How do you handle letting your kids play outside?


My neighborhood growing up consisted of 12 houses in a cul-de-sac, and almost every day my friends and I would spend a couple of hours playing outside after school. My parents and my friends’ parents had the advantage of a few things that made them worry less when letting us play outside:

  • we weren’t near a busy street :vertical_traffic_light::stop_sign::oncoming_automobile:
  • we were always within shouting distance :speaking_head: when they called our names
  • they were close with other families on our street so they could make a phone call and check on us :telephone_receiver:

In a recent survey, we found 64% of parents surveyed reported being very nervous about letting their children play outside on their own.(1) I don’t know if it’s a by-product of faster, more complete news coverage these days, but I’m inclined to agree with them that the world seems more dangerous than it was when I was growing up.

Outside-time was a highlight and a pivotal part of my childhood, but there were other elements at play when we were outside that gave my parents piece of mind back then. So, I’m wondering how it is these days. This brings a few questions to mind I’d like to ask you all:

  • Do you let your kids play outside independently?
  • How far do you let them go? (ie, the front yard, no further than the stop sign, anywhere in the neighborhood)
  • How do you get in touch with them?

(1)Nationally representative online survey of 1,270 U.S. parents of kids aged 6-11 conducted by Republic Wireless; November 2017


My son is almost 6 and we are just beginning to give him some freedom to play outside independently. He can play in our fenced back yard on his own. He can go to a neighbor’s yard to play, but usually after about 10 minutes of that we feel like to need to check in on him.


Just this year my husband and I started letting our son (who is 9) go out of sight down the street in the neighborhood to play with friends. He is not allowed to leave the neighborhood and he must carry a method of communication with him at all times. We ask him to check in with us when he arrives to the house that he will be playing at and he must check in with us before entering any friends’ homes. Depending on the circumstances, he’s generally allowed to play until dusk and then it’s his responsibility to check in with us to let us know he’s on his way home.


We live in a neighborhood full of kids, and on the other side of our back fence is the parking lot of our community pool and playground. My daughter, who is almost 6, can play in our fenced backyard while I’m inside, but when she rides her bike in the neighborhood or plays in the playground, I need to keep her in sight. When she plays at her friend’s house around the corner, I’m usually there - and definitely there if she brings her bike.

Because most of her neighborhood friends are a couple years older, they don’t always need to be supervised, but I can’t rely on 8- or 9-year-olds to keep their eye on my child - so often, I’m the parent who’s out there watching while they bike and play in the playground.


Unfortunately, we live in a pretty busy area (NYC) and can only bring our 2 boys to parks, indoor activities, or friends’ homes to play with their kids. There’s just too many cars and unpredictable behavior to let them out of site. My sister and I grew up partly in the burbs’ and I reminisce about being able to run through the yard and riding bikes with the neighborhood kids.


Makes sense @stevenl.5nhbep. Safety first! Even growing up in the 'burbs nowadays you have to use more caution too I’d imagine. My dad often had to apply the phrase “parking lot rules in-effect” for my sister and I growing up. Essentially this meant, keep close by, no wandering off, no sudden moves (‘sudden moves’ might be an exaggeration, but you know what I mean). No matter where we were if he said, “girls, parking lot rules in-effect”… we knew what to do. NYC is one giant, unpredictable parking lot :grimacing:!


Playing outside was my childhood and I had to stay in “whistle” distance. Fortunately, my parents had huge carry and there were lots of woods/streams within sound range. It worked well until I was old enough to venture further distances.

As a Dad, I too practice whistle distance, but admittedly my range is starting to fail me. I really like the idea of replacing my whistle with a Relay. So much more you can do with it!

I do intend to fulfill my fatherly duty and pass along the big whistle tradition. In fact, looking forward to whistling in to the Relay one day to set a new family distance record. My parents will love that…jury will be out on what the kids think. :sunglasses: One day they’ll appreciate it!


We have two daughters, 9 and 5 years old. Our cul de sac is full of girls around their ages, so they frequently play outside. There is always at least one neighborhood parent on the porch keeping an eye on them. Our kids do not go out of sight, and usually not further than a few houses away. These Relays will give us much more confidence that they can reach us and make it easier to communicate when it is time to come home for dinner!


Kids now are safer than they’ve ever been.

