While we feel quite safe in our island community, we have never allowed our children to ride or walk out of sight of our house. We moved to this subdivision built in the seventies because we got a great deal on the house and it is considered VERY safe. Needless to say, there were NO small children in the neighborhood except ours until recently. The older residents are downsizing and younger families are popping up everywhere.
Faced with the question from our children, ages 8 and 10, “Can I ride my scooter to Billy or Sally’s house?” I find myself hesitant to let my children have the freedom that I enjoyed as a child. This brings me to ask, “At what age can one allow their child to experience independence?”
Our family discussed and agreed on the following rules that MUST be followed in order for this to happen.
Communicate – To make it possible to go to Billy or Sally’s house we must clear it with Billy or Sally’s parent(s) through an actual phone conversation-not a text! Once the playdate is confirmed, we make a plan with the parent to text or call when my child leaves our house and arrives at theirs. This rule applies to the return trip.
Establish a time line. What is the departure time, destination arrival time, length of stay, return departure time and final arrival time? For example; Leave home at 3:00, arrive at Billy or Sally’s house at 3:05, play until 4:00. Leave Billy or Sally’s house at 4:00 and arrive at home at 4:04.
Establish a route. This will allow the parents to choose the safest route, shortest route, etc. For example; when you leave our house turn right onto Oak Street. Next, turn left onto Fig Street. Then turn right onto Pine Street where Billy or Sally live. Stop at Billy or Sally’s house ONLY.
I put on my teacher hat to create a concrete process that will reinforce not only the rules of our plan and the entire process of our plan.
I created a form to use to reinforce the plan and our children must to take the printed process with them while traveling the route and share it with their friend’s parent(s).
The printed reinforcement is to help the children learn the process. Our form was created so that the children can easily access and print the form themselves. The form is completed together so the parents and child know the exact steps to be followed.
The first friend visit did take a bit longer to complete because we explained our process to the friend’s parents. The goal of our plan is safety and awareness while allowing our children to experience freedom and responsibility.
Our plan has been successful and we think the success has been because of clear communication, as well as, reinforcing the rules by writing it all down.
Please download our Safe Play Plan to utilize with your family.