BIG NEWS! Free-Range Kids Meets Reality TV

Hi Readers! And now for something completely different: Television! I am about to start filming a reality TV show dedicated to the wild idea that our kids are at LEAST as smart and safe as we were — so why don’t we stop treating them like hand-blown swizzle sticks?

Yes. For real! This is a TV show that is going to try to turn the tide.

The show will feature yours truly going to the homes of parents who are OPEN to the idea of loosening the reins a little (or at least one of the spouses is), but still worry about a lot of What If”s: “What if the kids get hurt?” “What if they get lost?” And, of course, “What if somebody snatches them?”

And who can blame folks for worrying this way? Considering that most media spend the day screaming that our children are in terrible danger from everything you can think of (Germs! Dirt! Branches! Predators! Playing in tree houses! Going on sleepovers! Video Barbie! Valentine’s Day! Halloween!), parents are naturally at their wits’ end. As a result, sometimes even reluctantly, they forbid their kids  the kind of freedom that used to DEFINE childhood. The freedom to ride a bike to the beach, or meet friends at the park, or simply walk to school.

With any luck, the families and I will talk about what’s lost when kids are cocooned and what is gained when we teach them to start making their way in the world — safely! This is not about daredevil parenting. It’s about sort of old-fashioned parenting in modern times. And as somber as this post is starting to sound (somehow I’m hearing a cello solo as I write), the show should be FUNNY too.

So what I’m looking for is families who haven’t taken the Free-Range plunge yet, but are almost ready to try it, with me (and the cello) on their side. The only catch? They have to live in or around New York City or Toronto. I know that means missing a lot of great families, but those are my marching orders.

If you think your family might be interested, or if you know of another family that fits the bill, please drop a note to Sylvia Lee, the casting queen, at And also, please feel MORE than free to post this plea on your Facebook page or any social media you’re on. We really want to find some great families and have  a great time and spread the idea that our kids can be safe and sound, even if we are not watching them Every. Single. Second.

That’s it. Thanks for your help! (Don’t I sound calm?)  — L.

76 Responses to BIG NEWS! Free-Range Kids Meets Reality TV

  1. molly February 18, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Congratulations! :)

  2. Lori February 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Been seeing the tweets for awhile – congratulations! I’ll pass the word along. You will be great!

  3. leah e. February 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm #


    I can think of eleventeen families right here in my teensy Alabama town that would make stellar candidates.

  4. leah e. February 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm #


    SOOOO…when your show is uber-successful, perhaps the geographical pool could expand.

  5. Lisa February 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Wow, Lenore, this is AWESOME! I am so excited that your message will be broadcast to mainstream America. Parents need to hear it! Congratulations, can’t wait to tune in!!!

  6. Evelyn S February 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    I’m so sick of “reality” tv, they cancel all the good shows and broadcast that junk, not that I’m saying yours would be junk.

    good luck :)

  7. Get Kids Outside February 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Love it. What a great idea. We live in a very different world. Most kids I work with are not allowed to walk to school even if it’s a few blocks away. Can’t wait to tune in.

  8. Leanne February 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Hey, Canadians! We never get included.

    We are a 40 minute drive outside of Toronto. Look up Hamilton, Ontario on Google. It’s a straight shot on a major highway.

    We might be up for it. :)

  9. Leanne February 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I should point out that we are a tiny bit free range. Not a lot, but a little.

  10. Uly February 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    How free-range is it *really* when the kids have their own personal camera crews? Even if somebody were to try something, would they really do it ON CAMERA?

  11. Larry Harrison February 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Well, Ms Skenazy has made the big-time, and I think it’s wonderful.

    If we had a more common type of residence (we somewhat live in a shack in the woods, not “TV friendly” as it were) and if we lived in the New York or Toronto area, we would be more than glad to be a part of it.

    Those who will be able to be a part of it: I can promise that they will benefit tremendously from it, as will those who watch it and get it.

    I think this is just great. Finally, we’re taking it right to the media & getting a slot of sensibility to help counteract the nonsense out there.

    Way to go! You have my highest level of congratulations.


  12. enyawface February 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    I’m just curious though, what would happen if you and Super Nanny showed up at the same home at the same time?

