Home Alone?

home-aloneMy ten-year old daughter really wants to babysit. “Really, really, really bad.” But, she’s 10. The American Red Cross offers babysitter training classes, but they are aimed for kids 11-15. Her desire for freedom and independence – because you know that’s what this all boils down to – brought me to the question: At what age should you leave your child alone?

The folks at Web MD say you can leave a 10-year-old alone for an hour or so during the day, to test the waters. The article runs through a litany of questions you can answer to gauge if your child is truly ready to be left alone at home. It asks about alarm systems and crime rates, but then it hit one that might impact my daughter’s chances.

 “Has your tween shown signs of responsibility in the past? Examples include finishing homework on time without having to be asked and doing chores around the house.”

Busted. Her room is a mess. I could tell her until I’m blue in the face to put her clothes away. She will. That one time. Then, the next day, or sometimes even that same day, it’s right back to where we started.

The thing that gets me about all this is she doesn’t really need to be left home alone. Not at this point at least. But, this is important to her. She wants to show how she’s getting older and can take on responsibility, like watching her younger brothers. That Web MD article also suggests not leaving her to watch their siblings until she’s 12 or 13. I have friends who have left their kids home alone to do basic errands at a much younger age. So far, so good.

What do you think? At what age have you left your kids home alone? What about watching younger siblings? Oh, and more fun, when you have left kids alone – what kind of messes did you have to clean up on your return?


25 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mara
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 11:36:46

    Since my hubby has been gone for months, I leave my older two home and just take the younger two to run errands. I leave them with a list of what they are to do and what they are not to do. Never had a problem. They also have a phone that they can call. The grocery store is 2 miles away and I have never been gone more than 30 minutes.


  2. Katie
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 12:16:36

    I started when my daughter turned 13. She babysits her sister and brother(9 & 7) mainly just when I run down the road have a store that’s about 5 mins from my house. I stay away a little longer each time.


    • Mom Land
      Jan 25, 2013 @ 13:53:13

      Katie, no sibling rivalry issues?


      • Katie
        Jan 26, 2013 @ 12:19:02

        In the beginning there was a power struggle with my 2 daughters, just because my 9 year old has matured relatively fast. But now that’s its been almost a year they are getting used to the rules. Makes it much easier to set out specific things for them to do/get done before you get home.

      • Mom Land
        Jan 31, 2013 @ 09:17:45

        Katie, I have to laugh about the power struggle. I feel your pain! I caught my daughter yelling at her brother the other day and I explained that she needed to let me be the mom. She said, “Well, I thought you wanted me to be responsible!”

  3. Melanie
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 12:23:57

    All Kids are different, my 9 yr old is no where near ready to stay home alone let alone babysit, great bargaining tool, no independence until basic chores are done consistantly. My older daughter was 12-13 when she started watching our youngest, my son on the other hand I didn’t trust with her until he was 15…..It all depends 😉 Great subject 😉 Good luck!


  4. Stephanie B.
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 12:31:16

    my mom started leaving me home alone at age 11, it didn’t happen often because I have an older brother but if they went off to do something and I didn’t want to go I was home. I was also responsible and had started babysitting around that same time after taking a class. Mom never came back to a mess from me at least, my brother well that’s a different story. If she starts keeping her room clean and putting up her clothes for x amount of time, maybe leave her with your middle child for a half hour and see what happens start small and go from there.


  5. Ann
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 12:38:53

    I used to go the hard and fast rule of 12. Not really sure why because both my parents worked and couldn’t afford daycare way back when so I remember getting off the bus with my younger brother as early as him being 7 and I was 9 and being home for like an hour until one of them got home. By the next year we both stayed home all summer long alone. I think if your kid is fairly well behaved then 10 is probably fine as long as they aren’t cooking on the stove. A messy room tells you nothing. Some kids are messy at 16 that doesn’t mean you can’t leave them home alone. My youngest is turning 10 in a couple weeks and starting this past Sep she was getting off the bus alone because her 16yr old sister had volleyball after school. She has done great! I don’t recommend babysitting at this young of an age, I still think you should be at least 12 or older to do that.


    • Mom Land
      Jan 25, 2013 @ 13:56:16

      Ann, I was the same as you growing up. I walked home a mile or so to my house and was a latch key kid. My older brother was there when I was really young, but after that I was on my own.


