Leaving Kids Home Alone

Updated on December 09, 2010
S.D. asks from Peoria, AZ
17 answers

What age did you start to leave your children home alone for short periods of time?
AND what was the things ( outside using phone and dialing 911 ) or the signs
that help you decide that they are ready? Stragedies on perparing them also are welcome.

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answers from Johnstown on

I would say no sooner than 12. Although I have a very responsible 9 yr old, I live in a fairly populated area and just don't trust the other residents in my neighborhood. Perhaps you could make up a chore list for them and explain that as soon as they can complete the list without being told, then they are ready to take on a little more responsibility by leaving them unattended for up to an hr at a time. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

I dont plan on leaving my kids alone until the oldest is at least 16 then my youngest will be 14. That might be a bit strict but better safe than sorry.

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answers from Austin on

Here is what the State of Texas says..

How old must a child be to be left home alone?

Answer: Supervision of children is basic to the prevention of harm. Adequate supervision means an adult caregiver is accountable for the child's care. Although, there is no Texas law that defines a specific age at which a child may be left home alone, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration when deciding how closely to supervise a child, including:

* the age, emotional maturity and capability of the child;
* layout and safety of the home, play area, or other setting;
* neighborhood circumstances, hazards, and risks;
* the child's ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies; and
* whether the child has a mental, physical, or medical disability.

The number of children left unsupervised, the accessibility to other responsible adults, the length of time or frequency with which the child is left alone, and the child's knowledge of the parent's whereabouts are additional relevant factors.

It depends on the child. Our daughter would stay home while I ran to the grocery store when she was 9. We worked up to a little longer each year.

They need to know 911, trusted neighbor phone numbers. I also told her to never answer the door if anyone knocked. And not to go outside or invite a friend over.

She also knew not to use the stove or oven.

Now that we have cell phones, I am sure your child could call you immediately and you would feel a lot more secure than I did..

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answers from Tucson on

I asked a former CPS worker this one time. In AZ there is no legal age when they can stay home alone. This man said that there were some 6 and 7 year olds he would trust alone and some 16 or 17 year olds he wouldn't. Untimately there are 3 things they need to be able to do 1. Know what to do when someone calls or comes by 2. what to do in an emergency 3 be able to get food if they need it. I personally started leaving my oldest at age 9 for 20 minutes or so when I needed to go pick up other kids from school. By 11 I was leaving her babysitting her 4 younger siblings for several hours at a time (with our next door neighbor checking in every once in a while) I say just go with your gut. Good luck.

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answers from Phoenix on

I think it completely goes by how much you trust your child and how mature your child is..I have a 10 yr old daughter and an 8 and 7 yr old sons my 10 and 8 yr old are both very responsible and I leave them home for up to 2 hours by themselves but it has to be all of them or none of them...doors locked, they dont answer the door for ANYBODY and they have a phone...I go over what is safe and what is and is not allowed while I am gone...They have been doing great but I will prob wait till my daughter is 11 before she can start babysitting her brothers...I usally only leave them home when I have to go to the grocery store or run a few errands and they dont want to be dragged along...

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answers from San Francisco on

My parents used to leave us alone every week day from 5 to 7 pm as they went to their second jobs.
They began when I was 11 and my siblings 9, 6 and 5. They trusted us (especially the 2 older ones). We are now all responsible adults and nothing ever happened to us, but we were too young for that kind of responsibility. I remember, some evening we would fight/misbehave but our parents would never know. Kind of a siblings loyalty pact. Whatever happened during these 2 hours was our secret and we always managed to have the chores/homework done, so we wouldn't get into trouble.... It's a miracle we all survived!
I think 10-12 is a good age if all children are into this age frame and reliable. Don't leave a 10 years old alone with toddlers!

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answers from Kansas City on

I recommend checking with your local law enforcement to be sure you are complying with state and local laws regarding the appropriate age they deem 'legal' to allow them to stay home alone. I think it is around 12 or 13, but I am not positive. Don't borrow trouble.

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answers from New York on

My daughters are 6 & 12 - on occassion I have run to the store, bank, etc with her home alone, but I have only left the two of them home when i've taken our dog for a walk down the street.

My husband and I have gone back & forth on this - he works for the police dept & said that in our state there really isn't a designated age, but at the risk of sound like an old fart - things were different when we were younger. At 12 I was watching my little brother everyday & babysitting in our neighborhood. But my 12 yr old isn't the 12 yr old we were.

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answers from Phoenix on

I agree with other moms, it really depends on the child. Do they know how to handle an emergency...someone at the door, a fire, an injury. It's one thing to explain things to them, but you need to "rehears" situations with them as well. We used to role play calling 911 and how to handle other emergencies. I know 11 year olds who would do fine and 16 year old who would not.
Trust your instincts. If they are old enough, have them take a baby sitting course. I know Phoenix Fire offers one.

