Should grade-school aged children be allowed to walk home from the park without an adult?

I was just recently thinking about the topic of free-range parenting, comfort-addicted kids, and under-developed gross motor skills, and then today I noticed this news story:

‘Free-range’ Maryland parents hit with ‘unsubstantiated’ child neglect

The Maryland parents who believe in ‘free-range parenting’ and were investigated after police picked up their children — ages 6 and 10 — walking home alone from a park in January were reportedly found responsible for ‘unsubstantiated’ child neglect […]

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say they will continue to allow their children to walk home together. The legal ramifications are unclear if the children are picked up by police again […]

In January, the Meitiv children were walking home from the park, which is about a mile from their Woodside Park neighborhood, in broad daylight and were stopped by police after someone reported seeing them.

The kids were returned to the home and police reportedly talked to the parents about the dangers of the world […]

CPS reportedly followed up and forced the parents to sign a safety plan acknowledging that they would not let the kids go unsupervised. Alexander told the paper he resisted at first, but CPS threatened that if they refused, the kids would be removed from the home.

Apparently the parents had taught them the way to walk home and the children were familiar with it. I would think six is too young to be a mile from home alone, but what about with an older sibling of ten? And it was daytime, not dark! This seems like it should have been fine. One wonders about the person who reported this to the police.

We all want to keep our children safe, no doubt about it. But children walk home from school all the time; should walking home from the park be considered any more dangerous?

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5 thoughts on “Should grade-school aged children be allowed to walk home from the park without an adult?

  1. I would say depends on the neighbothood, but a good neighborhood 10 with a 6 yr old is fine. Also depends on how responsible the kids are. Since the news showe’d them holding hands I’d say the parents did a good job with safety. I’ve seen irresponsible 14 yr old loose their 2yr old sister in a park, and a 10 year old keep tight sight of her two younger siblings. Just depends 😉

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  2. Even close supervision is not proof against little ones getting into trouble.

    I am a little worried about government regulating parenting. Make that more than a little.

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  3. When my nephew was about four or five, my sister would take him to the park and let him climb on a low-ish wall. He really loved it. But every single time someone would come up to her and say: “do you realise your son’s climbing on a wall?” as if she wasn’t staring straight at him.

    She’d say “yes”, politely. The next thing, she’d be getting a lecture from strangers about how he could fall and hurt himself. Which he never did.

    Part of what motivated her was that a paediatrician friend had told her there were kids turning up at A&E with worse injuries than they’re seen in the past, and the doctors had a theory amongst themselves that children weren’t learning how to fall any more. It’s normal for kids to take lots of scrapes and tumbles, and in this way they learn important proprioception skills. By protecting them from all that, it meant that when kids did fall, they hurt themselves quite badly.

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  4. When I was eight, I was definitely “free range.” lol Walking a quarter mile home from the bus stop, playing at the neighborhood playground by myself, working in a lawn-mowing business, etc. Oh, and I had a pony. Boy was that hard work. Ponies create a lot of manure.

    My daughter is eight now and this year she is allowed to walk home from the bus stop herself. She is dropped off much closer to home than I was, though I grew up in the same neighborhood. She marches herself up a private lane past grammie’s house, past other watchful neighbors who watched me when I was a kid ,until she gets to our house.

    When she goes to see her dad, she marches herself a little further up the lane. We watch her to make sure she gets there safely. When she goes to play at grammie’s, she walks down alone and calls me when she gets there. That is the extent of her independence at the moment. She has a hamster. I imagine this summer she will gain more privileges and possibly even her first job sewing handbags!

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  5. At ten years old, I was riding my bike three miles to and from swim practice, and at age 11, I added band and tennis as well. Often alone, though it was fun at times to ride with someone. Friend of mine at the time was riding six miles each way to and from band.

    Like another said, depends on the neighborhood. Parents specified the route I’d take to be along 30mph gravel roads instead of the hardtop road where people would go 50-60. If I’d lived 20 miles further west in Gary, well, life would have been different for me.

    And this case? Well, like it or not, Maryland IS near Washington DC, and hence you’ve got to assume that there are a lot of predators around there. The police did right. :^)

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