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Playing outside alone

The question of when (or indeed if!) you should let your child play outside alone seems to plague many parents.

I've done quite a bit of asking around but no-one really seems to want to recommend a particular age when it's generally deemed OK. This is probably because there are so many factors particular to each child, and of course ultimately it has to be the parents' call.

There are of course many things which may factor into your decision making process e.g.:

  • Geography - are there many busy roads near you, or do you feel you're too isolated
  • Other children - are there other children out and about? Do they look out for each other?
  • Maturity - how mature is your child? Do you feel that they're old enough to handle it?

How should you handle it?

At some point you are going to need to allow your child to have a little more freedom - whether that's walking to school alone, playing out with friends in a local park etc.

Obviously as a parent you're always going to be worried about your child's well-being; and of course you know your child better than anyone else, so you'll know what they can and can't handle.

If your child is pushing for more freedom than you're really comfortable with, rather than giving them an outright "no" - try to find compromises where possible. For example if they are really keen to go and play in the park with their friends, but you're uncomfortable with the distance / surrounding busy roads etc., offer to give them a lift there and back. Or agree to walk with them as far as the busy road, see them across it, then let them carry on by themselves. Agree something similar for the return journey too.

You might also like to take it in small steps - e.g. initially let them play out for 15 minutes, after which time they have to check back in with you. Provided they come back when you've agreed, let them go out again for 15 minutes more. You might also want to arm them with either a mobile phone or (as one of my friends does) a walkie talkie so you can contact each other easily.

Finally, if you are letting your child go out by themselves it's not a bad idea to remind them once again about road safety, and of course stranger danger.

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