Take the Free-Range Challenge! (It’s Almost Pathetically Easy)

Hey Free-Rangers!
Here’s a cool idea I got from the gal who runs the blog  Mommy rraiybieif
. She said: Why not post a  Free-Range Challenge and have folks write in to say how it went?

Sounds good to me! So here’s Free-Range Challenge #1,  based on a comment that just came into this site. A reader wrote:

I live in a typical residential subdivision with my seven-year-old son. I honestly cannot remember ever seeing any kids riding their bikes or walking around the neighborhood in the 3+ years we’ve been living here. Everyone stays on their own block or in their own cul-de-sac.

Not anymore. I’m making it my goal to change that sad fact. By the time I was seven, I had explored my entire neighborhood and the nearby woods and creek. I carried my own money and spent it on candy and trading cards at one of the stores up the street (and I walked there without my parents). And so did every other kid in my neighborhood!

So yesterday I decided it’s time for my son to start doing the same kinds of things I did when I was that age. When I got home from work, I told him he could ride his bike all the way around the block by himself. That may not seem like a big deal (because it’s not), but none of our neighbors had ever let their kids do that. So off he went. And guess what? He made it back! Same goes for the three subsequent trips he made.

I made it clear that he needs to tell us before he sets off on an adventure around the neighborhood, but no longer will he be constrained to our isolated cul-de-sac. With any luck it will rub off on the other parents in the neighborhood.

So Free-Range Challenge #1 is to do what that parent did: Teach your child how to ride his/her bike — safely! — just a little further than before. Not downtown to the strip club. Not over to the rickety bridge at night. Not to the local chapter of NAMBLA. (Don’t ask.) Just another block or so beyond the old limits, after you have duly checked out the nabe and the street crossings, etc. etc. etc. (I know — I’m sounding like a lawyer.)

In other words, just push your envelope ever so slightly and see if this feels good or nutty, and see how your kid feels about it, too. Because, after all, Free-Range Kids is not just dedicated to grrrr-ing about uptight busybodies and ridiculous regulations. (Satisfying though that is.) It’s also about making neighborhoods friendly and open again, and bringing back community, and giving kids something to do besides spending 6-plus hours a day staring at a screen, which is what the average 8 to 10-year-old now does. Getting kids out and about makes everyone happier and safer (and for what it’s worth: skinnier).

I know some of your kids are too young to bike, and some are so old they’re biking through ancient ruins in Indonesia. But for those of you who fit the bill — let us know what transpires! Your kids can write a comment too, of course. That would be great! Happy Free-Range trails! — Lenore
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48 Responses to Take the Free-Range Challenge! (It’s Almost Pathetically Easy)

  1. Stassja July 29, 2009 at 5:14 am #

    I can’t take the challenge myself just yet (my son is only 2) but I grew up this way, biking all over. In our first neighborhood (age 5-10) I was all over, in the woods, and up to the 7-11 with friends. After that (age 11-18) I would bike all over the neighborhood, down by the lake, to a convenience store for snacks, the library, the rec-center and the pool. Granted, there were no major streets to cross, we were blocked in by some pretty busy roads.

    I am quite impressed by our neighborhood. There are ALWAYS kids out playing and biking, of all ages, going to the park on their own and walking to/from school. It’s military housing, and given the size of the houses (Number of bedrooms) EVERYONE here has children. My best friend has always bad-mouthed military families for letting the kids run free unsupervised so much, but now I have to wonder about her perspective. The kids are mostly being good, parents are around, and there are plenty of friendly parents nearby if they should need anything. It’s nice to see our cul-de-sac full of kids every night.

  2. ChristineMM July 29, 2009 at 5:18 am #

    Thought of you today and it relates to this post, coincidentially. In my town pretty much no one rides bikes, and I live in a 3 acre zoned rural town w lots of watershed protected property.

    While on the state road w 45 mph speed limit, saw 3 boys aged no more than 11 riding bikes alone. Gasp. The nearest house was over a quarter of a mile away.

    If I had a camera with me I’d have snapped a photo of those Free Range Kids.

