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Appropriate Age for Playing Outside Alone

I'm looking for advice on what age is appropriate for playing outside alone. There are some kids in our neighborhood that are 5 and 6 and they are often outside with no apparent adult supervision. My son is 5 and I don't feel comfortable letting him out alone, and I feel responsible for keeping an eye on the other kids if I go out with him. Sometimes they'll come over and ask if he can play and we say no because my husband and I have other things to do indoors. Just curious about others thoughts on this.

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Thanks for asking this question and everyone else for the responses. I have a 3 year old and had no clue what the guidelines are--except that mine is WAY too young. This information is very helpful.

I feel 5 is WAY too young. My son is 11 now and just last year we were comfortable sending him out with a walkie talkie. That way if we can't see him, we do feel better knowing he can talk to us whenever he would need to.

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If you don't feel comfortable letting him play outside alone and unsupervised then he's not old enough. The correct age to let a child play outside unattended depends on the child. Nobody knows your child like you do...you're with him all the time and you know best what his responsability level is. When my daughter was 5, I would allow her to go out alone, because she has always been very grown and very responsable for her age...she still is at 9. She knows what to do if someone tries to pick her up and drag her away...she knows when it's time to come in...she knows to check in often...she knows where she's allowed to be and where she's not allowed to be and she's excellent at following the rules and guidelines that I set for her to a T. My 5 year old son on the other hand, I would never let him out alone at this age as he is to compulsive, doesn't pay attention to his surroundings and isn't so good at following the rules. The only way he gets to go out without me is if he's with his sister and if stops obeying her then she will tell on him and he'll have to come inside for the rest of the day. He personally isn't ready to be out alone. Maybe he will be ready by the time he's 6 and maybe he won't...I'll have to wait and see. I can tell you that if YOU are uncomfortable with him being out alone then he is to young. As for the other kids in the neighborhood...if their parents didn't ask you to watch them and you didn't agree to, then don't do it...it's not your responsability. But even if you have a responsable child that you feel can handle being out alone...I still recommend popping your head out the door every 10 to 15 minutes just to get a visual on him. And keep in mind that just because you don't see a parent, doesn't mean that there isn't one watching. Another thing...if you think he may be ready, you might want to pick up a couple of cheap walkie-talkies from wal-mart that have voice activation...I suggest the rechargeables so that you don't have a battery burdon from hell. You can set the one your child has on voice activated and clip it to their shirt so anytime he talks you can hear what he's saying as well as the other kids standing by him. And you can communicate with him as well.

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In my opinion, and this really sucks, but I think that in this day and age, there is no "safe age" on letting children play alone outside. It doesn't matter what kind of neighborhood you live in, how old they are, or how mature you think they are. There are terrible people out there that drive around neighborhoods with children to find their next victim, and if God forbid, your own child is the chosen one for those perverts, it doesn't matter how old or mature your child is, they can be taken.

I will NEVER let my children play outside alone, EVER. That's not because I'm necessarily a paranoid mother, it's because there are hundreds, I think over 700 sexual predators in Fort Wayne and the only protectors our children have from these perverts is us, their parents. I know that if my child got to an age where I felt they could go outside alone, and I allowed it, and they were kidnapped, I would never ever get over it because honestly, I would know that it was my fault. I wasn't protecting them. So, that's what I honestly would think about, not whether or not your child is ready, but rather, whether or not YOU are ready to risk it. It's totally not fair that it has to be that way, but it's just the reality of the cruel and perverted world we live in today.

I honestly don't mean to sound like the "debbie downer" of the much needed time without children for mothers to either just relax in quiet, or get housework done. I realize that that's one really nice thing about kids playing outside, but honestly, who is there to protect them, other than us? This is why all sexual predators should be put away for life, no exceptions.

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I'm not sure of an exact age to let your child play outside alone but I'm with you. My son is also 5 and if he's outside so are we. I will on occassion let him play in the fenced in backyard by himself but he's to stay on the deck where I can see him through a window. We live on a busy street where people cut through to get to different intersections. You just never know who's going to drive by & try to coax them into their vehicle if you aren't with them.

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I have the same situation in my neighborhood.

I saw a show last year (I think it might have been the today show) they talked about how kids are not developmentally ready to handly certain situations until they were a cetain age.

Like being able to say "NO" and fullly understanding the concequences.

I didn't allow my kids out without supervision until they were 7 and I still constantly check to make sure they are okay!!

Everyone's right, it all depends on your child and your neighborhood. I will let my 4 and 6 year old's out in the backyard (fenced in) unsupervised (at least they think i'm not watching! lol) But in the front yard, or if they want to go play in a friend's yard, I have to be outside, and they have to stay where I can see them. We live at the back of a quite subdivision, so there's not much traffic, kids play basketball and ride their bikes on the street.

My children are very young, so I don't have experience with this. But it is my opinion, as a mother, that you will just know when your child is old enough to play outside alone. I think that you know your child, and you will know when he is ready. Hope my opinion helps!

