Sending a 6-year-old to the Store, Alone, in New York City


As we say in our house all the time, “Go Dog, Go!” as in hooray and carry on:

Dear znbersdyit
Lenore, I was newly married but still childless when my little brother sent me the article you wrote about letting your son ride the subway alone.  I was living in my home state of Montana, but had previously taught in the South Bronx so he thought I’d like to hear about your son’s adventure.


Fast forward a year or two and I had a kid of my own and my brother sent me your Free-Range Parenting blog because I was a mom and he thought I’d be the “FreeRange” type.  We had chickens at the time, so I laughed off the terminology but subscribed anyway!

Well, we’ve been back in NYC for the last 5 years, I founded a branch of a kick ass school called ALC Cottonwood for kids ages 2-6 ( and I’ve been raising my kids in this awesome city and I just want to thank you for speaking up about the fear based parenting epidemic in our country.  I feel a moral obligation to do something about it too.  Thank you for inspiring me.  That said, when this video got produced about my son and our parenting approach, I was proud and wanted to share it with you!
Here is The City Kid. Filmmaker Hanna Wallis produced the piece as a part of a larger project on NYC Values. 
I hope you like it.
Be well,
Sara Casey Taleff

Like it? Nah — love it! Of course kids can run errands, even in the city. Go Dog, Go! – L


Free Range Kid from Studio 20 on Vimeo. (This is the actual video. Press play!)


Honey, can you go to the store for me? (And not shoot anyone on the way?)

Honey, can you go to the store for me? And not shoot anyone on the way? (This is but an illustration. Press all you want and it won’t do anything.)


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23 Responses to Sending a 6-year-old to the Store, Alone, in New York City

  1. duckduckgo May 25, 2016 at 10:09 am #

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  2. lollipoplover May 25, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    “Momma, How do you make a Manhattan?”


    I think there are some great points this mom made in this video but at the same time, there were things (speaking as a suburban mom here) that made me scratch my head- the kid walking with his money in his hands to the store, the melted ceramic in the toaster oven, choosing a busy street corner to lay down and play with toys…not things I necessarily would say are free range or particularly safe. I’m all for experiences, but don’t quite think this kid should be using an oven without some guidance. But please, oh please MAKE ME A MANHATTAN!

  3. Dave May 25, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    My motto: Teach ’em, train ’em, and get out of their way. Of course, that doesn’t mean ignoring them – you still have to make sure they’ve learned their lessons and continue to make good choices. Sometimes it takes a bit of retraining to make a lesson stick.

    And, if you’re worried about kids making mistakes (like putting ceramics in a microwave oven), get over it. Mistakes = teachable moments. Kids (and adults) learn best from the mistakes they make. Embrace them, and used them to your (and their) advantage.

  4. Becks May 25, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    @lollipoplover I wonder if the reason you scratching your head over some of these points is because we’re not used to seeing independent kids and the things they might do when they’re not micro managed. I bet he won’t put ceramic in the oven again coz he learned first hand what happens. Carrying (what looked like) about $3 in his hand probably not a big deal but if he loses it – lesson learned. Learning by experience is the best way and the realistic consequences of the situations shown in the video aren’t life threatening.

    As a parent it can be hard to remember that making mistakes is ok and we can let our kids do things their own way and still get it right. Watching my son butter toast is painful but he’ll get better and at the end of the day he gets butter on the toast – job done.

    🙂 x

  5. Vaughan Evans May 25, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    Children sometimes HAVE to approach adults(or older children)if they are lost, puzzled, or injured.
    If I was a teacher, policeman, or parent, Here is what I would do.
    I would emphasize:
    -That if you DO approach someone-(if you are lost, puzzled, injured)whether he/she is a stranger or not, you MUST

    -disclose the fact that you SPOKE to him/her first.

    Explain WHY you approached him/der

    Detail,HOW the person acted towards you
    Jus because a person is LGBTQ-or just because he/she has a mental problem does NOT mean that he is going o behave inappropriately.
    -A respectful adult-even if he IS retarded, having a mental health problem or LGTB- would act discretely-if approached by someone-whether the person-doing the approaching INVOLVED is a child or an adult

  6. pentamom May 25, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

    Becks, my thought is that in a bigger city, even in a “better” area, the danger is not so much his losing the money (not a big deal) but being knocked down and having it taken. Adult street criminals rarely pick on kids but the ones that are kids themselves have no such scruples. Holding it where it is visible just increases his potential as a target.

