Is It Safe to Leave Sleeping Kids at Home for a Bit?

Hi dzfdzzkhbd
Readers — I got this question yesterday and it is one that comes up from time to time. I’ll give you my answer, but the author would like to have yours, too. Here goes:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I have a question for you. Or a scenario. Every morning — ok most mornings — I get up at 5:30 and go to a boot camp in a park one city block from my house for one hour. My husband and the kids (almost 7 and 9) sleep through this 99.9% of the time. But right now my husband is out of town for two weeks.
In the past I would pay a sitter to come and hang out while I was gone. That sitter has since had a baby and I don’t know anyone crazy/nice enough to babysit at that hour on a regular basis.
I’m back and forth between letting the kids stay home by themselves and thinking I’m crazy selfish for even considering it. I’ve talked to them about me being gone and they are actually excited by the idea. I told them if they woke up they had to stay in bed until I got home. I would leave my phone for them to call me or 911 if necessary. We have a house alarm and two dogs. We know all of our neighbors.
It is not technically illegal to leave them home alone, but the rules are a little ambiguous.  Here’s what it says on the Tennessee Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges page:
There is no legal age for children to stay at home alone. Parents are advised to use their best judgment, keeping the child’s maturity level and safety issues in mind. Younger children have a greater need for supervision and care than older children. Obviously [!], young children under age 10 should not be left without supervision at any time….
That’s what keeps me from doing it. At least so far.
It seems silly to be scared/nervous to leave them home, safe in their beds for 1 hour!! What do you think? — Stacey Greenberg

Lenore here again: Stacey, your kids are sentient beings, they know how to reach you if they need you, and in a lot of the world they would be herding sheep already (alone, on a mountain), or going off to fetch water for porridge.

As for yours: Most of the time they’ll be asleep, but when they’re not they get the excitement and pride of you TRUSTING them. That’s good for them! I’m not sure I would insist they stay in bed. Maybe they can get up and play in their rooms, or something equally benign.

I am so sick of our culture that equates ANY indepedence — even the simplest act of waking up — as taboo and dangerous. Good luck. And can you call and get ME up to go to exercise, too?

Mom's at boot camp, all's right with the world.


180 Responses to Is It Safe to Leave Sleeping Kids at Home for a Bit?

  1. eishikaw January 20, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    It would really depend on the maturity of the kids. Our 8 yr old son stays home alone for around 30 minutes or so on occasion. We have given him a set of rules to follow and a way to contact us if needed. We also quiz him/test him occasionally.

  2. BMS January 20, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    This year we issued our 10 and 9 year old boys keys for the occasions where Dad gets home from his new job 10-15 minutes behind them. They love having the responsibility, and they behave much better when we’re not there it seems!

  3. Linda Wightman January 20, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    Seven and nine can be perfectly responsible ages to be left alone, and with all the alarms and neighbors, it sounds like a reasonable idea. To me it also makes a difference that there are two of them — as I see it, a much safer situation than one alone.

    That said, however, we didn’t leave our kids sleeping until they were much older than the age at which we left them alone awake. The prerequisite (we tested them periodically) was that they had to wake up, and become coherent fairly quickly, if the smoke alarm went off. It was surprising how easily they slept completely through it for years. No wonder children’s sleep is so healthful — they don’t have all those inner watchmen keeping half awake in case the alarm goes off or the baby cries. Depending on the reliability of the dogs, their presence might make up for a lot, though.

    If it were me, since it’s only a short time, I’d exercise at home for those two weeks. But I don’t think the answer’s obvious.

  4. Crystal January 20, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    I wasn’t left home sleeping at that age, but I was certainly a latchkey kid at 8. I don’t know that there’s a difference…

    In your situation I’d think about the relative maturity of my kids and make a call. But I might be just fine with it, all things considered. I would however, not make a point of talking about it with neighbors and stressing to the kids to keep it on the dl as well.

  5. NineJackNine January 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Ask the kids. If they’re OK with it, try it out. I’d make sure they know how to call you on your cellphone, and that they know how to call 911, but you should teach them that anyway.

  6. Rachel January 20, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    I tend to think they will be fine for an hour or so, even if they got themselves up to play or watch TV until you returned. On the other hand, I don’t think I’d make a habit of it. Maybe just go a couple times a week for the time while you’re husband is gone?

  7. Elissa January 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    If the kids are fine with it – let it happen! Chances are they’ll be sleeping anyways. Are you always up before the kids? Can they make their own breakfast and keep themselves happy for a few hours in the morning? I’m all for this. But then, I leave the house regularly without the baby monitor *gasp!* when the baby is napping to get the mail, help unload groceries, do something in the yard or simply sit on the patio.

  8. SP January 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    I have a 9 and 6 year old who routinely stay home for half an hour or so while I pick their sister up from preschool, or run quick errands. Because they’re already used to it, I’d be more comfortable leaving if they were asleep. I’m not sure I’d want while they were asleep to be the first times they were left alone, because it can be disorienting when waking up, and even if we talked about it the night before, they might forget and be alarmed to wake up and find me gone.

    On the other hand, I think Lenore is right–my kids have loved being trusted to be at home. They love having bits of time here alone. If your kids are excited about it, they’ll probably be OK. Really, probably the worst that might happen is that they might wake up and be scared or upset for a little while, which is not the end of the world, especially if they have a way to reach you to check in.

  9. Mae Mae January 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    I leave my kids alone while they are sleeping. I do allow them to get out of bed and even make breakfast for themselves. Maybe she could try it for a day and see how it goes.

  10. LeeAnne January 20, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    I certainly see Crystal’s point about keeping it on the down low, but I also think its a sad indication of how isolated we are in our own neighborhoods. If you know your neighbors and trust them, then I would certainly discuss it with them. If your kids are mature enough to stay at home by themselves and have the appropriate contact numbers, then I see no problem with leaving them at home. It would make them feel competent, trusted, and self reliant. However, it would give you peace of mind if you had a trusted neighbor who could be counted on in the rare case of an emergency. I wish we all had neighbors who could be counted on and live in neighborhoods that would make leaving kids at home alone a little easier.

  11. Roberta January 20, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    Definitely a function not just of kid maturity but also, as pointed out, how they wake up. If they tend to be groggy and disoriented, then it’s not a good idea. If they bounce up and are ready to roll, then sure, if the other criteria are met. You’re only a block away, for goodness sakes.

  12. Wilson January 20, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    Once a week, my 8 year old son comes home to an empty house until I get home from work about 90 minutes later. He has specific chores to do (feed the dog and let him out, homework, clean room, etc.) before he can play on the computer or watch tv. He is rewarded or disciplined, depending on his actions. He knows how to contact us as we have taught him proper manners for using the phone. I say make the kids responsible for something if they wake up and help develop their maturity.

  13. Alexicographer January 21, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    I think I’d feel comfortable doing this if and only if I felt comfortable letting one of my neighbors know what I was doing and asking them if they’d be willing to be backup in a real, absolute emergency (Stacey falls and breaks her leg at boot camp and gets whisked away in an ambulance). Not that I expect an emergency to arise but if you feel so creepy/uncertain about this that you have to keep it on the down low I’d say you shouldn’t do it.

  14. katie January 21, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    I was always left home alone (especially in the summer) at this age, both awake and asleep. the funny thing was that I, the younger by three years, was more often left than my brother. my suggestion would be to leave them a note next to their beds reminding them where you are and maybe include you phone number in case they are disoriented when they wake up.

  15. Sarah Key-DeLyria January 21, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I think CPS has guidelines for various ages for when they get involved starting with 30min for 3 year olds. Cops aren’t always aware of those guidelines (if someone is silly enough to call without anything going on), but all they would do is call CPS. For the most part, CPS usually says-aaaaand? They’re often overworked, I imagine, and seeing well taken care of kids is probably a revelation!

    I agree with the notion that they probably know how to get in touch with you, right? 🙂

  16. delurking January 21, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    From the CDC page:

    “In 2009, fire departments responded to 377,000 home fires in the United States…”

    From Census:

    130,000,000 housing units in the US.

    So, even assuming that fires start randomly (I would guess they usually are started by someone doing something like cooking or smoking or lighting candles), that means the odds of a fire in any given hour are: (377000/130000000)*(1/365*24) = 3.3*10^-7.

    So, if you are out for 14 hours, your odds of a fire are 1-((1-3.3*10^-7)^14) = 4.6*10^-6.

    So, not as low as you would think, significantly more than 1 in a million, but still pretty low.

    For home invasions, the numbers are worse:
    3,600,000 per year.

    A similar calculation yields odds of:

  17. Rich Wilson January 21, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    I’d relax the ‘say in bed’ part. Perhaps ‘tv but no computer’, or ‘wii but no tv’ or whatever you have in your house that they can entertain themselves with for 1/2 an hour without supervision.

    But is it safe? If you think your kids are mature enough then absolutely.

