When are kids old enough to stay home alone?

Leaving your child at home while we run a quick errand is often easier than finding child care or taking them with you. When is your child old enough to be left home alone and how can you tell they are ready?

40  Answers

1 15

Well I think it should be based on the maturity level of the child...you also need to make sure you check your state and county laws to make sure you are within compliance.

31
0 0

I agree, New Mexico, for example has strict laws on the ages and length of time of children left alone--I don't remember the details but I do know that if the child is under that certain age, a trip to 7eleven can constitute child abandonment.

7 6

I am so disgusted by how many people are attacking others and putting them down for offering their opinions and what works for their individual family.
In the state I live, if they're capable of calling 911 in an emergency it's legal to leave them alone at any age. That doesn't work for my family but I know people that are forced to leave their kids home so they can work and it does work for their family. It's not my place or business to judge. If it works for you and your kids are safe, good for you! Kudos for raising responsible children, you feel comfortable enough to leave home while you work and take care of your life!

26
0 1

Yes well there are parents who leave their responsible children at home I know because I was one of those children and my mom was a single mom who had no help but then there are parents who are irresponsible themselves and leave helpless children to fend for themselves who is there to stand up for those kids, that is why I think there should be an age limit, how dare you say you are disgusted, children are easily taken advantage of and can be hurt very easily. I have seen some bad stuff happen, children should not be left alone until they are ready

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2 3

9 for quick errands, 11 achieves latch-key kid status, 13 for date night, 18/out of highschool for overnight.

25
1 7

I personally think that is way too young. What happens in the case of fire or a breakin?

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1 11

I think it depends on the maturity of the child. Some kids are ok to be home alone at the age of 10 & some at 13 or 14. It also depends on how the child feels about being home alone. Mine is ok as long as it's daylight, she's afraid to be home alone in the dark.

18
0 4

I totally agree!! It all depends on what works for you and your family!

3 21

i'm a single mom, and as such have had to make ammendments to how i would have done things were their father and i still together. things like getting the mail taking out the garbage or putting in the laundry (we live in an appartment) i leave both my children home alone for. may daughter is 5 and my son is nearly 3. neither of these things are far, and we've had no accidents to date and have been living here with this routine for a year. but i never leave them to go to the store even if they're asleep. but if my daughter were ten, i would, not for a long time but a half hour trip to the bank or some such thing for sure. she is a very 'little mommy' type girl and i know she would keep a good eye over the home and her brother. you have to start trusting them sometime, and the more little things you can do you help them learn how to be responcible the better and easier it will be for them in the long run.

11
70 74

It is nice to know nothing bad has happened YET with your 3 year old and 5 year old. It is a shame that you have to wait for something bad to happen to open your eyes and know this might be a bad decision. There are a lot of single mom's even me. We all had to make it work. But I be darned if I am going to leave my young children the ages yours are just to go to the trash can. It is irresponsible.

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12 6

Obviously times are much different than they were when I was a kid! I was left alone at 8 to babysit my cousins as my aunt/uncle went out. I've been contemplating this issue myself and I'm good with 12 or 13, definitely depending on maturity. My daughter is 13 now and while she hasn't been left alone long, we slowly ease her into the responsibility. We make sure we list out what she can and can't have, what she should and should not do!

10
70 74

I agree, times are changing or not changing just more things are noticed and reported. Not sure how old you are but in my day(40's) I started babysitting at the age of 10 and stayed at the parents house till early morning hours. Not sure now if I would have a 10 year old stay and babysit at my house till 3am.?? My daughter babysitts and took the babysitting course. She now stays until 10pm but after that I take over until the parents come home.

1 18

I follow the rules that we had when we lived in a military neighborhood.
10 years old - stay home alone for no more than three hours at a time.
11 years old - stay home baby sitting younger siblings for no more than three hours at a time after taking a baby-sitting course
12 years old - able to baby-sit siblings and other family's children after taking a baby sitting course. Not overnight.