  7. pentamom May 25, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    And besides, why does the kid have to learn EVERYTHING by experience? What’s wrong with saying, “Sure, you can make your lunch, but don’t use that dish in the toaster oven” and “Great, go ahead and walk to the store, but it’s safer to put your money in your pocket”? Parents do have some function, other than paying the bills and driving.

  8. Theresa May 25, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    I may not know much about parenting but I think if you give good advice you can get good results. I know some people think free range is no rules but it not. There might be some different things that you do that I don’t but we manage.

  9. lollipoplover May 25, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

    Amen, pentamom.

    I liked this video and seeing an independent kid who was singing and having fun. He seems like an awesome little dude! I don’t think it’s micromanaging kids to have basic kitchen safety and teach what is oven safe. If the kid burned down the kitchen, I guess he will learn his lesson and never do that again? Just pour a stronger Manhattan?

  10. Poppy May 25, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    I’m a classic European 1970’s “free range kid”, before the term became trendy (and it still isn’t here, since kids are still much more free here compared to what I’ve heard and seen from American kids. Especially in my country, where almost every 8-year-old and up cycles to school, their friends, sports clubs etc. unaccompanied by adults). But not every single thing has to be learned by kids on their own, by experience and unsupervised. Having a dish melt in the oven? Just tell him that stuff can’t go in, and why, instead of him messing with an oven all alone. And sure, kids can run little errands to familiar places like the corner store. There’s no pedophiles lurking behind every bush. But letting a 6-year-old walk around a busy city with a handful of visible cash? Not a great idea, imho. Other than that, I’m all for allowing kids to learn and grow by having (age-appropriate) independent experiences, rather than through parents hovering over them and belittling them unnecessarily.

  11. SanityAnyone? May 25, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

    My Mom-in-law loves to regale her grandchildren with tales of her freedom growing up on the Lower East side and in Queens. From age 4, she had the run of the neighborhood. Family lived in buildings within 5 or 6 blocks of her home, and she ran around knocking on doors. The cousins and Aunts knew her favorite meal and invited her in to eat. Her Mom would send her to the butcher with instructions to come home with a “nice chicken”, which she could choose from live stock. The corner pickle vendor knew her preferences well, and she has beloved dialogues about choosing her “nickel pickle”. None of these interactions involved her Mom and Dad or older siblings. Further, as the eldest girl of six children, she took the babies and toddlers to the library, to school, fed them, and watched them.

    She loved her free-range childhood that almost all the kids in her area were afforded, calling it normal.

  12. Amy May 25, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    Love this!

  13. elizabeth May 25, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

    I blew up the microwave boiling eggs the express way. Im twenty years old, btw. Mistakes happen.

  14. James Pollock May 25, 2016 at 10:34 pm #

    ” why does the kid have to learn EVERYTHING by experience?”

    The less sticks better, usually.

    Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

    Intelligence is when you can learn from your mistakes
    Wisdom is when you can learn from the mistakes of other people.

    What worked for me was explaining, for my child, the rationale of decisions I was making. This let her learn how to arrive at the same answers I would have for questions like “is it OK for me to go to a friend’s house to play?”, is it OK if I decide to play this game inside the house?”, and the like.

    Occasionally, if she asked me a question to which I thought she knew (or should know) the right answer, instead of giving her the answer, I’d ask her to explain the reasoning (no, you can’t have that snack while I’m literally in the middle of making dinner, and you know why.)

    That said, I did not send my daughter to store alone, until she was much older. I did send her to the counter at the McDonald’s when she decided she’d like to have something she hadn’t ordered the first time. Is that close enough?

    And, now that potty-purity has become a national issue… as a single father, I sent her alone into the ladies’ room (gasp) where, if she encountered any transgendered people, she didn’t think it important enough to mention.

  15. sexhysteria May 26, 2016 at 2:55 am #

    Great video, and it looks like a wonderful family. There is something seriousy wrong with our government when a parent’s greatest fear is the police!

