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