Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dreams of a Free Summer

This summer I've been allowing my older girls to spend much of their summer exploring our neighborhood.  They play in our backyard and front yard, within earshot and almost always visible.  They are young, but I think the freedom to test their own boundaries and to explore seemingly  uninhibited (though I'm close by and listening/watching) is good for their developing minds, bodies, and souls.

One of the reasons I'm so passionate about knowing my neighbors and building community is  I feel that connecting to your neighbors and building a strong, relational community leads to a safer place for kids to grow up. We all see each others' families as our own responsibility.  Kids learn from a myriad of different lifestyles and parenting styles- and they have a broader net of people to reach out to if they need help, need to talk, or get into any kind of trouble.

Though I don't endorse any one parenting theory (as most are gimmicky and too all or nothing for my tastes), there are a few resources I really love that address this topic.  

I love this book, recommended by a friend, called Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.  I love the concepts of simple, free play for children.  The book is based on the Waldorf theory of parenting and learning, which is highly controversial, but for me the concepts in the book which are most useful are those that address how we can simplify our homes and our lives to allow children's imaginations to grow and thrive.

I also really love this book, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, which addresses the need for children to spend much of their time in the great outdoors, unattended by adults.  This book talks about the need for children to experience adventure, their own physical boundaries, and a sense of personal mastery over their surroundings through unfettered time to explore. 

And lastly, I check in every now and then with this blog, Free Range Kids, which talks a lot about parenting children in a culture that values overprotected, highly sheltered kids vs. more opportunities for kids to learn confidence, safety skills, and a sense of personal adventure/exploration.   I like being pushed to think about the ways in which I let anxiety rule over reason in my own parenting. 

Again, each of these resources I found to be more extreme than I am on any one given subject, but the research each presents and the critique of our current culture as it relates to raising kids and building community all fascinate me. 

What about you?  What are your favorite parenting resources?  How does your relationship with your community and neighborhood relate to your parenting style?


  1. I wish you were our neighbors! :)

    I don't know much about where you live. Would you have the same approach if you lived in the city, you think?

    1. I'd like to think I would, Esther. Technically, we do live in the city. The major cross roads to our street are busy veins that lead straight to the highway and we are about 5 minutes from downtown. But, if we lived right in the heart of downtown, boundaries with the kids would probably have to look different. In that case, we'd likely live in apartments and I think I would want them to play within the complex.