  13. Juliet Robertson February 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    Congratulations! I know you’ll do a grand job. When you go international let me know!

    I got a great quote from a mother of a pre-school child who told me “When my girl climbs a tree, I just have to look the other way.”

    I thought that says a lot about the fear factors that exist …AND… the willingness of some to try and overcome them.

  14. helenquine February 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Fantastic Lenore! You *do* sound calm, though I’m sure you’re shaking with excitement. It sounds a world better than that first interview where you ere branded America’s Worst Mum though :-)

    Good luck. You’ll be brilliant.

  15. Frau_Mahlzahn February 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    We are just a tidbit too far from New York and Toronto, but if you ever need a family in…

    Austria let me know, *ggg*.

    So long,

  16. Tuppence February 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Taking it to the next level — Yippee!!

    Go team Lenore! Go team Lenore! (to be chanted while doing a dance that involves pulling knees to chest and flailing arms up and down)

    I’m from the NY area. I’ll spread the word with the folks back home.

    Congratulations, the very best of luck and — Go get ’em tiger!!!!!

  17. chris February 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    oh, that’s so exciting!
    And then you have to come over and film a British one, k?
    : D

  18. Henry Crun February 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Lenore, you do realise that as sson as it goes to air the Righteous, PC- child protection bandwagoneers will label you a child-protection sceptic who may or may not be in league with paedophiles.

  19. christy February 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    Is there a button to hit to post it to my facebook page?

  20. Michelle H February 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    Uly, I don’t like reality TV, but have watched enough to know that yes, yes they will try stuff on camera.

    This one might be interesting though, if you can find people to do it! Remember “Kid Nation?”. Kids did great and enjoyed experience, all their parents were called horrible, defective people for letting them do it? I only watched 1 episode of that though, just to see what the hype was.

  21. Kenny Felder February 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Are there any details yet–when it will premier, what channel, etc?

  22. Sarah M February 18, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    This is SOO great–congrats! I am totally sharing this with my FB friends!
    Sarah M

  23. Linda Wightman February 18, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Awesome! I sure hope it will end up on Hulu, because that’s the only way I get to see such things, and this is one show I won’t want to miss.

  24. Paul C. February 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Too bad you couldn’t volunteer OTHER families, like they do on “What Not to Wear”. There a few families I’d like to nominate.

  25. Silver Fang February 18, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    What channel will it be on? Will you put it on YouTube?

  26. Swain February 18, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Congratulations, can’t wait for the pilot!

  27. Filioque February 18, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Congrats Lenore! I’ve never been one for reality TV, in fact I can think of only one such show I’ve ever watched regularly, but I will tune into yours!

  28. SgtMom February 18, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    This is a winner, Lenore. Congratulations and our very best wishes – not just for you, but for the lives of children you might make better.

    I live far from New York, but would like to submit a photograph of our local bus stop every morning. If the weather’s nice, there are as many parents as kids gathered around the bus stop. If the weather’s cold, the kids are gathered around the bus stop while parents block traffic keeping warm in thier mini vans and SUVs, hovering nearby “just in case”.

  29. Emiky February 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    This sounds like something I would watch. Common sense like Super Nanny.

    Tragically Utah is quite free range in most areas. Even if you had more show range the place is useless.

  30. dmd February 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    Sounds wonderful, Lenore!

    I have to share a free-range moment. I am actually more free-range than my child is. He can be very clingy, which I’ve learned could be partially caused by his ADHD. He is great if I leave him home alone (although one day recently he inexplicably came screaming after my car), but he has been hesitant to take too many excursions too far from our block. The other day, we all went on a family bike ride. It had been a beautiful day, but by the time we went out, it was a lot chillier than we realized. We were heading home and my son started complaining how cold he was and how he couldn’t make it the rest of the way. So DH & I said fine, we were heading home, we’d come back to pick him up.

    The down side was my husband did have a moment of panic when he did go back, because my son was not there. But he was not there because he decided he could make it and rode his bike home alone! He was sooo proud! So was I, although leaving a spot when you know someone is coming back to pick you up is not ideal. But I gave him lots of free-range praise! I’m hoping I can get him off on his own a little further afield now. If only his friends lived a bike-ride away! They, of course, live miles away. The kid who lives closest is his nemesis!

