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Free Range Parenting: Giving Kids Freedom

By Notoya Green

Free Range Parenting: Giving Kids Freedom

How do we safely engender freedom and independence in our youngest tikes?

My kids are 4½ and will soon be going to kindergarten. I try to them give them as much freedom as possible without putting them at risk. Freedom to learn and explore is beneficial. It builds confidence while they learn about the world around them. Helicopter parenting can cause our kids to miss important milestones like learning how to dress themselves, etc.

When my kids are at a park I let them play on their own unless they need my help. I give them the freedom to walk ahead of me down the street, as long as they remain in view and away from the road.

Freedom, though, isn’t always about roaming. It’s also thinking for themselves and making choices, like choosing their own clothes or activities. At restaurants, I let them choose and make their own order. They’ve learned to say “excuse me” to get the waiter. They’re learning to interact with others of all ages.

I gave my kids a lot of freedom as soon as they could explore our cabinets and draws as part of their play. I made sure there was nothing dangerous or unsafe in those spaces. I also did my best not to say “no” all the time because exploring and learning is essential toddler behavior.


Free Range Parenting Toddlers

You can begin free range parenting when your kids begin to crawl. Of course, your child needs a safe environment but it’s a good idea to give them space to roam and explore when can crawl, cruise and walk.

Encourage their curiosity. Follow them and watch them explore something that’s not necessarily a toy, like a remote control. Our goal should be to give our kids freedom, otherwise we hinder their learning. We base how much freedom we give them on their age and development.

Watch for signs that your child wants more independence. Some 2 year olds want to dress themselves—so let them even if it takes longer. Some 3 year olds want to choose their own clothes—so encourage them to do so as long as they’re appropriate. Give your kids the space and supervision to achieve important milestones. I am not a fan of letting young kids travel alone; your kids need your supervision, even if from a distance, and most importantly they need your protection.


Keep Your Child Safe As They Grow Older

Soon, your toddler will be a kindergartener; teach them how to stay safe apart from you:

  1. Seek a mother with children.Teach your child to seek the nearest mother with kids if they feel unsafe. Statistically, she’s the most likely person to help them.
  1. Empower your children.Give them permission to be rude to an adult if they feel threatened or unsafe.
  1. Adults never ask children for help. Teach them to run away if an adult approaches your child asking for help, especially if it involves going to a different location.


Further reading: The Dangers With Leaving Kids in Cars


Notoya Green is a family law attorney at the Administration For Children’s Services and mother of 4-year-old triplets in Tribeca, NYC.

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