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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Naked tykes by the fire pit

Sara Zaske moved to Germany with a four-year-old daughter, then gave birth to a son. In Achtung Baby she praises “the German art of raising self-reliant children.”

At her daughter’s Kita, preschoolers frolic naked in the water-play area, notes Slate’s Rebecca Schuman. The school hosts a “gleefully parent-free sleepover” for four-year-olds.


An adventure playground in Berlin.


Adventure playgrounds” are designed to be a little dangerous. One children’s park “consists solely of an unattended marble slab and chisel, writes Schuman.

German children are allowed to “do dangerous stuff; to go places alone; to make their own mistakes, most of which involve nudity, fire, or both,” she writes. “This freedom makes those kids better, happier, and ultimately less prone to turn into miserable sociopaths.”

Government-subsidized child care is widely used in Germany, points out Anne Godlasky in USA Today.

Children spend more time outdoors in self-directed “free play,” which used to be called “play,” she writes. They “walk or bike to and from school or the playground by themselves — a move that in the U.S. can result in having the police called on you.”


Zaske writes: “We raise free and responsible children by giving them freedom and responsibility.”

The book is part of a popular they-do-it-better-elsewhere genre. Amazon shows:

In the mother-knows-best category, there’s Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, which extols structure and self-control.

Leonora Chu, another American mother raising her child overseas, critiques the Chinese education system in Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve.

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