Independent mobility describes a child’s freedom to travel and play in public spaces without adult supervision. Recent studies have shown that there has been a significant decline in children’s independent mobility since the early twentieth century. As a child of the 50s and 60s, growing up in a small town meant walking, running, biking, and playing all over town. We often left the house after lunch and were told to be home by 5 when Dad came home from work. No cell phones to check up on us (although many neighbors seemed to keep a watchful eye on us) and we played all afternoon. Some of my best memories of childhood include climbing trees, playing badminton or croquet, and ice skating on the pond at Mead Park or sledding on country roads. We played independently, and we played with our families. There are valid reasons for the decrease in this kind of mobility. Parents are concerned about safety, schedules are complex and busy, and friends don’t always live nearby. Today’s children are capable of independent problem solving, given the opportunity to experience life and to develop the skills needed to make their own decisions. With such learning, children can remain safe and independently negotiate the experiences in their day. Free play and outdoor play are critical to healthy development socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. We must find ways to integrate both common sense safety standards and imaginative play into children’s lives. Our children need to acquire healthy, active, fearless lifestyle habits in a safe and natural environment.
Written by Rebecca Triana