Found: A Free-Range Kid Of Recent Vintage!

Hi Readers — We talk (a lot!) about raising Free-Range Kids. Ever wonder what it feels like to BE one in this day and age? Or if there even ARE any in this day and age? Read on!

Dear Free-Range Kids: Well, I am actually 17, and for some strange reason, found this blog and I check it every day. I definitely agree with the idea of Free-Range Parenting and am happy to say that I had a Free-Range childhood (in the 90’s-00’s! gasp!) and will be raising my kids that way.

That being said, in my old neighborhood we lived maybe one third of a mile from my school and my mom usually walked me over. I wanted to go myself, and when I was in second grade, I was granted that privilege. I didn’t know many of the kids in my neighborhood, so I didn’t roam around that much, but I do remember my dad taking me to explore the woods near my house (until they bulldozed it) when I was maybe 5.

When I was about 10 we moved  to another neighborhood with tons of kids, about 12 others in the cul-de-sac alone, plus my two siblings, and another seven or so who would come up from down the street. I consider that to be when my childhood really began, even though I was already a little older. I suppose that may have had something to do with why my mom let us be so free, but my brother and sister were 6 and 7, respectively, and they were granted almost the same privileges, so…who knows?

Anyway, one benefit of Free-Ranging seems to be that kids grow up slower. I was playing imaginary games, exploring the woods, and going on adventures with the kids up until I was about 15.

Another family with three kids and us formed a “gang” called the Half-Dozen Pickles and we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood. Before another subdivision tore down the woods, we built forts and teepees out there. There were also a couple abandoned houses in the woods, and we (very scared at first) approached them and sneaked around the garage. Eventually we became more bold and roamed the entirety of the houses, playing hide and seek and bringing our lunches down there to eat in them. Once we wandered in the woods almost a mile or two when it snowed and we almost got lost.

We loved to play chalk houses, babies, teenagers, army, pine straw houses (where we “drew” houses by moving around the pine straw in the woods), capture the flag, hide and seek, manhunt, and lots more. Capture the flag and manhunt were our favorites, and it was great having so many kids to play them with. The only thing that was disappointing was that two of our friends had a pretty protective mom who wouldn’t let them leave the cul-de-sac and play after dark — which was the most fun time for those games anyway :) This made things difficult, because we’d often have to sneak away from those two kids to have our adventures, so they wouldn’t know we were leaving and be disappointed, since they weren’t allowed to come.

We would stay outside all day if possible with all the kids, only returning to grab lunch (although we usually took it with us and had picnics) and staying until our mom called us back in, usually after dark. The only rules were we had to be within calling distance when the streetlights came on, so we could hear her. Our “range,” now that I’ve looked it up on Google Maps, seems to have been four miles from our house, although I’m not quite sure my mom actually knows we went that far :) We’re perfectly fine though… actually, excellent, since we were able to have the freedom to explore.

Just thought I’d post this to show it’s not impossible these days, and that all of us kids, in my opinion, are amazingly ready for real life thanks to that freedom we were given. — Megan

25 Responses to Found: A Free-Range Kid Of Recent Vintage!

  1. Kim January 15, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    Yippee! Now I’d like to hear from someone who was raised by helicopter parents. Oh, that’s right, they wouldn’t be allowed to write about it! LOL

  2. Rich Demanowski January 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    Now if we could just get those morons in Washington to let us be Free Range Citizens again … 😛

  3. Andy January 15, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Sounds like the kind of childhood me and my brothers enjoyed, (mumble-mumble) years ago!

  4. Teacher Tom January 15, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Sounds like childhood to me.

  5. Stassja January 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Being born in 86, I grew up in the 90’s-00’s as well, and could almost have written this post myself. It’s an amazing gift!

  6. Kenny Felder January 15, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    Megan, if you’re reading this, I would really like to know about media. Did your parents resrict the amount, or the type, of television and computer access you had? What I’m really trying to get at is, how did they prevent the media from eating up your childhood? Was it always available, but you just prefered playing in the woods? This is really important to me as a Dad.

  7. Melissa January 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    I had a childhood like this too, in the 80’s-90’s. I want my kids to have the same. This is a great essay!

