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Take a Free-Range Parenting Step


parents_with_childThe term “free-range parenting,” coined by Lenore Skenazy, describes that 1950-60’s era where children, no longer tied down by farm chores or factory shifts, were free to bike across town, climb trees, float across swamps on homemade rafts, and build forts far from adult supervision. Kidnappings were actually just about as common, but they didn’t get worldwide press coverage as they do today. Broken bones were less common because children took risks earlier on in life, from lower obstacles, and learned natural caution!

I’m not advocating a return to lack of supervision—too many things have changed, including societal views of child neglect!—but allowing children to experiment, to try things out on their own, is a phenomenal way to support curiosity, creativity, inquiry, and problem-solving. These skills are far more important for success in life than anything contained within the pages of a book, or on the internet for that matter.

So here are some simple ways to be more of a free-range parent without feeling irresponsible

  • Involve your children. Kids as young as two can help bake cookies (mine pressed four chocolate chips into each ball of dough, turned on the mixer, measured flour, etc.). Repeat rules about hot ovens and other dangers every time you bake together; children typically can’t remember situational guidelines and need to be reminded.
  • Let them entertain themselves. Creative, self-directed free play is tied to high-achieving academic performance, probably more so than early academic studies. Dress-up, make-believe, building Lego worlds, inventing games, and negotiating the rules for a neighborhood club all fall into this category. Make sure your child’s schedule has time for it—and that your child can happily play alone or with another child or two.
  • Sit down. If your children are on age-appropriate playground equipment, try to avoid hovering. Holding tight is human instinct. Climbing improves balance. And honest, falling improves caution—if the age-appropriate condition is met! Swimming pools are the exception—lifeguards need parental help to keep all swimmers safe!
  • Think ahead. At eighteen, chances are your child will be responsible for all his or her coming and going. At sixteen, your child will be able to drive. Given that, at what age can they walk to a store (at least with a friend) or bike to school or otherwise be on their own? Obviously, this depends on your neighborhood; there are no hard and fast rules.

Try something. Free-range children develop a self-confidence that serves them well!

Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is