7
6 11

I have always wondered where my mom got those ages from when I was growing up. She just told me it was the law everywhere so I never thought about it past that. Well until my friend told me in the state of Texas it doesn't matter then age for staying home alone it all has to do with Maturity. And now I have my answer. LOL

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16 0

I fully agree it depends on the maturity level of the child. Also, the neighborhood you live in.

6
0 10

I am a single mom and work 2 jobs. My oldest son is 11 and the little one is almost 6. I start work at 2 in the morning and leave them at home to sleep. I live in a granny flat with an alarm system so I know my kids are safe. It is impossible to take them with me to work and ther is no babysitter willing to wake up at 2 to come babysit my kids till 5 when I get home. I then get them ready, take them to school and go to my day job. Sometimes we are not left with much choice in life when we have to pay rent and feed the kids. I trust the Lord looks after them and protects them till my safe return.

5
5 13

I've left my almost 11 & 9 yr old home after school for very short spurts. They stay in the house and don't open the door. Believe it or not though I trust them both I think the 9 yr old is the most mature. I take the 5 & 1yr old with me though.

4
3 16

my children are 11,9,4 and 13 months I also believe its how mature your child is.My daughter is 11 and she is very mature she knows the dangers of things and I feel comfortable leaving her for short periods. we also live in a very rural community and we live a mile off the main road and I have a very large dog so I don't worry about strangers.Also now a day the kids have so much to keep themselves busy with computers and video games I really think it depends on your child.

4
0 141

I'd love to give an appropriate age for this, but I don't think there is one. I know some adults that I wouldn't leave at home alone (lol)!
My daughter was right at 10 when she first started staying at home alone for short periods of time. She is now 12 and her brother is 4. She is fully capable of keeping them both at home for long periods of time (meaning hours, not days). They have both always been very self-sufficient which is a big factor in our decision to leave them at home. Base your decision, on the child's capabilities, not your fears. 9 times out of 10, the kid is going to surprise you! :)

If you're nervous about injuries, fires, break-ins, etc. Take steps to overcome some of that anxiety. Enroll the child in first aid training at your local Red Cross. Take them to the fire station and get someone to talk with them about fire safety (and at-home fire drills). ALSO (huge recommendation) install a monitored security system for their protection. This could be a wash on the cost because most home-owners insurance policies will give you a discount for having one.
A lot of the time, the child will appreciate you taking the time to teach them, and welcome the opportunity to succeed. GOOD LUCK!!!

3
0 7

We're here to offer support to each other and advice. Check criticism at the door. (even if you don't agree)
With that being said, I do leave my 12 year old and 10 year old alone at times. My 12 year old has been certified by the red cross as a babysitter so I feel a little more comfortable doing so. Still it's not for long periods of time....

3
6 11

First you need to check with your local laws and see what they say. Once that is done and if it isn't considered illegal the next thing to look at is the maturity of the child/children. If you are not sure how to tell some things first would be. 1. Do you HONESTLY feel not think that the child would know what to do in case of a fire in the home with out any adults around to tell them? Same as with a brake-in? 2. Does the child know the emergency number/s by heart? and Mom and Dad numbers? I know there is another but can't think of it. If you still aren't sure then start asking loved ones in your family what they think of said child/children maturity levels. You are the parent you know the child better than anyone out there. Take the legal laws as your base grounds.

3
6 11

These are just the ways that my friends and I figured out if our kids were ready to stay home alone or need a supervisor. I have a 10 year old that can not stay by himself cause he will go out side as soon as he gets bord. Scared the LIVING CRAP out of me let me tell you. Never want to feel that again. But... Yes a but.. If I leave his sister home with him. Which she is only 18mos older. He stays in the house. She has to remind him not to answer the door if the door bell rings. It is very strange. He is mature enough with his sister around but by himself he is NOT ready. He says he is but twice was to much for mom I guess. LOL When they are left home alone they are both left responsible for their own actions even if he answers the door or goes outside. She is just simple there to remind him it is NOT ALLOWED.

