Earlier this week I came across a wonderful article by Emma Marris who spoke to Matthew Browning about letting kids run wild in the woods, build forts and pick flowers. What an interesting read! Browning was advocating for all the things I actually did as a child.
I’ve come to realise that my parents probably fall into the “free range parenting” style that has been coined recently to describe parents that allow their offspring to explore their surrounds without constant supervision. From the age of 10 I would saddle my horse and trot off into the Wombat State Forest for the day. The only rule was that I was back by sunset. I was taught to give my horse her head (that is, loosen the reins so she can choose where to go) if I became lost. We never did.
My brothers and I created dams in creeks; rescued abandoned baby magpies (and sometimes small mammals); built hay bale forts and later a treehouse; climbed Mt Macedon on horseback and really, truly explored our community and beyond. My childhood was rich in experience. I knew all the roads, back tracks and pathways in a 20 kilometre radius around our home. I knew where you were likely to be swooped by nesting magpies; where the local wombat liked to hide out and even where the best blackberries were to be found.
As an adult I moved to the city where my husband and I are raising our own children. I offer my children lots of opportunity to learn about the world around them through access to lots of different places and activities. What I am realising is that they have little unstructured time with little to no supervision outside our home. At times I even hover over them, prompting them not to pick the flowers in the park or pull bark off trees.
So this weekend, if opportunity presents, I’m letting my kids run wild in the woods!