Well, first of all let me say I am an extremely paranoid mother, so my kids do not get to wander the neighborhood. However, I have 4 boys 10, 8, 6, and 3. Now the 3 older ones are allowed to play outside as long as one of the other guys are out there with them. They are not allowed outside alone even if they are playing with a friend. The reason being is that the friend could be told to go inside and that would leave them out there alone.

In your situation it has to be difficult with just the one kid, and if I had just one I wouldn't be comfortable with them going outside by themselves until they were at least 10. There's just so much that could happen, whether they get hurt and are unable to get help or whatever.

So, as you can see I probably don't have any good advice because my nerves wouldn't handle it. Now I do live in a neighborhood with tons of kids, but I've also done a predator check and there are some in my zip code even though we live a block down from the elementary school.

My sons are 5 and 3 and I do let them play outside alone in our fenced-in back yard. I can see them from my kitchen window, and I even make my presence know my going to the door and taking with them periodically. We have one family I do let them go to to play with. we walk them there, and their mother usually walks them back home or calls me to come get them. Since I don't know some of the other children in the neighborhood as well, and my 5 year old is hungry for friends (other than his little brother) I let the other children play in our backyard, and go over some general rules. If trouble arrises, I tell them they have to go home. At least if they are in my backyard, I can monitor what is going on. My oldest is a pretty good tattle-tale, so if anyone gets out of line, he's quick to come tell me. It's important they learn to find ways to play with others, and learn rules. I'm glad I can be there to supervise both learning experiences and guide them through. You have to do what is best in your circumstances.
God Bless J. <><

This totally depends on your house, your yard and your neigbhorhood. I have a 1 year old and 4 year old. They play outside by themselves all the time... for hours at time. BUT they are in the backyard and I can keep an eye on them from windows in the kitchen, dining room, family room and my office (tons of windows). There is an 8 foot high wood fence around the yard (like every other house in our neighborhood). The yard is completely child-proof... no standing water, no sharp tools or sharps things to run into, etc. They have a wooden playset with slings and slide and big sandbox. No one can enter the backyard (gates only unlock from inside).

However, if they want to be in the front yard, they are supervised. Definately the 1 year old. Now with my 4 year old, I'll let him stay out front for a few minutes by himself if I have to run inside to change the 1 year old's diaper or grab a sippy cup from the fridge or something, but it's only for like 2-3 minutes max. I let the 4 year old walk by himself to his friend's house 3 houses down, but I'm standing in our driveway watching him the entire time.

In our neighborhood, there are tons of kids and everyone knows everyone. On warm days, there is usually at least 1 adult in front of every other house keeping a general eye out while the kids run around. Kids are running around to everyone's houses by the time they are 5 or 6 years old. The parents of those kids are usually out in front of their house, sitting in a lawn chair or doing some yardwork, while keeping an eye on the kids as they roam yard to yard. Everyone kinda watches everyone else's kids while outside. We live in a small neighborhood of about 50 houses and it's not a thru street so there's zero traffic except for people who live here. We also live in one of the safest cities in the safest county in the state as far as crime rates go.

my son is 5 & my daughter is 4, if my 8 yr old nephew is here (most days after school) then I let the kids all go out back in the yard but NOT to go past the fence or around to the front. otherwise they don't go out unless I'm with them or my husband

I have a five year old boy too and there is no way I would let him out of my sight outdoors. I think maybe 10-12 might be okay to let play outside alone, depending on where you live. A five year old is not capable of making the kind of decisions that could prevent him from being seriously hurt, lost or from getting nabbed by someone. It's sad, but things are different from when we were growing up.

My son is also 5. We live in an apartment community, a nice one on the southside. At most he is allowed out on the patio by himself but only if it's nice enough for me to leave the patio door open so I can hear him, if not at least see him, and he knows the mark off line is no going past the tree (about 5 feet off the porch).

I think by the time he's 7 or 8 he will be allowed to go out by himself maybe even all the way to the playground which you can clearly see from my backyard but is about 100 yards away. Until then he has to be with me. I try to get him out on bike rides and to take walks with me to get him outside more since I'm so busy between work and housechores (I know it's hard to strike a nice balance) but for his health too. Kids need sunlight to grow just as much as a plant would. :)
Like me, if you arent willing to let him run around with neighborhood kids, you have to make an effort to get outside with him frequently. It's very good for him and you.

You know when we were kids you could run a muck all over the place and no one cared. Now you have to worry about pediphiles kidnapping your kids, it's ridiculous!! And I see the other parents who obviously don't care where their small children are(and I have seen them by themselves as young as 3 where I live) and I just don't get it.

I know in my neighborhood, there are a lot of 5-6 year olds that run around and most of time, their parents have no idea where they are for long periods of time, but don't seem to mind. My daughter is almost 3 and I don't plan on letting her be outside alone for many years!! My neighbor still watches her 8, 9, and 11 year olds. I'll probably be like that because I'm overly paranoid!! LOL!! In the end, you just have to do what you feel is comfortable for you at your childs level and your surroundings at to what is safe!!

I agree that it depends on the neighborhood and the kids. I started letting my daughter play outside when she was 5. We live in a court and I know all of my neighbors. She understands that she can not go in anyone's house without telling me and cannot go outside of the court. It works out well because I can watch her from inside the house. All of the neighbors have kids and there's always a few people keeping an eye on them, even if you can't see them. It is hard to deal with other kids at times whose parents just let them run wild through the neighborhood. I just keep strong and don't allow my daughter to do anything I'm not comfortable with regardless of what the other kids are doing.

