How To Raise A Free Range Child
Growing up, my family was poor. We lived in a mobile home neighborhood. We did not have money to go on a bunch of vacations. Most of my carefree adventures occurred either in the backyard or the neighborhood. In the backyard, I escaped to my own enchanting land on a grand adventure. In the neighborhood, there were a lot of hiding spots for me to hang out. Right now, I could close my eyes and recollect precisely what the neighborhood looked like.
I played outside in the mud. I raced on the streets barefoot. I climbed trees and enjoyed the view from the highest tree. I biked all over the neighborhood miles away until it was time to come home. I roller-bladed to the nearby park. I explored many hidden spots in the neighborhood. I collected random things from the neighborhood and brought them home. I ate pistachios on the monkey bars, imagining there was no land underneath. I was a mermaid in our swimming pool. I flipped the inflatable boat upside down to turn it into an underwater house. I was a survivalist. I built a fort with tree branches and ate fake rocks.
I was often dirty at nighttime.
I suppose you could call me a ‘free range’ child if you want to put a label on my childhood.
What is a Free Range child?
“According to New Yorker Lenore Skenazy, the founder of the Free-Range Kids movement, it is a child “who gets treated as a smart, young, capable individual, not an invalid who needs constant attention and help.” – HPHP Central
“Free-range parenting is the concept of raising children in the spirit of encouraging them to function independently in proper accordance of their age of development with a reasonable acceptance of realistic personal risks.” – Wikipedia
Actually, my childhood was common back then because all other kids my age had similar childhoods. We were left to do whatever we wanted with some boundaries, of course. We had to inform an adult where we were going and what time we needed to be back. We were given freedom and responsibility. We were taught by our parents what we needed to do if we found ourselves in a dangerous situation.
The silence was bliss because I was able to play in my enchanting land without any distractions. We lived right next to a busy road, yet it did not bother me. I was in my own world, imagining a magical place in front of my eyes. Instead, I paid attention to the leaves falling with the wind. I watched cars pass me by. I smelt the freshly rained dirt. I laid on the ground and look for shapes in the clouds. Sometimes, I saw a fierce lion. Other times, I saw an ugly dragon. Once, I saw a volcano. I watched dogs barking at me while I biked in silence.
I was always aware of my surroundings and looked behind me everywhere I went. I knew I had to scream loudly if a stranger approached me in an uncomfortable way. I knew I had to run to a nearby house/building and ask for help. I knew I had to stay away from busy roads and remain in the neighborhood.
I was rarely bored as a child.
My dream is that my daughter will have a wild and free imaginative spirit like I once had. I want her to discover how to combat boredom on her own. I am not going to let her rely on me for entertainment all the time. I want to raise her as a free range child.
Unfortunately, children today are not able to roam all over the neighborhood without someone calling the cops or having a child molester prowling nearby. We live in a culture of fear with the news bombarding us with the pictures of kidnapped or murdered children. Parents are overprotective of their children, keeping them in a bubble. Nowadays, most of the childhood fun is scheduled and supervised like sports, after school programs, play dates, music lessons, etc.
I am all for scheduled fun because I want to put Coral in sports and activities growing up. However, they also need unscheduled fun to build their self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, self-sufficiency and maturity. I am protective of my daughter in some ways. I will always have that fear in the back of my mind that there is a risk of my daughter being kidnapped or harmed in the hands of someone else. It is all about balance, giving them supervised fun and giving them some freedom to try new things on their own.
“I will understand problem solving, self-exploration, decision making, number relationships, structures, complex vocabulary, healthy living, cause and effect, creativity, imaginative thinking and my natural world when I am big. Because I play outside when I am little.” – How We Learn
Still, for the most part, my daughter is a free range child. Right now, I would not allow her to walk outside unsupervised or ride the bus by herself. She is only 2-years-old. However, I believe with time she should be allowed to walk to school by herself if she is responsible enough to know the boundaries and what to do if she finds herself in a bad situation. She is allowed to play in the mud, eat sand, climb rocks, run outside barefoot, play in the pouring rain, etc. I have lost count of how many bruises, scratches and skinned knees/elbows she had.
A few days before Christmas, she played with the neighbors dog through the hole in the wooden fence. She lost her balance and hit her face on the fence. She had a skinned nose and a bloody lip. She was a red-nosed Rudolph for Christmas!
With supervised fun, children can get hurt, too. Coral fell down jumping at Sky Zone and fractured her leg in two parts under my supervision. Heck, I was two feet away from her.
I believe what I am doing with Coral is not extreme. It should be a typical childhood because my childhood was way extreme. Yet, there are parents that freak out if their children play in the mud. If their kids skinned their knees. If their clothes got ruined. If they ate rocks. If they licked their hands after sticking it in an unknown thing. If they climbed up a tree.
Let your children run freely and explore their world of possibilities. Let nature be their playground. Let them push beyond their limits and learn how to make something ordinary fun.
Children’s brains are growing at an acceleratingly speed and at that time their imaginations are wild and creativity runs through their veins.
I wish we all could live in a world where children are both free and safe. For now, we can supervise them out in the public until they are mature/responsible enough to protect themselves but let them play freely in their own backyard.
Are you raising your children free range? What tips would you give to other parents wanting to raise their children this way? If you are not raising free range children, why not?