plays with a different group of people when he plays out to those he plays with at school. While this is broadly a good thing, there are no teacher’s keeping an eye for bullying. I try to make sure that I talk to him about who he’s played with and what they’ve been doing. I’ve also told him he can talk to me if he has any issues when he’s playing out and we will try and work out a solution. I don’t want him to not tell me because he’s worried he won’t be a bike to play out anymore.
I also think it’s important to make sure he’s being kind to other kids. Not everyone is able to play out, for lots of reasons, and I want him to be respectful of that.
It can be really scary as a parent when you first let your child go out to play without you but the benefits really are worth it. If you want to make a start at preparing your child for playing out but aren’t quite ready to take the leap yet check out 5 Ways to Introduce Free Range Parenting in Day to Day Life. You can also check out the suggestions made by the NSPCC for keeping safe away from home. Hopefully, in time, by creating your own rules your child will be playing out safely.
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This is really helpful. Really important conversations.
Marta - Imperfect Life Balance says
I absolutely love this blog post! I’m approaching the age when I need to start giving my son a bit more freedom and I really appreciate you sharing the rules you have for your kids. I really like the way you approach each child a little differently depending on their personality.
Glad you found it useful. X
It’s such a scary thought. I am quite open to letting my boy walk to the shop and come home but the thought of him playing out with his friends terrifies me.
I think I worry about what the other children would be getting up to or encouraging him to do. He is such a smart lad but I feel he has sheep qualities.
I think I’ll use your post and start taking those steps. Thank you for sharing x
It’s really hard if you think they might be led astray. I’m fairly confident mine won’t be but you can never be sure!
Such a valid post! It’s amazing how 50 years ago playing out was perfectly safe but now it’s so worrying.
We didn’t think twice about it when I was little!
Lovely post! And I do agree, I like the idea of making a plan in case something goes wrong. I think then both sides will be more comfortable and know what to do! Thank you for posting, looking forward to more lovely content!
Nanny M x
Jo | My Anxious Life says
I do fear the day my kids are old enough to go out there on their own, but I have really fond memories of playing out when I was a child and need to remember that! Not to mention how well it prepares them for the teenage and early adult years.
I definitely think it’s great preparation for the older years, I don’t want my kid’s first taste of independence to come at the same time as raging hormones! X
Great ideas. My little one is only 5 so we’re not there yet l, but I know I’ll struggle, I’m a bit of of helicopter parent 🚁.
It’s great to give them the tools to stay safe so when they’re old enough they will feel confident doing things on their own.
Definitely not easy letting go, one of the ha desk things about parenting in fact!
Sarah-Marie Collins says
Great thoughts. We live on a quiet road and whilst many see this as an advantage I always worry that it lowers their guard towards road safety. It’s quite rare that their play is interrupted by cars (other than when people are coming home from work). It’s a worry that they wouldn’t think how to keep themselves safe. (I’m not sure I articulated that very well!) #ThatFridayLinky
Anita Faulkner - Brazen Mummy Writes says
I’m so impressed with this – sounds like you’ve covered all bases. Will pin it for later, when my little one is big enough. I remember all those stranger danger talks at school. Good idea to let your kids know it’s ok not to be polite if things get weird. Xx
That’s so true, when there aren’t many cars it can lull them into a false sense of security.
John Adams says
Good post this. We rcently moved from an area where playing out was impractical to an area where they can play out with some freedom. Still got to tighten up on some of the rules though so this gives us pause for thought. Headed over from #thatfridalinky
It will be lovely for them to have some more freedom.
Ali Duke says
It is so scary the first time you let your kids play out without you. The first time my kids did I was on edge til they came home. My daughter who is 13, has a mobile phone, so I do feel a little better now that I can keep in contact with her all the time.
I think it’s great that we can use technology to give them more freedom. X