Age for Unsupervised Play?

Updated on February 11, 2011
A.A. asks from Coatesville, PA
38 answers

i'm a mom who watches her kids pretty closely, and definitely a lot closer than most other moms i've seen. i know many moms who are really laid back. sometimes it seems like some (not all) parents just aren’t watching their children. some refuse to childproof their houses, and "teach them to do the stairs". some let their kids on the playground equipment that is for an older age group than their child, some aren't even within earshot. a different style of parenting, i know, and it's just not my style for my children. what i wanted to know is what age do you feel that it's ok to let your kids play by themselves in a room without other adults? Whether it be at home in their own room, alone with one other child in their room, or in a playgroup setting?

take for example a play group i've attended. the moms let their kids all go down to the playroom in the basement, all ages, the youngest about 15 months, the oldest about 6, by themselves down there play with toys while the adults stay upstairs and chat. i went into the room, did a quick childproof assessment (doors that lead to unfinished ultility rooms & doors to outside all w/o child proofed knobs, no outlet protectors, older kids filing in and out, etc) and felt like i wanted to be down there when my child, (who will be 3 in a couple months) and played with her there.

while there i broke up some "no mine! no i want that!" squabbles between other 2ish year olds (clarification- i told two kids pulling a toy back and forth 'oh you should share that', and i told my daughter to share a toy- and they shared. by doing that i don't think i'm parenting another child or forever ruining them from learning to work out their own problems, and i wasn't getting after every little thing-sorry, a tangent), i watched that a child with a really runny nose wasn’t touching my child, and just had fun playing with the other kids. one mom came down briefly once, checked on her child, and went back up to socialize with the other moms. other moms didn't check on their kids at all. i feel like with me being the only adult down there, that it was my responsibility to watch everyone else’s kids, and before I had arrived, no adults were there at all.

this same exact thing happened to me with a completely different group of parents at a get together- my husband and i were the parents in the basement, while all of the other parents (without asking us) dropped off their kids in the basement and left. are they assuming i'm going to watch their kids? What if I want to leave the room?

am i supposed to just leave my child there and go upstairs and let her fend for herself? am i a crazy overprotective mom? my child is happy, intelligent, able to play independently, and most importantly she is safe. I don’t feel like I’m doing a disservice to her by being in the room with her, but it sure is lonely being the ONLY mom down there when everyone else is upstairs socializing! Am I the only person with this parenting style?!

added note: i know that parenting style is like religion/politics/sports- a topic that gets very heated, has people from both ends of the spectrum who swear by their way. i'm not trying to offend or attack anyone, but i'm also not looking for someone to attack me and prove to me why i'm wrong. if you don't agree with me, that's fine, but let's be civil and i can agree to disagree.

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answers from Detroit on

I just started letting my kids (3 and 4) play downtstairs together while I am upstairs. I can pretty much hear everything they are doing and call down to them every so often or go down there. It is amazing how they actually play better together when I am not right there in the room.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I have always let my son play in a way that YOU would consider "unsupervised" but I always know where he is and what he's up to. By 3 he certainly knew what was appropriate and what wasn't when playing in another friends playroom and if I was just up the basement stairs would have called or come up if there was a problem.

I personally would be a bit ticked off to know that another mom was breaking up "no mine" arguments. How do you break that up? If you play in a communal space, nothing is "mine" so each kid is equally allowed to play with it and needs to negotiate those social issues. If the kids can't work it out, they'll get their parents.


3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

In my (most likely unpopular) opinion, you should really try to relax. I'm sure that when you were a kid, your mother let you play alone or with other kids at a VERY young age without watching your every move. Probably even let you play outside alone (gasp!). FYI - crime is lower in the US now than in the 1960's -- before most of us were born! It seems you made it through childhood without grievous bodily harm or serious emotional disturbance. So, just let you kid be a kid. I’m not suggesting you send your 3 year old to walk to the park alone. But, if they are safe in a house with other kids there to happily come and tattle-tale (or you can hear them yelling for you), they will be FINE. So what if they get a bruise or get in a fight with another kid. It's all part of being a kid (remember?). There are valuable life skills and lessons to be learned for a kid that come with a little independence (even as young as a toddler). Give your child a little credit too - I'm sure they are very smart. You can't prevent every bad thing in life, and if you try, you might actually be doing more harm than good.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Well, nobody asked you to stay downstairs, so you took that one upon yourself. That is your good right, but then you really shouldn't complain about the responsibility and loneliness.

