Greetings, parents, and thank you so much for considering a Let Grow Project for your child! I hope this sheet will answer your questions, but if not, please feel free to email me at Lenore@LetGrow.org.
What is a Let Grow Project?
The Let Grow Project allows students to do something they feel ready to do, that for some reason they haven’t done yet. They ask your permission and if you say yes, they do it! Simple as that!
In the younger grades, a child might decide to walk down the street to a friend’s house, or prepare a part of dinner. Older kids could walk to school on their own or with a friend, bike to the local store for milk, “camp” in the backyard, walk the dog, stay home while you run an errand, go the park without an adult, or embark on a thousand other mini adventures. In other words: They might do something YOU did as a kid!
What’s the point?
Today’s society sees childhood through the distorting lens of danger. We are encouraged to do what I call “Worst-First Thinking” — think up the WORST case scenario FIRST and proceed as if it’s likely to happen. This is a paranoid view of the world, and an ungrateful one, too. Adults in other times, and even today in other places, could only DREAM of kids as safe as ours. In fact, we live in the safest time in human history, according to Harvard’s Steven Pinker. Yet we are encouraged to act as if our kids are in constant danger. This hovering keeps them from developing the very can-do spirit we want them to see in them! There’s a reason it’s called “self-confidence,” not “adult-assisted confidence.”
Kids grow up when they do things on their own, and they thrive when they know that the adults they love BELIEVE in them. The way we show that is by preparing them for the world, and then gradually letting them go. Otherwise, we only believe in us.
Now: Think back on your own childhood. Chances are your PROUDEST moment was not one assisted by your mom or dad. In fact, they might not have even known about it.
They still might not.
Why deprive our own kids of that high? (The “high” is metaphoric!!)
Why aren’t kids doing anything on their own anymore?
Blame the media — and our minds. Our minds work like Google. When we ask ourselves, “Is it safe for my child to wait at the bus stop?” up pops Etan Patz, the boy taken from his bus stop in 1979. Because he’s at the top of our “search results,” our brain assumes his story is the most relevant. But actually, it’s the opposite: His story is so RARE and horrifying that it received massive media attention. That makes it simple to retrieve.
What our brains (and Google) can NOT do is retrieve info on the tens of millions of kids who go to school every day and come home safely, having gotten some time to exercise, decompress, sing to themselves, figure out pi to the 14th place, or start a leaf collection.
The glorious reality is that our kids are safer than WE were at their age. (Crime is back to the rate of 1963 — and not because of helicopter parents. Crime against ADULTS is down, too, and we don’t helicopter them.)
Kids who get to walk and run around more are less depressed, diabetic and obese. Studies keep showing they actually do better at school! We get this skewed idea that what is extremely HEALTHY (a walk) is extremely UNhealthy — even dangerous — because good news is invisible.
Once you see your kids thrilled by something they did on their own, you will feel a flood of happiness, too.
But couldn’t something BAD happen?
There are no guarantees in life. Our problem is that we tend to confuse “risk” (inherent in everything) with “risk-Y” (inherent in hang-gliding over the Grand Canyon). For instance, car passenger deaths are the #1 way kids die. Should parents never drive their kids anywhere? Of course not. We are able to keep the risk in perspective: It’s not GUARANTEED safe, but it’s safe enough that we get in the car.
When it comes to letting kids do anything on their own, however, our perspective is warped. We are terrified to let them walk to school, but not to drive them. BOTH activities are extremely safe. Neither of them is ALWAYS safe. But just as it makes no sense to never drive our kids anywhere, it also makes no sense to never let them walk anywhere, or go to the park.
A good way to keep perspective is to remember:
All the worrying in the world doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life.
Why is this a school project?
Because it teaches kids some valuable skills. Kids develop self-control and focus when they have to fend for themselves a little bit. They pay more attention, they grow up. This project actually CHANGES kids.
They reap the benefit, so does their teacher, and so do you!
How does the project work?
Your child comes up with a Let Grow activity he or she would like to do. (There’s a list of suggestions at the very bottom.) You discuss it. If you approve of it, there will be a form for you to sign, and a short questionnaire for you to fill out, to track the effect of the project.
For fun, you may want to read aloud or give your kids a children’s book you love about kids who have an adventure, big or small, or tell them about something you did as a kid.
And then? Your kids fill out a questionnaire, too, and then go forth on their adventure. At the end, they re-visit the questionnaire and, if the teacher would like, they can create a little poem, picture, paragraph, poster or video about their project. They may or may not get extra credit. That, too, is up to their teacher. You fill out your “After the project” survey, too, to assess how it went and your feelings about it.
What are the dates and deadlines?
Your teacher will fill these in. If your school chooses, there also may be a little assembly at the end of the project to celebrate the kids and what they accomplished.
If you’re wondering what all this looks like in real life, here’s a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post about a class in my town, New York City, that does a Let Grow Project (formerly called the Free-Range Kids Project) every year.
AND HERE IS A LIST OF LET GROW PROJECTS FOR YOUR CHILD TO DO ALONE OR WITH A FRIEND
Walk to school
Run an errand
Walk the dog
Wait at the bus stop
Ride your bike to a friend’s house
Make a fort
Explore the woods
Climb a tree
Pick up something from the store
Build something out of junk
Go get ice cream
Go get pizza
Spend some time at the library
Ride a local bus
Organize a visit to a friend’s and get yourself there
Visit a relative
Buy a surprise for your parent
Build a surprise for your parent
Play in the park
Do something with your brother or sister outside
Organize a game outside with your friends
Take the subway
Go to a museum
Mow a neighbor’s lawn
Get to an afterschool activity on your own
Pick up your sibling from an activity
Get yourself ready for school and out the door
Get the ingredients for a cake and make it
Play night tag
Bake something delicious
Make your lunch for tomorrow
Camp out in the backyard
Trick or treat
Go to a friend’s and then go together to find another friend
Add other ideas below!