Park Slope Parents Summer of Independence Resource Package!


This resource package was created for the Summer of Independence webinar with Let Grow.  A recording of a webinar on why independence is important for our kids' mental health is available HERE

Peter Gray, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology once said, "Since about 1955 ... children's free play has been continually declining, at least partly because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over children's activities."

Kids don't need a scheduled summer full of instruction. They need freedom to explore, play, and do things without adults calling the shots! Here’s help in making that happen.

This resource guide is designed to help you do just that. With ways to deal with your own anxiety, your kids’ anxiety, and ideas to help your child be more independent and have more responsibility, by the end of the summer you’ll see your children have more self-efficacy, more self-confidence, more agency, and ultimately, happier kids and adults. 


We have been conditioned to feel like we are TOTALLY responsible for each and every outcome our child has (from what we eat when pregnant to getting them into a great college) and that we need experts to tell us how to raise our kids.  (See Nancy McDermott’s “The Problem with Parenting” book to assuage any guilt you might have about being an anxious parent. Media, marketing, and “experts” are all about feeding you the message “you can’t be a good parent without all our help.” Buy this to develop your child’s brain, say that to keep from traumatizing them, beware of ____ fill in all the scary things the news tells you— enough already!  We are here to tell you that giving your children agency and independence is necessary for your child’s growth!



Follow LetGrow on Twitter, Facebook, and  Instagram.

Lots of great ideas for helping your kid’s become more independent

Sign a Let Grow Pledge of Independence for parents and kids. You’ll get 10 weeks of simple steps to help your child become more independent. It also gets you and your child on the same page. 

Print out the Kid License


See this recent LetGrow article explaining why a license would have helped support a child’s independence. 

Download the LetGrow Independence Kit

Help organize a Let Grow Play Club at your school. 

It’s a new kind of play program. The Club is the brainchild of Let Grow co-founder Dr. Peter Gray, the eminent psychologist who has spent his life studying the crucial role of unstructured, mixed-age “free play” in developing children’s creativity, confidence, and ability to thrive.

Managing your own fears of safety 

  • Check out the facts and research on the LetGrow website. Chances of some nefarious stranger taking your child are almost nil.  It sells papers, eyeballs, and gets you to click, but these things are overwhelmingly exaggerated by the media. 
  • “Know that our culture underestimates what kids can do and overestimates danger” Lenore Skenazy
  • Watching your kids succeed will help you be less anxious
  • Watch your language, because it can be putting your anxiety on your children

Practice Observing rather than Commenting….  

Here’s an idea that might be new to you.  YOU CAN SAY NOTHING when your child is involved in an activity.  Do you need to help them? Do you need to encourage? Do you need to comment?  Do you need to reinforce?  Are you actually managing your safety fears by micromanaging?   When you provide unnecessary help you can inadvertently create dependence.  You may be sending the message that your child is incapable. 


How about you sit back and just watch, at a distance, instead? That way their play is self-directed and they stop looking to you for reinforcement and feedback for an accomplishment.  Provide the space for kids to play INDEPENDENTLY, without you. This will give your child the opportunity to succeed and build confidence without you.  

  • If you absolutely have to, get your child a tracking watch…. 
  • Know that they might _______
    • Fail at a task
    • Get a few bumps and scrapes 

 However, when you help foster your child’s independence they will LEARN, GROW, AND BECOME MORE RESILIENT

 Managing your kids’ fears and clinginess 

  • Practice baby steps– give them little ways to help and be independent.  Give them chores (see below) to make them feel like “big kids” and give them more time for independent play.
  • Let them hear your ENCOURAGEMENT rather than your Fear 

ANOTHER RESOURCE: Managing your Kids’ Distress Webinar with Small Brooklyn Psychology on Managing Your Kids' Distress...and Yours, aimed at helping you to:

  • Understand how kids can better tolerate uncertainty and distress

  • Learn concrete tools to help kids cope

  • Know when to help and when to step back

  • Differentiate normal stress from anxiety issues that need to be addressed

  • Recognize warning signs for bigger crises

Among many other topics, Olga Fuller, PhD, discussed common paradigms that parents fall into, including overprotection (the "helicopter parent") and accommodation (the "snow plow parent").

Watch the full recording here!


How to let your kid truly PLAY by giving them unstructured time  (See Julie Lythcott-Haims book, How to Raise an Adult for more on this.) 