I have an almost three year old and she has always been allowed to play by herself in her own room and most other rooms in our house (with the exception of bathroom, kitchen and office) and does occasionally.
We have done a good amount of babyproofing, but definitely not gone overboard. Especially in our living room we don't have outlet covers, since the outlets are in use... I feel comfortable with that.
This is the first summer that she's also allowed to play in our backyard (fenced) by herself.
Of course I am usually in earshot, but I really don't feel like I need to be hovering.

As you have said, to each their own and maybe this just isn't the right playgroup setting for you and you need to find a group that is more along our parenting style...
Good luck.

And since someone brought this up, yes, my 2 year old (almost 3) plays very well by herself and is not watching TV...

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

My son has been playing upstairs in his room or living room by himself since before 2. He is going to be 3 next month. I do however have the house childproof. We have door knob things on the bathroom door and our door so he can play in there without us. We have locks on all the cabinets except for one which is his to play in and nothing around that can really hurt him. I also let him play downstairs in his playroom by him self, but we have a lock high up on the back door so he cant open it and once again mostly childproofed. The playdates that we have are with good friends and thier houses are childproofed as well so i dont worry as much. At home i say let your kid play alone and if your not and dont feel comfortable then supervise. 3 is old enough to start learning a little independence though.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I started leaving mine when she was 7 mos. Let me re-phrase, she was 7 mos old when she would crawl away from me and find something to do. And as soon as she could she'd follow her friends to a different room to play.

For me, I frankly don't appreciate it much when a mom feels compelled to parent my children differently than I do. And when you're in a room of children and fighting their battles for them you *are* parenting them. I prefer to let my children figure out the best way to get along with their friends. If they need help, they always come talk to me and never once have they felt 'abandoned'.

By age 3 your child should have a certain level of independence from you.

I think the BIG clue however is the kids are happily staying downstairs doing their thing while the moms are doing their own thing. If the kids truly wanted to be around their moms, they would. No amount of gently nudging "go play with your friends while I talk with mine" will co-erce a child to play with kids they don't like. In short, I think you need to find a different group of moms.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Nope! I'm JUST LIKE YOU. My son is 4 and I still stay in the same room with him or close by at the park, etc. Someone once called me a helicopter Mom (although I'm not to an extreme)!! LOL I don't care. I do things my way and what works best for my family. Actually my friends have become used to my style of parenting so they don't tease me anymore. Luckily there is one other Mom in our group that is like me too so I always have someone to talk to. How I met her was at the park. She was the only other Mom other than me who was swinging on the swings with her child and running around playing chase. They are only young once =-)

IMO, you sound like an awesome, very attentive Mommy!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I'm a super laid back mom when it comes to socializing. I'm that mom at the park where people are looking around like, "Where's his mom?" about my 2 1/2 year old. My eyes are never off of him, but I give him his free roam and my 4 1/2 yo daughter the same. They play independently all over the house. We never child proofed. They are well disciplined (specifically to allow more freedom as they grow) and were trained what not to mess with, and we put the deadly things out of reach, but other than that, they get lots of free time and free play. We have a huge extended family who does the "all kids in the basement, babies through teens" thing, but they are all good, disciplined kids and the older ones watch the young ones. We think there are times to hover and keep the kids in line, and times to let go and be free. 3 years old is "getting up there in seniority" in our family. My 2 1/2 year old helps with my 1 year old-telling her not to head for the stairs etc. (don't worry, I do still watch her a bit)
But ANYWAY, you're not wrong for your style, but don't let people walk over you. If you want to leave the room, leave the room. If you don't want your daughter unsupervised, bring her with you. Don't watch the kids of others who aren't watching their kids. They either don't want them watched, or they think you want to watch them. Stick up for yourself!!!

