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Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  2,800 ratings  ·  630 reviews
"FREE RANGE KIDS" has become a national movement, sparked by the incredible response to Lenore Skenazy's piece about allowing her 9-year-old ride the subway alone in NYC. Parent groups argued about it, bloggers, blogged, spouses became uncivil with each other, and the media jumped all over it. A lot of parents today, Skenazy says, see no difference between letting their ki ...more
Hardcover, 195 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Jossey-Bass
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Simplicity Parenting by Kim John PayneNurtureShock by Po BronsonFor the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer MacaulayHoney for a Child's Heart by Gladys HuntFree-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy
5th out of 37 books — 11 voters
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey KarpGreat-Grandma's Gifts by Marianne   JonesGrandmothering by Becky SarahFree-Range Kids by Lenore SkenazyMazel Tov! It's a Bubby! by Miriam Hendeles
Best Books for Grandparents
4th out of 10 books — 8 voters

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Community Reviews

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Skylar Burris
This is the book to read if you’re tired of worrying about every little thing you may be doing wrong as a parent, or if you’re tired of people looking at you as if you were a horrible mom because you are letting your five-year-old daughter hang upside down barefoot from the monkey bars (not naming any names, but it might have been my daughter, who, by the way, has neither fallen nor contracted ringworm--yet, anyway).

I don’t agree with all of the author’s parenting advice, and I wouldn’t have ma
May 07, 2010 Terri rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Terri by: Andrea
I will start by saying that I rarely read "self-help" books. In this way I can agree with Skenazy. I think we should trust our own instincts and the advice of close friends and family over books by strangers.

I can agree with her in a few other ways. I agree with her about the crazy law suits. We all should take responsibility for our own actions. I also agree with her that children need responsibilities and freedom, but I think the freedom should come age appropriately. Children can babysit othe
It is about time I reviewed this book. I first read it when I was pregnant with my first daughter. That time in life when you begin educating yourself as to what type of parent you will be. I had a strong background in education, but my parenting influences were all a bit scattered. This was one of the first books that I really felt strongly connected to.

The standout point when I first read this book was about risk assessment. Rather than just following the crowd in the name of protecting your c
I was one of the many parents who thought Lenore was off her rocker for letting her 9 y/o take the subway alone in NYC. As a native of Boston, I am comfortable in big cities and on the subway and I would never let my 9 y/o do that and still think she was really unwise in that choice.

That said, this was a great book. Since I knew I wasn't going to agree with everything she said, I expected to disagree with a lot of the book. Instead, I realized how much I've held my own kids back and that a lot
Connie Gunderson
This is probably the only parenting book that I would actually recommend. I usually fall down on the side of "if you're a smart and decent person, you already know what's best for your kid" which renders most parenting books useless. We read them to find support for what we already believe/know.

This book was a revelation for me, though. It posits that helicopter parenting, even that degree of helicopter parenting done by parents who think they're *not* helicopter parents, is unnecessary and unhe
Eh. I tried reading this for book club, but couldn't bring myself to get more than a quarter of the way through it. I didn't think she was that funny (common praise is that she's hilarious). And I didn't find her advice compelling or relevant. I DO think of myself as a Type A, anxious parent, but I'm not anxious about the kinds of things she dismisses (kidnappings and razor blades in Halloween candy). And I found her casual dismissal of what I'd call conscientious, thoughtful parenting to be irr ...more
This is one of the laziest books I've ever read. I don't entirely blame Lenore Skenazy, as I suspect there was an editor or publicist urging her to finish while America still thought of her as "the worst mom" (because she let her 9-year-old ride the NYC subway alone), but still, it makes this book a frustrating read!

I gave the book two stars instead of one because there were enough interesting anecdotes to keep me reading, but really, I was climbing the walls the entire time I read this. Let me
Loved this book! It's one of the best parenting books I've read. It's not a "to-do" list of what every should do, but a discussion of real issues, real risks, and real options. Lenore does a great job of presenting subjects to think about and then documents her research.