    This challenge is a good idea.

  3. Iva July 29, 2009 at 5:37 am #

    My son took this challenge last year when he walked home from school (something that really isn’t done in our community). It took him less than ten minutes to get home…and he let himself in and did his homework while waiting me to get home (about 20 minutes later). He’ll 11 1/2

  4. Summer July 29, 2009 at 6:01 am #

    I just bought your book this weekend at BlogHer, and missed you for the book signing. I’m going to try this. And I’ll be holding my breath and terrified inside, but I’m going to let him go a little further than before.

  5. Tardy July 29, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    My son is right this minute on his way, by himself, to Citifield to catch the Mets game. He’s going to meet his dad inside the stadium. He just graduated 8th grade. . Since we live in Westchester, it will take him two train rides(Metro-North to Grand Central, then the #7) to do so. No big deal, right? Maybe if he were 7 or 9 or 10 it would be extraordinary. But to me, it’s old news.

    Well, you would have thought that I sent him into the wilds of Central Africa if you heard his friend’s mom. THAT’S NEW YORK CITY!!!! ARE YOU CRAZY!!!! HE”LL GET MUGGED!!! IT MIGHT RAIN!!!! (heh, yeah, I laughed at that one too, like he’ll melt or something).

    Never mind that he’s been riding trains and subways and going to games since he was 4. Never mind that the kid has a mental map of the entire subway system in his head. Never mind that next year, he’ll have to ride the trains to get to his high school. I should just wrap him in a bubble and never let him wander more than 1/2 mile from home.

    Truth is, I worry more about the short walk to the train station than the city part of the trip, more because it would never occur to the drivers around here that people would walk to get around. But then, he’s as well aware of that as I am.

  6. Dawn July 29, 2009 at 6:18 am #

    I have recently done this with my daughter. She is 7 1/2 and we live in a small rural town, but I had only let her ride on the sidewalk in front of our house, 1 blk length. I’ve now started letting her ride around the block including a length that has no sidewalk. We talked about bicycle safety and the correct way to ride on the area with no sidewalk. She LOVES it.

    Due to this, I’ve also decided to let her bike to school this upcoming school year.

  7. Jocelyne July 29, 2009 at 6:49 am #

    Reporting in with an urban five year old – still on training wheels – now allowed out of the driveway and around the corner out of sight. He’s loving the freedom, I’m loving the tired kid at the end of the day.

  8. Greg Barnes July 29, 2009 at 7:05 am #

    Every year our children get a new right and responsibility for their birthdays. Our older (9 years) child’s responsibility this year was to do short errands for us to nearby stores (on foot). We tell him to be sure to cross at stop signs and stop lights, and he only has to cross a couple of streets, but it’s great to have someone else who can go pick up a dozen bagels or a small thing from the store, and so far he’s happy to have the responsibility.

    I keep telling him when he’s bored he should go ride his bike up and down our street (that’s how I got most of my bike experience when I was his age), but so far he has resisted. I’ll try again, once it stops being 100 degrees out.

  9. Wendy H July 29, 2009 at 7:16 am #

    “Not downtown to the strip club. Not over to the rickety bridge at night. Not to the local chapter of NAMBLA. (Don’t ask.)”

    Jeez you just take all the fun out of it don’t you. 😉

    This actually reminds me I should check on the woman who lives down the street. She’s elderly and it’s over 100 right now. My daughter and I have met her a few times when we’ve gone “adventuring” (which what I call letting her decide what paths we take and where we go, she’s three so no doing it alone for now) throughout the neighborhood.

  10. Lani July 29, 2009 at 7:19 am #

    Tonight I let my almost 9 year old stay home alone for the first time for an hour while I took her little sister (almost 7) to her Taekwondo lesson. She had to stay in the house and lock the doors and had an extra chore to do while I was gone but boy was she proud of herself! We have a no TV or computer after dinner rule so those things were off limits. Instead she read her book on Egyptology (on my big bed which is a treat for her) and created an Egyptian tomb out of building blocks which she took a picture of with my camera in case it fell down before her Daddy or I got home. Now she and her little sister have gone off on their bikes and I probably won’t see them until it’s time for them to come in for showers and bed. Yay for free range kids!