  31. Emily February 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    I’m so excited for you! We’re in San Jose (CA, not costa rica) and our son is 13 months…if you ever need a family meeting THOSE criteria we’ll GLADLY offer ourselves up for your cause.

    Can’t wait to watch!

  32. Nathan Neulinger February 18, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Sounds fantastic! The one thing I worry about though is whether it will get twisted around once it hits the editing room because it will be more popular to attack the movement….

    Have you gotten any assurances that the focus won’t change behind the scenes on you?

  33. kristawhite February 18, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    I live in Toronto!! But I’m already Free-Range… or as much as I can be with a 9 month old.

    So excited you’re including Canadians though. Like Leanne said, we never get in on this stuff!!!

  34. Edward February 19, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    Great idea. Just so you have as much control over the production as possible. Hate to see it backfire. Not that there won’t be folks who will fail at the effort. Those stories will be a learning experience too.

  35. steve February 19, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    Congratulations, Lenore!

    When and where is your TV show likely to air?

  36. Cheryl W February 19, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    This is great!

    Last night I was reading an editorial in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine about how summer vacations were the time when the author learned most of the stuff that helped him later in life. This he contrasted with studies that show that summer vacation means lower test scores (math in particular.) And he thought how it may be unfair for some kids to be denied going to school year round, because families don’t think about going to the library or doing other things that can be very good for the kids.

    I hope that your show will help families loosen up a bit, and let their kids walk to the library so that they can read the books the want to – not just the ones on an AR list. Or let them explore the woods and maybe think about being a park ranger or biologist or some other related field. So many possibilities if the parents will let the kids explore and experience on their own. And trust the kids, that the time is not wasted time – it is good for them and their futures.

  37. Amanda Armstrong February 19, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    Great idea!

    However, I would be on our your non-compliant parents – my fear is just too great! I hope we get to see it in the mid-west!

  38. Jen February 19, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Awesome! Congrats! And thanks for being willing to take on such a project.

    When I read the article, I thought, “That’s US!” Except we life in MI, lol! My husband is very watchful of our 1 year old daughter, but he’s also pretty loose. He allows her plenty of independence. I try to follow that lead because I am absolutely certain that we are stunting and entire generation by being overly protective. Ah, but it is so hard not to hover and solve all her problems for her before she gets there.

  39. Joe Power February 19, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    Of course, the show will need a name. How about:

    Are You Safer Than A 5th Grader?
    Fear Facer
    The Real Real World

  40. Elizabeth February 19, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Congratulations, Lenore.

    I will be wishing the best for these families. Reality television is a scary place to be. I’m not sure how I feel about reality TV with kids, because it’s really super-amplified “reality”. All I can say is, please find a really fantastic lawyer to vet those contracts. I really feel that they will go for ratings, and ratings means danger, injury, and drama. So please everyone, be careful.

    Sorry… I know it’s ironic but honestly the one place I’d never put my kids is in front of the media.

  41. sylvia_rachel February 19, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    Hey, I live in Toronto! We’re already planning to let DD get herself home from school starting in September and self-supervise until we get home, though (among other forays into FRK), so maybe we’re already too free-range for your purposes?

  42. Susanna February 19, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    This is fantastic news!!

  43. EricS February 19, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    That’s awesome Lenore. Do you have info if or when it will be aired? I’d love to see it.

    @Larry: I remember you posting a link to a page where it shows you all the html codes for this blog. ie. making fonts bold, italic, underline, etc… Could I trouble you to post that again. Thanks!

  44. MJ Person February 19, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    How does this work? I mena, there are several “reality” shows that involve people roughing in alone in various countries… Well, alone except for that fully equipped camera crew following them around.

    I think kids being monitored by a camera crew are pretty much safe from abduction, even if the parent is passed out in a bar.

  45. Susanna February 19, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    Lenore, what do you think the best age range would be for the kids in the families who apply?

  46. helenquine February 19, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    MJ Person – Kids are pretty much safe from abduction anyway. A camera crew would not make a significant change to the odds.

    Also, why is everyone assuming the camera crew will follow the kids all the time? The parents are going to make for better TV most of the time anyway.