Oh, and as for the squabbles-we let them fight if it's play time-again these are good kids and we know none of them act badly. They know the price of coming out and tattling is being pulled from the play time, so they resolve it themselves. We save the good manners for when they need good manners. And of course we have scanned the area for hazards and do peek in from time to time if we hear a loud scream.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I live in a 1 floor house so I don't know if that counts but I leave my 2 years old play in her room if she wants or being in the living room while I am in the bathroom (wish I hope she did but most of the time she is right there with me)
She is not allow to go in the bathroom or garage (unless we are there of course), we child proof the outlet (the ones that are not being use).
We child proof 2 low cabintes in the kitchen were we keep the soap and that stuff, put high everything can break and let her play with the rest of the stuff (pots, pans, Tupperware, etc).
I feel is very important that my child learn how to distract her self too.
When we are in somebody else house we do keep an eye on her (either my husband, my 12 year old girl or me) and when we go to the park I never left her alone, I actually go up with her and play.
However, I do let her play in the older playgrounds because we have go to the same park for almost a year and she is bored on the little ones and I feel that she needs more challenge, but I am with her. If they are older kids then I don't let her because I know they are kids and will not be careful, but I barely have that problem because I take her in the mornings when the older kids are in school.
Now, I can see what you are talking about some parents giving wayyy much freedom to their kids.
I see many times little kids almost getting out the park and the mothers talking to each other and not even notice the little kid almost made it out!
I guess I am in the middle, to me depends of many things (where I am, who is around, etc).
I also have to say that with my first kid I wasn't as protective as I am with my second (I was very young) and she grow very good too, she is very smart and very independent, of course now I am older and have read more, know more, etc. I think I am more protective with her now, lol

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

You are not alone! You just happened to be with those types of parents, who aren't parenting at all. They drive me nuts too! I'm no over protector by any means but there's a thing called "parenting" that seems to be lost on too many moms out there. How will children learn if they're not supervised. It's like throwing a pack of puppies in the basement with some papers and leaving them alone. A mess! Sounds like those moms are just too lazy to do their job. If they want mom time they need to hire a sitter and go out and not just dump them in the basement and leave. That's insane!

I can't tell you what age is best to leave alone, as each child and situation is different. But if I had a 15 month old hanging with 8 year olds, it wouldn't happen. And if I were the mom of an 8 year old I wouldn't let them hang with a baby. They need to be with their same age group. I think you're right on track and speak up to the other moms or better yet, don't be with those types of people cuz I sure wouldn't.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets
events and chat within 2 hour radius

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

I like the way you think, lady. i would be right down there with you.
In a group setting like that, with a multiage group, I would not feel comfortable letting my child play unsupervised. A three year old is still learning how to share and play with other children, a ten year old ought to have those skills and could be left alone, but not a three year old. and DEfinately not the babies, 6 is not old enough to be a babysitter either.

At our house, when my kids outgrew their naps around 4 years, we started "quiet time" where they could read or play quiet things in their rooms. With out mommy there. this was just for one hour, some days not even that long. Now that my son is almost 7, he feels comfortable playing in another room alone while i am making dinner or checking emails what ever. again not for long periods, and he's pretty much with in ear shot. My daughter is 5 and still wants to follow me to the bathroom lol. she just isn't really happy about not being where she can see me. and that is ok, i'm finding that it is just a developmental thing. I let my kids play alone with cousins that are very close in age, but we know their house as well as our own and i am very comfortable with that. IF my kids have friends over, 10 mins is the most i would let them play alone, usually that's as long as they stick with one activity, at every change of activity, i go check in.
hope that wasnt' TMI, but i just wanted you to know you weren't alone.

I just read some other responses, are there really 2 year olds out there that are CHoosing to play alone, or are they watching TV??? not the same in my opinion.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I have but one word for this discussion -- Chick-Fil-A! The sign actually says "Children should be supervised," not "Parents should sit in the restaurant and eat, and just possibly sit where they can occasionally crane their necks to check on their children." And if I find that I am the only parent in there supervising, I POLICE! "Get down off that equipment, please. It's against the rules." "Everybody else does it." "Can you read?" "Yes." "Well, come over here and read this line to me." So if you don't adequately supervise your child you can bet I will. And you can also bet that my child knows the rules.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

