Free Range Kids

Recently I saw an interview with an author in the US. She was discussing the aftermath of an article she had written after letting her 9 year old son take the subway by himself. Parents across America were divided- was she putting her kids in danger or promoting independence? And so the term ‘Free Range Kids’ was coined.

 The philosophy behind free range kids is simple. The world is not the scary, dangerous place that the media would have us believe. Crime rates are somewhat unchanged since the childhoods of the 70’s and 80’s. Children should be able to ride their bikes to school, to play in the street outside their home and to get their mail out of the letterbox- without their parents by their side.

I myself am in two minds. I have fond memories of cricket games in the street, of playing spotlight with all the kids in the neighbourhood, of the park at the end of our street being ‘the place to meet’ after school to decide what kind of great adventures we would have that afternoon and of course, the great philosophical discussions that my brothers and I had on the walk home from school.

Of course, there were rules. Mum had to know who we were playing with, and she always knew their parents. We had to be home by the time the street lights came on and we couldn’t just wander the streets. Generally we were always playing outside, so if Mum needed to find us she could have just followed our voices. 

When my brother was around 10, he and our cousin decided to go for a bike ride around the streets near our home. Somehow they were split up and my cousin couldn’t remember how to get home, so he went into a safety house who let him come in and ring our Mum.

The lessons our parents had taught us about what to do if we were lost were put into practise and thanks to the kind neighbours, our cousin was home safely. And the next time the two went out riding, they stuck together.

But on my recent wanderings around the streets near my home, I couldn’t spot a single safety house. Where have they all gone? Has society changed too much that no one wants the responsibility? Is anyone even home?

So now, as a Mum, I have started to contemplate the concept of my child being a free range kid.

We live in a quite street  and know our neighbours well enough to have a chat in the front yard and to take their bins out when they are on holidays, and I hope by the time he is old enough to be outside by himself that they would know him well enough to keep and eye and an ear out for him- just like I would do for any other children.

Theoretically I would love for him to have the kind of childhood that I did- lazy summer holidays where swimming, water bomb fights and sleepovers were the features of our days. Where Mum and Dad didn’t have to drive us all over town to socialise, because our friends lived next door, or across the road. But I don’t even know if this is realistic anymore. Are kids home in their school holidays? Do they go outside to play?

Thankfully, I’ve still got some time to think about this…my son is just 11 months old.

What about you?  Would your decision depend on your child’s age? Or the suburb you live in? Are you raising free range kids?

3 responses to this post.

  1. Great post. I haven’t found the link, but I’ve seen something recently about how our bad risk assessment is actually making things worse. So for example it’s safer to walk than drive, but people are choosing to drive their kids to school. This is making it dangerous because there are now lots of cars around schools, and is actually causing more injuries. If we all let our kids walk they would all be safer (and healthier!).


  2. Cap I can’t believe that you STOLE my post!!!! I listened to the interview (link below, well worth a listen) and was planning on posting on this too! In the interview, she quotes a fabulous statistic of how long you’d actually have to leave your child completely unsupervised for them to be abducted (not a nice thought, I know) but it was something like thousands and thousands of days…not very likely. And of course we all know that children are most at risk of coming to harm from their parents or relatives or other close family friends – but we’re all still so worried about the big bad strangers, aren’t we! I’m lucky enough to live in a small country town – I’d argue that our ability to free range is still fairly intact here…I know that we wouldn’t be walking as much and playing outside as much if we lived in the city. Fab post!


    • Posted by Capricious on July 31, 2009 at 3:14 pm

      Great minds huh perfectmum? I too read the statistic about the abductions- I think it works out to be something like 75 years- crazy!


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