  11. Pugs July 29, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    NAMBLA – National Association of Marlon Brando Look Alikes.



  12. MaeMae July 29, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    I actually started letting my kids ride their bikes farther shortly after coming upon this blog. I realized how much different my children were growing up due to the posters here and set about changing it. My children have thrived. My sister lives a mile away and the library is two doors down from her. My kids go back forth all the time. I also let them ride to lax practice and now I don’t have to spend one and half hours sitting on the bleachers twice a week. I’m loving it as much as they are! Funnily enough, it’s when my kids walk these same routes that we get the comments. But as we homeschool and they are out on their own during school hours I’m amazed we haven’t been approached more often.
    My daughter might respond to this one. She subscribes to this blog and posts under the name “hockey gabster.” I’d like to see what she thinks about her freedom on a bike.

  13. Rae July 29, 2009 at 9:34 am #

    This reminds me of my son when he started 3rd grade just after we moved here. There is a neighborhood elementary in our square mile, but he attended the “magnet” elementary across town so he had to catch a bus at the neighborhood school to get to his. Since he could get to the nearby school by going through the neighborhood, we went for bike rides together to learn the route before school started. We timed the route on bike and on foot in case he walked. When the first day of school rolled around I asked him if he wanted me to take him the first day to help him find his bus, he said no. I told him that the school office would probably be just inside the main doors and to go there if he had any trouble or couldn’t find the bus. He did fine that day with no problems.

  14. babelbabe July 29, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    wah! You were at BlogHer? yet another reason I am sad I could not go!

    My 8 and 6year olds can ride their bikes/scooters around our block and up and down the alley (it’s a big block so that gives them lots of room). Because of living in the city and the fact that out street gets treated like a raceway, they are required for now to remain on the sidewalk (that is, not cross the big street); once they are better on their bikes, I will let them. But I keep waiting for some other parent to complain to me, but as it turns out, the kids down the alley from us are permitted to do the same thing – so suddenly we have a gang of Free Rangers. it’s terrific to watch them all tear by on their bikes and listent o them yell and laugh…

  15. Anna B July 29, 2009 at 10:24 am #

    Greg–same here. Each year we add a street in each direction for “boundaries” in the neighborhood in addition to a new task in their routines.

    Today, 7 YO son stayed alone for the first time. We were out of coffee, so I was going to the local shop to grab a cup. I gave him the option of staying or going. He was quite nervous. “My tummy feels funny, but I want to try.” I was gone 11 minutes.

    Before I left we went over the rules, “Don’t let anybody take me” was the first he mentioned. “That is right, never go anywhere with someone you don’t know, but even if I was ready to trade you in, it would take 750,000 years for someone to snatch you if I left you in the yard.” He rightly pointed out that no one lives that long.

    We did have a teaching moment for what to say if the phone rings, and we decided that he would not answer it and just let it go to voice mail. I also added no roasting a chicken, no making Ninja throwing stars and no tap dancing on the roof.

  16. erin July 29, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    well, about a month ago i let my 5 year old son walk two blocks to a friends house to pick something up for me. she watched him walk back because she was afraid he would be squished or taken. i explained that if i didn’t feel it was safe enough for him to do it, then i wouldn’t have let him. when i later explained that there has never been a case of child abduction in our town, her reply was “ourtown is growing rapidly, there is a first time for everything and we live next to a major highway” (fyi, to get to the major highway, you have to leave the neighborhood and cross through a small business area). her kids will not be allowed to walk alone to my house until they are at least 10 (the oldest just turned 7). again, TWO blocks between our houses.

    anyway, i had contemplated whether or not i would start letting him do this (and his sister who just turned 5). when i came across your blog is when i realized how silly i was being. the fact about our town never having a case of child abduction is true, told to me by the county investigator when i asked. both of my older children have now walked to our friends’ house alone and have enjoyed it very much. we’ve also started going door-to-door on our street looking for other kids my own kids can play with. i’m excited to start letting them venture out on their own!