This is soo funny to me because my husband and I always seem to be the "babysitters" when it comes to groups with children. I have two boys, 4 in August and 18 months. There is no way, I would let my 18 month old play alone without supervision anywhere! My 4 year old, I give a little more leniency and would let him play alone in a house, not outside as a neighbor of ours does with her 4 year old, but would definitely check on him every 30 minutes or so. It's crazy to me that parents don't feel the need to supervise their children and leave it to someone else to do. What if something happened to their child? Would they blame the parent who was watching their own child? I agree with you, and think there are many more who are just as diligent about supervision as we are, however maybe just as many who aren't!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Believe me..IM THE SAMEWAY! I totally agree with you, I don't even let my kid's play outside without me being there, mind you my oldest is 11! Now when my daughters friends come over i do let them play or hang out downstairs but I will go down there every 15-20 mins to check up on them. As for my 7 and 2 year old, I definately have to be there to supervise them! 1st off any child ranging from whatever amount of months in age to 3 year's old can easily put a simple toy such as a lego in their mouth and choke on it, they need to be supervised! My neighbors are always calling me out saying that im always "paranoid" and that i need to let "loose"...I DONT THINK SO! I am responsible for my kid's, therefore it is my duty as a mother and adult to assure that my kids or any other child that comes to our home is safe. Thats just part of being a GREAT mom! And you are an example of that! I hope that I was some help to your question, but don't worry I think your doing a great job so keep it up!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You should probably drop out of the playgroup as it sounds like it is more of a "moms" group. No play group should span those ages. And since it sounds like you aren't even mingling with the moms-what's the point?? If it were me I would let me 3yo in the basement with the other kids. I would periodically check on him though. The thing I wouldn't do would be hang down there with the kids.

Kids can get hurt anywhere and at anytime-even in a super babyproofed house when you are standing right there(has happened to me many times!) Sometimes we just have to take that leap of faith and let them venture outside of our bubble that we put them in and hope that they will be OK. It is important for healthy development to do this.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I think you should do what feels right for you and not worry what other parents are doing. This is something everyone approaches me you sound a bit overprotective but that's only because it's not how we have chosen to parent our child. I just finished reading "Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)" by Lenore Skenazy and this is the approach we have been taking with our son. We live in a safe neighborhood without a lot of traffic and we do let our 4 year old play outside by himself. He has limits as to where he can be and we do check on him to make sure he's ok. We're lucky because he doesn't wander off and comes right away when called. There are usually a bunch of kids out so it's not a big deal to us. We also didn't do much babyproofing except for a few gates because we never had to. I never felt my son was unsafe because we didn't use cabinet locks and the like.

I think the bigger issue is how you handle situations like you describe in your post. If you don't feel comfortable with your child being with the other kids by herself then you will find yourself the only parent in the room in those types of situations. You may want to say something to the person who is putting these get togethers together. I would let him/her know how you feel and see what they say. If you don't like the situation you can always leave or may have to try to find other parents to hang out with who have an approach closer to yours in these types of situations. While I would be comfortable letting my son play with other kids unsupervised in someone's house I would at least check up on him once in a while to make sure he's ok.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Reading on

I personally feel like you are being a little overprotective, although 18 months is definitely too young to let play unsupervised! In a situation like you described, I would feel comfortable to let my 4 year old play downstairs with the others without me being in the same room. I would check on her every now and then, and of course not leave the house, but really, they need to learn how to play in a safe environment with other children. I'm a big believer in kids learning how to work through things on their own. Maybe it's because I grew up with 9 brothers and sisters, and my mother couldn't possibly be with all of us at the same time! :) Another issue for me is that my daughter has a friend who is 5, and her mother NEVER lets her play alone. Honestly, I feel like this girl is afraid of EVERYTHING and she is just plain not good with being without her mom, which I don't feel is healthy either. Your daughter is 2, so it's not the same thing, but I think it can become a trend with very overprotective mothers. I think by age 2, my daughter would definitely play in another room by herself, and no, not always just watching TV! But we did baby proof our house, and I would definitely check on her periodically. I think it's a good thing to learn that independence!

I don't think it's fair for you to say that parents are "dropping their kids off" with you. Did someone ask you to watch them? I doubt this is the case. You are sitting there, and most likely these parents would have dropped their kids off to play alone b/c they are comfortable with it!

