How to Find Fellow Free-Range Families

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If you look at the tabs at the top of this blog, one says, “Find a Free-Range Friend.” (Online on its own its  freerangefriend.com). It’s a way to find other families near you who also want to give their kids more independence.

When my kids were younger, one stumbling block to getting them out of the house (and by “house” I mean 37-story apartment building) was that they’d look outside and not see any other kids to play with. I am pretty sure that other kids were looking out their windows and sighing, too. When the streets and parks are bare of kids, it’s a lot harder to get our own kids out.

Hence FreeRangeFriend.

It’s a free widget (or whatever it’s called), developed in different stages by Jonathan Meyers and Eileen Mullin. You enter your ZIP or Postal code, and the years your kids were born. You don’t put in their names, you don’t put in your address —  nothing that would allow your kids to be “stalked.” (Not that I think they would be, yada, yada….)

Then you can click to see other Free-Rangers in your neighborhood and send them an email. (Once again anonymously, etc., etc.)  They can email you back. (Yes! Without anyone seeing anyone’s “real” email address!) And if you want to get together so your kids can meet, you take it from there.

Frankly, it’s like a dating site. The goal is simply this: If my kids have Saturdays free and your kids have Saturdays free, now they’ve got some Free-Range Friends nearby. Out they go!

I realize this may seem a parent-intensive way to give kids freedom, but so be it. It was born out of the frustration I heard — and felt — so often: How do I find other parents who don’t think it’s crazy to let their kids play outside unsupervised?

So think of it as re-seeding the outdoors with children. Once a few are out there playing, running, bicycling, my hope is that other kids seeing them will want to join in. And their parents will let them, because it doesn’t seem weird, it seems normal. Everybody’s doing it! Why not start this weekend? We’ve got 500+ folks signed up already!

Good luck and please let me know how it goes.

Your Free-Range Friend, Lenore

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Come join us!

Come join us!

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16 Responses to How to Find Fellow Free-Range Families

  1. Playdatemyfamily April 10, 2015 at 9:10 am #

    Great idea, check out wee.playdatemyfamily.com, same concept but for the whole family

  2. Lisa @ Four Under Six April 10, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    Super cool Lenore, thanks! I just signed up. 🙂

  3. ExpatMom April 10, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    This is so cool. Thank you for allowing for a gender non-conforming option. It is so great to be able to check the ‘right’ box for my kid for once. Now to get more parents in The Netherlands to sign up!

  4. Jen April 10, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    It would be awesome to be able to see a general map of where the free range friends are located without having to sign up–even if it just shows a count by state or country.

  5. Emily April 10, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    @Jen–I agree. I’d much rather see a Free-Ranger Registry than a Sex Offender Registry. One other thing about the Find A Free-Range Friend app, though–I think it should indicate boy or girl along with the birth year.

  6. Divine Miss O's Mom April 10, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Love the idea… I signed up weeks ago when it was first mentioned. I just did a search… and unfortunately the closest I could find anyone registered was within 1000 miles of my location… much too far for even a free-range play-date, LOL.

    I have a question about the child’s/children’s age(s)… does it search specifically, or does it search a range (say, give or take 2 years)?

    Right now it might be helpful if we, as parents, could at least connect with other free-rangers in our community irrespective of the ages of our children for the purpose of building a free-range community in our immediate vicinity.

  7. John April 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    This is a great idea Lenore! When I grew up back in the 1960s, if kid of the same gender and age moved in across the block or even 3 blocks away, it wasn’t long before you met each other. Primarily because you’d see each other out playing. Nowadays, however, it wouldn’t surprise me that two kids of the same age and gender, who live a block away from each other, would not have a clue as to the other kid’s existence!

    I blame much of this on the cyber age. Computers, Play Stations and video games, activities you can engage in INSIDE the house, have kept many kids from going outside and playing the old fashion way, i.e. touch football, a pick-up baseball game, capture the flag, shooting baskets in the driveway, etc., etc. I also think adult organized youth sports has kept many kids who live in the same neighborhood from interacting with each other. I’m not saying organized youth sports are a bad thing, they’re not, but kids become so busy playing Little League and participating in their youth soccer/youth football league etc., that pick-up games in the backyard with the neighborhood kids have become a thing of the past, for the most part. Of course skateboard parks are much more popular than they were 40 years ago but that usually involves driving the kid to a central location away from the neighborhood.

    I myself don’t have any kids but I know there ARE kids in my neighborhood because I will OCCASIONALLY see a kid getting home from school. But I never see any of these kids outside playing with each other. It’s very important for kids to get outside and play because childhood obesity seems to be getting worse by the year (unless the data says otherwise) and this country will face a major health crises 30/40 years from now when many of these kids reach middle-age. But I’m very encouraged by the NFL’s 360 program and I certainly hope their advertisements will resonate with today’s parents.

  8. Emerald April 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    Hmmm. Tried to sign up on my cell phone, doesn’t work.

  9. beOHbe April 10, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    Filled out the registration form before realizing there was no Submit button on the page. There was this message at the very bottom of that page:
    To use reCAPTCHA you must get an API key from https://www.google.com/recaptcha/admin/create

  10. TimLSR April 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    I experienced the same issue:
    —–
    Filled out the registration form before realizing there was no Submit button on the page. There was this message at the very bottom of that page:
    To use reCAPTCHA you must get an API key from https://www.google.com/recaptcha/admin/create

  11. Lara April 10, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    My son is 11 and is allowed to go to the park himself, After all he is old enough, anyway. But he will only hang with friends he knows. So there is that. I have also noticed, in general, that boys don’t know how to make their own play dates until way older than girls. So I have to do all the work to get him a play date, free range or other wise. But otherwise when he does hang out with his neighborhood friend, rarely since it is all about us parents getting them together, they do goto the park to play on their own.

  12. Kathy April 11, 2015 at 12:58 am #

    I signed up but I am struggling with the search function. It will let me pick multiple years (ctrl-click) but when I do it doesn’t return any results. When I search just boys and my son’s year I get him (sadly only him in any reasonable range – come on North Texas!). But if I pick multiple years, or pick girls too, I don’t even get him anymore. It would be most useful if I could set a range of years and select any or all genders and search them all at once. I’ll keep checking back to see if more kids show up.

  13. Erik Henry April 11, 2015 at 6:49 am #

    just telling you, world’s worst mom isn’t airing anymore. you know why?

  14. Michael April 12, 2015 at 6:25 am #

    Will this work in Australia? Our postcodes are 4 digits if it matters. Could you make this work anywhere in the world please?

  15. Papilio April 12, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    “Now to get more parents in The Netherlands to sign up!”

    I’ve got to admit… There were all kinds of parks and playgrounds (soccer fields, basket ball ‘cage’) in our neighborhood, and Little Brother and I did go places by ourselves so we would have been perfectly allowed to go, and occasionally we did when we had other kids over (other neighborhood kids certainly did and do play in those places), but we still played in our own garden waaaaay more often than somewhere in a public space.
    Maybe it was because I wasn’t the sporty type and LB wouldn’t go alone, I don’t know.

    “(and by “house” I mean 37-story apartment building)”
    And now you live in Jackson Heights.

    That is SO puzzling, Lenore. I thought you were afraid of heights? 😛

  16. Lanya April 12, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    Thanks so much! I signed up.

    Can’t we please search by just year (any gender)? I’d guess most of us don’t care much about meeting only kids of a certain gender — and those who do could easily skip ahead, passing over the wrong-gendered search results.

    Thanks for doing this!