10 9

My children are 7 and 9, I will go for a walk in the evening and leave them at home for 10 to 15 minutes. I always have my phone on and they know my number if they need anything. They also know not to answer the house phone or door. It all depends on their maturity and what you as a parent have taught them. I would never go in my car somewhere at least not until I know that they can get things they want and I feel comfortable that they won't fight over who's going to pick out a movie or something silly like that.

3
0 4

I am really disappointed at the number of people who are passing judgement on others. I choose to believe it is out of concern for the children. I have 2 children one 17, one 11. Of course when the 17yo is available I/we can leave them alone to go out to dinner or whatever. If the 17yo is otherwise occupied, at work for example, and I need to be gone for more than 2 hours, I usually enlist the help of one of my many wonderful neighbors with kids around my 11yo's age and "let" her go hang with them for awhile. I do the same for them, it really helps to live in a supportive neighborhood. My 11 yo is not comfortable alone at night or even when the sun is going down. This is just fine w/me as I do not think my child is ready to be alone at night/dusk yet and apparently neither does she..

People who have said it depends on the child are so right based on my experience. First, you really need to know the laws in your state and then know the maturity level of your child. My 11yo is a well behaved child, at the same time she gets curious about things and goes off to find the answer. She has never met a stranger so although she says she won't open the door to anyone, I just don't totally trust that yet.

We need to support each other, parenting is a glorious, wonderful gift and one of the hardest and most important jobs we will ever do. Also with the economy people are having to do the best they can with often limited resources. Let's lift each other up, the last thing we need is MORE parental guilt!

2
9,136 21

My ages were 7 for a quick errand to the convenience store, 9-10 could stay home from school while I worked (and is legal in my state), and 12 for babysitting younger sib so that dad and I could go out. Alone overnight at 16, for 2 nights in a row max.

2
14 27

I am in Ontario, Canada and contrary to most peoples’ perception, there is not specific age at which a child can be left unattended. The Child and Family Services Act states that parents of children under the age of 16 years, must make “reasonable provisions” for their care. This requires parents to ensure that if they leave their children at home alone, that they have made appropriate efforts to ensure their children’s safety. This must go hand in hand with a common sense approach, for instance, ensuring children have emergency phone numbers, are mature and responsible and are not left for long periods of time without adult supervision.

The Children's Aid Society strongly suggests parents not to leave a child under the age of ten (10) alone. If the child is under the age of ten (10) and CAS intervenes, the onus is on the parent to provide reasons and rationale to CAS that their child has not been left in a potentially harmful situation.

In addition, the Criminal Code of Canada includes the offence of abandoning a child. Everyone who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child who is under the age of 10 years, so that his/her life is or is likely to be endangered, or his/her health is or is likely to be permanently injured, is guilty of an offence that carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than two (2) years.

Parents are responsible for the safety and well-being of their children and parents will be held accountable by CAS and Police if there has been an injury or risk to their child if the child has been left alone or in the care of another person under the age of 16 years.

2
0 20

In the US there are only 2 states that have minimum age restrictions of 12 and thats Oregon, and I think Wyoming.

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2 14

I think that 13 is a good age - You can tell whether a child will be responsible or not and again this is not to say for long periods of time. But to run a quick errand, sure!

2
5 38

When I was 11, I babysat for others all the time. Looking back, I wonder why the parents thought it was ok but my parents said I was very mature. I could feed everyone and put them down for naps, and I had had a CPR class. I'm sure I could have gotten the kids outside if there was a fire, but it still blows my mind that I watched 4 sometimes 6 kids at a time as an 11 year old! I insist my own babysitters now be at least 12 or 13 but prefer 15 and up.

0 0

I believe this decision should be up to the discretion of the parent, the maturity level of the child, and State Laws. I personally have 9, 11, 12 year-olds and have left them alone to run errands or go to the gym. They know not to open the door, answer the phone (unless mom or dad) cook, and stay inside the house when I am gone. Never has there been an incident where I have regretted leaving my children alone because I have taught them to use good judgment. Also, I would like to say that when I was 13 (38 now), I was hired to babysit 4 kids at a time while the parents when out for some alone time. So I believe that what works for some, might not work for others!