  16. Becks May 26, 2016 at 3:32 am #

    @pentamom yep I totally hear you. There are some lessons we definitely don’t want them to learn by experience. One being the example lollipoplover gave and others like it. We definitely don’t want our kids being mugged. However I might say to my kids ‘do it this way, it’s safer/easier/quicker’ but they ignore/forget my advice and do it their way so if something goes wrong they’ve learned but now they see it for themselves.

    Anyway, I know we all get the point and mostly agree we want independent but safe kids.

    It was a great video – very encouraging 🙂 x

  17. Donna May 26, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    While I agree that we shouldn’t send kids into the kitchen to cook unsupervised without first teaching them cooking safety, it is clear from the film that the mother had told him not to use ceramics in the toaster oven and he just forgot. He even says to his mother “you told me not to put ceramics in” and his mom reminds him that he is supposed to use glass. It happens. I’ve even been known to forget things a time or two.

    There are certainly some things that we don’t allow our children to do without supervision, or even do at all, until we are as sure as we can be that no mistake will be made because the stakes of the mistake are simply too high. But the possibility of melting a plate in the toaster oven certainly doesn’t fall into that category and, unless he does it regularly when he cooks – at which point it may be time to rethink his maturity to do things on his own – it is just a simple mistake made that he can learn from.

  18. lollipoplover May 26, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    @Becks- Agreed.

    I love when my kids to cook their own food. It’s really a lost art, home cooking, especially among children. They should be experimenting in the kitchen. Yet at the same time, as someone who cooks frequently, I set off the smoke alarm the most and have caused epic accidents (the broiled sweet potato casserole fire on Thanksgiving was memorable). I want my kids to learn to cook but treat it like teaching them skiing- beginner, intermediate, advanced. Once they’ve passed levels and acquired skills, they could move on to more complicated moves and appliances. Toaster, waffle iron, sandwich press, toaster oven, stove top. The youngest asked for a brulee torch for her birthday (she also wants a kitten with something wrong with it). I’m leaning towards the kitten.

  19. pentamom May 26, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    Donna, agreed. The stakes aren’t that high and I wouldn’t knock the kid down to prevent him from using the ceramic dish, or hover over him moment by moment to make sure he didn’t. Heck, one of my kids almost destroyed a microwave because of the way he tried to cook something that I didn’t feel he needed supervision for, and we all survived. I was just reacting a bit to the idea (or at least the one I perceived) that Free Range means letting your kid make *all* his own mistakes, with no real teaching beyond “this will get you literally killed.” I think there’s room for instruction about how to do things, with the room for the kid not listening, forgetting, or whatever, when it’s not a life-threatening issue. Learning how to take instruction so you don’t have to learn absolutely *everything* the hard way is something worth teaching our kids, too (and I don’t think you disagree.)

  20. SKL May 26, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    Making mistakes is an essential part of becoming an adult (and also of being an adult).

    The way I manage this at home is to say “thanks for telling me right away” when someone causes a problem. Then we fix it together / discuss the reason why the choice was problematic / what would have worked better. Sometimes I say, “now you know why I told you not to do that.” 😛

  21. Blablabirdie May 29, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

    I don’t think this is a great example of free range parenting. Giving your children freedom means also giving them responsibility, and you need to make sure that the individual child is up to the task. As a free range parent this means I make decisions on what my kids can do based on my child’s abilities, not necessarily their ages. This means I give my children different levels of freedom.

    If my child did not follow safety instructions for cooking my home, after coaching and teaching from me, then they would lose that privilege until they became more confident and understanding of the responsibility.

    Same with going to the store. We live in Europe and a lot of kids have a great deal of freedom early on. My 6 year old goes to our local store every Saturday to use a small amount of his allowance to buy some candy. If I found out he was behaving like the kid in this video, I would accompany him a few times until he learned to better handle himself in the street. But before that, I would probably hear from my neighbors and other neighborhood kids that he was running around with his money hanging out.

    Being free range doesn’t mean my kid needs to figure everything out from scratch, it means that I trust them to be able to handle responsibility and I take the time to teach them. They will make mistakes and they will also learn in the process, but it is still my job to give them the tools to have the best chance of success. And also to show respect for the rest of society and people around them.

  22. Sunshine June 7, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    I do think it’s kind of weird that she sent him to the store alone, BUT she had him lay down and she brushed his teeth for him.

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