  17. Grenacia July 29, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    I’ve already been doing this. A few days ago I told my 8-year old she could ride her bike wherever she wanted, so long as she told us where she was going and got permission first, watched out for traffic, didn’t let herself get lost and stayed off dangerous roads. She said, “I’m just going to ride down to the park by the creek like I always do”. We live two blocks from a creek with a bike path along it, and her self-established range for riding by herself is those two blocks and a short distance up and down the bike trail. Back in the spring her range was around our block. I’m proud of her and look forward to her riding to the library on the other side of the creek a bit later when she decides she’s ready for it.

  18. Kelly July 29, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    1. This is a wonderful idea. I have been wanting to see some posts that were in a positive vein, and this is perfect. Thanks for a great idea. We are a cycle-oriented family so I will definitely think of how I can apply a special challenge to us.

    2. Apologies if anyone’s already seen this, but here’s a video of my family biking 30 (rather hilly) miles together – my son (5) riding on the back of our bikes, our seven-year-old daughter did the whole trek by herself.


    3. In future articles would you consider substituting the concept of “physical activity makes kids skinnier” with “healthier”? “Skinny” and “healthy” are not synonymous and although I am pretty darn active I am not “skinny” nor do I think I need to be.

  19. beanie July 29, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    Aha! We beat you to the milestone! My 8-year-old just completed her first trip, sans parents and older sister, to the ice cream shop, about 1.5 miles from the house.

    She was nervous, to be certain (there are no sidewalks where we live), but she got there alright (and yes, of course I drove out with the car about ten minutes behind her, just in case. Because I’m still a little paranoid). But she did it! And she was thrilled with herself.

  20. Karin Livingstone July 29, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    This would make a great Free-Range Kids t-shirt slogan: “But What If It Rains?”

  21. TessaS July 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    I like the challenge. I allow my 8 & 10yo’s to ride their bikes around a local .25mi bike loop while I push my toddler in his stroller. They lap me–as well they should–and I don’t worry about it. One day a couple of moms stopped me to warn me that a killer or rapist could nab them while they’re on the section obscured by trees. I thanked them for their concern, and took their advice for what it’s worth.

    Tonight I surfed from this blog post directly to the local paper, only to find this:


    quote from the article:

    “Let this just be a lesson when I tell you guys to stay by my side so I can keep an eye on you,” he said he told his children. “That’s why I do that. Times are different.”


  22. gonzomama July 29, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    since my boy is not quite 3, i’ve been trying to find little things he can do on his own and not have me right there with him. i let him go into a public restroom and do his deed on his own. of course i stand outside so i can hear him if he needs assistance. when we hike he can run as far ahead of us as he is comfortable with (which is usually just out of sight). i let him walk to the neighbors houses on his own. and i encourage him to talk to strangers. while these are little things to me they make him so proud and confident and it lets me know what next steps he’ll be ready for.

  23. KW July 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    My 17yo son is riding his bike to softball tomorrow night. Yes I’m nearly ashamed to write that I initially protested to this because he is afterall *17*. But but but … it’s a really long ways from home … and there is this loooooooooong stretch of super narrow road … and he has to cross a *highway* for goodness sake … and there was that time I nearly hit a biker on that very road … and then there is all the car traffic at the game itself where the parking lot is so squashed.

    My husband nearly banned me from making any further parenting decisions when he heard I was protesting. I get that look of “honey you have gone too far” from the man who spent his childhood traversing a decent sized city on his bike. With parents who only cared if he was home for supper. And he didn’t even have a cell phone!

    The boys pointed out the highway is lightly traveled and easy breezy to cross. The loooooong stretch of super narrow road is actually wide enough to safely accommodate bike traffic (oh, ummm yeah now that you mention it, I can see what you mean … did they widen the road or did I just dream it all?). They also remembered me nearly hitting the biker, who they pointed out was an immature kid swerving all over the road (another foggy memory of mine). And of course they have biked more miles in one trip than it takes to get to the game anyway plus they know to be careful for cars in a parking lot (DUH mom). Okay … I give up! Go! Have fun! We’ll meet you there! And now my 15yo will be riding his bike too.

