Category Archives: Parenting

What are my six top tips for parents – and why did I even write them?

I am on record as saying that I am no parenting guru, and that there are too many people trying to tell parents how to do their job. So why did I recently agree to give FQ magazine – “the essential dad mag” according to its website – my six top parenting tips? (And no, it wasn’t because they paid me!)

The thread that links all my work is that children want and need to expand their horizons: to have everyday experiences of freedom, adventure, exploration and responsibility as they grow up. It is the core of my vision of what a good childhood looks and feels like.


Most of my work to achieve that vision focuses not on parents, but on all the other people and institutions that influence children’s lives: schools, educators, residents, voluntary organisations, play and leisure services, charities, regulators, designers, planners, campaigners, local and national governments and the media. Yet the simple truth is that for this vision is to become reality, it must resonate with parents. Without their active support, everyone else will lose interest in the topic. The bottom line is this: if parents do not care about their children’s everyday freedoms, why should anyone else? (a point I made in a 2011 post written with UK play advocates in mind).

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Hurt, blame, stupidity: when being a free-range parent does not go to plan

In this weekend’s Guardian, columnist Tim Lott writes about how his seven-year-old daughter ended up in hospital with a nasty injury after a cycling accident that was entirely his fault. He had been giving her a lift on the back of his bike, and her foot got horribly caught up in the wheel.

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Why would you want to let your child play out in the street?

Boy in streetEven a generation ago, most parents would have greeted this question with blank faces. Playing out was just what kids did – why would you need a reason? Of course, things are different today – for all sorts of reasons. In almost all neighbourhoods, parents need to take a stand, and to resist the norm of parenting that says being a good parent means rearing your child in captivity.

For parents who come together to set up Playing Out road closure projects, taking this stand means extra commitments: talking to neighbours, liaising with the Council, setting up rotas, and maybe spending a couple of hours a week out in the street. So, to rework my opening question: why do parents get involved in organising road closures for play?

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In praise of the emerging Aussie free range childhood movement

Kids at play traffic coneI have been mulling over the series of events that I took part in whilst over here in Australia. What strikes me is the level of commitment, energy, enthusiasm, activity and progress that I have seen on this trip (my sixth tour of the country over the same number of years). I have a strong sense of something in the air: an opportunity moment. So in no particular order, I want to pay tribute to the following people:

A broken limb, the Health and Safety Executive, and a good outcome

broken arm in plasterThe Health and Safety Executive – the nation’s safety regulator – is so often the fall guy for everything that is wrong about the way risk is managed. But last week I heard an anecdote that brought home to me – in an unexpected way – the positive role HSE is playing in building support for a balanced, thoughtful approach to risk in children’s play. I was running a workshop on risk-benefit assessment at a playwork conference, and one of the participants – a manager of an after-school club – shared a revealing story. It begins last September, with a boy breaking a limb.

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National Trust shares my plea for benign neglect

child on a beach at sunsetToday the National Trust’s Outdoor Nation website posted a piece from me that aims to win parents over to the goal of expanding children’s horizons. I had to think carefully when writing it.

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The sorry state of neighbourhood design in America: a mother writes

After my last blog post about German children having more everyday freedom than their English peers, Andrea – a German-born woman who now lives in the USA – got in touch to leave a comment. She had some revealing things to say about the differences between her home and adopted countries, and has agreed to let me share them more prominently. She paints a depressing picture of car-dependence and isolation: a stark comparison with her experiences in Germany. Here is her story.

Road near Bailey School, Minnesota.

Woodbury, MN. Source: Strongtowns.org

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