A Surprising Look at Toddlers Running Errands in Japan
This post is a first for me; I don’t usually review television shows. But, after hearing about it on the Today Show, then watching “Old Enough!” on Netflix, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. So, here is my Netflix “Old Enough” review.
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Premise: Netflix “Old Enough!”
“Old Enough!” is a Japanese reality show that follows the families of independent toddlers running errands, without their parents. Did you catch that?
As described by Netflix, “Children go on errands all by themselves for the very first time as a camera crew follows along in this beloved, long-running reality show from Japan.”
While new to the U.S., it’s been running in Japan for 25 years as “Hajimete no Otusaki”/ “My First Errand”! Netflix provides 20 episodes as Season 1 from 2013.
The arc for each story is an overview of the location, and an introduction to the family, before the cameras follow along as the child goes on the errand. Sometimes there are tears and a little forgetfulness, but overall the kids are full of pride in their accomplishment.
So, to break that down a little further, these kids are between the ages of 2 – 4 years old! And, when I say they are doing these tasks/ errands to completely by themselves, it’s true. Remember, they are too young to read, so it’s all done from memory.
They leave the house alone to complete the tasks assigned by their parents. They may make several stops to buy grocery items, pick something up and/ or deliver forgotten items to friends, family.
The episodes are short and sweet, averaging about 10 minutes, each so they don’t take a lot of time to watch. The comedic narration keeps things light while providing important background to help advance the story.
“Old Enough” is all about the kids. And, let me tell you, these are some cute kids. You can’t help but root for their success while also wanting to just snuggle them.
In one particular episode, the little boy walked 1 km/ 0/.62 miles each way, along a busy road… by himself! His name is Hiroki, and he was 2 years 9 months old. Outside of this extraordinary errand, he is a little boy, with squeaky kid shoes and all. Not only did he walk that distance (23 minutes each way), he crossed a road, bought groceries, went back after realizing he forgot something and walked home with a bouquet of flowers almost as tall as him.
I was also pulled in by a little boy who dropped his cooler of fish and struggled to get them back into the cooler. He was upset, frustrated and disgusted with having to pick up the fish, but eventually grabbed some by hand and used a stick on others to get the job done. Poor kiddo then dropped some apples. He had a tough time, but kept at it.
I could go on and on. There’s no shortage of precious kids showing courage, confidence and resilience in each episode, while still being kids.
Teaching Childhood Independence in Japan
The show focuses on the first time these little darlings run the errand. It will be the first of many such outings at their young age.
“Social Reliance” is part of the Japanese culture. They believe that society/ community can be relied upon to look after the well-being of the citizens, children included. Add to that, the general safety of the country.
Because of “social reliance,” Japanese citizens extend that ideology to the general safety and security of country. This makes it one of the lowest crime rates in the world. This is why parents are more comfortable allowing their children to independently travel solo. As the country was designed to be navigated by pedestrians, drivers are prepared to share the roads.
This could never work in most large cities/ towns in the United States, but may be successful in smaller communities. Sadly, people rarely stop to hold a door open, let alone ensure the safety of the people around them.
Where Americans would call the police for an unaccompanied minor, in Japan, they would just make sure he/she gets to where they need to go, providing encouragement along the way. You see this displayed a lot during the show.
Teaching the kids to contribute in this way starts to build them up and instill personal pride and positive life values. Additionally, they gain:
- Community Mentality
Shock. Disbelief. Those were my first 2 thoughts when I first heard about “Old Enough!” After watching it, the shock remained, but it was softened by the stars of the show. I felt for them as a mom and cheered for them as a viewer.
The younger the child, the more I felt the need to protect them. The sentiment from the Twitterverse is that they are so cute. Adorable. Wholesome. All true.
“Old Enough” is the show that my depression didn’t know it needed.@beaniebabyminx
This show or concept could not exist in Western Culture. The only way it would be remotely possible is on a soundstage. But out in the wilds of life, it would never work. There’s far too much hate, crime and general disinterest in our fellow man. That sounds terrible, but it’s true.
But, given the success of these kids in their endeavors, I have to ask myself the reason for my reaction. Is it because they’re babies? Of course. In Household Chores for Kids, I list different chores kids can do, broken down by age. I recognize that, at least around the house, they have the ability to do more than we may allow.
I am the parent of a 5 year old. We are working on gaining more independence and confidence in her life. She has chores and helps me around the house. However, even after seeing even younger children independently running errands while their parents remain home, I have no desire to join in.
I supposed that I wouldn’t be as opposed to it if I lived in a quaint, little village where everyone knew my family and things were nearby. But for me, that’s not the case. There isn’t anywhere close by where my kid could go safely. Her wander zone ends at our property line.
Related Article: Daily Affirmations for Kids
We’ve come to the end of my Netflix “Old Enough” review. So, do I recommend it? Yes. The kids are all of the things that kids can be and more. It also showcases a different perspective of parenting from another culture.
I also wonder… just because something can be done, should it? I am of the mind that kids should be kids. There’s so much time for them to ease their way into taking on adult responsibility; Helping out at home is enough at that age.
When you have to sort of crawl climb up the stairs, you’re too young to be out there on your own.
I cannot deny how heart breakingly adorable the kids in “Old Enough,” are. They are beyond precious. At a time when so much in our lives is heavy, it is an upbeat, lightweight show.
While they melt my heart, the fact that they’re out being such ‘grown-ups’ also breaks it. Perhaps kids are capable of far more than we permit or even entertain in Western Culture. We might be guilty of babying our children for too long. But, given where we live, I’m okay with that.
How young is too young? Would you send your toddler out to run errands by themselves? I would love to hear your thoughts below.
2 thoughts on “Netflix “Old Enough” Review”
I saw a clip from Old Enough (specifically the boy dropping the fish) and I may have to check out the series after reading your review. It is quite intriguing the differences between Japan, the US, and Denmark.
In Denmark, you have 6-years-olds walking to school by themselves and older children going on the trains by themselves, but you do not have toddlers going grocery shopping or running errands. I know things are very different in the US and if you let your child walk down the street to the park by themselves, you can have the police called on you for neglect.
After learning about this view on parenting in Japan, I am so curious about what happens in other countries. I can imagine how varied it all is, based on location, culture and values. Just the thought of little 6 year olds taking the train by themselves makes me so nervous. But, I guess it wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t safe. So interesting.