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.
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.
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.