I think it sounds like you are a great mom, but maybe you could find some ways to relax a little? Do you let her play in her room alone for little periods during the day? If you truly feel like this area that the children are playing in is not safe, could you have some friends to your house and arrange the time so that the kids are playing within an area that you can see them, yet still let them be playing somewhat "alone"?

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answers from Austin on

I would also be concerned if the space was not childproofed with children under the age of 5. . This does not mean a padded cell, but the basics.

Also I like to be pretty close to where young children are so I can at least hear them.. If it is too loud or to quiet, you get the sense something is going on you can poke your head around the corner and check it out.

Are the other children older and yours is the youngest? that is the only reason I can imagine no one else is checking on their kids.

We do not have basements here, but our kids played in the fenced in back yards alone but never under the age of 5. Even then there were windows or patio doors that were left open so we all could hear what was going on. Every few minutes we would take turns going outside to make sure everything was ok. Usually we ended up outside after not too long. In the winter we were in small homes so we could hear everything. We still took turns making a pass through the rooms to have a look at the dynamics.

I do not know how close you are to these people. but I would ask out loud every few minutes if anyone had "checked on the kids?" and after you have checked come back and say, "looked fine, but Johnny was about to climb up on the washing machine"

Then in about 5 more minutes ask another parent, "would you mind checking on the kids this time?" This way the others will get the hint to check on their kids..

Also when they are at your home for these gatherings, you gather everybody the way you think it should be.. All of you in the same room with the kids playing or what ever you think is best.. It then will set a tone for gatherings.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My 7 year old has two close friends that he knows since birth. These kids can play in another room and as long as I don't hear any crashing or blood curdeling screams I let them have at it. Any place else with a different age group or kids I don't know, I stay in the area to where my kid is. I get nuts when we go to the park and you see kids as young as two climbing all over going head first down the slide eventually having an accident and the parent is all the way across the park reading news paper, drives me bezerk. But, if you are the parent that hangs in the room, you shouldn't be surprised that the parents drop off their kids the way they see it, hey we got a babysitter down here. Not fair but very common.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from York on

I have a 13 month old, so obviously I supervise him closely. He has free reign in 5 large areas of the house that are well baby-proofed. (I do all my cabinets because, gosh-darn it, I hate organizing the tupperware cabinet. He can play with the bowls I take out for him!) He plays on his own nicely without TV so I can get dishes done, email etc...

When other kids are visiting, I supervise much more closely. At least one mom in the room at arms reach at all times. My friends and I are with the kids unless we're in the bathroom or getting snacks ready. With kids my son's own age, I stop biting before it happens, but otherwise I'm there for the aftermath. I let them fall on the carpet, grab each other's hair, take the toy, and then talk about sharing or not hitting, and soothe the tears. Because my son is still crawling, he's usually the one getting soothed. Maybe I'll feel differently and stop things when he's the aggressor!

When there's a group of older kids, I always stay, even though I'm stuck alone supervising them all. It does suck, and it is rude of the other parents! What I've found is that 2, 3, and 5 year olds will pick mercilessly on the smallest kid. The worst was a 5 year old who literally shoved my son to the ground to take a baby toy. This kid is supposed to "watch" mine? Give me a break. At least the two year old's mom thanked me after I dragged her kid out of the street.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

yep I am just like you. I can finally let my 5 1/2 year old play by himself when we are at home or at somebody's house(even thought I still check on him often). Our 3 1/2 year old is usually ok at home (well today he and his 4 1/2 buddy decided to pour the whole bottle of soap all over the shower.....ahhhh what in the world ????) but when we are somewhere I still have to watch him. I have friends who have their kids play outside by themselves(well with other kids,they have big families), by the ponds, busy highways from the time the could walk. I do not know, I just can't do it.

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answers from Washington DC on

Okay, as for the 15 month old - No Way. They are too young to be left alone. Choking, climbing the stairs and falling. etc. Yes, there was a group of kids, but a parent cannot expect even a 6 year old to watch over a 15 month. -- let alone to always play nicely. That is putting adult responsibility on a child. Just DON'T DO IT.

Yes you can leave your 3 year old by themselves in a child proof room within earshot. And things can go wrong, but that is not a reason to shelter them. Too much sheltering will leave them afraid to make decisions on their own, scared of everything, and unable to interact with their peers.