  8. Megan January 16, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Kenny- Funny you mention that… I’ve never really thought about the correlation, but we were fairly restricted compared to the other kids I knew. My mom tried several different methods, such as giving out “tickets” for electronics time, simply limiting it to an hour or an hour and a half per day… I think that was about the average. Unless we were really sneaky, we didn’t spend more than two hours max on any type of electronics total. Plus, we weren’t even allowed to watch Disney and Nick until I was maybe 11 or 12. Even so, she still had certain shows that were just off limits. We also watched a lot of things together, so it helped knowing that we’d all get together at say, 8 on Thursday nights and watch a certain program, that I wouldn’t be totally deprived. All that did force us to get pretty creative and make up things to do. It also helped having two siblings to do stuff with if we got bored.

    Wow, I can’t believe this got posted up here… I feel so honored haha :)

  9. jim January 16, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    If your kids live near woods or similar undeveloped “green space” an outstanding investment is a medium-sized iron bell on a post in the yard. (You can find these at any store specializing in “Americana” antiques and reproductions.) The kids’ “range” is “within earshot of the bell” – a couple of rings means supper will be on the table (funny how the decline in family suppers matches the rise in helicopter parenting – in the days when most childhoods were “free range” the evening meal was a daily family event) in a few minutes and a bunch of rings means “Hurry home in emergency mode – I’ll explain why when you get here.” Much better than giving a kid a cell phone or other electronic leash.

    From what I’ve seen of my favorite family (kids 9, 7 and 4) who just quit TV when the switch to HD came thru a while back: mom-approved DVDs as a reward/ family event, NPR news/ Saturday talk shows in the background, and limited, supervised Internet is about all the electronics you need to raise very informed, aware kids.

  10. Renee January 16, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    When teenagers think your parenting ideas are cool for the right reasons, there’s a lot to be said for that!

  11. idahodogs January 16, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    I was born in 1983 and had a very similar childhood to this. Including friends whose parents freaked out – I remember one particular mom hunting us down while we were riding from one kid’s house to another. She took her kids home in tears and I don’t remember playing with them so much after that.

    As for media – we had a tv, but no cable, which meant fuzzy ABC/CBS or PBS. There wasn’t enough “good” stuff on those channels for us to want to watch more than a show or two a day. I remember watching Masterpiece Theater as a family every Thursday night… didn’t understand most of what was going on, but we got ice cream! Must have driven my mom nuts asking so many questions.

    We were not allowed to have a game console, but our cousins did. We never liked playing with them, though, because they were good at it from playing every day, while we had no clue. To this day I don’t like video games because I’ve never managed to master the controls.

    I also don’t remember listening to the radio until about jr. high – my parents did, but it was always NPR or something, not music. I don’t know if I even knew you could listen to music on the radio until I was older.

    We got a computer (Mac Performa II) when I was in jr. high. The only game it had was Oregon Trail. When I was in HS we got a color computer with internet access, but it was so sloooow that again, it wasn’t that much of a draw. My parents never set controls on media except to mandate taking turns between my brother and I.

  12. shortylion January 16, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    What a wonderful childhood. I hope my daughter has the same experiences you did! Thanks for sharing.

  13. erica January 16, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    My childhood just flashed before my eyes. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I only wish my kids will have those same memories. If only those parents across the street would dare let their children outdoors instead of from SUV to McMansion, rinse, repeat.

  14. Jen C January 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    LOL @ Erica. I second both sentiments.

    Megan, tell your parents GOOD JOB! They obviously raised an intelligent, confident young lady. :-)

  15. Gustavo Solivellas January 16, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    “Anyway, one benefit of Free-Ranging seems to be that kids grow up slower. I was playing imaginary games, exploring the woods, and going on adventures with the kids up until I was about 15”

    Well, now we can add another benefit from Free Range Parenting, for those concerned about kids engaging prematurely in sexual stuff! This is really excellent! By keeping our kids´ minds shape, the whole or their lives will be also healthy.

  16. Kelly January 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Her childhood sounds just like mine and I’m 27, almost 28! Granted, I grew up in a rural farm area, so walking to school wasn’t an option…unless you wanted to get up before the buttcrack of dawn and walk the ten miles to get there. I noticed Megan’s comment about restricted TV watching, etc, I would have to echo that sentiment some. My parents didn’t really let us watch TV all that much, and we didn’t get cable until I left home for college. We didn’t have much in the way of video games either, but we weren’t exactly very wealthy being farm folk. It was way more fun to run around and pretend to re-enact what shows we did watch: MASH, A-Team, MacGuyver, Star Trek (Seriously, were we nerds or what?!).