The apartment community that I lived in addressed this same issue. The landlord sent our a letter stating that by law a child cannot go outside unattended under the age of 7.
But I would still take the advice of the other moms, when making a decision.

Hi S.,

I think that depends on your child; how he is, how he behaves, if he wonders around, if he is good at following directions, and mostly if he understands really well actions to take in different situations.
My husband and I do not let my 6 yr-old child play with no adult supervision, and will do the same with the baby when he grows up. I do not think my kid is ready to do that, even when I have explained to him the dangers of outdoors and about strangers, I do not feel he actually undestand it. I usually take him to the park and I supervise him or I let him play with other friends from school in our yard (supervised b/c we don't have a fenced yard).
My kid is learning though, and probably next year he will be ready to do that. Some kids are ready at that age and some others not.
Do what you think and feels is right for your kid.
Good Luck!

I feel 5 is WAY too young. My son is 11 now and just last year we were comfortable sending him out with a walkie talkie. That way if we can't see him, we do feel better knowing he can talk to us whenever he would need to.

I have a mixed age of children. I did not feel comfortable letting them be outside alone at all, even with my older ones (ages now are 13, 11, and going to be 10)who are very responsible. I worry more about other people grabbing my children than my children behaving responsibly. But last year it was way past time for me to cut the umbilical chords so to speak and let them be out by themselfes. I have one child though who will be 8 here soon, but I do not feel ok with him being out by himself, with the others is ok but definitly not by himself. I think the other parents are right too about knowing your children. My youngest is 4 and a half and I feel he probably would do all right outside, but I am not ready to do that. I will let my 13 year old take him outside in front of the house for a bit,but I don't really like to do that either. I guess I'm what you would call an overprotective Mother LOL. Seriously though I do hope this has helped.

Thanks for asking this question and everyone else for the responses. I have a 3 year old and had no clue what the guidelines are--except that mine is WAY too young. This information is very helpful.

I also live in a neighborhood where very small children are playing out with no visible supervision. What really bothers me are that there are children who look like they couldnt be any older than 6 riding there bikes in the streets. Alot of people use my street as a cut through and fly down it even though the posted speed limit is 20. There isn't really much you can do about it. I called the police station and asked them to patrol the neighborhood more often to try to deter some of the speed demons, but apparently the officers couldn't care less, i havent seen one yet. I also purchased a neon plastic man holding a flag with the children at play sign on it to put by the mailbox. I do not allow my children (4 and 2) outside alone, and I also dont go out of my way to supercise the other children. If you feel that your child is responsible enough to play out in the backyard without supervision I think it would be ok, but I never, under any circumstances, allow my children to play or ride bikes in or anywhere near the street. I think any parents who allow their children to do so are in no place to BE a parent to begin with.

Well S.,
I have 3 daughters and 1 son. My oldes daughter is 14 years old and I let her go wherever she wants as long as I am home. On occasion I let her take my 9 year old to the park. My 9 year old plays outside by herself (in my fenced in yard) when I'm home. My 5 year old on the other hand is only allowed to be outside with Me, My Husband, or Our Oldest daughter. I would have to say anywhere between the ages of 9 and 14 is a good age to start letting them play outside on their own. Good Luck!

I started letting my son (now 9) play outside alone at 6. But we had a fenced yard and I told him he wasn't allowed anywhere except for the backyard where I could see him from the kitchen and living room. So, I think it depends on how your yard is set up, what's behind you, beside you, etc. And set definite rules with cosequences about where he can go when you're inside.

I personally think 5 is young. My nephews are 5 & 7 adn my sister would not let them go outside of their yard alone. (their yard is completely enclosed with a privacy fence with a latch taller than the 7 year old) And even with the fence, she checks on them frequently and has the door open to be able to hear them.
My husband's daughter was 8 when we got together and 10 when we were married - she was allowed out by herself, but she had to check in every half hour to an hour and always had to be within my yelling range. If she got too far away and couldn't hear me yell for her, she had to stay in the yard next time.
This may sound over protective, but I'd rather be a little over-protective, than have to do an interview on the news about my missing child.

I think it's hard to say an exact age. A lot depends on your yard/neighborhood and the maturity level of the child.

My son played out alone at age 5 with no problems. We also live at the end of a dead end street with no traffic. He was only allowed to play in the designanted area, right in front of the window where I can watch him and listen (I open the window) He likes to sit and just drive his cars and play in the sand. I could fold laundry and finish up small projects, while seeing what he was doing.

Now, had he been a child who would wander off I'd have not felt he was ready for it.

I feel the same as you and the other ladies. My oldest is 6 and my youngest is 3. If my oldest son goes outside for any reason my youngest wants to go. I feel that if our children are going to be outside at this age we should be there with them to make sure nothing happens and to be there if they want to play with us. I don't think I will let my son play outside by himself like that until he is maybe 10 or older? I guess I will just have to see how I feel then.

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