How to raise a free-range child

Free-range (adjective): Kept in natural conditions, with freedom of movement.

Children, much like chickens, thrive when they are allowed to roam freely outside. Being a city girl, the Popple does most of her free-ranging down dingy Glasgow alleyways.

Popple with her back to a brick wall in a Glasgow alleyway

However, we recently took a holiday to the Inishowen Peninsula in Ireland, where the free ranging opportunities were endless. Grass. Beaches. Old graveyards. Ancient monuments. She stomped all over all of it.

We left the front and kitchen doors to our holiday cottage open whenever we were home, because the Popple protested – loudly – if we closed them. She recognised how special it was to have a garden and a view of the sea, and she wanted access to them at all times. She toddled in and out all day long, throwing gravel and running on the grass and pointing at bugs. I’m pretty sure her little mind was well and truly blown.

Popple running in the grass in a green dress with red and yellow fish

How to free-range parent

Put your child outside and let them go nuts. Watch from a safe distance, occasionally offering helpful advice like, “Pebbles aren’t for the mouth” and “Sticks make a good noise when you bang them together.”

Hazards of free-range parenting

Dirt eating. Clothes muddying. Skinned knees. Grass stains. Stares from parents who wonder why you’re just sitting there while your child repeatedly slaps a tree.

Benefits of free-range parenting

  • Free-ranging is free. Why waste loads of money on expensive toys and trips to children’s activity centres when kids are just as happy to run around an empty field?
  • Free-ranging is easy. Free-range parenting doesn’t require you to really do anything other than watch your child and make sure they don’t free-range into oncoming traffic.
  • Free-ranging is educational. Free-ranging is a great way for kids to learn about cause and effect. If I sit in a puddle, I get wet. If I step on the sand, I can see my footprint. If I poke a worm, I get squishy stuff on my finger and need to wipe it on Mummy’s jeans.
  • Free-ranging is fun. The Popple is at her happiest when she’s exploring a big open space. The outdoors is this moving, growing, living thing that’s different every time she encounters it. No wonder she never gets tired of being outside.

Popple pointing down at a rock

21 Comment

  1. I love letting my kids learn for themselves, especially outdoors. As long as they aren’t endangering themselves or others free range all the way. #EatSleepBlogRT

  2. I also tend to subscribe to this form of parenting whenever it’s possible. We are lucky enough to have a decent patch of yard at our house. I don’t think my boy is ever more happy than when he is given free reign over some open space. #EatsleepblogRT

  3. I love a bit of free range parenting. Unfortunately it usually leads to be followed around by my mother, usually proffering a baby wipe and screeching at Piglet not to touch anything that might be dirty! #tribe

  4. justsayingmum says: Reply

    a perfect childhood is definitely free range – just a beautiful way for them to grow and learn – we should all be encouraged to do it – however, I’m feeling that the countryside is a better place than a town for sure – beautiful photos #ablogginggoodtime

  5. Rachel (Lifeofmyfamilyandme) says: Reply

    My two love being outside. A big green field or a woodland walk is great for them to let off steam and just be free to be crazy kids! Thanks for linking up to #EatSleepBlogRt

  6. We had a free ranging day at the beach yesterday – and it was the best day we’ve had in ages. Sand everywhere , dirty clothes, wet hair – but free and lovely ! #stayclassymama

  7. Absolutely love this! I think the media and today’s attitude try and scare us out of this as much as possible! But my girls absolutely love to be allowed the freedom to roam…I really is so important to those little developing brains!

  8. Great post, made me chuckle…I have two very free range kids who generally stay away from squidging worms but love picking fruit, running in the campo (Spanish countryside) and generally getting dirty! One of my youngest’s favourite words is outSIDE (big emphasis on the SIDDDEEE). It’s so nice to let our kids roam free wen they can, let’s do it!

  9. The Dutch are amazing at free range parenting Hun, maybe you need to join me over here. Sounds like an amazing place to holiday. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  10. Love, Love LOVE this post! There is nothing like the freedom of being able to be out and about to adventure outside and just be little. We are city Buttons, so whenever we manage to escape it, I feel the need to let Little Button go free-ranging. Fab. Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam xx

  11. You can’t beat the great outdoors it’s true. We’re currently feeling a bit of cabin fever sadly. #ablogginggoodtime

  12. Lovely post and the title. Being outdoors is underrated nowadays for me. Exploring the natural environment around us is something we should all embrace. It is especially important for children to do that too. #DreamTeam

  13. Having the door open and being able to let your child go in and out and just explore is wonderful. Love the photos of the Popple enjoying being outside and having fun – skinned knees, grass stains and muddy clothes are all part of childhood and being able to explore things 🙂

  14. Luckily where I live there’s plenty of places for A to roam when she can walk. It’ll be interesting to watch her interact with the world in another way. #ablogginggoodtime

  15. Love free range parenting – running, jumping and playing all day! then a dunk in the bath before falling into bed and dreaming about their adventures #eatsleepblogRT

  16. I love this, I definately practice free range parenting! Mud is for eating or at least trying! I’m going to use this term a lot in the future. #abloggingoodtime

  17. Love free range play and a little dirt eating is probably good for your health! : )
    #StayClassyMama

  18. Hahah I love this! I need to free range the child soon, he is mostly couped up in the flat or the nursery : (. I bring him to the park on the weekends and heading to Spain, can I free range him on the beach? This really made me laugh, especially the part where her mind is blown. Thanks for the laugh and sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  19. I’m a firm believer that children belong outside to discover and explore. Though I may have a social media/tech addiction, I don’t encourage it with my children. Hippocrit, I know! Ha! And as a free-range chicken, duck, & turkey mama, I intend to let my daughter explore as the birds do. Hopefully separately though. Thanks for sharing! #EatSleepBlogRT

  20. Sounds like the perfect holiday – Emma loved being in Ireland too for all these reasons. Being able to run free without us chasing behind her and switching her direction…there’s a lot to be said for it. Plus she seemed to sleep better with all that exercise! #ablogginggoodtime

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