  • Value Play – it’s super important, and in many ways more important than structuring their lives!
  • Create space between you and your kids–stop overshadowing and “Helping” them (grab a bench)
  • Know your kid(s) and their limit(s), but push those limits too. If you’ve raised a child that has heard, “be careful” a lot, you may need to push them to do more activities independently. 
  • Have tech boundaries (for yourself too!)
  • Create community around play* 
  • Offer the right materials that foster imagination (Lego “sets” don’t count)
  • Let your kid(s) decide how and what to play
  • Resist commenting on each and every thing they do! (Just stop already!)
  • Wince but don’t pounce– There will be bumps and bruises
  • Change your attitude that they have to have something STRUCTURED to do!
  • CHANGE the culture of “gotta be busy on some ‘developmental’ activity"
  • Get Inspired– Go to The Yard at Govenor’s Island
  • Have technology to connect, but make it less smart
  • Model PLAY & FUN– craft, tinker, practice guitar, in front of your kids! 


  • Develop “Free Play” times with classmates and friends instead of structured classes 
  • Have birthday parties that are all about PLAY instead of ______ (painting parties, build-a-bear, chuck-e-cheese, cupcake decorating, hiring a magician). You can save money too. If it IS an “experience” party, make it about the kids playing (e.g., escape room just with kids, no adults.) 
  • PSP Free Range Kids Chat - join the chat with like minded parents where you can plan playdates and share tips and tricks for more freedom. 
  • Combine forces on Technology. Having ways to know where kids are may make it easier for you to give them freedom, but maybe start with walkie talkies, watches rather than smart phones.  Wait Until 8th is a resource that helps parents band together to wait to get their kids a smart phone.

What’s a child to do?

Only you know what your child is capable of doing. One 9 year old might be old enough to ride the subway, while another isn’t. Here are ideas of things that kids can do (based on their maturity level).  Have a conversation with your kids about this list. Are there things feel comfortable doing already? Are there things they are reluctant to do YET? Highlight the things they are ready to do on their own and spend the summer fostering their independence!

Venturing Out Alone 

  • Run an errand
  • Write a letter and mail it at the post office
  • Go into the woods at Prospect Park
  • Cross a busy street
  • Walk a mile
  • Take a bus, train, or ferry
  • Make a shopping list and shop
  • Take the Subway somewhere
  • Go to the YARD at Govenor's Island
  • Visit a relative on your own

Being Responsible 

  • Take your younger siblings to the park/library/activities/subway
  • Walk the dog or a neighbor's dog
  • Pet sit for a friend/neighbor
  • Make a meal
  • Take out the trash 
  • Make breakfast for the family
  • Babysit/ be a family helper
  • Do the Laundry
  • Make your own lunch for at least a week
  • Do the lunch thing for your siblings, too
  • Make your own haircut appointment

Fun with Friends

  • Ride your bike (with helmet)
  • Clean up trash in the nabe
  • Walk to a friend’s
  • Go to the park and don’t immediately come home
  • Play catch with a friend
  • Build an outdoor fort
  • Get ice cream with friends
  • Nerf battle! 
  • Build an obstacle course (Harmony Playground) 
  • Make a picnic and have one!
  • Play tag
  • Play night tag
  • Go geo-caching

Fun Alone time

  • Jump rope
  • Take pictures on a walk and make a video of it
  • Go outside and watch the sunrise
  • Go on a Random Walk
  • Bake something delicious (including putting it in the oven)
  • Bring some of that delicious thing to your neighbors. 

Money Making

  • Mow your lawn or, $$ for neighbors’ lawns
  • Wash the car or someone else's car
  • Organize a stoop sale or garage sale
  • Lemonade stand

Summer Fun

A note about playing outside….


Instead of going to a playground, take some friends and go to more nature parts of Prospect Park.

1 - Zucker Natural Exploration Area

2 - Boulder Bridge

3 - Ravine

4 - The Peninsula

*These are open areas in Prospect Park where kids can explore and make their own fun rather than play on playgrounds.


Go to The Yard - Adventure Playground at Govenor’s Island


Will Kids Get Hurt?  They might!

All kids have the potential to get hurt when playing– especially when they go beyond the sanitized playgrounds designed to keep cities from being sued for injuries.  Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Know your kids. If they are not physically able (yet) to do something, you may need to keep them safe. Obviously step in if a child is in imminent danger, but watch yourself – things that you might have been allowed to do (and did successfully) are probably fine to let your kids do as well.  
  • Teach your child to check in with their bodies.  Does your body feel safe? Do your feet feel grounded? Doing things that are a little bit risky help them learn. 
  • If they do get hurt, don’t over dramatize. Be on hand with water or a bandaid. Also don’t scold or harp on about safety. When they are hurt is not a time to lecture about why something wasn’t safe. 
  • Redirect if necessary. If they are going up too steep a hill, redirect them to one that is a little flatter. Baby steps!

Skinned knees, trips and falls, bumps, and bruises are all ingredients to a child knowing more about their body and its limits, and feeling more independent. 

