Ultimate Guide To Free-Range Parenting Toddler

These days, there is a name associated with every parenting style there is. Helicopter parenting, spiritual parenting, nacho parenting, tiger parenting, and more. These parenting styles all have their own characteristics and ways that parents interact with their kids. Some of which are determined for children, while others are not without their controversy. One of which is the free-range parenting style.

A parenting style that parents completely agree with or believe is nothing short of neglect. There is no middle ground. And because of this, parents need to know exactly what the free-range parenting style entails when it comes to toddlers to know if it is for them or not.


According to GoodTherapy, many couples have differing parenting styles. While this can cause conflict at times, it can also be something that “compliments” how parenting is done overall. But, when using the free-range parenting style, it would seem that both parents would need to be on board, given the nature of how polarizing it could be otherwise.

And because of this, before instilling this parenting style in the household, there needs to be some serious discussions beforehand.

RELATED: I’m Raising A Free Range Toddler Tornado

Here is the ultimate guide to free-range parenting a toddler.

What Is Free-Range Parenting?

Just over a handful of years ago, a new type of parenting style came onto the scene. It was considered “free-range parenting.” And much like the term free-range conjures up the idea of ​​farm animals being able to wander and do what they please, free-range parents are similar in nature.

According to Healthline, Free-range parenting occurs when parents do not constantly hover over their children. Instead, starting from the time that children are able to make decisions on their own, parents let them. Because of this, young children, including toddlers learn responsibilities that are age appropriate. And what is deemed appropriate is determined on a household basis.

Seen as the opposite of the helicopter parenting style, parents who raise their toddlers with the free-range style will step back and let toddlers make mistakes so they can learn from them, per the publication. They allow them to attempt new skills without stepping in so that toddlers can see what they are capable of. If trusted to stay in one area, parents may even leave toddlers unaccompanied to play from time to time if involved in unstructured play.

It is all about letting toddlers explore the world as they please through unstructured play, and only stepping in when it appears that little ones are in imminent danger.

Benefits Of Free-Range Parenting

Free-range parenting may seem like a farfetched parenting style to some. But, like most parenting styles, there are some benefits that can be found.

According to All Kids Bikethe Benefits of raising toddlers in a free-range parenting household include:

  • Greater development of problem-solving skills
  • Building confidence from an early age
  • Allows toddlers to form their own personalities
  • Develops creativity in this young population

By free-range parenting, parents do not become a crutch for their toddlers. Instead, they allow toddlers to see what their capabilities are by not stepping in and living a childhood like generations before them did, where kids played outside until dark and parents did not worry about them coming home at the end of the day, according to The Takeaway.

And while toddlers may not be ready to take a step this large, allowing them to play in the front yard with minimal supervision or in the backyard as they please is in line of activities for this age.

The only time interference comes is if it is clear that toddlers are in harm’s way. Then, and only then, do parents direct their toddlers on what to do to allow them on their journey of exploration of the world.

Why Some Consider Free-Range Parenting To Be Neglect

Before free-range parenting was given a name, parents who allowed their young children to purposefully spend time alone were called neglectful. Now, it is called giving kids independence by proponents of the parenting method. But that does not mean everyone sees free-range parenting this way.

According to MPR News, some parents who are free-range have found themselves on the wrong end of CPS reporting for neglect. This comes as a surprise to these parents because they are of the mind that they are parenting their little ones in the same manner that they were parented decades ago.

And if it was right and healthy for kids to be allowed to have freedom at a young age to learn responsibility and to rely on themselves to an extent, then free-range parents question how that is neglect.

The problem comes when parents state that they are raising their kids in that manner but truly are neglecting them. As such, according to the publication, CPS cannot simply allow reports of neglect to go idly by. Instead, they need to investigate all reports because the safety of kids is of the utmost priority.

And while there is the understanding that some children are indeed neglected, parents who use the free-range method claim that they are not parenting out of fear, according to Very Well Family. Something that in their opinion, too many parents do today.

In tests past, according to Healthline, when kids were running around the neighborhood with siblings young and old, there was an unspoken agreement that parents as a whole would watch out for the kids. That way, if there was a problem, there was always an adult to step in. But with kids, including toddlers, spending less time outdoors and more time playing organized sports or behind screens, that rule no longer applies. And this could be why there is less acceptance of free-range parenting.

If toddlers wandered over to neighbors’ houses because parents were giving them the freedom to explore, no one would have batted an eyelash in the past. Instead, neighbors would have entertained the little ones for a bit or allowed them to play with their own children after calling to let the toddlers’ parents know they were safe.

Today, many neighbors do not know one another’s names. As such, to feel like kids are safe running through neighborhoods unattended, especially at toddler age, is unheard of by most. And perhaps this is where the problem lies.

There simply is less community involvement in raising all children, with the focus instead of being on making sure toddlers make it to music classes, dance classes, pre-school, or more. All planned activities that would make free-range parents cringe, where parents can supervise their little ones to make sure they are staying safe while involved with others.

Parents Should Know State Laws When It Comes To Free-Range Parenting

Those who are interested in raising their toddlers in a free-range environment will want to look into what their state’s laws are for allowing kids to be alone. This will ensure that when parents allow their children to be independent, they will not face the wrath of the law because of the parenting style that they chose.

According to Parentsevery state has different laws when it comes to leaving children at home alone or unattended in a public place. ChildWelfare.gov has information to many states as well as what to consider before choosing to allow little ones to be without adult supervision.

There will always be critics of parenting styles regardless of how parents choose to raise their young children. And with toddlers potentially needing a great deal of supervision more than slightly older kids, parents will need to assess all situations with their little ones appropriately to make sure that they are safe.

But if kids are well cared for and are not in danger, perhaps less judging needs to be done by parents and more support from the village of parents as a whole should be the focus instead.

Source: GoodTherapy, Healthline, All Kids Bike, The Takeaway, VeryWell Family, MPR News, Parents, ChildWelfare.gov

Leave a Comment