Our children are much too capable to be kept under constant supervision. We should teach them skills and then give them opportunities to interact with the world on their own.
Lisa Butterworth
This book was really good for the parent (like me) (sometimes) who needs a cheerleader to tell me my more laid-back less helicoptery parenting choices are okay, and it doesn't mean I don't love my kids. She wrote this book after she wrote an article in the New York Star (I think) about how she let her nine year old take the subway home, by himself. And even though such an adventure is statistically much safer than driving him home, she became dubbed 'the worst mom in America'. Skenazy has a grea ...more
Julie Ekkers
I came to this book without knowing not only that there was someone who had let her nine-year-old ride the New York subway by himself, but also that that someone was the author of this book. So, I was unfamiliar with the author's blog and her other journalism. I think her humor, while often funny, probably works better in those shorter forms that in this longer piece. There are a few chapters late in the book where I felt she was stretching her point a bit. Still, I really enjoyed this book. It ...more
I love the premise of the book. It looks how much we stifle our children's independence by our fear for their safety. A fear that's constantly being fed by gory news stories and studies. The book is divided into short, digestible chapters, full of fun anecdotes and each ending with some ideas to try to let our kids off the leash a little.

I highly recommend it for anyone raising or planning to raise kids these days.

On the other hand, I found some aspects of the book annoying (the author's columni
Many years ago when my sister and her 2 kids and I and my two kids went to a very small town in Nova Scotia, my sister gave her son money and told him to go to the local store and buy some rolls for sandwiches. He was about 7 years old. The store was maybe a 5 minute walk away. Yet for a boy raised right outside of Washington DC this was major -- he went and came back all proud of his adventure and we all thought isn't that great! Mind you the small town was on an island and the ferry left port ...more
This is the woman who wrote an article about letting her then-9-year old ride the NY subway alone, and got a ton of blowback about her being a horrible mom. She must have an entrepreneurial soul, as she turned this potentially devastating incident into a platform for a blog, a website, a regular column, many TV appearances, and this book. Well played, ma'am!

General thesis is that things are not as dangerous as you fear, that kids need to be allowed to have the same freedoms we had when young to
Like any parenting book, one has to take to heart only the bits that fit best with their hopes for their family--but this book has loads of those bits, and I was so validated reading that those shopping cart cover thingies are just plain silly! Among other, more relevant, points. Overall a great read for parents who are tired of feeling like they should worry all the time.
I heard some buzz about this book a while ago, and even just from what a good friend wrote about the book, I knew it was something that would interest me.

Let me start off by saying this is not your average parenting book. It's not really "un-parenting" either - it's about taking the nitty-gritty of parenting seriously but knowing when your job as a parent is to just let go and let your children do things on their own. It's about giving your kids skills and then letting them actually USE those sk
As with any parenting book, it wouldn't hurt to read it, but don't forget to follow your own mind.
The book is well organized and has its good points against 'helicopter', overprotective parenting. I also like Lenore Skenazy's style and sense of humor. But not all the parents I've seen around are overprotective and constantly worrying to that extent. I've seen parents close to the types she describes, but isn't it their own business?
The part about the non-English speaking part of the world is e
Maggie Larche
Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy is a refreshing look at how to raise your kids to be independent while minimizing your own anxiety about everything that could go wrong in the process.

Full disclosure: be ready for a little irony as this parenting book tells you to ignore parenting books. Otherwise, you can expect a hearty dose of practical sense and parental empowerment.

The overriding idea of this book is that YOU know yo
Totally with her on the basic premise -- it's okay for kids to be adventurous, take risks, stumble, fall, and fail sometimes. They are more capable than we assume, and we should try to prepare them for the world, and let them live in it -- not shield them from it. And fear is the fun-killer.

I didn't love her derisive tone, though. And there were a few really laughable assumptions (sad "you've gotta be kidding me" laughs, not ha-ha laughs) -- like when she's discussing our current "blame the par
An interesting read and certainly a must read for parents. I'm not sure that after reading this I'd let my 9 year old catch the bus into the city but I will at least not be as paranoid about danger lurking everywhere either. One thing that hits home from reading this book is that we need to empower our kids and give them the trust and freedom they need to be able to take care of themselves. We're not doing our kids or ourselves any good by being so overprotective. I will be taking baby steps tow ...more
I have read a lot of parenting books. In fact, when pregnant with my first and the topic of parenting books came up, my husband said "She reads them all, and then gives me the Cliff's Notes." Which was exactly true. I started with the "What to Expect..." books and went from there.