As I said before, bad things can happen. My three year old actually pulled a dresser over by opening each drawer from the bottom up. That is right, the tiny kid dresser tipped over and she was under it. The drawers kept the dresser from crushing her. Many people secure dressers to the floor or wall, but I can bet that most do not. Now, she is my third child - the other two are much older and this is the first time this happened. From now on, I secure all furniture to the walls. - This shows that we live and we learn. Same as kids - They have to be able LIVE in order to LEARN. I still let my three year old go into her room alone, now we not only have the bookshelf and TV secured, but all furniture.

On another note - I remember my first Pediatrician saying, "And some came back home safely and the others, well they didn't." This was after I made a comment about how I have a hard time allowing my kids to go outside by themselve, but my parents let me and my siblings go outside all day by ourselves. So here is the thing, kids need freedom and they need supervision. Simply put, you cannot expect a child to always make the right decision. So don't leave them at the park by themselves. Go to the park with them, but sit on a nearby bench and don't get involved with every altercation. Let them handle it, and if it starts to get violent, then step in. But they have to learn to socially interact. AND they CAN do this with you near them, if you are a parent that tells them to try and deal with things on their own first. Plus, if you want, then take them to a recreational center for free play. There are adults there who supervise and many times you can leave your kids there. Plus, for the most part, the adults in the recreational centers let the kids work things out on their own. They only step in when they absolutely must.

If you want a specific age - most States do not have a specific age as to when a child can be left home alone, but the few States that do say 12 years old if the child is mature. If the child usually follows rules, tells their parents most things that happen in their day, knows what to do in an emergency, doesn't get overwhelmed in a crisis situation, and is good at problem solving. So to me this should be the same guidelines a parent follows on when they let their child go to the park on their own. If they cannot leave their child in a home alone, then they should not let their child go out on their own.

Going back to what my Pediatrician said -- If you let your kids go out on their own, you cannot expect them to always make the right decision; and how he put it, you cannot always expect them to make it back home safely. The best solution - be there, but give them freedom.



answers from Philadelphia on

I am a lot like you! My daughters are 4 and 5, and just within the past year they started going upstairs to play together, in their room, by themselves (sometimes!). :)

If I was at a playgroup with a lot of children, especially if I didn't know these kids very well... I don't think i could leave them to fend for themselves. That's probably why I never joined a playgroup! If we were at a friends house and there were like 1 or 2 other kids, sure, i would let them play in another room, but I would be checking on them frequently.

My suggestion for you is to quit the playgroups! They seem to be too chaotic anyway. I was at an indoor playcenter one day and it was a mob scene... then 20 minutes later I heard them call the playgroup into the cafeteria, and 90% of the people there left the play area. It was insane... after that i realized that I am not cut out for playgroups.

Just go to the park, the library, or put your child in some classes. I met a couple really good friends at swim class with my daughters, and at the playground! We exchanged numbers and meet up at the park, or wherever for the kids to play.



answers from Cincinnati on

my son is 11mnths old. we live in a one story house so we dont have to worry about stairs. We have outlet cover on all the outlets(and duct tape on some because they are not hidden behind furniture and he manages to pull them out) and locks on the cabinets in the kitchens (except one which he knows is his cabinet and always goes straight for....its full of tupperware) all the doors are shut down the hall except his room. his room is completely baby proofed (no sharp corners that he could reach if he pulled up, no cords to anything, all outlets behind funiture except one which is covered, no loose blanket around that he could suffocate on, no stuffed animals with beaded eyes, no toy boy with lid he uses a plastic laundry basket for toys.) and he goes down there by himself and plays all the time (he also goes down there when he needs to poop which I think is cute that at 11mnths he wants privacy) and when he gets bored he comes back down the hall and finds me, and our house is small so I can here what he is doing in there as well. I think he would go crazy if I made him stay with me all day. I can't even hold him for more than 5min before he wants to explore.


