Let Your Kids Play with Matches!

kid playingThink back to when you were a kid, did you ever play with matches? I know I did, and I never managed to burn the house down. Looking at my kids today, they can barely light a match! We are all trying to create a world for our kids that is free of danger, without risks and completely safe. Now, by creating this fantasy world where you take no risks, follow all the rules, and do exactly as everyone else, what are we teaching our children? We are raising our children to believe that the world works like Disney Land: Everything will be fine if you do as you’re told, you’ll get your prince charming eventually. The reality of the situation is that life doesn’t actually work like that.

When I was young, we walked to school, then we walked to cub scouts, and then we walked home. All of this was in 3rd grade, not to mention that we had no adult supervision. When we were teenagers, we would take the train into NYC and walk around, no adults. We did stupid things and we found our way home. Fast forward to a few years ago: The news is buzzing, all because a mom let her kid ride the subway alone when he was only 9 years old. 9 year old rides subway Half the people wanted to call child protective services, because obviously this lady doesn’t have time for her kid or even care about him, right? Wrong! It’s called confidence, and its something that can only be developed when you are put into tough or unfamiliar situations, and eventually it becomes part of ordinary life and they are no big deal! I was talking to a coworker who grew up in Harlem, and he said that it was perfectly normal to walk around those NY streets as a child and take a subway, ones that would be “just too dangerous” today. Think about how much confidence is built when your kid learns to tackle those tough experiences and survives.

When our kids were little, we took a vacation in Europe. We went to the playground there, which looked quite different than the ones we have here. Take a look at this picture, it’s a little hard to tell the scale, but the top has to be at least 20 feet up. No safety net, no squishy landing material, just you and the climb up and maybe slide down the poll. You will have to conquer your fears, whether you are a cautious parent or a scared kid, and climb the web.jungle gym
Yeah, sure, you could get hurt (I know I did when I fell off the slide as a 5 year old, slammed my head on the concrete, and ended up in the hospital). That said though, I never fell off a slide again. My parents also didn’t bother to sue the school, why would they? It was my fault for being too close to the edge, not the slide’s. ( of course who knows because they were not at the playground watching me ) We used to have these fun merry go round things too, where the only thing keeping you from flying off and landing face down in the dirt was your hands clinging to a handle, while the kids just kept whipping it faster and faster and faster! merrygoround2

Today, all of these things would be considered dangerous or unsafe or just “too risky”. The only obstacles our kids are facing today are the monsters on LCD screens as they battle on their electronic device games, or decide whether their Instagram selfie got enough likes, or whether they could clear the jelly in Candy Crush. (of course letting a 9 year old play Grand Theft Auto is okay) This is not preparing them for the real world, its preparing them to become antisocial, lazy, compliant basement dwellers. It’s time to let them explore the world around them and conquer it.

Here is a great article written by Hanna Rosin that talks about the overprotected kid and a solution to play; take some time to read it: Leave them kids alone!

If you don’t teach them to be adults, they will be living in your basement when they are 35, jobless, clueless, broke, but not without an Xbox of course. By then, there will be no hope left; it will be too late…


  1. Hey Rocky, love the post!
    Those rope climbing frames are great fun, but really they are pretty safe!
    You can’t really slide down the middle, the gaps in the ropes are too narrow, you can’t freefall from the top, only to the next level of ropes, you might just about be able to tumble the whole way down, but it’s pretty unlikely!
    As for the soft landing, is that bark, or dirt? Either way, pretty soft!
    When I was young our playgrounds were made of concrete and steel!
    But playgrounds like this are designed to be a controlled risk, but without taking to too far!
    On the topic of a 9 year old riding the subway, at 11 I walked to the bus station, got a bus about 8 miles, then walked a mile to school, I’m pretty sure this is still fairly normal in the UK, in primary schools the later years do sometimes walk to school alone or with friends, and in London some do ride the tube, it’s not universally accepted with many parents being scared of their children using public transport, but it’s certainly not going to be reported in the media!
    I just found this article, that I thought you might like:

  2. Rocky…just loved this article. As a kid, I actually had a fascination with matches and my dad (to his horror) would find me in a closet lighting them (of course, because they looked better in the dark). Funny how our generation had so much opportunity to learn by trial and error and yet we protect our kids from learning that way. I will say we did make our kids play outside with other kids a lot. We limited the electronics. TV was not a babysitter.

    We have also found that by teaching our kids to trust themselves in a variety of situations has also assisted them in many other areas of their lives. They have learned how far to push the limits, when to take risks, to trust their instincts, and when to play it safe.

    Thanks again for this thoughtful and important topic.

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