What Age Kids Stay Home Alone

Updated on February 01, 2013
J.J. asks from Missouri City, TX
28 answers

My questions is simple. At what age do you think a child can stay at home alone? My husband and I disagree. I would love your options.

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answers from Houston on

kind of a "loaded" question. depends on the child's abilities, not just age. depends on what "alone" means- is there an adult neighbor within easy contact if needed? Just alone by themselves or also in charge of younger children? emergency situations need to be "practiced" ahead of time regardless of any of the other factors



answers from College Station on

I THINK the law says they can stay home alone at age 12, but I started leaving my oldest alone at 10- when I knew he could follow orders and use a phone and showed some responsibility.

I think it really is up to the parents, the time you are going to be gone, and the child. My youngest is going to be 9 this summer, and I would not leave him alone like I would have his brothers.



answers from Pittsburgh on

My answer is twelve, and they have to have a phone and guidelines as to their behavior, what to do if someone calls, etc. I try not to be overprotective, but it isn't worth the risk to me.

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answers from Washington DC on


here in Virginia they put that in the parents hands. They give GUIDELINES. Texas doesn't have a "law" set either...they have guidelines...

these are questions I would ask:

How old, emotional mature, and capable is your child? If your child is mentally aware and capable of handling himself/herself - go for it. most places recommend no more than 1.5 hours if under 10.

What are the hazards and risks in the neighborhood - do you live in a "safe" neighborhood?

What is your child's ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies? Does your child know how to use the phone and in what type of emergency to call 911?

Does your child have a mental, physical, or medical disability?

How many children are being left unsupervised?

Do they know where you are? do they know how to contact you?

My daughter was 9 when I left her alone to go grocery shopping. This was before cell phones. She could talk to our neighbors if she had a problem.

My boys? They are 10 and 12, they have been left alone since 8. I leave them alone to go grocery shopping, oil change, etc. The longest they have been left alone? 4 hours - maybe more. They knew how to contact me at all times and abide by our rules...no one in the home. do not answer the door. do not leave the house unless an emergency.

At some point you need to start giving your children room to grow and trust them. Start small and work your way up.

Good luck!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Your question is simple, but the answer isn't. It depends on several factors.

1. Where do you live? City? Suburbs? Rural area? How far away will you be, how long does it take for EMS to arrive?

2. How is your neighborhood? Do your kids know your neighbors and do you trust them?

3. How long are you thinking of leaving them? You have to start somewhere...

4. How mature are they? Do you have more than one child? Ages?

We live in a very safe, small city in a very safe suburban neighborhood. The kids both ride the bus to and from school. I started leaving them home for about 1 hour to go to the grocery store at about age 8 and 9, with strict instructions and a call at the 30 minute mark. I built on that hour over time. The next school year, they started coming home from school and staying alone until I got home from work (about 1 hour and 45 minutes). They were required to call me upon arrival at home. I continued to build on that until my husband and I could go out for a date and I could trust that they would watch a movie, get ready for bed, and be in bed either sleeping or reading when we arrive home.

Today they are 10 and 11 (almost 12). They can stay the whole day on their own if school's out because we worked on it and they know the rules.

The rules:

1. No cooking. If you're hungry, make a sandwich or eat something that doesn't require cooking.
2. Don't leave the house unless there is an emergency. In an emergency, go to Mr. Chad's house next door and call me.
3. Don't let anyone in.

These were the rules when we started, but now they've changed because they have matured. So now the rules are:

1. No cooking on the stove. Don't leave the microwave unattended. Use potholders. The fire extinguisher is by the fridge.
2. You may play outside as long as you call me and tell me where you'll be, and check in occasionally.
3. Don't let anyone in.

Hope that helps!

C. Lee

ETA: A land-line phone is required. Kids need to be able to call 9-1-1 and have your home address pop up immediately for the dispacher, in case they call and cannot speak, or call and are forced to hang up. Cell phones do not do this because it takes time for GPS location to get to dispach (and not all systems have this capability).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It depends on the kid, and it depends on your state.
My son is 11 and is fine while I run across the street for a few minutes, but wouldn't like being in the house by himself for more than a few minutes, like a run to the store or something.

In my state, there is no specific age limit, but they've set the following guidelines.
Age Guidelines ...

7 years and under:
Should not be left alone for any period of time. This may include leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and backyards. The determining consideration would be the dangers in the environment and the ability of the caretaker to intervene.

8 to 10 years:
Should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.

11 to 12 years:
May be left alone for up to 3 hours but not late at night or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.

13 to 15 years:
May be left unsupervised, but not overnight.

16 to 17 years:
May be left unsupervised (in some cases, for up to two consecutive overnight periods).