    To add to the “when I was a kid” stories- by 8 I was free to explore a city of 300K by bike and bus. And I did.

  18. Ana January 21, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    I am glad you told the girls. When I was 5, my parents (unbeknownst to myself and my 3-year old sister) would leave us while we were sleeping (from 5-7, usually) so my dad could teach my mom to drive on empty streets. Well one day we woke up early. And cried for hours until they came home. Traumatic. this was well before the days of cell phones, so there was absolutely no way we could reach them.
    So, if you do it, just remind them about it the night before, and leave a note in their room, also, detailing where you are, when you’ll be back, and how to reach you. I know you already talked to them, but I know I often forget things early in the morning, especially if they are out of the routine!

  19. Joette January 21, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    If this will be the first time they’ve been left to wake up on their own, I propose a test. Declare a day before your hubby’s trip to be sleep in day. Tell the kids that you don’t want to be awakened before (whatever appropriate time) and that they need to get their own breakfast. Show them how to microwave some oatmeal or supervise them getting their own cereal for a day or two before sleep in day. And then enjoy. If they pass the test, I’d say go for it!

  20. Nicola January 21, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    If you can trust your kids, do it. It’s 5:30am, nothing is going to change – they’ll most likely sleep. Even if not, tell them that they can play in their rooms quietly if they happen to wake up – no sense in making rules for them that, if they break them, you can’t follow up on. I’d gear it toward letting them know that you trust them enough to play, not too roughly, and that they also know the rules of not cooking, etc. when you’re not there. My kids are 9 and 10 now, and I’ve left them at home many a time by themselves from the time they were 7&8 on. They’re super responsible and we’ve never had an issue with them doing what they’re supposed to do. So long as you can trust your kids and have taught them the “rules” of the house, no reason to worry so much.

  21. Tuppence January 21, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    I see no problem with this whatsoever, except for that they have to stay in their beds. THAT’S weird. They should get up, make themselves a cold breakfast and start getting themselves ready (but take care not to wake the other one, if they wake up first).

    Why in the world would you feel crazy selfish for considering this? I feel like the opposite is true — biggin oneself up so much as a parent to think children must remain paralyzed until we do for them is crazy selfish.

    Ask yourself: What would Mom have done? She’d have left you and sib at home and told you to be good. Basta. I very much doubt she’d have done a fire-drill run through, or am I mistaken? Probably meant something to her not to scare the begebas out of the kids in the name of some VERY highly unlikely safety issues, at the expense of her children learning they can trust themselves (and society at large), but of course I’m just guessing here. Maybe it was your bf’s mom, not yours.

    Stop fearin and start living and good mental (not to mention physical, since this is about you attending boot camp) health and happiness is sure to abound for you and yours.

  22. Cheryl W January 21, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    IANAL, but because the quotation says 10, I am guessing that the police and CPS would go with that. If the older will turn ten, then he can “watch” the younger. But, if you have any neighbors who might be overprotective and report you, well, I suspect that the law would apply to your kids.

    You could ask neighbors if they would keep an eye on things (as such) and be available if there is an emergency. Again though, if they are not in the house and you are reported, I suspect there would be problems.

    If there is no chance of being reported, give them a cell phone and teach them how to use it, and let them sleep. I would set up cereal bowls for them before leaving in case they did get up, and let them watch TV to help occupy them. They may get up early at first, just because it is exciting. Be sure to tell them there is a no cooking, no nuking rule in effect.

  23. Joe January 21, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Do it – Do it and feel no guilt. These kids are old enough to handle a short bit of alone time.

  24. rhodykat January 21, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    I agree with the test run. Tell them you are going…shut yourself in your room, and see how they do.

    I would say they can get their breakfast (no toasters or stove) and start getting ready as per their usual routine…I’m not a fan of the “stay in bed” rule.

  25. Clothdragon January 21, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    These things are weird. I believe in the free-range ideas, but practicing them is harder. I don’t live in fear for them, but I don’t shower or nap or anything else that would make me unable to run to help when I’m alone with them — no good reason beyond them inheriting my clumsiness and having too many showers interrupted even with husband home. But one rainy morning I was reluctant to pack up the whole family to take husband to work. (He works 3 miles from our house and usually bikes in.) So after practicing the phone rules and discussing door rules, I left them home alone for the 15 minute trip.

    My daughter (the older one) has always been clingy and needy and has asked me to get her a drink, to get her a snack, even if it’s a piece of fruit from the bowl, but after we left her alone, she has begun to try things on her own. She got her own drawing paper the other day. She’s known where it was for years, but she’d always asked me to get it for her. She poured her little brother a drink.

    It’s done such good things for her that we’ve done it a few more times and even once left them home for a Home Depot trip which ended up running nearly an hour. (We called during that rip to have her practice phone rules — don’t answer the phone unless she hears Mommy or Daddy on the answering machine — it takes the message out loud, speaker-phone style. I don’t know if you can make it do it silently, but in this we found it helpful)

    But I love that she is becoming more independent — and that I now have proof I can trust her to do the right things when I’m not around.

  26. Rich Wilson January 21, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    Be sure to tell them there is a no cooking, no nuking rule in effect.

    I think the important thing is to really understand YOUR comfort level. There are certainly kids of this age who are perfectly capable of using appliances. The more “I did X when I was Y” and “You should”s I see on here (including my own), the more I think you have to assess your own kids, and trust your own judgement. It takes a village, but none of us know your kids.

  27. Donna January 21, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    If the kids are on board, do it. I’d let them get up and start their day if they wake up though. I can’t think of anything more annoying to a kid than having to lay in bed after waking up.

    I leave my 5 year old home alone and asleep frequently. I’ve found it nearly impossible to get the dog walked between work and bedtime during the school year. So I walk the dog once she’s asleep. I’m only gone about 15-20 minutes and she’s aware that I do this so that she doesn’t panic if she wakes up and I’m gone.

  28. Jen Connelly January 21, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    I’m one of those that says, “if you think your kids can handle it than do it”. We have started leaving our kids at home when we go shopping. They are 10, 9, 8 and 4 1/2 and we’ll be gone 2-3 hours. I know nothing is going to happen. they actually behave a million times better when the adults aren’t around to chaperon. Plus they get access to both TVs so there is less fighting, lol.
    Anyway, I once again wanted to state how glad I am that this site exists for my own sanity. I was just reading a post on another site about a 9yo that let something in the oven burn because he didn’t want to wake his dad. His step-mom (the one making the post) was busing putting a younger sibling to bed. When she asked him why he didn’t do anything he just shrugged. 98% of the answers said she was wrong for being mad at the 9yo and he’s just a kid so can’t be expected to think of things like that. Huh? I’m constantly amazed at the number of people that treat 9 and 10 year kids like they are toddlers. A 9yo can’t get someone when the oven is dinging? Even my 4yo knows to do that. My 9yo would probably come ask if the food was done and then get it out of the oven himself.

  29. Mandy January 21, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    In the summer I run a swim club that is literally 100 yards from my house. There were a couple of occasions where my husband was out of town and I needed to unlock the pool and turn off the alarm for the swim team to come in at 7am. On those days where I needed to be there around 6:30am and be gone 15 minutes to get the job done I would leave my 3 and 5 year old sleeping. At least one time when I returned either one or both were up and were quietly watching tv in the basement when I returned. I had explained to them the situation several times the night before so they would not wonder where I was if they woke up before I got home. Also, there are many mornings where they get up and get going without waking up me or my husband and survive just fine for about an hour, they get dressed, make breakfast, watch a show, etc. We’ve tried to teach our kids to be independent and self sufficient so if one of these instances come up they are comfortable. All that should matter is that your kids know the situation and they feel comfortable with it, then you should as well. I know most people would freak out at hearing that I leave a 3 and 5 year alone for 15 minutes, but it works for us and I want my kids to feel independent and capable because that’s exactly what they are. And it sounds like your kids are just as capable if you let them be. Good Luck with your decision.

  30. Marie January 21, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    I’d go for it, but skip the stay in bed rule. My two oldest have been getting up and getting cereal for breakfast on their own if I’m not up yet since about age 4. Nice and easy thing for them to do.

    Some depends on how they cope when you aren’t directly supervising them other times. Do they get into mischief or obey the rules?

  31. Jess January 21, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    Shockingly, I found the official government suggestions helpful and free range!

  32. Shelly January 21, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    I think it’s perfectly all right to leave them alone for a bit. And I agree with Lenore that they probably don’t need to stay in their beds if they wake up. However, if it makes you feel more comfortable to have them stay in bed, that’s fine too. Maybe keep the bed rule in place for a week or two, then when you’re more comfortable you can change it.

  33. chavisory January 21, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    I think, depending of course on the maturity of your individual children, kids who are 7 and 9 should be more than capable of staying alone for an hour. Especially if you’re so close by and they know how to find you.

