At what age would you let your child stay home alone for an hour or two?

At what age would you let your child watch younger siblings while you and your spouse go out on a date?

asked 08 Feb '10, 17:28

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%


are you asking "would you" or "should you"?

(08 Feb '10, 17:58) Rich Seller

+1 interesting.... I hadn't given that any thought till now!

(08 Feb '10, 18:36) Emi

Well, some people should never be left alone no matter what age they are, especially if they have a fondness for items that burn. But in general, what age would you consider okay to trust a child alone.

(09 Feb '10, 04:14) mkcoehoorn

I think this is one of those "gut" things. You know in your gut when it's okay, you know which of your kids would be okay to leave alone while you run to the store at 9 years old (which takes me a grand total of maybe 10 minutes, if I'm dragging it out) and which one you'll be watching like a hawk when he's 17 3/4 (see picture of my brother with my Mom watching him like a hawk).

You know your kids, by the age that you'd be even thinking of leaving them alone for longer than 30 seconds, you know them really well. When you think about it, you're just as unaccesable when you're in the shower and by then you've taught them to never open the door and when they answer the phone to say you're in the shower and take a message.

I think the first time I left the older boys at home alone while I went to the store the oldest was 11 and my second was 10, and I remember being helplessly relieved that the house hadn't exploded and nobody had broken in and stolen them. And they thought I was a complete nut for worrying when I'd been gone for less time than it takes to go to the washroom.


answered 09 Feb '10, 08:55

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

+1 I agree with the "Gut Feeling" A lot depends on the child in question.

(09 Feb '10, 09:46) Emi

Here in Canada, I always thought the age you could legally leave a child home alone was 12. On the website for Child Safe Canada, they actually say

The age at which children in Canada can legally be left at home alone for reasonable and short periods of time varies from province to province, ranging anywhere from 10 to 12 years. Some provinces place that decision into a parent’s hands

Personally, I would follow the law and not let my child stay home alone until the age reccommended by the province I live in- you never know if you have nosey neigbours who might call Child Services on you for leaving a young child home- even if it's only for a short time.


answered 08 Feb '10, 18:11

DazedandConfused's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%


I don't know that states in the US set a legal age for being left home alone. I think they expect parents to use common sense.

(09 Feb '10, 04:15) mkcoehoorn

There are some rules: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_legal_age_a_child_can_be_left_home_alone_in_Indiana and for the UK: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Yourchildshealthandsafety/Yourchildssafetyinthehome/DG_070594

(09 Feb '10, 10:32) brandstaetter

Unfortunately there are a LOT of parents out there with no common sense! :P

(09 Feb '10, 12:03) DazedandConfused

Depends on the kid and the relationship between the two kids. Here are the answers for my family:

I have two daughters, ages 5 and 13.

I started leaving my eldest alone at 11 - for an hour or two at the max, once she had done her "home alone" certificate (offered by Peel Region, where I'm from) - teaches safety and "what do do if..." situations.

Today I will leave my 5yo under my 13yo's care (eldest has also done the St-John's Ambulance babysitter & first aid courses) for max of 1-2 hours, and I would leave my 13yo on her own for an evening or a day, but if I had to leave both, I'd get an outside babysitter, because as siblings, they argue and the little one refuses to listen to the 13yo, so I wouldn't feel safe leaving them alone together for too long.


answered 12 Feb '10, 00:04

YMCbuzz's gravatar image

accept rate: 12%


+1 for recognizing that the older one would be fine alone for an evening or whole day, but also being responsible for the younger is a different task entirely. Also great that your region has classes -- there was nothing like that when I was a kid and 13-14 year olds were watching younger kids without any formal training.

(12 Feb '10, 00:18) lgritz

My kid is only 3.5, so I am years away from having to deal with this myself. But it's a topic I'm really interested in and I'm troubled by the degree to which we "infantilize" our older kids and assume that they are incapable of doing things that, if we remember, we did ourselves just fine at their age.

I don't remember exact ages, but no later than age 8, I was walking home alone from school, several blocks, and was expected to let myself in and start homework or whatever. Usually there was somebody there, but if not, it wasn't a big deal -- and why should it be, if I can be expected to take a 15 minute walk home from school, why shouldn't I be able to be at home for 15 or 30 minutes? And by the time I was 11, I had sizable chunks of unsupervised time and was taking 20 minute city bus rides to get to after-school activities too far to walk when my parents weren't able to give me rides. I was not unusual! But for some reason, today's parents think this is crazy, despite actual accident and crime statistics showing that it's much safer to be a kid now than when I was young. Furthermore, it was common (back then at least) for a 13-year-olds to be babysitting, not only "alone" but in charge of other kids while no adult was around, for hours on end.

Obviously these kinds of activities are inappropriate for a 5-year-old, but I can't help but thinking that 12 is much to old to merely begin giving kids practice being alone and self-sufficient for short periods of time. If I can't leave my son at home for trip to the store by the time he's 8, or for several hours by the time he's 12, I'll feel like I have done something very, very wrong in preparing him for the world.

Interesting resources, which I have not yet read but it's on my list to read soon, are the book Free Range Kids and its associated blog.


answered 10 Feb '10, 22:13

lgritz's gravatar image

accept rate: 14%

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Asked: 08 Feb '10, 17:28

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Last updated: 10 May '12, 20:43

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