ITHACA, N.Y. – Kids are now officially free to be kids in Ithaca. Mayor Svante Myrick made a proclamation Wednesday, Nov. 7 declaring Ithaca a “free range kid city,” where kids have a right to unsupervised time and parents have the right to grant it to them.

“We believe in the power of play,” Myrick said in a statement. “Given the choice between living here, where your kids can run outside and find a bunch of friends to play with, and another city where just allowing your kids to walk home from the park could get you arrested, we know that families will joyfully choose Ithaca.”

Myrick did not suggest that parents in Ithaca have been arrested for letting their kids play outdoors. There is no evidence that Ithaca parents or caretakers have faced allegations of negligence for letting kids play freely. However, a handful of such cases elsewhere have made national headlines, spurring state and city governments to consider free-range parenting legislation.

Ithaca’s proclamation is non-binding, but affirms the city’s support of parents who give kids unsupervised time going forward. It follows a statewide “free-range parenting” law passed in Utah last spring, which was the first of its kind. The Utah law specifically establishes that parents who let their kids have unsupervised outdoor time will not be charged with negligence.

The free-range parenting movement argues that outdoor, unsupervised, unstructured play supports healthy child development. Ithaca’s proclamation asserts, “Unstructured outdoor free play has been shown to improve children’s creativity, social skills, communication skills, conflict resolution skills, socio-emotional learning, behavior self-regulation skills, (and) ability to assess and manage risk.”

The Community Life Commission and the Just Play Project, a non-profit organization that works to support free play, led the push to declare Ithaca a “free range kid city.” According to the city’s proclamation, the CLC and JPP share a vision “that the City of Ithaca will be a place where ALL children, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability or identity, thrive through increased access to play including unstructured outdoor free play.”

The Just Play Project supports children-led play throughout Ithaca. (Photo courtesy of JPP website)

Rusty Keeler, co-founder of JPP, said in a statement, “Ithaca is already taking the lead in supporting unstructured play and getting children out and about.” Among other projects, JPP has worked with the Ithaca School District to “reimagine recess” as a time for child-led play and has partnered with the Ithaca Youth Bureau to support child-led play in public parks.

Following the city’s proclamation, Keeler said JPP will host a community conversation, complete with free pizza and childcare, to figure out, “What is a free-range city? What does that mean? How are we achieving that now, and what are the challenges?”

Members of the public are invited to join the Community Discussion on Free Range Kids at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, 301 W Court St., Ithaca.

Featured image: Kids play during International Mud Day at Ithaca Children’s Garden (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice).

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at or 607-391-0328.