free-range kid
n. A child who is given lots of time for unstructured activities and play during the day.
Also Seen As
In his new book Under Pressure: Rescuing Childhood from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting, Canadian philosopher and writer Carl Honoré wrestles with his own well-intended overparenting and taps into a number of schools and families inspired by the free-range child. …

Elsewhere, Mr. Honoré documents outposts of free-range kids around the world and finds them flourishing. He cites an outdoor nursery called The Secret Garden in Scotland where kids can run free.

"It brings together so many of the anxieties and problems we're talking about and it seems to solve them in one fell swoop."
—Tralee Pearce, “The free-range child,” The Globe and Mail, May 13, 2008
Most of the time when a baby cries, they are tired or attention- seeking. In both cases, ignore them, she insisted. That sounds very harsh, but Verity is only updating a method of child-rearing from the 1950s, as espoused by a New Zealand doctor, Frederic Truby King, which was based on the belief that children who are subject to a strict routine are more likely to thrive than those who are not those my mother refers to dismissively as free-range kids.
—“My best-for-baby formula,” Irish Examiner, May 01, 2008
1989 (earliest)
The series, which pits a space cadet witch (Corinne Bohrer) against a luckless divorced lawyer (Frank Luz) and his three free-range kids, settles into a regular slot on both stations next Saturday at 7.30 p.m.
—Greg Quill, “Heartwarming Family Matters,” The Toronto Star, September 22, 1989
Sandler plays a slovenly underachiever who inherits a 5-year-old boy. … Because his own father, played by Joe Bologna, was too strict, Sandler practices free-range parenting, letting the kid dress as he likes, urinate in public and go unbathed.
—Duane Dudek, “'Daddy' Sandler not growing up very fast,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 25, 1999