Our 8- and 6-year-olds walk home together, unsupervised, more than a mile from school along a busy residential arterial street. It’s fun to watch them because they are so serious about following the rules — and if they catch you watching them, they’re mad!

The 11-year-old walks 2 miles home from school 2 days a week. He sometimes buys a milkshake at McDonalds with his chore money.

They and their 4-year-old sister have the run of a 2/3 acre hill in our back yard. Hiding in bushes and climbing trees is important. If they need us, they know where we are.

We would love to let them go to the park by themselves but we don’t trust our community to not call the police on us. A friend had CPS show up on their doorstep because their kids were playing “unsupervised” in the front yard in their cul-de-sac.


@devanb.xv6ojg, glad to hear your kids are still able to have so much freedom :slight_smile: . I think what you’ve described is what a lot of parents in other locations/situations are hoping a device like Relay can help with. I agree, hiding in bushes and climbing trees is important; that sense of adventure and freedom can be really impactful for a child. Thanks for sharing, it’s refreshing to hear all 4(if my count is correct?) of your kids feel safe and secure, yet free to roam. Just curious, Is there anything you think a device like Relay could positively change for your family still?


My daughters are 11 and 7, we just started letting the 11 year old ride her bike through the neighborhood by herself out of site. It does make me a little nervous. Im hoping that the relays will help to ease that worry.


We are pretty comfortable letting our kids play anywhere in the neighborhood, as long as they ask first ;). It was a big milestone to get to that point, for both kids and parents. However, the freedom and independence far outweighs the anxiety to get to that point.

We have used the traditional methods being adopted “Have your friend’s Mom or Dad send me a text letting us know you are there”. That got old really quick, especially when we found ourselves on the neighborhood group text message going off every 5 minutes. We then found ourselves establishing additional boundaries “You can go to Friend A, Friend B, or Friend C’s house. Make sure you are home by 6:00 for Dinner”. Eventually, the kids learned to just run or ride back to the house to let us know what was going on, or to ask if they can go somewhere else.


We have boundaries as to where our kids can go. Last year was the first summer we let them play unsupervised and out of sight. If they want/need to go further than that, they have to let us know where and how long it will be. We don’t let them go inside any friends’ houses yet.

I’d like to give them more freedom. My worry is being able to track where they are, being able to stay in touch with them, and not having a random concerned citizen call the cops on them. I think out neighborhood is pretty good about not doing that though.

Our 8 year old is the one pushing the boundaries. She wants to walk to and from school and have a larger area to roam in. I want to be able to give her that (within reason).


We live in a larger city and so letting them go off alone is not something I am too comfortable with, but they stay busy with activities, school and clubs. Being vastly different ages, they are no longer pleased to be entertained by the same activity with one another, I find myself running from all over just to Taxi the 3 of them around. Having the Relay would make me more comfortable if they could possibly ride their bikes and get out with other kids a lot more.


My kid is seven and is a homebody. I remember begging to roam the streets at 4yrs and only being allowed to cross the street if my sister (9yrs) was with me. At six I rode a half mile on bike to a very large and popular park every day and walked home from school. My parents taught us “no talking to strangers” and we watched “Crime Stoppers” with them. That show really scared me and I feel saved me from being kidnapped once while walking home from school. (A con lady drove up and tried to convince me my mom was just admitted to the hospital and she would take me there to see her, I was 6). As a parent I didn’t want to scare my kid from every person so I decided just to let him know there were “slavers” out there and didn’t go into great detail like the TV of my youth did. He’s not afraid of people which is great, but, he gets lost very easily. For that reason I d like the GPS function on the Relay. He’s the type that won’t call and just head merrily in the wrong direction until starvation hits and then the stress of that will cause him to forget his address. Plus in large areas like the shopping center I can feel better knowing he’s not going to get swiped as easily or reported lost on the intercom if he can push a button talk with me. Border trade in child trafficking is a very real though small percentage here. The city is quite safe percentage wise. I’m not sure living in a more crime ridden city I’d still be as confident in a phone protecting my loved ones at such a young age.


That’s basically where we are with our kids. The oldest two went to the movies without us for the first time recently, too. The older of the two has a cell phone and it very aware of his surroundings. The younger just got and loves the Relay. Here’s the most active outside of home of our kids so it should help.