    I was 5 (and autistic) when my mother started leaving me alone in the house for short periods of time, telling me to watch TV, don’t answer the phone and don’t answer the door.

    I say go for it–what do kids do that early in the morning even if they wake up? Watch cartoons and eat cereal?

  34. Mary January 21, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    Ditto to all the people saying “go for it.” Definitely don’t feel guilty! You have to take care of yourself, for you and for them. Having a healthy, happy mom is more important than that you be there for an hour while they sleep. Personally, if I were in the habit of doing a 5:30 a.m. boot camp and then skipped it for two weeks, I would never go back. Keep your momentum!

  35. Susan January 21, 2011 at 1:42 am #

    I have 7 and 9 year olds too (as well as a 5 year old) and would have no problem leaving them home for an hour in the morning. I would also not tell them that they have to stay in bed if they wake up. I would have them get ready for school.

    I leave my 9 year old home by herself all of the time. She loves it. My 7 year old does not particularly like being home by herself, but will happily stay with her sister. I will leave my 5 year old home with his 9 year old sister for very short times, but not with the 7 year old.

    Kudos to you for exercising every morning. That is great!

  36. pentamom January 21, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    I am sure it is safe for the kids, if they can be trusted to follow whatever ground rules you establish. (If they can’t be trusted to follow even what they might consider the most trivial of them, I’d question whether they were ready for the responsibility. Their being able to be relied on is essential for this to work.)

    The only question is whether it is safe for you — whether you live in an environment where you’d have to fear someone calling the authorities on you. That’s probably something only you can judge from where you are. And I agree that there needs to be a trusted backup plan — “anything” probably won’t happen, but it’s wise to be prepared, whether it’s something going amiss at home or with you away from home. Again, this is almost more for liability’s sake than genuine concern for disaster — many jurisdictions won’t bat an eye at kids being left alone but will slap you with endangerment the moment there’s some official contact during the time the kids are alone, whether it’s with 911 or whatever. If you have a neighbor standing between your kids and official contact, then they’ll probably be deemed not to have been endangered by your absence.

  37. dmd January 21, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    If you let the kids know and set ground rules, I totally would. I haven’t had any reason to leave my son alone while sleeping, but have left him (8 almost 9) home alone on many occasions. Usually no more than an hour. My biggest fear is not with CPS or with the house burning down or with predators knocking on our door. No, my biggest fear is that he will open the front door and let our dog out. She is a husky and she will run to Alaska, given the chance (we are in Louisiana).

  38. Jane January 21, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    Not a response to today’s post but worth reading: 3-year old saves mother with 999 call and watched his one year old sister while waiting for help!ttp://

  39. Nell January 21, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    My daughters are the same age and as a one-car family, I’ve left them to drop off or pick up their father from work which usually takes no more than half an hour. Occasionally, their father needs to be at work at 5am, and yes, I’ve left them sleeping. They know I’ll be gone, and just as when I leave them during the day, they know how to reach me and what to do if there is an emergency.

    I think it makes perfect sense to handle these kinds of situations rationally, basing our decisions as parents on the facts of the situation rather than on the societal norms/expectations that suggest children are incapable of caring for themselves and make parents feel guilty for doing what needs to be done (and that includes taking time for yourself).

  40. Jennifer January 21, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    I leave my 7 year olds alone for short periods (less than an hour) in the house, and they’ve always been fine. My main concern is that they know you’ll be gone when they wake up and that they know what to do if your smoke detectors ever go off. If my kids were doing this, instead of telling them to stay in bed I’d tell them to get up, have breakfast and start practicing their musical instruments!

  41. Timkenwest January 21, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    Some thoughts:

    A) I would be upset if my neighbours thought I wouldn’t be happy to be asked to help out their kids in an emergency. This talk of “can you trust you neighbours not to snitch” is really disheartening and eerily reminiscent of other eras. I know, thanks to the stories shared here, that it’s sometimes a “necessary” precaution, but I’m convinced those people are the loud minority. You don’t know until you actually ask.

    B) people deliberately take their baby monitor outside with them when they fetch the mail? Bring in groceries? Wha…?

    C) 9 year old can’t be expected to wake dad when stove timer goes off? This morning my 16 month old repeatedly pointed at the microwave when the reminder beep went off.

  42. Lihtox January 21, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    Since their ability to wake up has been mentioned, you might want to go in and tell them when you’re leaving; it could pull them up out of a deeper sleep into a lighter one, so that they’re more able to react in the unlikely event of an emergency.

    I don’t have much experience with 7 and 9-year-olds yet, but I can remember being 8 myself, and I would have taken the responsibility pretty seriously. Granted, I was a serious kid. 🙂

  43. Larry Harrison January 21, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    I have actually heard of persons who would leave their 2 year-olds in the house during their nap-time if, say, the family lived on a large place (farm etc); they’d stroll around the property to get out of the house awhile etc. They didn’t go so far as to get in their car and drive off, never–but stroll around to where the house was now, say, a 5 minute walk-away from where they were? Most certainly, and without baby monitors too. You have to get a break once in a while.

    I would say that may be stretching a bit, but on the other hand, when I hear of persons getting in trouble for simply, say, walking down the driveway to check the mail while their children are inside for 5 measly minutes? That’s ridiculously picky.


  44. Taylor January 21, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    I’ll agree with a lot of what has been said. Talk to your kids, scrap the stay-in-bed rule.

    My one unique recommendation is to buy a set of walkie-talkies and take one with you! Walkie-talkies are awesome! I always wanted a set as a kid and here is a chance for you to make my dreams come true for your children, who no doubt really want a set of walkie-talkies too! Calling on the phone is booooriiing. Talking on a walkie-talkie is an adventure on its own! Hopefully they won’t get so excited that they call a lot…

    The quote from the Tennessee Council of Blah Blah Blah is terrible. It starts are great, stating the law and giving valuable guidance. But from “Obviously” on, it seem to go off the deep-end. I have a hard time believe it was writing by juvi and family court judges.

  45. Emily January 21, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    If you think your kids are mature enough to handle themselves if they should wake up early, then I’d say go for it. I like the idea of a trial run, if only for your peace of mind. I was struck the response asking whether they’d wake up if the fire alarm went off — that’s something I might worry about as well (though my son is only 2, and I have no experience with how well older children respond to these things).

    I’d also, being one of nature’s worriers, be a little concerned about the ‘Obviously, children under 10’ quote. The guidance is contradictory, and it seems to be written to make parents afraid to leave children under 10 alone.

  46. maggie January 21, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    Our property is rather large and directly behind it is some woods and a creek. Our yard, but quite a ways from the house. In the summer, we occasionally go back there when my son is napping. He sleeps for quite a while. Now that he’s in a bed, that may change though….come to that, he doesn’t nap anymore:)
    I can’t imagine staying in the house when a baby sleeps and never leaving them! How would you ever get anything done? What could possibly happen when they are asleep? I have been know to leave my son asleep in the car in his car seat after bringing groceries in on a nice day, (with the doors open, and not on HOT or COLD days) just so I can actually put them away!

  47. gpo January 21, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    I was a latch-key kid at age 7. Routinely I had 45 min to 1 hour of alone time. And of course that was in the early 80s.

    My wife has not made it back from errands or doctor appointments this year and my then 9 year old has let herself in and been fine.

    Our weekend mornings when we have nothing to do consist of our children waking up between 6:30 and 7:30. Usually around 8-8:30 I go get doughnuts and my wife stays in bed. I come home give children doughnuts and go back upstairs. We have stayed up there until noon some days. We have the door shut and locked. No idea what is going on downstairs and don’t care unless it is a loud noise or someone is crying.

  48. lynn January 21, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Good lord, I thought the kids were going to be toddlers or something. With a 7- and a 9-year-old, you even have to ask?

  49. sylvia_rachel January 21, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    I wouldn’t make them stay in bed. (Especially if one of them is a real rule-follower — if for any reason they *need* to get out of bed, you don’t want them fretting even momentarily that they might get in trouble.) I would agree on some ground rules for what they can and can’t do (you can have cereal but can’t make pancakes; you can read but not watch TV; etc.).

    My now 8-year-old will be a latchkey kid starting in September: DH and I work full time, and she’s been going to the before- and after-school program at her school since SK, but the three of us decided together that starting in Grade 4 she should go only in the mornings. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. (My main misgiving about this plan is that the after-school program kicks the kids out onto the playground for most of the afternoon, depending on when the sun sets and whether the weather’s really foul, whereas if she comes straight home from school she’s liable to spend the whole rest of the afternoon and evening indoors — we live in an apartment, and there’s no yard or kids’ play area really. I’m toying with the idea of buying her a digital watch with an alarm, setting the alarm for 4pm [45 min after school lets out, and half an hour before sundown even in the winter], and telling her she can stay and play on the school playground until the alarm goes off.)