1
2 17

This was (and still is) a difficult question. My son is 10 and has gone through the "When I'm in charge" class at the Rec Center to prepare him for situations that may arise while he is home alone. Currently we allow him to be home after school while we are at work. He is not to answer the door and only answer the phone when it's a number he recognizes.
The summer has presented a whole host of new issues as he doesn't understand why we aren't okay leaving him home all day. We have him in morning summer camps and then home in the afternoon.
I agree that it should be based on the individual child's maturity level and of course taking into account the laws in your area.

1
0 2

Where I live, the legal age is 12 years old, to be left alone. I must agree it really is and should be based on the maturity level of your own child.

My son is 8.. is capable of a lot of things, including calling 911.. but he is too young (in gr.2) to be left alone..

In my head I was thinking gr. 6 - which is right around 12 years of age. The end of :"the middle years" and the start of the teen years.

You, yourself will know whats right for your own family. Although checking your state law is a good first step.

1
0 7

My oldest are 10. We will leave the two at home only for quick errands. We do have an alarm with armed response for any emergency and she knows how to use it. She knows our number and can phone us for anything else. Even when our best friends came to visit she told them to wait outside as she may not open the door for any one.

1
0 8

I think it depends on the maturity level of the child at age 13. However, I wouldn't leave them alone for longer than 2 hours until they are old enough to drive.

1
1 20

I've been a single mom since day one and I have to agree with the maturity level. My daughter is 10 and this year she is finally starting to show some maturity but still has the baby in her (which is frustrating!!). I do have a co-worker who has a latchkey kid at the same age. However, she has rules. They come home, lock the doors, call mom, and watch tv/games, etc. They are not allowed to have friends over or answer the door. She calls them when she leaves work so the communication remains open between the two. I don't think it's age. I don't think I'd be ok with leaving my daughter home alone yet (although she would love that). I also think EVERY situation is different.

1
2 0

I have an 11 & 8 year old. I have left them alone to go to the convenience store 1 block away. No more than 10 minutes. I think that is about as long as I feel comfortable with for now. I trust my daughter, she is the 11 year old, to watch out for her brother but it just does not make me comfortable. I think this is a question only the parent can decide. The maturity of the child and the parent feeling ready is the biggest factors. With this being said, I am not bashing those who choose to leave young ones alone. This is just a personal choice for my family. I am a single mom so I do understand how difficult it is.

1
0 2

when my youngest was nine and home with a cold, i would run to the drug store and grocery both of which i could almost see from our house. i would only leave her if i was going to be gone less than fifteen minutes and she of course still loves calling me fifteen times in those fifteen minutes on my i phone!

now they are ten and fourteen. i leave them to run errands that are close to the house. if i have to go to stores that are five miles away or to several on payday and will be gone for several hours i take them with. but that is mostly because they will fight like cats and cats (haha) while i am gone.

definitely based on maturity. if it was just the oldest sick at home, i would leave her for several hours. we are military and my parents were both cops. she knows the safety rules. and we are fully alarmed which makes me feel better.

1
11 22

My son just turned 10 years old. i also have a 2 year old daughter. i will leave my ten year old home alone to make a run to the convienence store 2 minutes down the road or to drop my daughter off to school. he was raised knowing what i expect of him and he knows my expectaions are not crazy. i know my son and i know what he is capable of. there are set rules in place when i leave and if he didnt follow them or feel comfortable then i wouldnt do it. my daughter on te other hand is with me ALL the time. going to the mail, laundry, we live in apartments. that is only because i know he doesnt have the ability to keep an eye on her. so i agree with most people. it is the parents decision (they know their child best) and a maturity thing.