But this book... this is anti-alarmist parenting book. And I devoured it.

Ms. Skenazy is very polarizing. And I see why. The parents who have been indoctrinated to live in terror of every thing from germs to chemicals
This book is a must read parenting book and one of the few I could completely relate to. Her arguments are sound, full of common sense, and are backed by facts. To boot, her writing is to the point and full of humor. My only criticism is I think she should have spent more time explaining the benefits of free range parenting on kids (and parents). Highly recommend for anyone with kids, planning on having kids, or even working with kids.
I love this book for being rational about the real risks children face, rather than the imagined ones. What makes it a 4-star book for me rather than a 5-star is there are occasionally lapses in tone that hurt Lenore Skenazy's credibility with people who are most skeptical of her premise. What she and I might find funny as journalists is going to appall others.
I really wanted to like this book. But you know what? I think I'm more "free range" than the author herself ... which left me liking the book for its topic but not for the content itself. A bit of a quandary, really. I suppose what grated against me the most was her premise that parents should avoid fear-mongering and make decisions for themselves, but if you have a question abouts whether to be concerned about something, consult someone with letters behind their name or who is part of a bureauc ...more
Oct 16, 2009 Alice added it
Written by the woman who let her 9 year old ride the NY subway alone, this book confirmed my own instincts that society is a little too paranoid when it comes to our children. Just today I was talking to ladies at our playgroup and most of them don't let their kids trick or treat to people they don't know. As if all of a sudden on Halloween, your neighbors who you've lived next to in peace the rest of the 364 days of the year, are going to come out and give your children poisoned apples. Please. ...more
This book begins with the retelling of how the author came to send her competent 9 year old on a subway ride alone, and the ensuing aftermath when she wrote about it in her blog. How could she? What kind of mother is she? That child could have been killed!!

Wait. Wait. Wait.

I don't know her son. Never met him. Maybe her son is perfectly capable of getting from here to there on the subway. Her son is perfectly capable of getting from here to there on the subway one stop and probably more. I know t
I would probably rate this more of a 3.5. The author has an entertaining writing style, using humor to point out the absurdity of our overprotectiveness as parents. I found myself laughing to the point of tears more than once. I agree with the author's main premise that parents worry too much about the "boogie man" and are overprotective, but I do wish she would have spent more time exploring some of the actual dangers facing children (namely, the number of children sexually assaulted by people ...more
I got this book originally because I thought my husband had coined the term, "free range kids" to describe those obnoxious neighbor children whose parents obviously don't pay enough attention to them, etc., etc. and I thought it was funny to find a book by that title.

But on reading it, I first began to see the idea of free-range kids in a whole new and positive light, and I learned some things.

A lot of what "America's worst mom" said about her frustration with the way American culture has begu
I am so glad I picked up this book on a whim after wondering how much freedom is too much? Annabel is only two and Mia can't really go anywhere but after watching dozens of helicopter parents come through RHS, I was just really curious. Thank the lord for Lenore Skenazy! Her whole point is that, mostly due to media, parents have decided that any risk is too much. Thus, they worry about their children to the point of distraction and actually inhibit their growth as competent, independent adults. ...more
Eight-year-olds aren't allowed to ride bikes to their friends' houses anymore? This was news to me, and very sad news at that. Does this book exaggerate the over-protectiveness that's happening nowadays? I hope so.
I really enjoyed most of this book, and I agreed with almost everything in it. I loved reading a little advice without feeling guilty for all the things I'm doing wrong as a parent, and it was an absolute pleasure to read a well-written and intelligent book in this genre. The chapter o
I didn't quite finish this as it was from the "NEW" shelf and the library and had a shorter loan time period.
But I did find it encouraging and found myself giving my kids
more freedom and choices. (They've done just fine too!)
The only thing I didn't like is that she doesn't seem to
take into account the kids' opinions. She just assumes they are
comfortable with this "free range".
There was an example right away in the first chapter about
a family who took their daughter and her friend to
an ice c
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“You don't remember the times your dad held your handle bars. You remember the day he let go.” 8 likes
“We want our children to have a childhood that's magical and enriched, but I'll bet that your best childhood memories involve something you were thrilled to do by yourself. These are childhood's magic words: "I did it myself!” 5 likes
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