    I would personally not be 100% comfortable leaving my particular kid home alone asleep, because this child can sleep through ANYTHING. Thunder, jackhammering, smoke alarms, the building’s fire alarm, approaching sirens … a couple of years ago a factory exploded not too far from our place and woke up practically the entire city — but not DD. So I would be a somewhat concerned that if heaven forfend something should happen that she needed to wake up and get out of Dodge, she might sleep through it and fail to do so. But that needn’t worry you unless *both* your kids are incredibly heavy sleepers.

  50. Christina January 21, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    This is really crazy timing! I have an almost-two-year old who takes 2-3 hour naps after lunch and today, for the first time, I decided I would leave her sleeping in her crib while I drove the four minutes to pick up my four year old at pre-school. The whole thing takes 11 minutes and as she wakes up calmly and plays in her crib when rather than wakes up screaming I knew it would be ok but that voice in my head told me to be afraid. Anyway, I did it today. And it went as expected. I welcome your thoughts about this.

  51. Becky January 21, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    I think it’s fine. I’d tell them to get their own breakfast if they wake up and establish parameters re: tv/computer use. My 4yo can get his own cold cereal and banana. When I was 9, I was responsible for getting myself up and dressed and packing my own lunch before school (though mom often “helped” with lunch to make sure I took a good balance). I live in Tennessee, if that helps…and grew up here too.

  52. Tara January 21, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    I didn’t read all the other responses, but I have left my 10 year old with his three younger sibs alone for a couple hours even, and they were all awake! If you think the kids can handle it, do it. If they’re the sort of sibs who are constantly at each other’s throats, I would implement a “watch a movie together” or “play a video game together” rule. Works for me!

  53. leah e. January 21, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    Every weekday morning I get up at 5 a.m. and go to the gym. I’m pretty sure my 13, 11 & 6 yr old boys would be severely irate if I woke them up, and I’m sure not paying a babysitter whatever he or she would charge to come out before dawn and stay for one hour only.

  54. Juliet January 21, 2011 at 5:23 am #

    I absolutely disagree that “obviously children under age 10” should never be left alone. No way. In my area (Southern California) there are Red Cross and other babysitting classes offered to 9 yr olds, so they can start babysitting. How can we expect our kids to be capable and mature while watching another child if they haven’t even been left to watch themselves first?

    My kids are 4 & 8. This year my 4 yr old started attending preschool that is a 10 minute drive from home. Her school drop off time is earlier than the time my older child (a 4th grader) leaves for school. My options are either to drag my 4th grader in the car with me to drive across town only to come home, drop her off, then have her walk the block and a half to school, or leave her alone for approximately 20-30 minutes. Many days my husband (an AM slowpoke who is theoretically already on his way to work at that time) is still around but plenty of days he’s gone already too.

    What we chose to do is leave my daughter home alone. I asked her how she felt about it and she felt fine . I got her a book about staying home alone (published by the company that makes American Girl dolls – it’s a really good book) and we talked about the content together. Also we have had brainstorming sessions where I’ll ask her, “If you’re home alone and something happens, what houses would you go to?” We live in a suburban neighborhood where she knows practically everyone and she could easily name 8 or 10 houses on our street where she could get help if there were a major emergency like earthquake, fire e.g.

    Also she can call me on my cell phone from her home phone. She has only had to do this once, when the dog accidentally escaped as she was leaving the house. A neighbor two doors down (a dad of friends she plays with) was leaving for work and he stopped to help her put him back inside.

    Anyway….I say kids need small bites of independence before we give them the whole shebang at age 18 or so. Baby steps now are a good thing.

  55. Juliet January 21, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    I commented above about my 8 yr old but thinking about it also reminded me of our situation a few years ago when my kids were 5 and 1. My 5 yr old’s kindergarten pickup (mandatory sign-out sheet by a parent) was right smack in the middle of my 1 yr old’s two hour nap. She was a very, very reliable napper and I knew that once she was down, she was DOWN. She was still in a crib and had never climbed out of it – never even started to show signs of heading that way.

    I started out the school year waking her halfway through her nap to make the one minute walk 1.5 blocks to kindergarten pickup, but then realized the craziness of it and decided to just leave her in the house, asleep . I timed myself and it took me under three minutes to walk to school and closer to five to walk back with my 5 yr old, plus a minute or two of signout time (which I forced myself to do quickly without the usual lingering or chatting.)

    You know what? It became such a dirty little secret. I told a couple of people and they had a reaction like I was a monster. I was literally, very seriously afraid one of the women I told (my fellow suburban at-home moms) was going to call CPS on me. I did have a few others who said, “I know you consider yourself a good parent and you think through your actions, but I really disagree with you. Do what works for you, but it wouldn’t work for me.” That was as close to support as I ever got from anyone. I always felt very nervous about it, not because I worried my child wasn’t safe (that was the one thing I *knew* was okay), but because of fear of exposure.

    Thinking back on it now, it’s so sad that this is the world we live in. IMO people are gravely afraid of all the wrong things.

  56. Donna January 21, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    “This is really crazy timing! I have an almost-two-year old who takes 2-3 hour naps after lunch and today, for the first time, I decided I would leave her sleeping in her crib while I drove the four minutes to pick up my four year old at pre-school. ”

    This I wouldn’t do only because I’ve had a client prosecuted for the exact same thing. Nothing happened to the baby; in fact the baby at home never woke up. However, the nanny was delayed at school due to the teacher needing to talk to her about lice. She said that she couldn’t wait around because the baby was at home and all hell broke loose. Child services was called, she was arrested for cruelty to children and was prevented from having any contact with the children. Eventually, the case resolved with 50 hours community service and parenting classes with no conviction. You just don’t know when some kind of delay is going to keep you away from the child and 2 is not going to be considered an acceptable age to be left home alone.

  57. Me January 21, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    The only suggestion I have (other than you know your kids) is if you have or are considering getting an alarm system to have the smoke detector hooked up to it. That way if the smoke detector goes off, it doesn’t only wake your kids but the alarm company calls the house and then the fire department. House fires are actually more likely to occur in the early morning (says my husband, a fireman), that would be my big concern, more so than home invasion or general kid irresponsibility.

    Also practice your fire escape plan, which is something that everyone should be doing anyway. Would the plan be different if you were home vs. not at home.

  58. Sean January 21, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    I have 6 and 9 yr old daughters and they are fine home for short periods. I just tell them not to cook anything, from eggs to polly pockets. 🙂

  59. Hineata January 21, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Hi! Along with other posters, my only thing here would be fire, rather than intruders. Kids will often not hear a fire alarm if they are asleep, right up until quite old (13+). We had our own experience of this when staying with our (then 6 and 8 year old )daughters in a hotel in Auckland a couple of years ago. Some nignog decided to burn toast in their room in the early hours of the morning, and the resulting fire alarm, much louder than a domestic alarm, completely failed to rouse either of the girls. (Don’t know what it’s like in America, but in NZ house fires are a problem – old wooden houses, sometimes old wiring).
    If you want to leave the kids at home, wake the older one first, even if you have to let her watch early morning cartoons! Cheers…

  60. Hineata January 21, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    I also find it quite amusing that in general from media etc (your website being a ‘breathe of fresh air’ different!) it would appear that in general NZ kids would be more free-range than their American cousins (most would walk to school at some point, certainly they play out in the streets and around the olace a lot – at least before they discover gaming systems!) but the law here is strict regarding kids staying at home alone – in fact they’re not allowed officially to stay at home alone until they’re 14! This in a country that will let them go to the local pool without adults from the age of 8, will allow kids to wander outdoors unsupervised pretty much from when they’re at school, and let kids drive tractors (officially, a lot of farm kids do it earlier) from the age of 12. What sort of sense does that make – you can’t remain at home by yourself until you’re 14, but you can be in charge of heavy machinery much younger?!

    Of course most people ignore the law, and it exists mostly because of the afore-mentioned fire risk ( it also gives the police an opening to prosecute if parents are caught being particularly negligent), but still….

  61. Noël H. January 21, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    If they are OK with it no biggie. Just tell the kids you might be gone if they wake up early but that you will be back by a certain time. Inform your neighbors but I wouldn’t give them a specific time. I’ve had the same conversation with my neighbors along the lines of “Hey, now that the kids are older I want to start leaving them alone for increasing periods of time to encourage responsibility and independence. They know how to reach me and emergency services but I’ve also told them to come to you in case they need help with something while I’m gone. I hope you don’t mind. Thanks!” That way my neighbors aren’t surprised if my kids come to them but also don’t feel a responsibility to be available at any particular time. Plus, you will learn right away which of your neighbors are OK with it and point the kids in their direction.

    I also don’t see the need to restrict them to their beds. Good luck!