  47. Linda February 19, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    I live in Toronto. Our friends from Manhattan came to stay with us for a few days. Their two kids went off ‘free-range’ to the park, around the neighbourhood. When the kids went home, they told their friends that in Toronto you could be ‘free’.

    Glad to hear about this. About time all those ‘missing kids’ on milk boxes were outed for the fear tactic they are. Making decisions based on fear means bad decisions. best of luck.

  48. Crystal February 19, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    So sad that you’re only staying on East Coast! I’m so jealous of the families you pick!

  49. madmothermusings February 19, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    How exciting!! I will be tuning in! This is so awesome! I work at a local daycare, and I have seen many instances of parents who are terrified to let their child roam free. If I may… I think this may have something to do with the kind of attitudes daycare providers inadvertently encourage with our alarmist ways. Since working at the daycare, I have learned much about what children can and can’t do, and that Helicopter parenting just isn’t the way to go.

  50. Steven February 19, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Hello lenore…. please let me know when and which channel! good luck!

  51. Meggles February 19, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    Ooh, ooh, I can’t wait!!! Lenore, please don’t forget the “little people” who first read your blog.

  52. meghann February 19, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    That’s fantastic news – congratulations, Lenore!

  53. sherri February 19, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Finally a reality show I might want to watch!!!

  54. Michele February 19, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Yay!!! Way to go Lenore! What kind of network is taking this on? ABC? NBC? Oprah’s new OWN? Do tell! We subscribe to the most basic of package on our tv provider. Might just have to upgrade now if we can’t catch you!

    Looking forward to Free Range tv time!

  55. Staceyjw aka escaped to mexico February 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    AWESOME! good for you! did you ever ink that letting your son go on the subway would lead to all this?

    I wish We could be on your show, but alas, we don’t live in the right area, my sons too young to really be free range (6months), and Im already FR!!

    But if you want to do an episode about how kids are free range in Mexico, Im here for ya!

  56. Dawn February 21, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    Fantastic news, Lenore. Our town tends to be free-range – or it used to be. Since I have no kids in the lower schools and not being home when school gets out, I don’t know if kids still walk home like they used to do 10 years ago. They walk in bunches, stop by the library, the market, hang out with friends. It was a joy to see and I hope it still goes on.

    (There were always the helicopter parents…including the one mother who drove her child to school every day…when the school is LITERALLY right across the street – with crossing guard! But most were a bit more free range, especially as the kids hit late elementary to middle school.)

  57. JP Merzetti February 21, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Oh my,
    Much good luck with this one, Lenore.
    That’s my little town.
    And in my little neighborhood in my little town, freerange kids just absolutely haunt the infrastructure…like herds of roguish wildebeest, they throng along. You’d love it.
    But then, this takes place in a decidedly urban locale.
    I suspect you’d find good pickin’s out there in lala land – on beyond the rainbow, past the great divide…that lovely, lost and lonesome sloburbia of darksome dreams.
    Out there – where who hath gone “for the sake of the kids, honey!” , restless kids seek any little ray of sunshine, some sense of independent mobility, some nourishing encouragement that they will not go sadly from cradle to dad’s carkeys.
    Haunted parents may welcome you, gladly.
    Bon Chance!

  58. (TOO) February 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Let me know if you’re coming out west with this. My kids would likely scare the bejeezus out people with what I let them do. The other day, I was out of milk and didn’t want to wrap the toddler up against the Canadian cold. So I sent my 10yo dtr out in the dark at 8pm to run 2 blocks (including crossing a busy main street) to the local grocery store to grab me some milk and PB. I handed her a $20 and told her to get me a receipt.

  59. Elle February 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    Sounds awesome! I can’t WAIT to see this show – please do your best to make sure it is aired in Australia too!!

  60. Momof2 February 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    The *kids* of these parents are so blessed to have you walk into their lives. I can only imagine how stifled they must feel. Way to go, Lenore!

  61. Amy February 22, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    Yea! I can’t wait to watch it. I hope you find lots of families and have smooth production. Wishing you all the best.

  62. Chris Gould February 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Good news, I doubt I will watch it as we do not sit and watch this kind of stuff, but I will keep my eyes peeled and dvr it if we see it.