The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

the age you both agree on, or the later of the two choices so there is no blaimnig if something goes wrong=)

This is asked a lot here I think the common age is drastically diferent depending on the kids personality, area you live and length of time. I've seen a lot of people say 8 if the kid is responsible and its under 2 hours and you can call and check in.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hubby and I are heading in to San Francisco tonight to see "Wicked" and leaving our 13 year old in charge of 10&6 year old. We started leaving him in charge when he was 12. We would go out for a couple hours just to test it out and then go for longer. He is quite responsible and will read to them and say prayers with them before bedtime. He calls only if the house is on fire or someone is bleeding. Hasn't happened....................yet.

We never leave overnight. We pay him a little bit..but it is all contingent on younger sibling reviews. Was big bro nice and helpful?? Is the house picked up and somewhat orderly?? If yes, then he gets some $.

I leave our 10 year old home with our 6 year old if I am running somewhere quickly and will be back within an hour and it is daylight.

All three of our kids know how to call 911, our cell numbers, address and home numbers. They know our neighbors and feel comfortable running there if there is a problem.

Good luck and best wishes resolving this disagreement with your husband.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It entirely depends on the specific child. Mine will be nine and we have just started leaving her alone for short periods of time (no more than an hour). However, she is responsible, knows the rules and knows what to do in an emergency.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

We started leaving our son home alone for short stretches (less than 20 minutes) this year at age nine. He's not ready to be home alone for a long time and definitely couldn't watch his sister, too, but we feel fine with the short time. It's a good maturing experience for him.

I was babysitting in junior high, so definitely by then they're ready. I also knew plenty of latchkey kids growing up and they all did just fine. I'm trying really hard not to be a way overcautious helicopter parent because I think kids learn to be more confident and independent when given some freedom.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think it depends both on the specific child and who you have around to help them out in a pinch. The level of maturity of the kid, the situation (are they just responsible for themselves, or younger siblings too), and the good neighbors/helpers you have on hand would all be determining factors for me.

FWIW, I took care of myself and my younger sister for about 5 hours or so at a time when I was eight (mom worked part time and we hated my baby brother's sitter, so we begged to stay home on our own and because we wanted that to continue, we rarely broke any rules). I wouldn't make the same choice for my kids-- heck, we later got into far more trouble when we were in our early teens, so who knows?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My oldest is 10, and very responsible. I have left her alone for an hour or so while I go grocery shopping. She knows not to answer the door, and has my cell phone number handy just in case.

My younger daughter is 7, and I feel like she is a long way from being left at home alone. Maybe she will mature in the next few years, but honestly, this is a kid that I'm not sure will be ready before high school! :-P

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

12yo was about the right time for my kids, individually, and when staying home with a younger sibling or babysitting for others.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My oldest is 8 and very responsible. I've been considering leaving her home for very short periods (1-2 hours) to see how she does, and she seems to want to give it a try. I won't do it unless she has a phone with her though. Our next-door neighbor is always home too, so that's a comfort.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I believe that a mature kid can learn to stay home alone if they can follow rules, take care of themselves in an emergency, and can be responsible.

I know some 8 year olds who could stay home alone all day by themselves and never be a problem. I also know some 15 year olds that should never be left alone.

I guage it by this thought.

If the Red Cross teaches kids that are 12 a babysitting class so they can start off the right way watching kids then at 12 years old they should be allowed to watch themselves.

If a 12 year old child has started watching themselves and learned how to do that well then babysitting should be a piece of cake....right?

At 10 we'll start letting our granddaughter be home alone while we run to the store or something, only a few minutes. She will already be watching herself while we're outside doing yard chores and stuff, maybe even taking a walk around the neighborhood. Where we're within hearing distance or very nearby. Then when we actually get in the vehicle and leave she'll have a neighbor she can go to if she needs someone.

All sorts of training needs to take place before they can do home alone time. How to heat up food in the microwave, or if that is even allowed, how to answer or when to NOT answer the phone, the door, etc....

These are things that need to be practiced in situations where they are alone so that they can get used to doing them.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My son is 10 and a really responsible kid. I have been leaving him home for 2-3 hours for the past couple of months. i ONLY do it on gym days, he doesn't want to sit in the daycare. So, that means I have left him home about 7-10 times.
My other son is 7 and begging to be left home with his brother. THAT'S not happening.
I would not leave my 2 year old home with my 10 year old.
So, he gets to watch a bit of tv, read a book, and do a couple of "chores" when I am gone.
(and actually, I don't even know "legally" what the age is here in my state)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Mostly depends on the kid as well as your trust/comfort. And always good to check if there are any laws or guidelines in your state. My son started staying home for very short periods of time (under an hour) when he was 8. He loved it! Now he is 9 and we will leave him for up to 2 hours on his own. He realizes it is a privilege and so I give him some chores to complete while we are gone and it is the one scenario where he always completes his work on time and with no nagging!


