Home Alone

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How old should a child be to stay home alone? What do you think?

How Old Should a Child Be to Stay Home Alone

When I started this blog my daughter was two-years-old so it is tripping me out that instead of blogging about tantrums, I am blogging about how old kids should be before staying home by themselves!

My daughter will be 9 in June. She is very mature for her age in terms of responsibility;  a total rule follower. Things are black-and-white and boundaries with rules are seldom crossed.

Recently she was home sick and I had to run and grab my youngest daughter from school. Total round trip time was only 20 minutes, and as I found myself schlepping her into the school for pick-up, I thought, she would have be TOTALLY fine to stay home alone for 20 minutes.

How Old Should a Child Be to Stay Home Alone?

Then I wondered, is there a law that states how old kids have to be? I Googled it and found out here that only three states have laws of a minimum age a child must be to stay home alone.  California is not one of them.

It turns out that truly it is up to the parent’s discretion when their child is ready to be left home alone for short periods of time. Which makes sense since kids mature at such different rates.

In my gut, I had the feeling she would be completely fine for a very short amount of time. Again, for short errands or pick-ups, not for long lengths of time or for the responsibility of caring for her little sister.

I found this checklist to help you decide if your child is ready to stay home alone on the California Department of Education website.

I wanted to put the question out there to you all – how old was your child when you first left them home alone? How did you decide they were ready?


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  1. 1
    Lisa says:

    First of all, it trips me out that you said “it is tripping me out.” 🙂 Anyway, I have a 9.5 year old and have never left her alone. But Lord knows I would love to sometimes when I’m only going to be gone for 15 minutes. Mine isn’t as much of a rule follower though. So, I’m holding off until I feel certain that I can trust her. Would love to know what everyone else does though. So be honest people. Post anonymously if necessary. 🙂

  2. 2
    Tarcy says:

    I’m in the same boat. My daughter will be 9 in June. By herself she would probably be fine and she has walked home from the bus a couple times by herself. I haven’t left her yet and she hasn’t asked but I know we are getting close. I’m not sure if I’m more nervous about what other people will think or her own safety. Also, on the fence with her having a phone… I know the time us not quite yet for both issues but its so so close

  3. 3
    Kate says:

    Since my youngest is 29, I may not be qualified, but I’d base this on emergencies. Smoke? Weird noises? No electricity, blood? I’m not sure my 29 year old is old enough…. Nor I. Hope I haven’t thrown out a guilt trip…

  4. 4
    Holly says:

    I left Ava (she is almost 9.5) alone for 20 minutes once for the EXACT reason above. She was staying home from school (vomiting) and I had to run the little one to school. I was gone 20 min. As she gets older and older, I will probably run out for up to an hour but no more than that for a while. I probably border on helicopter mom though, so…. 😉

  5. 5
    Mommy says:

    I have left our 9.5 year old alone a few times for up to 1 hour. We dial our number in the phone and call every 20 minutes to check in. We gave specific instructions do not answer the door. We give a special code on phone, only answer if it’s us etc. the first time other than answering the phone from us he never left his room. Sometimes if I want to get some exercise I Can’t force him to go with so it has been nice to go out for a little bit.

  6. 6
    susanne says:

    Thank you for looking this up! I’ve never been sure when this starts, and so I’m following! I agree that it depends completely on the child. I can’t believe our oldest are nearing this age!?! So crazy.

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