    I almost handed in my Free Range Parent badge in the shame of it all even though I did recover my good senses in time (with a little prompting).

    Now, I just want to buy the t-shirt that says, “But What If It Rains?” Love it!

  24. Daisy July 29, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    I like your Challenge idea: a practical way to make positive changes within this internet community and our own neighborhoods. My 6 year old’s bike range is currently around our city block, because of a very busy street in front of us, but that might have to stretch when she comes back from a month of running feral with a pack of cousins in my husband’s village, where children have been free-ranging since time immemorial. It’s so interesting to see her relearn freedom at the beginning of each visit there: “Can I go downstairs?” “Can I play outside?” “Can I go to grandfather’s?” I keep saying: “Just go! You don’t have to ask!” but it always takes her a while to adjust. Similarly, with every annual return to city life she chafes at the confinement and pushes her range a little further.

  25. kennyfelder July 29, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    I’m loving this one, Lenore. I think we all need a reminder that our goal is to help our kids, not just to vent. I know that I, for one, probably enjoy the venting too much 🙂

  26. Elfir July 29, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    My realtor has custody of her 7-year-old granddaughter and while I wouldn’t want to tell someone how to raise a child I’m sometimes shocked by how not free range the child is. I’m sure she wouldn’t be allowed to ride her bike around the block alone.

    Another challenge suggestion: Camping in the back yard.

  27. barb July 29, 2009 at 9:03 pm #

    Our 6 yo is allowed to ride his bike around the block with a sibling. He’s not quite strong enough on his bike to go alone.

    I did have to go after them once last year because it took a very long time for them to return from one ride–turned out they stopped to chat with someone. I reminded them they were going around the block and could come tell me they were going to talk with someone and then go back and it would take less than 5 min.

    We are on a “collector” street so it gets busy but the two streets on either side are very generous when they have block parties to invite the folks “around the corner”. The road is blocked for the afternoon and the kids all ride in the road. Comparing road v sidewalk conditions it’s probably safer to ride on the road if the cars could be trusted.

    Our two oldest (13, 9) ride bikes the ~1.5 miles to the pool. I think swim team for the 9yo means being able to ride to the pool by herself and less about the actual swimming! They have a route mapped that takes them to traffic lights to cross 2 busy roads. We know 3 other families in our neighborhood where the kids meet and ride together to the pool for swim lessons. Almost a right of passage to join that “posse” 😀

    We have too many skunks in the neighborhood so the kids know that camping in the yard might mean not being able to use the bathroom at night if the “neighbors” are foraging for grubs. They don’t run away from people. The children have camped in the backyard in the winter with dad @ below 32deg and he gives them Cub Scout “I survived” penguin/polar bear patches with the date inscribed w/a sharpie marker on the back. Not my cup of tea to camp in freezing weather so most of my children have done something I have not done.

  28. barb July 29, 2009 at 9:14 pm #

    Pass on our congratulations to Sophie for her 30 miles. Awesome achievement. It looks like you all had a good time.

  29. Anne July 29, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    Just saw this this morning and posted it to my Facebook friends! Unfortunately it’s supposed to pour down rain here all weekend, so we may have to do boundary-expanding the beginning of next week. But plenty of my friends are totally astonished that I let my almost-8 year old go to the park in our teeny tiny town 1 1/2 blocks away with two friends. She wears a watch, she knows what time to be back, she knows not to go anywhere else without telling me, what’s wrong with that? Sometimes otherwise sensible people make me wonder….

  30. Chris July 29, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    We gave our 9 year old daughter permission to ride her bike with a neighbor’s 11 year old boy to a local park last weekend. The park is less than a mile away. It didn’t happen – the boy couldn’t get permission to go.

  31. Susan July 29, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  32. Elizabeth July 29, 2009 at 11:26 pm #

    I wish my kids were old enough for this challenge. But I LOVE the idea of giving kids a new responsibility every year for their birthdays! We’re doing that starting now!