answers from Washington DC on

I stayed home started when I was 8 and I was babysitting by the time I was 9.
My daughter is about to turn 8 and I don't think she is ready yet. I think she might be ready when she is around 10, but we will see


answers from San Francisco on

Of course it depends on the maturity and temperament of the child.
I was comfortable leaving mine for an hour or so around age nine, while I ran errands fairly close to home. By age 12/13 I felt fine leaving them longer, and that's also when they started babysitting other peoples' kids.


answers from Grand Forks on

I depends on the child, of course. My ten year old can stay home for an hour or two on his own. I wouldn't leave my seven year old home with him yet. In general, kids start babysitting other kids at the age of twelve, so ten is a good age to start leaving them on their own to look after themselves.



answers from St. Louis on

Because we live out in the country with no close neighbors, I would say I will not leave my kids alone until 12 or older. This includes them coming home after school. We are lucky that they will only have 1 day a week after school that they will be alone (hubby works Fri-Sun) so is home Mon-Thurs...but I would not be comfortable leaving them for even an hour until they are 12 or older. And I would not be okay with them playing outside with me not being home until they are that age or older as well.


answers from Austin on

Depends on the child, what your neighborhood is like , how long and how far away you will be.

I was raised like Hazel. At 8, I was a latch key kid and never broke the rules. Came home locked the door. Called my mom, had a snack, worked on homework, watched TV. As I got older, I even started dinner.

I was allowed at 10 to stay home with my sister when my mom went to the grocery store. But my sister would juggle knives if you let her.. Not really, but maybe,, She was funny, because she hated staying home by herself.

Our daughter did not want to stay home alone until she was finished with 4th grade.. She was 9..

Always follow your mommy heart and brain.. and then. No regrets.



answers from Denver on

It depends so much on the kids, and how many of them there are! I'll assume that kids are responsible, and in that case I say 12. My DD is almost 13, we started leaving her alone this year- but only for an hour or so during the day if I need to go to the store or something. We don't leave her at night, mostly because she doesn't want us to leave her! I have many friends who started leaving their kids alone around age 10, and while it wasn't right for us, I never thought this was wrong of them.

Now if they are watching younger kids, I would say not until 12 for sure, and with way more restrictions- no stove, no running around while eating, etc.

If you and hubby disagree, I would wait a little. If one person is uncomfortable, it's probably not worth the disagreement!



answers from Pittsburgh on

I think it all depends on the maturity of the child. My son is almost 11 and I will, when the situation can't be helped, leave him home for an hour at the most. He knows he's not allowed outside, must keep the door locked, not answer the door, and if something happens he is to go to the neighbors house.
I have been late getting home to once or twice when him and his sister (6) have gotten off of school. He grabbed the hide a way key, went into the house, locked the door behind him. My mother in law went to the door before I did and knocked. He asked who is it, and did not go to the door until he knew who it was.
There are many 11 year olds who will not do that. Otherwise I think the safe age would have to be 13-14 to be home for longer periods.



answers from Wichita Falls on

A lot depends on the maturity of the child, how long they are left alone, and what resources they have near by for help (i.e. are the neighbors available in case of emergency?) For a quick trip to the grocery store or the hour between out of school and when you get home from work, about 10. For 2-3 hrs of movie and diner, about 12. For a long evening or all day, about 14. For an overnight alone, 17 IF they are very responsible. Give or take a year for maturity.



answers from Victoria on

You should check the law on the topic before leaving your child alone. As far as I understood the law it was twelve or older as long as they were capable of caring for them selves. I would also think there was a time frame for this...like not over night...of course. This does not mean that a person with "special needs" (sorry if this is nolonger pc i am not meaning to be rude, i just cant keep up with whats the new offensive ) that is say 16 but that is not capable of staying on there own.


answers from Phoenix on

It depends on the kids. My mom left me at home alone when I was 5. I was an only child. I didn't get into anything and nothing bad happened, but it affected me, but that's a whole other story. lol

My kids are 13 and 10. I will leave them for an hour or so by themselves but I don't do it often. They just start fighting too much and I start getting too many calls with each tattling on the other. So I don't feel like they are quite ready. But how can they get ready if I don't leave them? lol

I'm sure others have said that each state has an age (well some don't) where they can legally stay home by themselves. Most states I believe say 12. But I think it depends on the individual kids. Good luck.



answers from Beaumont on

So many factors here, how responsible the kid is, how long will they be alone and is there someone nearby they could call on if needed? I have 2 boys, 11 and 12. My 11 year old...NO WAY I would leave him by himself. He would have the neighborhood over for a party. My 12 year old could stay by himself, for short periods at 8, he's "got it all together". Just depends on the kid and the circumstances.

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