Benefits of Risky Play

  • Self-Confidence.
  • Resilience
  • Improved memory (and body memory)
  • Less anxiety the next time!
  • Time managment skills
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-control
  • Increased ability to assess risk

A note about babysitters and nannies…

Babysitters and nannies are hired to watch and protect kids. Full-time nannies especially feel like one false move with their children could result in losing their job.  As such, they typically feel a lot of responsibility for staying close and keeping an ever present eye on the kids they are taking care of. However, having a paid entertainer and hovering presence is not conducive to giving your child the skills to play by themselves. Having a nanny who isn’t overseeing the children as they pick flowers from a community garden, however, is not okay.  Living in the city requires a lot more oversight of public spaces than sending kids out in the backyard to play.  If you want your kids to play independently and entertain themselves, you’ll need to give paid caregivers the permission to stay back and not hover.  



I highly recommend the book, “How to Raise an Adult" by Julie Lythcott-Haims. It gives parents a lot of reasons to stop doing so much for kids. She describes a four-step strategy for teaching life skills: 1) first we do it for kids, 2) then we do it with kids, 3) then we watch kids do it, and 4) then kids do it completely independently. Julie acknowledges that the third and fourth steps are often the most difficult for parents to carry out, and require an enormous leap of faith. This is one of the most important steps, however. discusses this in terms of “How to be a Person” Camp.



Beyond teaching some life skills, Michaleen Doucleff describes the importance of contributing to the family (and, by extension) the community in her book “Hunt, Gather, Parent.”  Chores are one way of allowing kids to contribute to the goings on of the family.  There are some rules around having your kids do chores, though, including, being okay with kids not (yet) being competent, working as a collaborative team member rather than as a manager, and being okay if it takes more time to get things done. 


A List of Age-Appropriate Chores for Kids 2 to 18 

“Chores teach children valuable life skills and instill a sense of pride in their accomplishments. When they see what they can achieve through their own efforts, they believe in their own abilities." — Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist


PSP Website article about paying for chores

See Thich Nhat Hahn’s Peace is Every Step about finding joy in mundane chores.


  • Give the chores value and help kids see that their help contributes to the family
  • Don’t hover and micro-manage
  • Let them make mistakes and learn from them


Make if more fun:

  • Play music while you’re doing chores
  • Set a timer
  • Putting the chores in a jar to make it more of a surprise. 

Age specific chores (Start young, Kids always love to help)


2-3 Year Old Chores

  • Picking up toys and books
  • Putting laundry into hamper
  • Cleaning spills and messes


4-5 Years Old Chores 

  • Assist in sorting laundry
  • Putting away groceries
  • Clean room


7-8 Year Old Chores

  • Sweeping and mopping
  • Taking out ​the trash
  • Making their own snacks
  • Aiding in the Garden


9-12 Year Old Chores

  • Making their own breakfast/lunch
  • Folding & Putting away laundry
  • Cleaning smaller areas of the bathroom
  • Meal prep(smaller meals)




  • Wash dishes & put them away
  • Prepare & Deliver meals
  • Going grocery shopping
  • Ironing clothes

PRE-COLLEGE– Does your child know how to: 


-save up to purchase something 

-cook eggs 

-set a goal & create a deadline

-clean off the kitchen counter 

-pay a bill

-make a doctor’s appointment

-how to mail a package

-call a grandparent 

-write a letter & address an envelope, mail it 

-do something nice for someone who's sad 

-be bored 

-check out a book at the library





Check out this PSP list of Life Skills to know before you’re 20 list.


Things to know how to do before college: 


MONEY (stay tuned for more here)

  • Teach kids what things cost and about money early on. 
  • Give kids an allowance



If you don’t trust us to tell you why independent play and doing chores is so important, you can read about it in these books and articles. 


  • Free-Range Kids: How Parents and Teachers Can Let Go and Let Grow by Lenore Skenazy 


  • Free to Learn by Peter Gray

  • How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

  • Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans by Michaeleen Doucleff

  • The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

  • Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff
    • This book basically outlines that your kids should be folded into their parents' existing life instead of parents putting their kid in the center of the universe. 


  • The Problem with Parenting: How Raising Children Is Changing Across America 

by Nancy A. McDermott


A 14 year old middle schooler was hoping to go to the movies with a friend.  In order to get permission, she created a powerpoint presentation covering all of her parents’ worries around her taking the bus during the afternoon. She spelled out all of the concerns and how her plan would address these concerns.  In this case, her grandparents also helped her secure some independence since they pointed to the freedom that they gave their son. 




 Some Instagram posts I liked that reinforced the information above! 


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