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes that's a hard one, which my husband and I generally disagree on. I have a 12 year old and 8 year old, and for the past 6 months or so I've left them home (doors locked, alarm on, cell phone charged) while I walk the dog or go to the grocery store. They aren't allowed to go out, but are responsible enough to stay at home for a half an hour. I've occasionally left my older daughter home by herself during the day while I run errands with the little one. She knows she is not allowed to open the door, use the oven, etc. So far it has been fine, and I think it is good for her to build her self esteem up a little. She is really wanting to babysit, and I don't think that any child can be confident babysitting if she is never even left at home for any length of time. My husband, however, only leaves them home alone to take the dog around the block for 5 minutes.

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answers from Washington DC on

I started at age 8, which is legal in Maryland. With my girls it was easy. My son wasn't ready, even to be left with his older sisters. So, he was more like 10. I've never had a problem.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I started leaving my son at home alone when he was about 10. First for about 15 minutes while I went somewhere really close by. Then at around 11, it became a bit longer 1/2 hr to 1 hr, while I went to pick up his sisters from school or a quick grocery trip, etc. And I always gave my neighbor across the street a heads up that he was alone and to just peek across occasionally. He knew all the phone numbers he needed, he knew not to let anyone in the house and he did very well. Now he's 12 and I feel very comfortable leaving him alone for up to a couple of hours by himself, if he chooses. I always invite him to come with me, and sometimes he does. But sometimes, he's doing something and doesn't want to be interrupted by a grocery trip, so he'll stay at home. I was babysitting OTHER peoples' kids at 11, so I figure by 12, they should be able to be home alone. I *never* leave my 7 yr old and 9yr old daughters home alone. They would probably burn down the house or eat every snack in the pantry. And I *never* leave my son in charge of the girls (they're a handful sometimes), so they pretty much join me on every errand if no other adult is home. I hope that by the time the youngest is 12, her sister is 14 and big brother is 17, I'll be able to leave all of them at home by themselves...I look forward to the day.....



answers from Houston on

I only have a three year old, so I am not in your boat. However, my nephew is 10 and we (my SIL and I) were discussing this same question. I dont know for sure, but at least in the state of Texas, I (think) the LEGAL age is 12...maybe other Mommas can help with this one? What I mean by this response is...perhaps its not WHEN can I leave a child home alone? Rather, WHEN can I LEGALLY leave a child at home alone?
Just something thought I would bring to your attention..
I think that if you leave a child alone before the LEGAL age...you can be held lieable for all sorts of stuff.




answers from Phoenix on

Most city's in the state of AZ have a law that states they have to be 14 years old to be left by themselves (not a state law but a city/county law).. But I think it rteally depends on the child & how responsible they are along with how long & how far away you will be from the home.. Is it day time or night time.. I didn't start leaving mine for short trips day only until they were 14/15 but then I am a very protective parent..



answers from Modesto on

Hi Everyone, I am a single mom and I often leave my daughter at home if I’m at work. I started leaving her alone when she was 11 years old, and I always remind her to be vigilant all the time not only that I register her to this “SafeKidZone” mobile security application that has a panic button. If she is in danger just a click on it, and simultaneously it alerts me, my family and my friends and if needed, it can be routed to 911 with with GPS location and vital info. The easiest way to protect my child http://safekidzone.com/


answers from Phoenix on

I have a 14 yo (spec needs), almost 11, and almost 8 yo. I don't see any reason to leave any of them home alone. If I go to the store, they go too. I work while they are in school and I'm home with them in the summer and work from the house. I just don't see any point in it if you don't need to. Probably in a couple years when my 11 yo is 13 or 14 I may consider it, but she will have to be pretty mature and the other 2 will have to be able to not "convince" her to do things they shouldn't! :o) I guess I agree with the others that say it depends on the kids and the situation. Good luck!!!



answers from Phoenix on

I don't think there is a number. I think it is 1- the maturity and trust level and 2- the combination of children you have at home. (If you have a child with "great ideas" and others who follow or go along with, not a good idea! If you have some that tend to fight and not listen to the one 'in charge' not a good idea! so on)

I really liked the first poster's suggestion: when they can complete a chore list without being prompted and prodded, when they can do whatever they should be doing without you having to worry whether they did it or not, then they're probably ok.

I have never left my one child home alone except for the time when he was in the middle of a very good book (he truly is a bookworm) and I wanted to go with my parents to see a house in my neighborhood, so I left him (he was 8) for maybe 30 mins (thought it'd be for 15 but it ended up longer..) I knew my husband was coming home soon, and we were IN the neighborhood. Going to the store or to visit a friend - I don't think I would leave him in the house because1) I need to know what he's apt to do with "free time" and 2) you can't control what might happen either with the time or with the car or the road in between or whatever. (see below story)

My mom told me about another mom who had left her baby asleep at home and ran down just to pick up her other kids from school and get back home (probably just a 5 minute trip) However, she was in a hurry to get home back to her sleeping baby and decided to pass the school bus. Well, she couldn't see but there was ANOTHER schoolbus in the next lane..... So, she was panicking there at the site of the accident (I dont think it was a severe one but I'm not sure. Severe or not, she was stuck there and soo upset because she'd left her baby home sleeping for what was to be a quick 5 min pick up from school. Please don't ever ever do this! Get a neighbor to watch your house if you can't/dont want to take the baby from a nap....

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