Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Free-Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

She picks up the wet sand in her chubby hands and slowly lets it drop.

Watching intently.

Feeling the wet gritty texture.

Seeing how far she can throw it.

She is totally absorbed in play.

I watch her, out of her view, my free-range baby. Is there anything more mesmerising than watching your baby discover something new? It’s one of my favourite things to do. To see them play and explore, experimenting and learning.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

I don’t think I was quite as relaxed with my first daughter. She didn’t get the benefit of my experience in her baby years. She spent a lot more time indoors than in dirt. I remember the sight of a dead fly on the floor would have her screaming in terror! Until she was about four. And then suddenly she seemed to get a lot more adventurous. She was out there climbing trees, digging up worms, rolling down hills, capturing ladybugs. She is still the same. Nature is her happy place.

Looking back, I wonder if her love of all things wild coincided with me relaxing and consciously making more time for outdoor play. I think it’s likely.

People often ask me at what age I start giving my children more freedom and independence, and the only answer I have is ‘from birth’. First time around I was a little more concerned about mess, and ‘being careful’ and doing things ‘right’. Now I know that freedom and independence aren’t things for me to grant my children. They are rights that should be protected for all, no matter what age.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Yes, it’s our job to keep our babies safe! Definitely, do that! But at the same time, you can let them have a lot more freedom than you might think. Babies and toddlers needn’t be wrapped in cotton wool. They are a lot more capable and robust than you might think, and completely washable!

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Take those babies outside! Let them play in the creek. Let them taste the water. Let them throw mud.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Let them experience the world with their whole bodies. This is how they learn! The moment I captured in the picture above made my heart sing. She sat here for ages looking at the thin layer of water over the sand. Lowering her head down until her forehead was in the water, feeling the cool sand pressed against her forehead. Watch a baby immersed in play for an hour and you will remember what life is really about.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Let them climb. My first baby wasn’t a ‘climber’ (or was that because I was fearful and never let her climb? hmm) but the next three definitely were. Trust your baby! Let them get to know and be confident in their bodies and capabilities. Don’t even tell them to be careful, seriously. Just stay close and spot them if they get to a height where they could hurt themselves. I currently have a toddler who likes standing on the edge of the dining table. Nerve wracking for me, thrilling for her.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Let them fall. Ok not head first onto concrete. But a little bump or trip on the grass never hurt anyone. Let them make mistakes and learn from them. Try not to hover around and make them nervous.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Let them get messy! Even babies love painting you know.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Let them wander. Probably not in a crowd where they could get lost, but toddlers love to wander. To see how far they can go on their own, to test their limits. If you’re somewhere safe where you can see far, then let them go off and explore on their own. Even babies like risky play.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Let them try! Let them try most anything they feel capable of, even if you know they can’t do it. You could be surprised. But if not, it’s better they find out for themselves anyway. My baby wants to do everything her big sisters do. I watch as she has a go and often find she’s perfectly capable of finding a way to join in. Don’t underestimate them. You’ll never know what they’re capable of if they’re never allowed to try.

Free Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth

Let them be free! You’re never too young to have your freedom and independence respected. Even newborns benefit from independent play time. We don’t need to micromanage their lives, set arbitrary limits, or intervene in their play. The best time to start trusting your baby is now. Take a step back and witness their magic.

Babies are capable and whole human beings from the moment they’re born, let’s treat them that way!





Free-Range Baby: Why Freedom Starts From Birth








October 30, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Oh, yes yes yes. I’m currently a mum of 4 and expecting my 5th. I’ve noticed a definite relaxing in my ability to let go and trust my children. My youngest is my most explorative and I think it’s down to copying older siblings and having parents who observe and only intervene when he wants us to. He likes to climb, particularly on window ledges and the dinner table. Like you said, nerve wracking for me but completely exciting and thrilling for him. Great post, thank you.

October 30, 2016 at 9:37 pm

I was an au pair in Paris for a while and took the baby (she was 1 when I started looking after her, so starting to toddle a bit) and the 4 year old to a new park one day. I got a lot of dirty looks when the toddler went off and played by herself a few yards away! The flock of nannies twittering around their charges weren’t at all impressed.

    October 30, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I think the problem with playgrounds is everyone does it differently and all think their way is the “right” way. I had to ask an older lady 4 times to leave my son alone as he climbed a net. Both her and her husband seemed to take great offence to my request. They spent so much time shaking their heads at me they lost their own grandchild.

      October 31, 2016 at 12:16 am

      Hahaha that’s awesome 🙂 I’ve had to yell at people to get them to let go of my children. At one point I had to fend off three ladies who were all trying to tell our new nanny how to care for an infant, and didn’t realize I was on the bus as well. Our new nanny was doing an excellent job, but the kid had decided to scream for a bit because she didn’t want to sit down in a wrap on a moving bus.

October 30, 2016 at 11:52 pm

I really like your page.
I’m from Ecuador and I don’t speak English good but I’m gonna try.
I take my children out from the school and we begin with homeschool. We are 4 months on it. And I really love it. I’m very happy with the change.
I want to ask you:
How can I manage the situation when they start to fight because who is the best. My oldest kid want always to be the first and the best. I think the school do that because the nots they always received. And maybe we have the blame too.
My kids are 12, 9, 8 and 1 years old. I have only one girl (she is 9)
Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Have a nice day and God blessed you.

October 31, 2016 at 12:46 am

Lovely photos! I have a lot of people ask me how I get my kids to play independently. I think it comes from allowing them to explore from early on. I ‘baby-proof’ (outlets and cabinets with chemicals mainly) and let them play. XO

October 31, 2016 at 2:58 am

i have been thinking about the whole baby wearing thing a bit lately. my 11 month old daughter hates being in a sling or carrier and i’m starting to think there are a lot of downsides to always having your kid strapped to you. How do they explore, learn, develop? I mean I know they will, I just think not letting them move hinders them.

