We spent our time roaming the neighbourhood with friends. We rode or walked to school if we lived close, or caught the bus or train if not. There was an element of risk, but that didn't stop our parents giving us independence. How times have changed!
Once a year there's a walk to school day. Once a year! What does that say? Recently, a kid in my neighbourhood fell off his bike. He couldn't ride home and was sitting beside the road for an hour. People stopped to help, but he wasn't allowed to talk to strangers so declined the offers!
Playgrounds are being ripped out and made safer. We don't want our kids being hurt, but have we gone too far? Kids are banned from running in many school playgrounds, but the pent-up energy can lead to poor behaviour and concentration. And what about childhood obesity?
Here's how to strike a balance between freedom and protection.Staying safe
When children start school, it's good to teach them how and where to cross roads, the houses to go to in an emergency and what their address and phone number is. We should also teach them not to go anywhere with strangers, even if the person says: 'Mummy asked me to pick you up.' But in the case of the little boy who fell off his bike, perhaps we need to say it's OK to let strangers ring Mum if you need help.Self reliance
When you think they're ready, encourage your child to walk or ride to school if you live close enough, or to catch the bus or train. It's a great idea to organise them to travel with friends - in pairs or in a group. Let young kids go into a shop to get some bread or milk for you while you wait outside. Older children should be able to walk or ride to the local shops - if they're handy - to buy a treat and pick up a loaf of bread for you.Being too careful
Watch how many times you say: 'Be careful.' If you warn them not to hurt themselves every time they climb a tree or ride their bike, you're more likely to have slightly anxious children. Taking risks is part of life and you'll be better off saving your safety talks for when it really matters - when they become tearaway teenagers!Sense of freedom
Free time is important, so don't let planned activities take over the afternoons and all of the weekend. If the kids wonder what's happening, encourage them to think of something to do that doesn't involve technology.
Suggest bushwalking, bike rides or meeting friends in the park for a game of footy. Or you could let them cook or climb or build things without making them afraid that they could end up hurting themselves.The key is to take a little bit of the carefree childhood we recall so fondly and to put it into our children's - and watch them thrive.