  62. Alexis January 21, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    I just wanted to comment on a few of the posts about leaving the 1-3 year old set home, napping. I think the thing that stands out the most is the fact that you have to be secretive about it. What if, you got hit by a car/in an accident on the way to pick up the other kids? If no one knows your little one is home sleeping, then that child could feasibly left home alone in a crib for hours and hours, depending on what happened. This is obviously a nightmare situation. I always think about the fire thing, too, but I feel that this is a much less risk, and one you have to decide yourself if it is worth the risk.
    I will say that the risk of an accident is much more compelling, in my mind. If nothing else, make sure someone knows that the baby is there, even if it is your mother across the country. If the worst case did happen, you need to know that the baby would be taken care of.

  63. Carrie January 21, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    At ages 7 and 9, they should be capable of being at home without supervision for an hour. It sounds like they’re prepared and know what to do if any unlikely and unexpected things happen. I wish I could get up that early and work out! So not a morning person.

  64. Crystal January 21, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    I used to always leave my baby asleep in my apt or house when I had to pick up my preschooler! My daughter would catch me in the lie as we were walking out because someone would say “where’s the baby?” and I’d lie! my next door neighbor was my BFF and I’d always knock on her door on the way out and say something like “If there’s a fire, or a zombie attack, Riley is sleeping, please grab him.”

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a baby sleeping in a crib that he’s never tried to climb out of. As for the woman that was prosecuted, was it because she was a nanny? Did the parents press charges? And how sad. I come from the school of never wake a sleeping baby and the preschool is behind my house! It’s a 8 minute trip. If I have to stick around and talk, fine. I will. I’ve never worried that something will happen to my child, I just worry that someone will rat me out! How sad!

    As for leaving your children home while you’re gone to boot camp, do it! My daughter would be freaked out if she forgot that I was going to be gone, so definitely lots of talk about the event, but otherwise go! And maybe you could send some of that awesome workout habit to some of us schlubby moms. 😉

  65. Donna January 21, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    @crystal – No the parents did not “press charges” (there really is no such thing). As soon as the nanny told the school administrator that she couldn’t stay to chat because the baby was home asleep, the administrator called the police. The nanny was arrested and child services was at the house before the parents were even contacted. The parents never said that they ok’d the practice for fear of being arrested but never were outraged either.

  66. intuitivenutrition January 21, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    I say do it 🙂 I leave my 7 and 9 yo boys home for a 1/2 hour after school 1 day a week while I am at dance class with my younger daughter. I have been guilty of leaving a sleeping baby while I ran down to the school to pick up older kids. The school is less than a mile away, but I would always lie too when asked, “where’s the baby”. I can see the concern for not having anyone know the baby is there alone, but figured it was worth the tiny risk.

  67. Jill January 21, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    Good grief! I was babysitting my infant baby brother at 10 years old while my parents went curling once a week. I knew how to contact them, and I knew what to do if there was a problem. I’m sure a 7 and 9 year old can handle being alone for an hour, especially if it’s likely they’ll be sleeping. Leaving a note on your door “Reminder: mommy is at boot camp today” might help them if they wake up and have forgotten. It’s hard for me to believe that the Tenessee Court would give direction that no child under 10 should ever be left unsupervised.

  68. hillary January 21, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    I would go and exercise if there was a neighbor on board where the kids could go if they woke up and felt lonely or unsafe. I would worry less about something bad happening and more just about the kids being uncomfortable if this isn’t something you’ve done before.

  69. Cheryl W January 21, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    I guess I should have qualified that “no cooking, no nuking” as being unless they have demonstrated that they (both) could do it safely. Our microwave is over the stove and over kid head height, so while I am ok with my oldest doing her own oatmeal, I don’t like the younger ones climbing on chairs as it increased the chances of hot burning oatmeal on PJs.

    When I was 11, and my step sister and step brother were 10 and 11, our parents went to Lamaze classes. We did all sorts of stuff that we really weren’t allowed to do, just because parents were not home. Maybe it was also because we hadn’t had that much freedom before so we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We were freerange around the neighboring 4 miles or so, but never really left at home alone because my mom didn’t work at that point in time.

  70. Debbie West January 21, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Please don’t! While I know it is a shame to have to miss the boot camp and you could really use the “you time”, there are just too many risks involved. IT IS NOT WORTH IT.

    What if a fire broke out -the kids are not old enough to handle such a crisis on their own. What if someone breaks in -will you ever forgive yourself?

    The TN law states “no kid under 10” -not sure why you think there is some wiggle room here?

    Pop a work out DVD in and do something at home. Your children need you to protect them at this early time in their life…do not make a potential mistake that will haunt you for the rest of your life. Even if there is only a 1% chance of something happening, you cannot afford this risk.

  71. Kris January 21, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    If your child knows the rules, is mature and trustworthy I see no problem with leaving them home for an hour or so – asleep or awake. My son is almost 10 and he stays home for a couple hours at a time. He knows what is considered an emergency and what to do. I was home alone for longer periods of time when I was younger than that.

  72. Cheryl W January 21, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    What if a fire broke out?

    When I was 5, and my brother about 10, he began dressing up for the babysitter, so my parents decided it was time for him to babysit me when they went bowling every Saturday evening. Generally, we stayed up and watched the really late horror movies (like midnight, and they were really bad!)

    One evening, the electric company had called to say that they were doing work on the lines, and the electricity was going out around 10:00. My parents said that we were to go to bed, and gave my brother a flashlight.

    My brother decided to light a candle, and set it on the floor in his room. I went in to talk to him in my nighty, and backed into the candle. My nightgown caught on fire. Fortunately, my brother realized before I did, and tackled me and rolled me to put the fire out. It had burnt up to my mid back, but I only had a small burn on the back of one leg. He did know what to do “stop, drop and roll.”

    As for my kids, when I am gardening, or working on fencing or animals or something, it may be an hour or two before I check on them. If a friend is over, I do check much more often because friends tend to help them do things they know they shouldn’t. My kids are 6, 8 and 11, and I don’t leave the 11 year old in charge other than to tell her to answer the phone. I am in sight, in a manner of speaking, but I cannot be instantly there.

  73. Daniela January 21, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Some of the posters on this site are freaking me out…..leaving a sleeping baby or toddler at home??? You’ve got to be kidding me???

    You are a disgrace as a parent. If you are that selfish and immature, you should have waited to have kids. I know it is hard lugging kids around in the car (especially for those trips that are just a few minutes), but people -WAKE UP! Like one other poster said, you could be in an accident and the children would be at home alone for who knows how long.

    You never know who is scoping out a place either and notices “patterns” of you leaving without the kids.

    Yes, I started babysitting when I was 11 back in the early 80’s and was a mature kid…but thinking back on this, I would not have had the emotional maturity (or practical knowledge) to handle an emergency such as a fire, a choking child or of course a burglar.

    I don’t want to live in fear either, but please -USE YOUR HEAD (or take a parenting class) before taking these ridiculous risks. I will be the neighbor to report you…children need us to protect them, not neglect them or our selfish needs.

    I am absolutely sickened by the lack of concern for our babies out there. Please please please wise up!

    Too much is at stake…

  74. lyle f bogart January 21, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Stacey, there is a whole Parade of Horribles which could be visited upon your children if you leave them alone for even a second!

    Not Really.

    I’ve recently re-married, so it’s not as big an issue now, but when I was a single-dad (wife died) I routinely left my kids alone for brief periods (up to 1.5 hours, grocery shopping or similar) with strict rules on what to do if this, that, or the other occurred. There were very clear expectations of conduct while I was gone. They had chores to do or, if no chores, they could play, upstairs with no rough-housing (yeah, right!) with the admonition against coming to the door or any of that.

    Oh, the kids are 5 and 8 and had demonstrated competence in many areas of decision making such as my answer to many of their questions “well, what would you do if I weren’t here to answer your question?”

    Ultimately, each of has to assess our kids individually and, after an honest appraisal, make our best decision.

    Good Luck!


  75. Cheryl W January 21, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    When I was baby sitting, I had done a 4-H class on baby sitting and knew how to handle a choking child or baby. As my brother showed me how to handle fire, I also knew that too. How to handle a burglar? Well, I am not sure how many adults could handle that one, unless the have the gun sitting in the corner. My mom was substitute teaching when I was in 1st grade, and I got home a half hour before my brother, and an hour before my mother.

    With this case (I am not going to comment on people leaving toddlers in bed while driving away, although I did go out of the house and mow the lawn when my mine were little while they napped,) probably the worst that is could happen is a cup of hot coco burning the kid. Burglaries before 7 am are pretty rare – most people have not gone to work yet and that would be a risky time to rob a place. As for the other things, the mom can TEACH her kids what do do in those emergencies that you mentioned. (ALL kids should know what to do in any of those anyhow!)

  76. Daniela January 21, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    And for the person who leaves her 3 and 5 year old kids alone…you are seriously ridiculous.

    Be a responsible adult and make the necessary sacrifices to raise your children!