    My parents were some of the first to get the internet in our neck of the woods and we followed the new quite frequently, but my mom was common sense through and through. In fact, she still is when my daughter goes to visit. They never bothered putting away the tools used for their home remodel which kinda freaked me out a little but Billa loved being able to look at and touch everything (with some supervision of course).

    All in all, I plan on raising my daughter the same way my folks did and it’s nice to know that the grandparents (on both sides!) are on board with the plan. After all, a little logic and common sense goes a long way! Thanks so much for sharing your side of things Megan, it was nice to relive the glory days :o)

  17. Kelly January 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    Idahodogs, your party has perished from dysentery! Oregon Trail was so much fun…where else could you learn about weird diseases that we now have vaccines for? We watched Masterpiece Theatre too and never really listened to the radio either. Here’s to Free Range Parenting… huzzah!

  18. Uly January 17, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    I don’t know that we DO have vaccines for dysentery. Isn’t it a bacterial instead of a viral disease?

  19. skippy January 18, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    This reminds me of my childhood. I lived in Belgium from ages 8-12 and since there was no English-speaking TV, my brother and I played outside, built forts both indoor and out, and invented games and stories. I remember moving back to the States and entering middle school, and feeling surprised and awkward that I was the only one still “playing” in that way.

  20. Jess January 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    not as young as the 17 year old (i’m 26) but my childhood was pretty free-range.

    I have a lot of fond memories of running around the neighborhood with the other kids and walking to the corner store for candy. My parents let me stay home alone when I was 6 for short errands and then about 8 or 9 for longer ones. I was allowed to babysit my sister when I was 11.

    One time when my sister was about 3 or 4 wandered outside and was walking around the neighborhood, I think she wanted to meet me at the bus stop. One neighbor saw that she was alone and called my dad to come get her. You know so many people nowadays would have just called the cops or CPS or something stupid.

  21. Frau_Mahlzahn January 18, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Actually, I think it’s kind of sad, that there even is an all important term for just letting your kids roam around the neighborhood and play outside and not be under observation all day. I mean, honestly: Free-Range-Parenting! If you even have to come up with a term lie that to make it… official or acceptable or whatever, that sucks. Just do it!

    So long,
    Corinna

  22. Dolls pushchairs January 22, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    Top site, great post. Although not sure I necesseraly agree with everyone on here.

  23. Alicia Reinhardt January 23, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    Reading Megan’s post was like revisiting my childhood as well. We lived in a fairly populated area, but had the luxury of a dead end road, so not much traffic. I remember playing out in the street with my sisters and the grandkids of our neighbors whenever they were in town. We would bike around and make up all sorts of games, not once thinking about restrictions.
    The other post about the bell made me think of my mom because she had this big iron triangle that she would clang for dinner, I didn’t know anyone else did that!
    It is nice to see that there were others having the same childhood as I did. I do hope to be able to raise my children in this manner, I loved it.

  24. Jennie January 23, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    Interesting the crossover between media influence and free play time. I grew up a free range kid (I am now 38, so it was a while ago now). We had to be home by dark and we had absolutely no media ban at all. My father made feature films, so I knew about all the interesting stuff that went into making them. It also gave me a good understanding of the facade of television. I even did actress work as a child, so perhaps the media inside knowledge game me a bit of a different perspective.

    With all of the media we so desired (dmittedly there was less back then, but we did have our own televisions), my brother and I rode our bikes far and wide. We played imagination games and followed our dreams and passions, believeing in our own capabilities. We did have computer games, but didn’t seem hooked by them, so I don’t buy into the media being responsible for the loss of such imagination. Certinly not in our family!

    It was interesting actually, because I was the wise one. The child with little to no rules, I knew the consequences of my actions, thus I was constantly being talked into doing things which really weren’t at all wise. I was also the first one to be blamed by parents when something went wrong. They needed film footage of me trying to talk their unwise child out of the stupid idea in the first place.

    I am committed to being a free range parent but am honestly concerned that my son would be judged and blamed as I was. How do I behave as a good free range parent but spare him of this judgement?

  25. Melissa January 26, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Sounds like my childhood too. Other people find it strange when I tell them I was still playing Playmobil and climbing trees at 15, but that is not uncommon for homeschoolers. I was allowed to have a computer, which I credit for my computing skills that have served me so well, but not the internet until I was 14 or so. I also had a gameboy.