Growing Urban Free-Range Kids

An editorial on The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng’s Everything is Stupid editorial on Adventure Playgrounds.

It’s official. We’ve reached a point in our culture and our helicopter parenting that our children are no longer Organic. We’ve pumped them too full of processes, protections, and parameters. We may buy vegan clothing, ethically sourced chocolate bars, and use essential oil based cleaners in our homes. But with all our good intentions, our kids are too highly processed. Are adventure playgrounds an answer to help grow free-range kids?

(Adventure Playgrounds are open spaces with saws, hammers, nails, wood, pulleys, etc. For kids to design, create, play and build as they desire without adult intervention. Watch Ronnie’s editorial here for a hearty 5 minute laugh)


Those of us from Gen X and earlier remember hours spent unsupervised with nothing but bare hands and open horizons. I remember summers spent kicking rocks down the railroad track and long days submerged in honeysuckle bushes eating the flowers sweetness. As for parenting, my dad’s method of swim training was “Throw ’em in! They’ll figure it out.”

Kids these days have hands full of toys, schedules to keep, and urban settings too densely populated for outdoor play. (Many parents argue unsupervised outdoor play is no longer safe, but is it actually less safe now than in our youth…..?? I wonder….)

While Ronnie Chieng argues adventure playground are a ruse for tired parents to get rid of their kids (and, yes, I do realize it’s tongue in cheek), I think these parks are brilliant!

Adventure playgrounds are a brilliant way to use up dead land, save money, let parents check out for a while, and kids can learn life lessons. It’s a win-win-win-win! Old bomb shelters got you befuddled? They make perfect hideaways and teach history at the same time! Former used-car lot? Loads of material to up-cycle and kids can develop mechanical engineering skills organically!

We could even make these playgrounds regionally specific!

Washington State’s Hanford nuclear waste site could be the perfect place for teens to tap into their imagination and reenact their favorite scenes from the Divergent series! Darwin’s survival of the fittest in action.

Florida has a proliferation of swamp lands. We could have playgrounds share this land, so kids can play side by side with crocodiles. Or are they alligators? I can never get those two straight. Anyway, learning about biological diversity and animal behavior firsthand is the best teacher – just ask Jane Goodall.

Share your ideas! What would make a good adventure park in your neck of the woods?

Our urban kids need some more free-ranging. If the only way to give them this is going to an adventure playground, make sure they are up to date on their tetanus shot. Or if you don’t vaccinate, that’s cool too. Nothing like a nail in the foot to teach us about physiology.

I’ll see you there. Not because I’m hovering over my kid in safety-mode, but because I wanna build a fort. And I can guarantee you it won’t look any better or more structurally sound than this one, but I’ll be grinning from ear to ear.


What do YOU think? Would you take your kids to an adventure playground? What appeals or repels you about them? Would LOVE to hear your thoughts!

(In case it’s uncertain, my editorial is also tongue in cheek, Ronnie style….)

2 thoughts on “Growing Urban Free-Range Kids

  1. Nuclear waste site idea made me laugh! My playgrounds were actually swamps in Florida. We knew how to spot alligators by looking for 2 bumps on the surface of the water. Great post! If we do all of the thinking for our kids, they will make even worse choices than we did as 20 somethings. Frightening thought!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s