I wrote an article a year ago that described my son Marco’s roaming range. Well, he’s 6-1/2 now, and I’m happy to say that this range has expanded considerably. I call the area pictured below “Marco’s Village” because he’s familiar with many people and places within this area. He feels safe here, and we feel comfortable letting him roam within this area.
The boundaries of Marco’s village are defined by houses of families he knows well (I changed the names) and our creek on the far right. The houses in gray are families with children, and the houses in white are single adults who he knows well.
He often wanders on his own to and from some of those houses. Other times, he plays in the street or the sidewalk, almost always with someone else around, usually including another kid. In that area to the right of our house, he doesn’t know that many residents well, but he and they see each other a lot because he walks down our street to go to the creek often.
Marco’s roaming range didn’t amount to much of a “village” last year. It was just a few houses to either side of us on our street, plus back yards, and it did not include any streets because Marco had yet to venture on streets on his own.
Last fall, though, he and I began riding bikes to his school every day, and he got much wiser about navigating streets, both on a bike and on foot. I’ve made these bike rides into an opportunity to teach Marco independence skills. Among other things, riding to school every day has made him very good at sharing the road with cars, at navigating, and at managing all the personal items (e.g. bike helmet, gloves, lock, backpack, etc.) he takes to school every day.
So, I’m giving Marco ample opportunity to become more self-reliant, and he’s taking advantage of it. Actually, there’s nothing remarkable about his innate ability in this regard. Most kids his age would be able to wander comfortably within an area this size, and have the level of independence he has.
All that’s required is a combination of independence and parental nurturing of independence skills. The former without the latter is dangerous, but after learning some independence skills, kids can have a very safe and fun childhood, far more interesting than the common childhood of screen isolation inside and constant adult supervision outside.
What’s more, they’ll be learning “self-reliance skills” that will prepare them for adulthood. Children growing up today are having a difficult time taking on the responsibilities of adulthood when they reach their twenties. They are less likely to hold a steady career-track job, to live away from their parents, to be financially independent, or to be in a committed relationship. (For example, see this article.) This phenomenon is so prevalent that there’s a movement in psychology to define a new life stage between adolescence and adulthood called ”emerging adulthood.”
On the other hand, Marco is well on his way to becoming a confident, self-reliant adult when he reaches his twenties. His village provides a great foundation this development.
Do your kids or other people’s kids in your neighborhood have their own village? If not, why not?