    Yes, I’d like to get a pedicure or go to the gym but can’t as I am watching my kids…so I figure out ways to either do things on my own at home or plan things out with my husband or a babysitter (which are not easy to come by in my area and my husband works insane hours). You just have to do without sometimes for the sake of the children. It is that simple.

    They will be gone soon enough to college or just out on their own…you can play all you want then.

    I am really realy upset over the lack of responsibility that people are taking with raising their very young kids.

    When you close that door after leaving your babies behind, I want you to think of me and ask yourself is it worth it to put your children at risk…

  77. Judy January 21, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    As much as I normally agree with Freerangekids, I’m with Daniela on this one. What are some of you thinking??? Personally, I’d go with 12 or older for being left alone, depending on the child.

  78. Crystal January 21, 2011 at 9:45 am #


    Glad I could help you get out your daily judging. 😉 I’m fine with my choices about my children. But it’s always nice to have someone tell me I’m doing it wrong.

  79. Pamala January 21, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    I think with these circumstances if you are okay with it, it’s fine… I leave my 9 yr old on average about every other week in the middle of the night alone in the house.. let me explain the circumstances… my dh is a truck driver and he often has to leave 2 or 3 am… if it’s a short trip home he does not want to go to the truck early in the evening just to sleep, he’d rather cuddle up with me 🙂 … so if it’s a school night, instead of interrupting her sleep and making for a cranky day at school, I will often drive dh to where he has to park his truck (no place to park in the neighborhood) and then come home again while she is sleeping.. I let her know before bed that I will be leaving so if she does wake up she doesn’t worry and I always check in on her when I get home.. I’m also only gone for about 20-25 minutes… much longer and I would probably be paranoid, but she’s alone in the house, a little different than if she at least had a sibling home as well..

  80. Kelly January 21, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    @Stacey, original poster:

    “Obviously [!], young children under age 10 should not be left without supervision at any time….”

    That kind of lingo infuriates me. If it was so OBVIOUS then why isn’t there a law expressly stating so? These kinds of vague laws just wait to bite (often very loving, responsible) parents/carers on the ass instead of being in place to support them in the privilege and responsibility of caring for kiddos.

    I’ve been leaving my kids alone a while now. Probably going to be called a “ridiculous” and “[ir]responsible” adult according to previous commenter. Yadda yadda.

    Specific ages are largely irrelevant. I began leaving my kids alone with their enthusiastic consent about the time they were of reading age (mine read very early tho’) and knew how to call and what to do if anything came up. Basically when I believed they’d be safe! The home-alone stuff started in small bits then has proceeded from there – like so many other responsibilities children learn this is a gradual thing and more like a dance than a top-down series of authoritative dictums. An attuned caregiver is the one to know when this is – not random commenters on a blog who’d paint you with a brush without knowing you, at all.

    You’ll get judged by some for this, or even considering leaving your kids alone at ages 7 and 9 – those who will try to Other you and tell you your some monster. But every parent/carer is making decisions about their kids safety, every day, and their are both potential benefits and negative consequences to any decision we make.

    You, like most parents, love your kids and care deeply about their well-being. Parent according to your gut, mind, and heart.

  81. Rich Wilson January 21, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Like one other poster said, you could be in an accident and the children would be at home alone for who knows how long.

    Let’s see. You’re out of the house and in a car collision and die. Would you rather a) the kid be in the car with you or b) at home?

    And what about a) dieing at home from a sudden heart failure (happened to my co-worker’s sister, had time to say “I don’t feel well”, walked three steps, and died) where nobody will know until you’re missed or b) out of the house where someone will know and see pictures of kids in your wallet.

    None of these are very likely, but the ‘dieing outside the house with kid at home’ scenario is no worse than the ‘dieing at home with the kid scenario.

  82. Kenny Felder January 21, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    It’s very difficult to have a rational conversation about these things with the Danielas of the world. But Daniela, in case I’m misjudging you, look up the statistics. Let’s just pretend, for a moment, that safety is the only thing we care about–it isn’t, but let’s just pretend–absolutely nothing else matters except safety, OK?


    By “safer” I don’t mean in any emotional sense, although there are a lot of emotional arguments to be made for allowing kids some freedom and independence. But I just mean physically. Kidnappings, chokings, and fires are all very, very rare. Car accidents–that kill innocent children, within just a few miles of home–are comparatively much more common and much more likely. Don’t take my word for it. Look it up.

    That being said, I do want to vote against the “have to stay in bed” rule. They can get breakfast for themselves at that age.

  83. SK January 21, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    I think leaving them home for an hour at the ages you listed is fine. In general I wouldn’t leave someone under 5 home alone for any time frame on the other hand sometimes things come up and you find it necessary to push your safe zone.

    As a very young adult 18 or so years ago I had a girlfriend who was single with two young girls. She would often put them to bed both under 5 and run to the corner to do laundry she came back while the cycles where running but she was still away for 30 minutes at a time. It was the only time she could do it, or she could have kept them up till midnight or 1am, and then still expect them to function getting up at 7am. It was just what she needed to do.

    Years ago now I left my 8 year old home with the 2 year old napping expecting dad to get home in 30 minutes while I took the 6 year old to his meeting, only to come home 4 hours later and dad hadn’t gotten home. The only problem was the 2 year old woke up from her nap hungry and my kitchen was a mess when I got home as my 8 year old KNEW that you don’t leave littles hungry.

    As an experienced mom I say you need to make the decision on if you feel your children are ready. Talk to them, make sure they know what to do. I would let them get dressed and breakfast if they can do it without cooking at least to start with and then play or read.

  84. lyle f bogart January 21, 2011 at 10:22 am #


    As I said,

    “Ultimately, each of has to assess our kids individually and, after an honest appraisal, make our best decision.”

    Honestly assess your kids (**that’s the important part**), and make your best decision.



  85. Christina January 21, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    As others have said, the ‘while they are still sleeping’ is the sticking point for me. While I’d be comfortable leaving my 7 year old briefly while awake, I wouldn’t consider doing so while she sleeps — like most children, she sleeps through the smoke alarm.

  86. Donna January 21, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    “You never know who is scoping out a place either and notices “patterns” of you leaving without the kids.”

    Yes, because the world is filled with people crazy enough to kidnap, rape and murder children but gosh, darn are afraid of the parents. Let’s look at reality for a minute. There have been a number of high-profile kidnappings of children from their homes, not a single kid was home alone at the time.

    Elizabeth Smart – whole big mormon family home
    Danielle Van Damm – parents home
    Polly Klaus – mother home, along with a few friends over for a slumber party
    JonBenet Ramsey – parents home

    I’m sure there are more but I have the flu and am tired. The point being that there are damn few people crazy enough to come into your house and steal your children and those who are are not going to sit outside your house and wait for you to leave; they’ll just come in and take them while you’re sleeping.

  87. Larry Harrison January 21, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Crystal and Daniela.

    Crystal, I really liked your sarcastic reply. Now, my turn to have at it.

    Daniela–one of the quickest way to irk me is to do this whole “you can play when they grow up” bit. Last time I checked, I still have needs as a man and a husband, and they still matter. I’m not impressed with a woman who lets herself go and starts looking like a hag and considers it an honor because of this whole “I’m a mother, I don’t have time for that frivolous nonsense” drivel. If you’re married to me (and thankfully you’re not), you had darn well better consider it a priority to still keep up your appearance, because you’re still my wife, and incidentally I do likewise.

    In fact, just last week I left my children with family for a good 5 hours so I could go to a workout facility. On an almost daily basis, while the kids are napping or even playing indoors or outdoors and doing okay, I will go outdoors and play basketball (the play area is located just a few feet from the door), because I intend to stay in good shape, kids or no kids.

    I owe it to my wife and my self, and I don’t apologize for it. Let other people consider it a badge of honor to look like a hag or get a beer gut because they’re totally into nothing but the kids 100% to the exclusion of an actual adult life. I will pass, thank you very much, and won’t stand for any judging regarding that either.


  88. Holby January 21, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    OMG>..I left my 3 year old at home alone with his 100 pound buddy (our Mastiff). It was only to run two blocks away to pick up a prescription for him…but he was ecstatic! He thought he had truly reached the point of being a big boy. From that point on, I only had to say, “Big boys do ____” and he was on it! The amount of self confidence it gave him to try new things and take risks was worth the less than 5 minutes of anxiety I experienced on the errand!

    Sacajawea “endangered” her toddler every day for over a year…and she’s a hero!

  89. Aleah January 21, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Well said! If you treat your kids as though you consider them to be responsible beings, you’ll likely get behavior that validates that. If they’re old enough to use a phone, know when to get ahold of mom (or dad), and can get a bowl of cereal while you get in some exercise, I think an hour alone for kids that age is perfectly acceptable. You know your kids – if they’re prone to dismantling the microwave when you’re not hovering, then yeah, they’re not ready. But giving them some credit when you know they’re capable of that hour alone. I was running to the corner grocer’s by myself when I was eight, and walking home from school (several blocks) at that age too.