      • Carrie
        Jan 31, 2013 @ 09:40:43

        We were lucky to grow up in awesome neighborhoods that even if our mom wasn’t home, someone’s was – or an older sibling was somewhere close by. I think I was probably in 3rd grade when I started having time home alone, either in the morning or the afternoon depending. I have a hard time imagining leaving my daughter alone in two years though.

      • Mom Land
        Feb 01, 2013 @ 13:39:24

        Carrie, our neighborhood was packed with families and kids when I was young. My neighborhood now – mine are the only kids on the block. Guess I shouldn’t complain too much, they do rather well come school fundraiser time..

  6. Jessie
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 13:09:10

    I grew up in rual Wisconsin, before I was 10 could: do barn chores before.&after school, make breafast(eggs, toast, oatmeal, pancakes, burn trash, start or stoke the wood furnace, haul firewod, mow the lawn,pull weeds,drive tractors, pick field rocks& the list goes on! Aside from farmchores & running machinery I did many things with out supervsion. I think whether a child is left alone or not depends on their maturity level and how well they are prepared to be left alone. But it really boils down to how the parents are raising thei children. For me responsibility and being left alone where is just the way of life and expected. I think that children living in a city verses children in the can differ greatly.


    • Mom Land
      Jan 25, 2013 @ 13:58:07

      Jessie, it seems a more rural lifestyle lends itself to more chores and responsibility. My city kids really have it lucky! Although, when we go out to our cabin, they have to haul firewood. But, as of now, they still find that fun. 🙂
      Thanks for commenting!


  7. Amy
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 13:50:06

    Our oldest has watched his siblings occasionally since he was 10 or so. It’s been fine. Yes, they make a major, major mess. Seems like all clean-up rules walk out the door when we do… Probably the worst mess was when they threw pomegranate seeds up, making them explode on the ceiling. Red splotches everywhere. However, we haven’t had any accidentor injuries, and that’s really what’s important to us. Try to limit them to a bedroom with a bathroom, turn on a movie, and provide some easy-to-eat snacks. Put a phone in the room, but explain the importance of staying off the line so you can call to reach them. Maybe you only work out in the yard the first time, or go for a walk and check in after a loop around the block…just see how it goes! I bet they’ll do just fine. 🙂


    • Mom Land
      Jan 25, 2013 @ 13:59:24

      Amy, I was thinking of starting with a walk to the mailbox. Surely they can control themselves (and the mess) in that short amount of time. Right?!


  8. Trish
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 16:15:05

    Growing up being raised by a single mother we were alone a lot. Ages 10 and 14. Many days my brother went else where and I was alone. We had chores and guns for protection. Our daughter was left alone at 12 but our son not until 14, not because of behavior but maturity. In today’s world if they can’t defend themselves take them with, it’s not worth the chance.


  9. Mara
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 17:00:17

    Well, since we home school, they are usually doing studies… finish your math and then your typing or project or something, if I am not back yet then you may play a game. But both of you need to be done. Usually they are laying on the floor laughing their heads off when I get home. I also always call the neighbor and tell her I am gone. She does the same with her 9 year old. The kids have a sense of independence but I also have the comfort of knowing that my grown neighbor knows I am gone and that 2 kids are home. We just text each other from the garage when we get back. Lust of things not allowed to do, answer phone unless it says mom, answer door, even if it is someone you know. I even had the neighbor come over early on and ring the bell to see what they would do. They just went to the basement and did school work downstairs. I trust them. They are not to use knives or cook when I am gone, and I usually don’t encourage eating, I’m not gone that long. But I also let my kids bike to and from the library which is 1.5 miles. They take a phone and call when they get there and when they leave. If they have trouble along the way they know which houses are “safe” houses and ones they can stop at if they need something. We have a rule on bikes.. no matter how mad you get you never split up EVER.. you can hash it out at home but you always stay together. We go over what to do when.. sometimes when we are driving we play. What would you do if? and then I give them questions.. we got in a car accident and mom would not wake up. ect. Then we talk about the answers, I really feel like my kids would do well in any emergency.


  10. Pat Baysinger
    Jan 28, 2013 @ 10:45:10

    Please bear in mind that some juridictions, i.e. the Municipality of Anchorage, may have an ordinance relating to leaving minor children alone. I seem to recall something along those lines quite a few years ago, but don’t remember the details. Leaving too young a child alone could lead to charges of child endangerment.


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