1
11 197

For me, it's a matter of trust. I don't leave my kids at home alone, they are 10 and 12. But I know that I could trust my 10 year old home alone, if I chose to. He's proven himself on more than one occasion. My 12 year old, however, I can't trust. One time I left the house and forgot to lock the door, I was a few minutes late getting back when she was due home after school. She invited her friends over, made phonecalls, etc., instead of going to the sitter's who lived in the same complex, as she had been instructed to do should this type of situation ever arise.

1
16 8

I'm sure that by the time my son is old enough to be left alone for me to go to fill up the gas tank or a different 15-30min errand I will have also checked the legal age in Georgia. That will be taken into account with his maturity level when it gets to that point. Our 6yr old is fine with me doing laundry in the garage while he is busy drawing or playing elsewhere in the house. He is very independent and can go by himself to the mailbox or to get the paper from our short driveway. We know several of our neighbors, but he knows we need to go with him if he wants to leave the property.

I was 11 when I started babysitting my younger brother (2yrs my junior) and latchkey from 2:30pm until 5pm, 12 yrs old mowing neighbor's lawns and 13 when babysitting for neighbor kids.
When he approaches 11 my husband & I will have to discuss it before we do more than lawnwork with him in the house.
~SusanBG

1
2 0

My daughter has just recently begun staying home alone for no more than 20 - 30 minutes at a time and she is 11. I have also sometimes allowed my 5 year old stay with her if I know I am going to be no more than maybe 10 -15 min. tops. I also live in a neighborhood where I know my neighbors and they always keep an additional eye my house whether there is someone home or not. My oldest is very responsible, and is aspiring to become a babysitter (which I have already told her she needs to be at least 13 and has taken babysitting and cpr courses first). I also agree with most of the comments below stating that it really needs to be a determination based on the family, the children, the maturity levels involved, and the community/area you live in. We were all raised differently as children and most want to raise our children differently than how we were raised. We should never condem someone else for the way they want to raise their children especially if it differs from our own.

1
2 31

I believe "legally" children can be left at home alone at 12, but some children are not mature enough at 12 to stay home alone and some could be mature enough at 10. My son didn't want to stay home alone until just recently and he is almost 14. My opinion would be to use 12 as a baseline and decide individually based on the child.

1
70 74

This is probably a question that has been asked for years. There are so many variables and of course everyone has their own thoughts and opinions and most are not based on the security of their children but based on their own need and their work schedules. It is sad that parents think just because their kids are now 9, 10, 11 and 12 that their rights to no parent supervision supersede safety. These are the ages they need us the most. There are many times 3,4,5 years are outside playing by themselves with no parent supervision and playing in the street as a playground. Yet as soon as those ages starting at 8 or 9 parents think their job is done the kids can do what they want. It has nothing to do with your own child's maturity. Of course there many kids that can stay home by themselves the question should be is it safe for them to stay by themselves and the answer is no. People recognize and take notice when chlldren are consistently being left alone, even children can force your kids to do something or let them in the house. STOP MAKING YOUR KIDS MAKE ADULT DECISIONS. STOP BEING THEIR FRIEND AND BE THEIR PARENT. THEY NEED GUIDANCE AND BOUNDARIES. STOP LETTING EVERYONE ELSE RAISE YOUR KIDS AND DO IT YOURSELF. WATCH YOUR KIDS!!!!!!

1
9,136 21

Christina, I fail to see how determining that your child is mature enough to make small decisions on their own is being irresponsible and abandoning our children in their hour of need. I, and most other parents that I have encountered don't consider telling the kid "don't answer the phone or the door until I get back" and running to check the mail, or 2 doors down to get some sugar to be "MAKING YOUR KIDS MAKE ADULT DECISIONS". Also, most other parents that I have encountered have given their children the tools needed to handle such situations (you know, things like 911, a neighbor's number, our own cell numbers) So, please, give us the courtesy of acknowledging that perhaps, just perhaps, some of the rest of us are not clueless, and DO KNOW HOW TO RAISE CHILDREN. Raising kids to be responsible in any and all circumstances is what's important. Overprotecting them, hovering over them, and never letting them do anything for themselves, EVER, will only bring about a seriously dependent adult who does not know how to make an adult decision.