answers from Houston on

well I haven't read other responses, but here is what I do. I just go case by case. For example I have a three year old and a six month old. My three year old is very rambunctious and super social. If I am in a situation where there are a lot of kids and some are a bit older, I will ask one of the older ones to be his little buddy and come let me know if he is getting into or causing trouble, especially a girl because they love to practice being little mommies. But in the first situation you sited, that was tough with the oldest only being around six. And even if there was like a 9 or 10 year old girl, I would still check in often. I get you though, like at play-lands in fast food places I am always amazed that some people will let their toddlers go in alone. I always go with my son to make sure that he doesn't get hurt etc and to make sure he plays nice with other kids, which he is good about;) I do consider myself a pretty laid back parent, but I don't think I would have left mine downstairs with a bunch of young kids and safety hazards. At home, I let him play alone in his room and in the living room etc, I just check in a lot and if my 6 month old is up, I don't leave them alone together ever. Don't know if I helped at all!! As far as the parents dropping off kids, no way, I would just do what I needed to do, their kids, their responsibility to find out what the deal is. Like a couple weeks ago I went to the gym and took my kiddos. Something happened and only one person was there in the kids area and there were tons of kids and like three babies. No way would I leave mine in that situation bc that one lady could not watch all those kids, but you better believe plenty of people were just dropping off kids like it was no big deal. I would probably find more kid friendly groups or just take my kids to the library's hard when their young, I know, but I am with you, their safety is the most important.



answers from Detroit on

My husband and I are the same way. I am constantly surprised at the lack of supervision some parents are okay with. My oldest just turned six and I will leave her alone to play with a few friends at home if I know they are good kids but I still check on her once in awhile. We have even suspended visits with a family member who does not supervise his daughter who has a tendency to be a bully. Nor do I let any of my children out of my sight in public. To me, it's not worth the risk. Do what you are comfortable with. In a few years when your daughter starts school, you will meet other parents like yourself and you won't be put in the position of "policing the kids" as my husband calls it.



answers from Allentown on

Obviously there are some people who don't watch the news much. I have a friend who watches two young girls and has 3 kids of her own. She lets them do whatever. Kids constantly getting hurt, lost items throughout the house, total mahem. I can't live that way. How are all these kids allowed to play from 18 mos to 6years? Toys for a 6 year old are NOT appropriate or safe for a baby. Other parents say that the other kids watch the little ones. It shouldn't be the responsibility of you OR the other kids to supervise little ones. If you chose to have kids, you should watch them. I agree with you. I am surprised on how relaxed some parents are.



answers from Orlando on

No you aren't crazy. I don't see how anyone could be ok with an 18 month old playing downstairs w/out adult supervision. My daughter is almost 8 and of course she can play in her room w/out me in there, but I still check on her periodically to make sure she's ok!



answers from Sharon on

It depends on the kids and the home I think. Toddlers should not be unsupervised IMO. Also, I'm okay with letting my 3/4 year old play downstairs with other kids if I know the kids are kind and responsible. I always keep an ear out and someone goes to check on them frequently. Most of the time though my play dates have the kids in view. (I also have an older boy who is 10 who is very responsible which helps as he will come and report any problems, but my 2 yr old and baby stay with me).



answers from Philadelphia on

In both of your scenarios, it sounded like there were a lot of children of all ages and I am definitely on your side about being overprotective in those cases. I don't trust older children with younger children and young children (18mo-3), absolutely, need supervision. At home, however, where I know that we have the whole house baby broofed, I let my 3 year old play anywhere by herself (except, of course, the bathroom). She often plays in her room or the basement alone which is great because kids should learn to entertain themselves and have a little time away from mom. I am relaxed about letting her do this at home because if there's a problem she calls for me also, she's potty trained so she'll get herself to the potty and calll for me then.
I think you are reasonable in your approach. Perhaps getting your child together with 1-2 kids of the same age and letting them play, might be a better experience for the both of you.
Good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on

I haven't read the other responses.... Bottom line: you need to go with your gut feeling.

When my kids were little, we had playgroups, and the parents stayed in the room with the toddlers. As they got older, we did not feel the need to stay in the same room, but we knew each others' kids and how they played (well), they had grown up together, etc.