    October 31, 2016 at 9:52 am

    I’m not exactly sure what your experience has been so I may be saying lots of stuff you already know 🙂 In any event, here’s what’s happened with our three kids (wrap-wise). Once our kids started to walk, (around a year old for our youngest two, a little sooner for our oldest), they were pretty much out of the Moby wrap when they were awake. They knew how to get places, and they wanted to do it by themselves as much as possible. I still wore the wrap for a few months because it’s handy to get them from place to place, and they appreciated it when they were tired, or wanted to snooze for a bit. I did change to a side carry, just hooking one of the kids legs through the portion of the wrap that made a belt. That way I could pop them in and out more easily, and they, perhaps, also felt more free. As an aside, as a mode of transit, for me, wraps rock. The kid’s right there, can see everything, and my hands are still free for working with the other two kids.

    Per exploring: When the kids were smaller my wrap philosophy was the same: that it was a convenient way to get them to and from places. Since we used a Moby, the kid was usually in a seated position in it, and could see everything going on if they were awake. Every time I stopped–unless I was going to get right back up–I got the kid out of the wrap, and did let them explore to their heart’s content. I learned this carrying style from the moms who frequented coffee shops in Boulder. I guess there are a lot of other styles as well. did this address what you were looking for?

      May 19, 2017 at 1:25 am

      That’s how I use wraps and slings, too. Often for transportation pre-walking or for tired babies who don’t want to walk anymore, for babies who need to nap on the go, and for young babies who feel more comfortable up high and close to me in unfamiliar or crowded situations. My youngest is fourteen months now, and loves walking so much that I rarely wrap her, whereas my son, now four, was wrapped more as a toddler than as a baby because he preferred staying up with me and was also more likely to take off without me in his more confident times.

October 31, 2016 at 7:14 am

I love this philosophy so much, and I’m trying hard to be braver and let my very adventurous 2 year old have more freedom to explore, but I find it quite a challenge sometimes! In part I find it hard with my 6 month old baby in tow and I’m still working out how to juggle the needs of both, in part because of the weather in the UK, and if I’m honest with myself in part because the clean up/changes of clothes is hard to do with the baby as well. But those are all my issues, and I’m working on it! Thank you for your inspiring blog and inspiring pictures, I’m so glad I came across this today. 🙂

October 31, 2016 at 8:41 am

I love the picture of your four girls! You can just see each of them lost in their own play. Beautiful.

November 1, 2016 at 2:25 am

I love this. As you may know (or not), I don’t have kids yet, but I do have three young cousins that I see pretty regularly. I know that’s not the same, but it’s definitely given me a glimpse into how truly exhausting yet awesome kids are ;).

Anyway, I’m all for this philosophy – I was raised like that as well. I was always good at playing independently and just getting muddy and dirty outside. It was GREAT.

Sometimes when we’re out with my cousins, their parents or sometimes their grandparents HOVER like nobody’s business. There’s so much hovering that it’s stressing me out, and I’m not even the one being watched, haha!

We were having a picnic in a park recently, on top of a small hill (which probably looked big to a toddler). My nephew, who’s 2, kept running down the hill, slowing down as it got too steep, climbing back up, and doing it again. His grandmother and mother we’re freaking out and chasing after him every time. Ahh! I was also told not to play with him by swinging him around (which he actually asked for) because it could hurt him. I actually had to try really hard to keep my composure…can’t kids just have fun?

Loving the pictures you included in this post, by the way.

Eric D. Greene
November 8, 2016 at 1:21 am

Yes. Truly treating our children with respect, dignity, trust and freedom, from the moment they are born. Why is this approach seen as so radical? This is the natural way. Something I’m afraid so many of us have forgotten. Thanks for being a reminder!

November 13, 2016 at 6:20 am

i’ve always been kind of relaxed (well, i’m saying this like i have a lot of experience but i only have one child, 20 month old). i let him explore and i think i enjoy it as much as him. they are indeed magical moments.

but i always told him to be careful, or to not do this or that. and that’s controlling, isn’t it? i need to let go the fear, and, as you said, be there in case he needs me, but let him do his own stuff.

thanks for the advises!

September 15, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Yay for free range babies! You’re right – there is absolutely nothing better than watching a baby immersed in play. It makes my heart nearly burst with joy to see my son explore, discover and experiment with the world.

August 26, 2018 at 6:31 am

I love this blog just as I do all your blogs. They completely changed my way of thinking about parenting, but also about the way I look at myself and other (grown up) people. I am learning so much. I am so thankful that you’re sharing your wisdom and experiences. Thank you!

I am a proud mother of a 7 month-old boy. I love the idea of letting him explore the world with all his senses. I do have a bit of a practical question. My son loves to put everything in his mouth, as I am sure most babies do. Some things in nature aren’t safe and/or healthy to put in your mouth, though. I am wondering how to deal with this. For example, you wrote: “Let them taste the water”. I don’t know if you can drink the water in creeks safely in Australia, but you can’t in the Netherlands, where I am from. And I’m pretty sure that salt water from the ocean isn’t safe to drink anywhere. In my mind this would be unhealthy. Could this possibly be my old and overly protective way of thinking? Or is it indeed unhealthy and, if so, how should I deal with such limits to exploring?

P.S. I love the pictures with this blog. Beautiful!

Martina Vitulli
August 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Hi! Just discovered your blog via Kidspot. There’s definitely a big difference between first and second children. The ability to actually enjoy and relax instead of being uptight and anxious is the best feeling in the world. It also means we get to see and experience more of our children and live in the moment.

Leave a Reply