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11 62

I would say that maturity plays a big role in when it would be a good idea to leave your child at home alone. I personally would not do it before my daughter was in middle school however, as she enters the 6th grade in the fall, I still have no intention of leaving her home alone. Why? Because people are crazy. I live in a very nice area but pedophiles and murders do not discriminate on where they are going to commit a crime. When I was a kid I was able to baby sit a one month old and a 4 year old for the first time ever...alone...I was 11. I just don't see that happening now. that was 21 years ago and times have changed. I'm just overly cautious. My daughter has a lot of responsibility inside the home and is very aware of the rules. She has a key to the house to let herself in when she gets off the bus in case we went to the store and are running a few minutes late but that's it. I've thought about leaving her in the house alone to run to the store but I change my mind every time. Maybe when she is a little older i will be able to do it..but right now I prefer to know that she is safe because she is with me.

1
0 6

I started leaving my son alone for short periods if time when he was 9/10. I was a single mom and I believe being raised as he was helped mold him into a responsible child. He knew the rules and safety numbers in case of emergency. It didn't mean he was treated as an adult but rather a child who was trusted to be responsible. He is now 12 and stays home alone for several hours at time with no trouble. I believe that if you take the time to teach and guide your child they can be trusted rather then tested to be be left home alone.

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11 13

I think it should be based on the child, the area you live in etc. My oldest was 11/12 when I started leaving her for quick errands. My second was 12/13 for the same and letting herself in the house and sometimes getting her younger sister off the bus a half suburban block away. The youngest is 9 and totally not ready to be left alone. I have been leaving the two younger when they were14/8 for a dinner or movie early in the evening. Check out this website: http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchkey-kids-age-limits.htm

1
11 13

Sorry I did not realize that was an advertisement for a service just wanted to post the guidelines.

4 13

I was a single child os a single parent...I thought my self ready to stay alone by the time I was 8yrs. My Mom did not but I wanted to take care of myself and show how mature I thought I was. I did not stay at home for even one hour by myself until I was 11 yrs.

1
3 21

My daughter is 7, and my husband ran to the store while I was out skating the neighborhood. I cut my workout a little short so she didn't feel uncomfortable, all told she was alone for 15 minutes. She was perfectly ok when I came in and asked her if she liked being home alone a few minutes. She said yes. Another time she was sick and I had to get her some Gatorade and stuff. I asked her if she would be ok if I ran to the grocery store to get her medicine and the other things she needed. She said yes, but about 10 minutes in she called my husband on his cell phone - I was back within the next 10 minutes, I flew through the store because I was uncomfortable with it. But, she did get nervous and knows how to call us, so she did. That gave me some parameters to work with. The time she was sick, she was 6, now she's 7 so I think she'd be ok with 20 a30 mins. But I don't plan on doing it any time soon - she's my precious gift so not going to risk unless totally necessary, like when she was throwing up. I can't wait until the day She and I both are comfortable leaving her for a couple hours, after school care is a b**ch on the bank account. But for now, I think she's a tad too young for extended time alone, even though I was a "latchkey kid" in the second grade, riding the bus home to an empty house.

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1

I would say ten because they can be responsible and my doughter is ten and she is very responsible and I let her wacht her little brothers.

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12 0

I believe children aged 12-13-year-old nowadays are mature enough to take things on their ways. And they can also manage things, even if parents aren't supervising them. However, we should not always take the risk, especially if it concerns the safety of our kids. So, I guess this article that I've found by anationofmoms about a service that can protect your family via your cell phone. I'm positive that it will help us parents, monitor our kids even if we're not around. Moreover, at the bottom, there is an opportunity to enter a drawing for 6 months of that service just by liking them on Facebook. You might find it interesting: http://anationofmoms.com/2011/08/protect-your-family-giveaway.html.

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0 0

I'm 11 and I stay home sometimes for like 7 hours in one day. I just did that Yesterday.

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