What is free range parenting?

Baby is their own person. A tiny human with their own opinions, ideas, hopes and dreams. Will they be an artist? Will they discover a career that brings them joy? A free range parent tries to leave that kind of decision up to Baby.

You might also have heard of free range parenting referred to as ‘slow parenting’ or ‘simplicity parenting.’ It’s all about letting your child explore the world at their own pace.

Modern parents often feel pressure to schedule their child’s day from beginning to end. Kids need to have friends, hobbies, get good grades, play a sport, and have an artistic outlet. Free range parenting instead lets children discover what they want to do on their own, typically by letting the child have a lot of outdoors time.

Free range parenting is a philosophy that hopes to let your child fall in love with the world by being out in it.

What’s good about it?

Free range parenting encourages lots and lots of play (and we don’t mean video games). Children learn through play. By playing with others, they learn how to navigate social situations, explore creative group thinking, and how to lead or be part of a team. By playing on their own, it’s believed that children discover how to entertain themselves, building stronger imaginations and self-reliance.

Free range parenting also usually means less stress for you. There’s less of a need to plan after-school activities and arrange play dates, since your child is supposed to figure out what they’d like to do on their own. The philosophy hopes to create children who are happy with their own accomplishments based on their own goals.

What’s hard about it?

This style of parenting demands that parents be hands off. You’ve got to learn to step back, to let your children make mistakes and maybe get a little bumped and bruised along the way. Your child will take part in activities that they&;ll fail at and others that might seem like a waste of time. If every time you look at your child you start to picture their future, this kind of parenting approach might not be right for you – at the very least, you may find it very difficult.

Resources to consider

  • Forest schools: These are schools or summer programs that involve children exploring the outdoors. They learn to become comfortable exploring the environment and learn about nature by being out in it.
  • Montessori schools: These are often private K – 12 schools that focus on giving students control over their education, learning what they want at their own pace. At a Montessori school you’ll find classes of mixed ages, students choosing elective classes as early as the first grade, and an emphasis on learning through doing rather than the direct instruction found in most public schools.
  • Libraries, parks, and the recreation center: All of these public resources offer lots of supervised activities for children to participate in, typically at little to no cost. One aspect of free range parenting is exposing your child to lots of things so they can find what interests them. Giving your child the opportunity to explore these resources could help your child discover their passion.

Like most parenting philosophies, free range parenting isn’t all or nothing – it’s a school of thought many parents find it helpful to keep in mind, even if they do send their children to public school and occasionally sign them up for an after school activity or two. At its heart, free range parenting is meant to be centered around raising happy, independent, free-thinking children, and there are many ways to reach that goal. It’s up to you and your partner to figure out the way that’s right for your family.

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