You’ve heard that term before, right? Free range? But what does it actually mean? Especially when it comes to children?
When you think of free-ranging, your mind probably goes right to chickens. You know, letting your birds scavenge freely for food, rather than keeping them penned up in a cage. And in a way, that’s exactly what I mean by free-ranging children.
Minus the scavenging for food part. Although my kids do eat freely from the garden in the summer, especially when raspberries are on.
One of the many reasons why we decided to buy our acreage in the country was so that our children could experience a life closely tied to the land they live on. Playing outdoors as much as they could, exploring nature and learning how to work the land are important qualities we wanted them to experience. In today’s digital age of computers, IPads, video games and YouTube, there are a lot of things pulling for our children’s attention. And while those things aren’t necessarily bad (in small doses) we wanted to be able to offer a more wholesome environment for our kids to grow up in . One that reinforces the kind of values that build character, inspire courage and promote healthy living.
Free-ranging has become a term that we jokingly use regarding our children. Dirty faces. Toes in the mud. Lots of laughter and adventurous escapades in the woods, climbing trees or simply rolling in the grass. Our kids are able to experience the simple things that make childhood fun. And they’re learning lessons that they will carry with them into adulthood.
Learning to be courageous.
The world is a dangerous place, and if our children don’t learn how to challenge themselves through initiation and adventure at a young age then how will they ever find the courage to face hardship when they get older? It’s important that our children be allowed, even encouraged, to test themselves while living under the security of the family home. Too often we want to shelter our children from getting hurt, and so we cut them off from the very things that will strengthen them and allow them to know who they are and what they’re capable of.
I don’t want my kids to be afraid of the world they live in.
Please note, I’m not advocating for negligence here. We don’t leave our kids to wander unsupervised, and they clearly understand their boundaries. They are never outside of the watchful eyes of mom and dad. But neither are we helicopter parents. Our kids fall down. They get scrapes on their little knees. They get splinters in their fingers. They understand that there is a way things work. There’s a cause and effect to every action they take. And I love the courage I see developing in each one of them.
Understanding the balance of life.
Our kids play an active role in our homesteading lifestyle, especially in the marketgarden. They plant. They harvest. They dig. They help me put up fences and build garden boxes. They know how to use tools. They can’t wait until they can drive the tractor all by themselves. And I love that they aren’t afraid to try something new.
It’s important for our kids to be connected to the food they eat. I want them to understand how to be good stewards of the land in order to grow healthy fruits and vegetables for years to come. And I want them to understand that the beef, pork and chicken they eat used to have eyes and a nose (and sometimes a name).
We are a team.
I love that our kids get to grow up in an environment that fosters them working together! Oh sure, they fight and bicker just like any other brothers and sisters. But they are a tight unit most of the time, and our little farm lifestyle encourages this camaraderie even more.
Living the homesteading lifestyle means that everyone plays a crucial part. We rely on each other to get things done. Inviting our children into our daily activities on the farm gives them a sense of teamwork and helps them understand that the world is much bigger than they are. It also teaches them how to compromise and work alongside others to find a mutually beneficial outcome.
We’re making memories.
How many kids will look back on their childhood to remember the video game they beat or cartoon they watched? There is a time and place for technology in our household, but it does not dominate our children’s lives. Instead we would rather give them the opportunity to make the kind of memories that last forever.
Adventure. Family. Laughter. Creativity. These are the things that weave the kind of memories we want our children to have as they get older. Building forts. Climbing trees. Chasing rabbits out of the field. Laying underneath the summer stars. This is the stuff of childhood!
To see life as an adventure.
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but it sure feels like hope is hard to come by these days. I want my kids to see life as an opportunity for adventure. To see the mystery behind the unknown instead of shrinking away from it. To embrace the future with arms wide open.
I want to give them space to explore their own adventurous spirit. To imagine worlds beyond what we can see with our own eyes. To test the limits of their creativity. Because as they grow up they will be called upon to be leaders in their community, and they will need this child heart to navigate the waters of adulthood without losing hope.
Do you have to live on a farm or have acreage to let your kids free-range? Absolutely not! Start right where you are. Here’s a few ideas that you can use anywhere to open your kids up to the free-ranging lifestyle:
- Build a fort in the backyard out of branches and let camp out for a night
- Forage for wild berries, nuts, mushrooms or edible flowers
- Let your kids plant a fruit tree and teach them how to care for it
- Get a few backyard chickens and put your kids in charge of their care
- Buy your children their own tools
- Let your kids plant a garden
- Learn how to can vegetables with your children
- Have a superhero day and let your kids lead the adventures
- Teach your kids to hunt
- Take your kids on a tour of a local dairy or vegetable farm
- Have a No Technology Day and explore life how the pioneers lived
How about you? Do you free-range your kids? Share your ideas and experiences with us here on the blog or on our Facebook Page