Is Free-Range Parenting for You? Find Out Whether It's Fantastic or Flawed!


  1. What does free-range parenting mean?
  2. Is free-range parenting better?
  3. What are the 4 types of parenting styles?
  4. Is free-range parenting safe?

In today’s world, there are so many pressures on you as parents. Are the kids doing their homework? Are they spending too much time on TikTok? Do they have a good group of friends? Are they eating the right food? On top of this, you have to think about parenting styles. Are you being too strict, too laid back or too anxious? And before you had kids, you thought it was just about making sure they were fed and watered! 😆

So, where does free-range parenting fit into all of this and is it worth considering? Give us a few minutes of your time to find out!fairy-tales-for-kids

What does free-range parenting mean?


It all really started in 1946 when Benjamin Spock wrote The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. It quickly became a best seller probably because it went against the advice of the day: strict feeding schedules, early toilet training and limited affection to ensure children didn’t get spoiled. Spock, who drew on his career as a paediatrician, believed parents were the ones who knew their children best. The first line of his book has now become a famous quote, "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." 💪   

In recent years, it was Lenore Skenazy, former columnist of the New York Sun, who has become the most famous advocate for free-range parenting. In her book Free-Range Kids she presented an interesting question: Statistically, how long would your child need to be outside, unattended before they were kidnapped? We’ll let you know later in the article - you’ll be surprised! She decided to write the book in 2009 after writing a column about allowing her 9-year-old son to ride the subway on his own. This story caught the media’s attention and she was branded, ‘the world’s worst mum’. To some maybe, but others liked her approach to parenting. The second edition of that same book came out in 2021 so there’s still clearly a demand for it. And her blog free-range kids has a lot of support and useful articles.

In simple terms, free-range parenting is the opposite of helicopter parenting. 🚁 Instead of being overly focused on your children and hovering around them constantly, free range kids have a lot more independence and responsibility at a young age. They do, however, take into account the child’s capabilities and maturity level. Here are some key features of this method:

  • Parents put fear at the back of their minds

Many parents are afraid to let their children go somewhere alone. But parents of free range children allow this because they believe that, although there is a small chance of injury or accident, this is outweighed by the positive learning experience. They gain independence and have a sense of pride in their accomplishment.

  • Outdoor play is important 🌳

To parents of free range kids, time spent outdoors is more important than screen time. They can learn about interacting with others, increase their knowledge of nature and find ways to amuse themselves without becoming reliant on technology to provide entertainment.

  • Children are allowed to make decisions

Not all of them of course! Parents still decide on the big ones like where to go to school and house rules such as sharing chores. But, they are given more freedom to make decisions. 

  • Parents don’t decide the schedule

Most children have a lot of structure around what they do. By letting free range children decide the timetable they can use their initiative and adapt to changes. It also helps to build tolerance and resilience.


Is free-range parenting better?


We think this depends on your family and your kids. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider:

Advantages ➕

Disadvantages ➖

Encourages creativity - if you’re bored, you create the activity from what’s around you. Creativity in children is often lost because technology is often the first thing children turn to when they’re bored.

Greater risk - you might not be there when something bad happens and they might not know what to do in that event. 

Better prepared for life - independence allows the opportunity for problem-solving and helps to build confidence in children.

Lack of community - 20 years ago you may have known your neighbours well and would look out for other people’s children. Not so much these days.

Free range children can learn about the consequences of their actions. There are repercussions to what they do and free range kids are better able to take responsibility for them. If you are always there telling them what to do, they don’t have the freedom to make mistakes.

You might think your child is mature enough for free-range parenting, but judge it wrong. In that case, the child may become more anxious and it could even have the opposite effect by creating separation anxiety.

It’s active - few parents would argue that sitting in front of a screen is better than running around outside. Fresh air, vitamin D and exercise!

Government intervention - You may, unknowingly break the law and some well-meaning person may call the local authorities. A case in America, where a parent had allowed her children, 6 and 10 walk home alone, led to an investigation into neglect. 


Why not try it out? Roam, a charity in Birmingham runs sessions where children are able to experience unsupervised, unstructured play. 


What are the 4 types of parenting styles?


The four types of parenting are:

  • Authoritarian - these parents are the boss and children should do things because they said so
  • Permissive  - nurturing and warm, indulgent with few rules
  • Uninvolved - expect their children to raise themselves and don’t ask about school, friends, where they’re going etc.
  • Authoritative - rule-based and if rules are broken, there will be consequences. Conversely, good behaviour is rewarded. 

Supporters of free-range parenting would say it doesn’t easily fit into these groups. Critics of it would probably say free range children are the result of uninvolved parents!


Is free-range parenting safe?


A common misconception of free-range parenting and free range kids is that it’s irresponsible and dangerous. The fact is though, that when Lenore Skenazy let her son make his own way home at 9, she gave him $20, change for the phone and a prepaid travel card. In that sense, she gave him the tools to be able to achieve the mission! She also says that things like  ‘helmets, car seats, and safety belts are a must.👍

But it is true that the world is a scarier place than it was a generation ago. Technology allows you to keep track of your child’s every move just in case, but there is no longer the sense of community streets once had and the media has only added to the sense of fear by publishing several high-profile news stories about kids going missing. In actual fact, to answer the question posed earlier, a child would have to wait 750,000 years statistically before they were kidnapped! 😲 Despite this, free-range parenting remains a big no-no to some.

According to a British Children Play Survey carried out in 2021, children are allowed to play unsupervised outside two years older (ten years old)  than their parents (8 years old). Child psychologist, Helen Dodd, who led the study, said, ‘...we can clearly see that there is a trend to be protective and provide less freedom for our children now than in previous generations.’ 

So, on the one hand, free-range parenting seems to go against the trend to protect our kids by all possible means. On the other hand, done right, free range children are given well-considered tasks and the necessary tools to enjoy independence and develop survival skills as they do.

A free range children sign is not something hanging around their necks in the same way children of helicopter parents aren’t always immediately obvious. There are so many different ways to bring up a child that if you find one that works for you, go for it. We’re sure you’re all hoping for healthy, happy kids who are able to make their own way in the world. In this respect, regardless of method, you’re all on the same page. If free-range parenting sounds like it would suit you, great. If it isn’t, also great! ⭐