    Check out the below link for my free range kids that do right by doing good….not by my or any other parental request, byut from being free rangers;

  63. coffeegod February 22, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    YES! Spread the WORD! Congratulations, Lenore. This is more than a win for Free-Range. SQUEEEE!

  64. Jillian February 23, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    What age range are you looking for? I live on the UWS and have 3 that are 3 and under. Probably a bit too young. Plus, I don’t really wanna be on TV.

  65. Jillian February 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    I’m in a few parent groups so I’ll put the word out :) good luck!

  66. Jen February 25, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Mazel Tov!! I am so excited! Hopefully my skeptical friends and family to see what Free-Range is all about. I can’t wait for the details. When is it set to air? If you are ever filming in the Detroit area I can hook you up. We have some great tax incentives for that sort of thing these days:)

  67. mollie February 25, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Finally, perhaps a show that puts the “reality” in “reality TV!”

    Oh, Lenore, shine that light of yours, baby.

    Cheering for you from the west woast of Canada!!

  68. mollie February 25, 2011 at 9:13 am #


    Although “woast” was kind of cute I think.

  69. Rachel February 26, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    I would like to go free range. My husband won’t hear of it. We live in a community that is not gated, but could be (i.e., there is no through traffic, and if we wanted to put up a gate, there’s a place for one). I think it’s reasonable to allow my kids to roam the neighborhood (being told to watch out for cars coming out of driveways). My husband is paralyzed by the thought that some stranger will snatch them.

  70. Frank Di Giovanni February 27, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    I’m most defenitly in faver of teaching my son responcibility.But I cant seam to let him roam free.wen I was groing up thayr was no searious abduction probloms.what do you do? Give the kid a can of pepper spray and hope he dose not use it on a friend’s? I’m also in a disposion wen he neads help with basick 3rd. grade school work.So I;m teaching him what I know.As it is plain to see I can not spell to well. But I can dictate a meen buisnys letter. Catch 22 I tried the cell phone thing.what;s the sence in that if he will not bring it with him? He knows the basicks Open doors for ladies,hold the door for strangers,In short commen decientcy.I evean tried a debit card with him but he wont talk to the compeny over a small matter. Nothing mager thay simply want to speek to the card holder even though I;m the exectutor of the acount.The phone and debbit card wear supose to teach him some responceability. Also be two forms of tracking devices. Just in case.the DNA,photos and fingerprints do not make me feal aney saffer.So to shorten that I over icelate him. Causing lack of friends and lack of exersize.I cant even let him run lose in the park or my friends home in the contry setting. unless our dovie is with us she is the only one moor protective than I. This year he is going camping right wise for the first time.Were going to go hiking with nothing but what we can carry comfortibly.Fishing lyicense,pole,servivle knife with suply of food. tent and cookware.and acendently get lost on pourpos.Don;t worry it’s only a hundred acker patch of woods and I now every square inch of them.So realy what is the the realistick margen? as to how far to cut a kid slack in this day an age? We alredy hade a car creaping for over a week untill I confronted him in his car.Never saw him again after that day.One of the naberhood churches we wer atendeding refrenced a computer guy that turnd out to be a petafile.,then the drug traffic,wantabe gangsters,I thaught I wold let my son roam free at my friends cuntrie home.he foweld my friends little dog right into the quick sand. what if I wasent a gard dog hiding behind trees les than ten ft.away.Thayr is also lose cannen hunters that do not respect posted land,flash fludding creaks,ponds,agressive wild life even moor so with concistent land develoment.Realy If aney budy can anser ware do you let go ? What is escesive? And whare do you crose the line.I red some ware in NY. N.Y. some woman let her eaight year old loose on a sub way to acheave selfe cofidence.To me I could not do that.I have a brilent kid with all kinds of tallent and no waw to exspese it.and his kid on kid social skills developement is behind But he can hagel the heck out of a coin dealer.I have moor but out of time. Aney sugstions would be greatly apretiated. Thank you.

  71. crowjoy March 2, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    Wow! congrats Lenore! this is very exciting!!

  72. Nancy Disgrace March 6, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    What a great idea L I will be tuning in.

  73. Carmagaddon Kolman March 16, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    What about a mom who won’t let her kid eat cookie dough? Would she qualify? :-)


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