  33. Alexicographer July 30, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    @Karin Livingstone

    This would make a great Free-Range Kids t-shirt slogan: “But What If It Rains?”

    The back should contain a direct quote from my mother, used many, many times during my childhood (and now repeated by me to my son):

    “You’re not sweet enough to melt!”

  34. HSmom July 30, 2009 at 5:35 am #

    We live in a outer-ring suburb. Our house is surrounded by hundreds of other houses just like ours. We’ve done a couple of Free-Rangy things this summer (beyond me just saying “sure” rather than “no,” which has also been freeing). A few weeks ago, my two oldest children (ages 13 and 10 1/2) rode their bikes from our house to the grocery store about a mile away– their mission, to buy two bags of chips for lunch. My dd realized that she’s a little out of shape (partly because I never really let her ride her bike anywhere before!). It was fun and they loved the freedom.

    Today, my 13 year old and two of her friends were dropped off in our town’s downtown area. (It was a small town before it got gulped up as suburb.) They spent a few hours down there– went bowling, shopped at Ben Franklin and the drug store… and there’s even an old-fashioned candy shop and the farmer’s market was open. They had a blast and are looking forward to doing it again soon.

    Thanks for the nudge. 😉

  35. Natalie July 30, 2009 at 6:17 am #

    When I was 8 and my sister 10, we were left home along during the summer while my parents worked. But every day before leaving for work, my mom would give us an assignment to get us outside and exercising.

    She would ask “what color door does the house on the corner of X and X have?” “What kind of flowers does are in the planter at x and x”

    This not only got us out of the house, it also taught us how to navigate streets and was a fun game to play.

    More parents need to encourage this type of structured activity.

  36. LauraL July 30, 2009 at 6:47 am #

    My oldest is fascinated with your book (she’s 13.5) and we’re now discussing allowing her to travel by our light rail train from our suburb into downtown (Portland, OR). She would go from home to downtown, know which stop to get off, where to walk to meet up with Daddy for lunch, and then come home again.

    We’re thinking of doing this next week when it’s not so blazingly hot (records this week, ugh) and she’s looking forward to the adventure. “After all, I have my cell phone, if I do get lost.” There’s my girl.

    And last week (before the stupid hot) we’d been sending the two youngest to play with local neighborhood kids with the rule of “be smart, pay attention, and come home when the streetlights come on.” It’s brilliant – and they’ve come home on time every time, exercised and tired! Oh, and smiling. 🙂

  37. LauraL July 30, 2009 at 6:49 am #

    Oh, and I agree. Set up a Cafe Press account and let’s do those shirts! “What If It Rains?” on the back: “Then We Get Wet!”

  38. neener July 30, 2009 at 7:03 am #

    Free Range t-shirts! Yes, please. Fantastic way to get the word out…a great conversation starter. And for kids! “I’m A Free-Range Kid!” “Chickens aren’t the only things on two legs that go free range!”

    I’m ready to buy several. 🙂

  39. MaeMae July 30, 2009 at 7:56 am #

    For the kids t-shirts: Free-Range and not a chicken!

  40. Sarah July 30, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    I have a story to share!

    We started bicycling to and from school back in May. On the way home, there’s a short cut than can be taken – a steep dirt trail that cuts off several minutes of the ride. I was bicycling with my 5 year old on the bike attachment, and my 8 year daughter was on her own bike, and wanted to go down the trail by herself.

    I thought briefly, and then told her sure – just bicycle towards the cul-de-sac, and we’ll probably meet up there.

    Got to the cul-de-sac, and met up with some school friends and other moms who live there, and chatted a bit before 8 year old came into view. One of the moms asked “did you let your daughter bicycle alone?”

    I wasn’t sure what to think – was she criticizing this decision? So I said that yes, I had let her go down the path, as she was a good bicyclist, I trusted her, and we’d be there soon enough anyways.

    She said “oh, that’s great! you’re so brave – I want to do that with my kids, too, once they’re a bit older” (her eldest is 5).

    So – no mommy critique (whew), and working on converting others to the whole Free Range concept.