  90. Frank DiSalle January 21, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Before my neighbor Charlie had a heart attack, I told my sons any time I was going out for a length of time, especially overnight, to contact Charlie, if they needed to, otherwise, they knew all the phone numbers.
    This was the procedure right until they moved out on their own.

  91. SKL January 21, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Objectively I think it’s safe, but I don’t think it would fly around here nowadays. Actually we have a law that says nobody under 12 or 13 is allowed to be home without someone older. When I was a kid, I was left alone when I was 7 because I was too sick to go to grandma’s for dinner with the rest of the family. Nothing bad happened.

    I would trust my kids even at 4, though. Heck, yesterday I was so sick that I slept most of the day, and they did a great job of taking care of themselves. The few things that “could” happen would not be a concern if my girls were older and had a phone they could use.

  92. Juliet January 21, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    As one of the commenters who remarked that I’ve left my kids alone for brief periods of time, I have to reply to the shocked and horrified “don’t do its!”

    We are older parents (in our 40s) and talk a lot about what we value as a family and what type of adults we want our children to grow up to be. Believe me, it would be much, much easier to just do everything for our kids. It’s so much more challenging to resist my own natural “helicopter” tendency and instead let our kids taste small, incremental doses of independence.

    It’s tough at times, but the pride evident in their voices and faces as they develop true self-esteem (from knowing they can handle themselves capably in various life situations) makes it worthwhile.

    Also, we specifically chose to live in our safe, low-crime, walkable suburb so that we could have this type of lifestyle. Before having kids, I worked for years as a criminal defense attorney, so I am familiar in a very realistic way with the ACTUAL crimes occurring here. It is a great background to have because when I watch CNN do 24/7 coverage of some horrific crime, I know that it truthfully is the extreme, infinitessimally rare occurrence and they just need to find “stories” to entice viewers to not change the channel.

    The types of comments above are exactly the type of reaction I got from people when answering, “Where’s your other child?” while picking the other one up. It’s sad but honestly it’s just easier to avoid the question. (I never flat out lied but really did try to avoid bringing it up or letting people know.) And to say you’re going to call the police or CPS for responsible parents choosing the age that their own family decides the kids can stay on their own? Talk about a waste of public resources and tax dollars. Whatever happened to personal responsibility and individual choice? Our family has put a lot of thought into our child-rearing decisions and it’s nobody else’s business but our own.

  93. Juliet January 21, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    One other thing! Someone up thread posted about crime stats. I just read a very interesting stat recently about kids walking to school. Turns out the vast majority of kids hit by cars while walking or riding bikes to school is from OTHER PARENTS driving their kids to school! Chances are, those parents feel it’s “too dangerous” so instead they drive, thereby ironically making it much more dangerous for everyone.

    I live in a suburban area with many at-home moms whose schedules are dominated by driving the kids to and from school and activities. Think of all the thousands of cars we could free up from the roads (AND how much smog we could save, how much gas we could save, how many miles walked or bikes pedaled by our kids, not to mention how much safer our roads and streets would be) if some of those trips were done by kids getting from point A to point B on their own. You know, the way we all did for decades until CNN hit the airwaves.

  94. Elizabeth M January 21, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    I started staying home when I was in 3rd grade. I even watched my younger sibling for an hour or so at a time. It didn’t seem strange at the time! Why does it seem so dangerous now? Just 15 years later?

  95. Britnee January 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    If you believe your oldest child is mature enough to take care of the younger ones in case of emergency, then I think it would be okay. As the oldest child, my parents knew I was able handle myself at a younger age and I would help take care of the youger siblings. But really it’s a case-by-case basis.

  96. Cheryl W January 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    The “while they are sleeping” thing – if I were this mom, one morning before dad leaves, I would test the smoke detector. See if the kids wake up. As it is approaching the time of waking (a bit early, yes) I suspect that the kids would wake up. And, more likely to wake up on a morning when they know that mom was not home.

    My daughter could sleep through a four alarm fire at midnight. But the rooster down the road or birds chirping in the yard will wake her in the morning when the windows are open. (Yes, she is on the ground floor and we sleep with the windows open – it saves energy to cool the house.) The difference is where she is in her sleep cycle.

    This mom can test this out and see what happens. If she does it in the morning, she could even let us all know if they woke up! (But, only if she wants cranky kids for school.)

  97. Babsiola January 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I leave my kids, 11 and 9, alone from time to time to go grocery shopping. I’m back within an hour or so. The rules; can’t cook food, use electric appliances and don’t answer the door or the phone. How are they suppose to feel responsible from one day to the other if you don’t start slowly?

  98. Annie January 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I leave mine for short periods and it’s fine. They have rules, don’t answer the door, don’t answer the phone, don’t go outside, no cooking. They can watch tv which is probably safest as they tend not to do physical stuff and potential hurt themselves……
    Nothing wrong with learning that mum can go out but she always comes back.
    Go for it.

  99. Teri January 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    I live in TN and that is correct – there is no set law for leaving them home alone. There ARE, however, state set guidelines for leaving foster kids at home alone or having them watch younger children, so there is that to go by if anybody is overly concerned with it. I think parental judgement based on the child’s temperament and responsibility level is a better method, though, than anything the state can set. Obviously you won’t leave a 2 year old home alone while you go to work, yet sadly some people think that is alright and there have been MANY cases of that in TN over the past few years.

    Anyway, I would not hesitate to go next door or go outside and do yardwork with kids at home that age, but I probably would not go somewhere that I had to drive. I guess the fear of being in an accident and nobody knowing they were home alone would concern me. My daughter is 10 now and I will leave her at home alone to run to the grocery store, run put gas in the car, or run and take the garbage to the dump. Trips under 30 minutes. And, the rules are that she can’t play outside, can’t go to the door, and she can’t use the stove while I’m gone. We live in a small town with not a lot of places to go, so not much opportunity for quick trips and for her to stay home alone. I would not go out of town to go shopping and leave her home alone, though.

    I did let her stay home alone for about 15 minutes a few times when she was 9, but made sure the neighbor lady was home. It was more for her peace of mind than my own, though. I just wanted her to know she had a place to go to if she got scared for some reason. It put her mind at ease and she never had to go over there.

    Likewise, I will run errands around town without locking the house, but if I go out of town, I lock the doors. No real reason for being that way – just am.

  100. Mamasita January 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Absolutely I would let normal healthy kids that age be alone at home (with the front door locked). Every kid is different though and so you need to look at a child’s abilities and behavior. My youngest (8) got sick of going to an after school program for an hour or 2 while I attended a class so we decided to let her stay home with her older (10) brother. They’ve been doing this for more than a year. They feel really competent and proud that they are trusted. We try to give them the information and training they need to deal with an emergency. This wouldn’t work for kiddos with developmental disabilities or behavior issues but it works for ours. I really feel for those “good kids” who’s moms take them to school and pick them up, hovering over them, each day well into their teen years.

  101. E January 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    I think it’s likely fine, but I’d run through a fire drill with them a few times before-hand. Make a meeting place away from the house in case they get separated, and so you know where to find them. Not because it’s likely to happen, but because it’s a good idea to do anyway and this is probably a good time to do it.

    Don’t rely too much on being reachable – have them plan not to call you unless there’s a real need, and have an alternate plan for an emergency that you (and they) are very comfortable with in the event they don’t reach you. Reception and battery life and volume settings and surrounding noise are too fickle.

    I like the idea of them having specific tasks, or at least plans, for what to do if they wake up before you get back. Boring sounding things so they’re not excited to wake up to do them. 🙂


  102. Leslie January 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    You are stationary a block away. If need be they can come to you. My husband was off work for a few months recently. I’d leave at 9:30 and he would n’t wake, or should I say, get out of bed until after noon (due to his karaoke job). Our kids are 4 1/2 and 3. They did fine! There were also a few days where I left before anyone was up and I left them cups of dry cereal on the counter and glasses of milk in the fridge.
    As long as your kids know not to open the door to strangers, leave the house, or answer the phone when they don’t know who it is, they’ll be fine!! If PA had such “trust your own instinct” laws I’d be able to go out for a walk at night after my boys are asleep and get some exercise and fresh air.