Outside of our playgroups, I never liked having more than 1 child at a time over. My children always did very well without the constant supervision, and I think being one-on-one helped that. My daughter had some very high maintenance friends when she was in preschool and early elementary school years, so I was almost always within range. My son's friends were not high maintenance, and he started playing with friends, without parents along, when he was quite young, and it always worked out. I was within hearing range, and could "spy" if I felt it necessary. I loved hearing the give and take, how the 3 year olds would work out potential conflicts before they became conflicts, etc...all things that they would not be doing on their own if their parents were in the room and really hovering. I had no qualms dropping him off at his friends' homes to play, as I had come to know the parents and the homes when he was 2, so by 3 he was fine on his own with his friends. He is now an extremely reliable, self sufficient, responsible pre-teen, and I think his negotiation skills at 3 and his ability to work things out with his friends at such a young age all helped contribute to the person he is today.

My children could play by themselves at an early age, too, and that always was fantastic. Their pretend play was great, and I loved "spying" on them when they were alone and playing, talking to themselves non-stop.

My home was highly babyproofed, from the time my oldest was 6 months old, so I did not have those types of worries when leaving my children alone. My friends' homes also were babyproofed.

So, you need to know your child and the other children, and to go with your gut. Seems like you're doing that already.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I remember being at a Halloween party when my son was almost 6 where the kids were in the basement playing and doing crafts and I was finally "pretty" comfortable with it. I did go to check on them about every 20-30 mins though!



answers from Boston on

I do not think you are crazy at all!!!! I cannot believe that someone would leave an 18 month old baby alone like that, nor 2 or 3!!!!! My daughter is 6 almost 7 and I have just started going out of the room at play groups, dropping her at playdates where I know the moms from school ect.... Ofcourse I only have one child so i have always too been over protective, but in this case I do not think it is being OVER protective at all, I think it is being a good mom. That is CRAZY!!!! What if the 18 month old gets into something, it only takes a minute. Wow. If I was you I would avoid those playdates, its not fair for you to feel responsible for their kids while they are upstairs. Why not all go down with kids and socialize while being able to supervise as well. Honestly you are sooooo right in this. Good luck, and good for you, your child will always appreciate having you there.



answers from Erie on

I'm with you. Many moms here mention what they do in their own homes, but I believe it is completely different in someone else's home. When my children were that age, they could play "unsupervised" in the child-proofed areas of our home, but I would NEVER let them play unsupervised in someone else's home. My children, although social and well behaved, are also very curious. They would certainly have a need to check out their new surroundings, particularly if those surroundings have new and interesting dangers ;)

Where the line gets more blurry is how you interact with the other children in that setting. Safety rules are one thing to enforce, but minor squabbles are harder to justify. If you know the other parents well enough, talk to them about it. If you don't, consider whether your children really need this playgroup or if they're getting enough interaction elsewhere... jmo, but you asked :)



answers from Detroit on

I think you have to know your child... my kids are 3 adn 4.. and I often let them play alone. But they are both very predictable children.. they know the rules and follow them.. they are not the kind of kids that might decide to use their crayons on my walls..

I let them play in my fenced in backyard.. alone.. they do fine.. they can open the gate but know not to. they play in the basement alone..

I do however supervise more closely in others homes as I do not know the dangers in other homes..



answers from San Francisco on

I always listen to my inner 'mom radar'. I know that sounds weird but I know in my gut when I can leave a room with a child playing. However with that said, I have never left a child under three unsupervised. Too quickly can they get into something dangerous. You may need to not go over to homes that are not child proofed.

Go with your gut, don't worry about offending people, your child is way too important to make a mistake.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I will let my almost 3 year old play unsupervised (in a safe environment) with another kid his age... I don't think I'd be ok with that big of an age range unsupervised. One thing you could do is take your baby monitor (or even better, video monitor) and set it up down there and keep the parent part with you. That way you could hear (or see) what is going on. I certainly wouldn't keep doing what you are doing. If this group's philosophy is that much different than your own, you might want to find somewhere you are more comfortable.


answers from Allentown on

Hi, A.:
I would say that children need a parent's supervision as long as they are living in your home.

If you are visiting someone, you need to know how the children will be supervised.

Our role is to make sure all children feel safe. If we aren't around to see what happens, how will we know what the real story is when a child starts to dominate another child. As parents, our role is to teach appropriate behavior, comfort, nurture, and make sure safety is a number 1 priority.

If parents want to socialize without watching their children, they need to have a babsitter at home with the children while they go out an socialize without the responsibility of their role as parents.

Thanks for asking. Good luck. D.

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