    Oh, and I’m also letting my daughters range between our house/yard, the little park behind us, and a neighbor’s house, but I think I’ve posted about that before.

  41. MommyWizdom July 30, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    Better late than never, right?

    My daughter isn’t quite at the age where she can ride her bike around the block but since I read your book, I’ve started to let her cross the street by herself during our walks through the neighborhood (looking both ways and all that jazz of course) and to wander off just a little further than normal from me. I’ve noticed that she has a little more confidence in her stride and now, she’s become more protective of her brother. She holds his hand when we cross the street “to keep him safe” and she watches him like a mommy would.

    What a great idea to do a challenge *snicker snicker.* The hope is that after the challenges are all done, our kids emerge as the free and confident kids of our own youth. That is soooo exciting!


  42. freewheel July 30, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Excellent suggestion! And I love how it comes on the heels of the crazy N.C. shooting.

  43. Becky July 30, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    Last night our oldest son, who is 11, asked if he and his friend who lives two blocks over could ride their bikes into our downtown to get ice cream. It’s about a mile and a half away, but he’s been there many times with us, so I told him to check it out with the friend’s parents and let me know if they said OK. He forgot to come back and let me know they had said it was OK, but I figured it out when he wasn’t back in 10 minutes. A little over an hour later, they both came riding home with silly string from the dollar store, balsa wood wind up planes from the hobby shop, and bellies full of water ice. All of which my son had purchased with his own money from watching another neighbor’s garden while they were away on vacation. And, of course, the two boys also gained the knowledge and confidence that they can visit the downtown on their own.

  44. Patti September 12, 2009 at 7:01 am #

    I have a confession to make. My 7 (almost 8) year old son WOULD NOT DO IT. He would not go around the block by himself. I tried bribing him with time on the forbidden Xbox, I got so desperate. He wouldn’t budge. He’s a good bike rider, strong on hills, and knows to stay close to the curb on the part without a sidewalk. I have been trying to get him to do it since this challenge went up.

    So, where have I gone wrong? Woe is me, my son is self-limiting his own freedom! Yikes.

    p.s. My daughter would do this in a heartbeat, but at 6 she can’t get up the hill without an adult push yet. We’re practicing. 🙂

  45. Kelly September 12, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    Patti, it sounds like you have been doing NOTHING wrong, although I don’t think we need to bring bribery into a Free Range challenge. I mean isn’t the point of Free Range letting kids do what they’re ready for? Not pushing them to do something they don’t wan to do…

    I make sure to listen to my kids and the limits they set on themselves, which are usually astonishingly accurate. Some kids are bolder than others, some slower to take risks, etc. etc…

    I don’t know how much pressure you’re putting on the boy but if you’re asking for advice – and it kind of sounded like you were? – I’d say back off, or tell him, “Well let me know when you’re ready!” and move on. Listen with your heart and mind and your kiddo will let you know what challenge he’s ready for!

  46. Kelly September 12, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    Oh, and I might add. My daughter (7) made up her grocery list, planned a meal, figured out what she needed to buy, and rode to the grocery store (about five blocks away) to purchase the needed supplies (chicken broth and milk), then came back home.

    She did it all by herself, but of course, I have biked with her all over town for a couple years now. (She started off on the back of my Xtracycle – a *great* way to teach kids how to bike!).

    Anyway – I was very proud of her but not nearly as proud as SHE was! (The dinner, a soup, turned out good too!).

  47. SHONNA February 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Heya! Good idea, but could this genuinely operate?

  48. Andrea Landaker April 20, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    5 year old now rides around the block by himself! He’s so proud and independent, and he also whines less and demands less attention.

    Part of it is training — we’re teaching our 3 year old how to cross streets by himself, and teaching our 1 1/2 year old to walk on the sidewalk and not go in the street (obviously she still requires a lot of supervision). We talked about what to do if something went wrong, memorized our home phone number, and went on walks a lot so they know the neighborhood well. These are some steps you can take if your kids aren’t quite ready to go off by themselves (whether due to age or other considerations).