Free Ranging for a Better Life?

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Everyone wants their children to be safe, it’s why we end up showering with babies in rockers in the bathroom and not pushing our children too high on swings. It is our instinct but when does our instinct to protect become counter-productive? If the pendulum swings back away from “helicopter parenting” where does it go? Neglectful parenting? In the same way that “attachment parenting” teaches children to be secure rather than encouraging independence, free range parenting can help children develop skills they genuinely need despite (or because of) the lack of hands on guidance.

Free range parenting is the antithesis of popular modern-day parenting.

Gone are the after school and weekend schedules

Gone are the supervised prescriptive play dates.

Free range kids play with sticks.

Free range kids have disagreements and solve them.

Free range kids fall down and skin their knees and pick themselves up.

They dirty their clothes.

They explore.

Through exploring their environment and interacting freely they develop resilience and problem solving skills that modern children seem to be losing.

I tend towards free ranging, I have strong independent wilful, spirited children (oh yes, that’s them- you know them?) the wilfulness means that after school activities are a disaster at present and they are not passionate enough about any hobby for me to force the issue so my children are delightfully unscheduled, they attend school and then make their own entertainment the rest of the time. I tried to enforce the no sticks rule but apparently stick like objects are integral to a lot of their imaginative play so having given up on that (it is amazing how many stick-like objects a resourceful child can find in what I had thought was a stick free environment!).

The most prized playthings at our house are buildable things, cardboard boxes, craft supplies cushions, Mobilo, Duplo (I haven’t jumped into standard Lego yet, I think the pain of stepping on it as a child has led me to delay it as long as possible!) and trees, oh my goodness- TREES are the most revered and desirable plaything I have seen. They disappear into a tree anytime there is a branch low enough to swing themselves into it. No broken bones yet (touch wood) and if they are truly stuck and call loudly we can rescue them. Trees are houses, castles, hills, aeroplanes, spaceships. Trees are a whole new world, teeming with life, textures smells. Trees are a free range child’s ultimate toy.

It is not all a physical, gross motor skills world though and drawing, craft and reading are loved too as you can’t keep the physical pace all the time and quiet time is valuable.

It might not be particularly free range but the hour and a half of TV the children watch when we come home after work, when we need to prep dinner and rinse lunch boxes etc work a treat for us. We don’t have any gaming consoles at our house.

The hardest part for me is trying not to freak out when I see “my babies” doing what I think will hurt or upset them but the value I am seeing in free ranging my approach is huge, they are growing into resilient, resourceful, independent, skilled and caring people, which is what I want for them.

I have put a hold on a book at the library all about free range parenting. This seems slightly ironic as I think it should be a bit more intuitive but I will give it a read. I think it might be onto something.

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