  103. Hattie January 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    I am not afraid of leaving my children at home at all- I feel my 11, 8 and 6 yr old are fine by themeselves (I also have twin 14 yr olds and a 2 yr old). What I am afraid of is someone reporting that I’m neglectful because I did so. I have 6 children from ages 14 to 2 and honestly I would completely trust the 8 yr old (even more than my 11 yr old) to babysit the 2 yr old. The 6 and 8 yr old make their own breakfast regularly omelettes, oatmeal etc so I’m sure they would be fine- I only worry a little about them leaving the stove on. The variable I did not take into account when I started leaving them at home alone was that my 11 yr old (then 8) messes around. I came home from my morning swim to find him sitting at the table diligently doing his math. I knew something was up. My 14 yr olds at the time were 11. I had told them to get the house cleaned up and make bread. The 11 yr old had been messing around and his sister threatened to call me if he didn’t get his stuff done so he grabbed the phone and started goofing off. He dialed 911 and hung up. When there was no answer when the call center called back they sent an officer over. The girls did not want to let him in (not out of fear, but out of a sense that he had no right to enter) but he told them that since 911 had been called and there was no adult home he needed to walk through the home and verify everyone was well. My youngest boys- then 5 and 3- were watching TV, 8 yr old doing math and my twins (11) were doing chores and starting bread. He left without incident. Calling 911 was not a danger I had anticipated! Honestly I’m a little irked that he walked through my house but the home spoke for itself. However cluttered it was my children were happy and healthy and he would be hard pressed to prove otherwise.

  104. Leslie January 21, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I found this link to assist anyone else that was curious. I always grew up thinking that in PA you aren’t allowed to be alone until 12, but I gues sI am/was wrong.

  105. Jen January 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    In regard to the original question, it depends on your kids. I would probably wake them up first. As a child, I was always groggy and disoriented when I woke up. I was also a very heavy sleeper (that only changed when I had a child) and would NEVER have been awakened by a smoke alarm, siren, phone ringing, dog barking, etc. I actually had a transformer on the electric pole outside our house explode due to a lightning strike, waking the entire neighborhood except me. I slept through it all. Once awake, though, I was very mature, and capable watching my sister by the time I was the age of the kids in the original question.

    My own daughter is 21 mos. I have walked next door to my parents’ house to borrow things (a paint brush, most recently) while my daughter was napping or playing contentedly in her room. Elapsed time away, less than 5 minutes. Theoretically, I could take my monitor, since it has a 150 yard range, but it always seems a little extreme.

  106. Jen January 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    Also wanted to add that if you decide to do it, see if you can find a neighbor who is understanding about giving the kids more responsibility to have them on hand in case of a real emergency. Not to sound ageist, but maybe an older neighbor, as older folks seem to remember more of the “good old days” when kids were left alone for days. 🙂 Okay, maybe a little extreme, but you get the point. My older neighbors always seem to be more understanding about free-range stuff, since it was just the way things were done when they had kids.

  107. Zeph January 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    By the age of 10 I had to cook dinner one night a week for my family. If you don’t ever expect kids to achieve something, and give them opportunity to try, the never will.
    At 4, my oldest son can help cook dinner, and knows how to fry certain veggies. Both boys (2 ad 4) can make their own cereal and toast. Quite often they get up and make breakfast and play for an hour r so before I wake up!
    I know that by 8 or so that they will be competant to look after themselves. Doesn’t mean they will always have to, but if the situation arises they will cope.

  108. K January 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    When I was 7 I was ALWAYS left home alone. I walked home alone at 3:30 and was alone until my parents came home around 6 or so. No one thought anything of it. To give some perspective, I am 45 now, so this was in the early 70’s when crime was higher than it is now (as we all know now because we read this blog and we love Lenore). As Lenore, our goddess, is constantly reminding us, there cannot have been such a shift in human development in 40 years that your children are less able to care for themselves than I was. Ask yourself, what could realistically happen? No one will kidnap them from your locked house. Worst case scenario I can think of is that there is a bizarre electrical fire. Your kids are old enough to know to get out of the house.

  109. Anthony Hernandez January 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Teach the kids how to escape in case of fire and how to reach you and go do your stuff. Why is this even a question, assuming the kids have been trained to be independent?

  110. N January 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Kids of those ages, particularly if they have each other for company, should have no problem being alone for a short while, and even if they wake up should be able to watch TV for a bit together and find something to eat for breakfast. I’d leave my cell phone number where they can find it.

  111. thalass January 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    I don’t think i was left home alone until i was about 12, but my brother was 9 at that time so it amounts to the same thing. I think go for it. Show the kids where you will be and how to get there, lock the doors and teach them to not open it for anyone except you, and make sure they know how to contact you.

    They’ll feel great that they’ve looked after themselves for a while, and it’ll be good for them. I don’t think it’s much different to them being alone with you on the other side of the house, or doing some gardening, for an hour. Especially being only one block away. Go for it!

  112. Rosalind January 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I wouldn’t do it.
    I don’t think kids that age have the emotional maturity to deal with emergency situations, howver unlikely. I also don’t think that it is ideal for the older child to asume ‘responsibility’ for a younger sibling, in this instance.
    In New Zealand (and we are pretty damn liberal..!) we have a law making it illegal for children under 14 to be left home alone.
    I believe in responsibility…but is this for their gain, or yours?

  113. North of 49 January 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I have to say NO. And not because I don’t believe that children that young can’t take care of themselves for an hour or two by themselves, but because of stupid age laws that are coming into play.

    Depending on where you live, it can be anywhere from 10 to 13 before the child in question can be left alone by themselves for any period of time. If parents are caught doing so, child protective services can and will punish the parents for their “infractions.”

    This drives me absolutely batty! Just over a century ago, children were working in cotton gin factories keeping the machines running and were much younger. They still do it in Asia. In third world places, children as young as 5 are required to look after younger siblings so that their mother and father can do what they need to do to feed them.

    But here, in North America, to allow a child to have such luxury as being on their own for an hour? That could destroy the family because of how child protective services works. Children in North America are not stupid. They are not overgrown infants. They need to be left alone to figure out how to do things by themselves for themselves.

    Just 30 years ago, i was taking the city bus, with a transfer, an hour to and from school everyday. Last year, I had to fight not just with the school but with other parents who did not like the fact that my 7 year old son walked the 7 blocks home from school by himself because the school board required our daughter to attend her “all day kindergarten’s” afternoon half at another school at the other end of the city. I had to argue my point with his teachers and principal and sign a bunch of forms to give him permission to come home on his own.

    Now that he’s 8, and we’re in a different city, if one of us is not outside waiting for the school bus for both kids, we get glares from the other parents. They walk less than a block from the bus stop to our house! I don’t even need to leave the house to watch the school bus.

    For us, here, the age is 12, although I can and have argued for up to an hour’s grace with social workers – specifically for the 15 minutes it would take for me to walk to the laundry room, deal with my laundry and walk back at a place I used to live at. I think my son is ready for the responsibility of taking care of himself and his sister for an hour, but child services will not let me because of what their laws and legislation says.

    So, it isn’t because I don’t believe your children aren’t safe sleeping in a locked house with smoke detectors, a speed dial to your cel phone and their breakfast on the table and anything else you can think of that they might need if they wake up and you’re not there. It is because of child protective service’s over reaction that I say no.

    The worst threat to free range living is child protective services. Where do you think all the fear mongering comes from and is reinforced by? The media simply spreads the word. Child protective services makes it happen.

  114. Stevie Taylor January 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Kids left home alone when I’m outside working in a farm field far away form the house, or picking up groceries, etc. They sometimes wake up to a note on weekends or when they get off the school bus that I ran out for some reason. I started when they were 7 and 9–it’s a good age. And back then I didn’t have a cell phone. We also have several large dogs so I never worried about someone showing up and we actually have a fire plan that we talk about/practice so if there was a fire I’d expect to pull up and find them standing by the telephone pole at the top of driveway. Don’t have neighbors close by to help or to tattle on us BUT I noticed in our school safety curriculum (moelstation, stranger danger, fire safety, bike safety, etc) that it asks them if they are ever left home alone, asked to watch a younger sibling or left home sick. WHAT??!!! So I did have to explain to the kids that child rearing is our business, not the school’s and they are expected to respond MYOB to such questions. Which they love to do–imagine being given the OK to tell the school system to buzz off when you are still in elementary school 🙂

  115. Stevie Taylor January 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    In case you think I’m making that up here’s the blurb about that particular safety class (this is taken off the school safety curriculum website):

    Someone to Talk To (Second Grade) uses puppets to teaches children to find an adult to talk to when they are having a problem. Some of the problems presented include physical abuse, coming to school when you are sick, staying home alone, and sexual abuse. Children are encouraged to come up with a list of adults that they would tell about their problems.

  116. Lisa January 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    YES! My daughter is 8, and she’s been walking home from school and letting herself in since last year. I work less than a mile away, and given that she usually plays on the playground at school for a while first, she’s home for less than an hour before I get here. Lately she’s taken to calling me at work to say “can you stay at work a little longer? I’m making you something”. (umm… no. when I want to leave work, her preference is not my first consideration!). She usually chooses not to come to the grocery store with me now (it’s across the street from us, and sometimes I make her if we haven’t had a lot of time to talk).
    I have a monthly meeting from 7:30-10:30 pm. Her bedtime is 8:00. A couple of years ago, I used to bring her everywhere with me, especially when I was really busy and had a lot of meetings going on. That meant keeping her up when she should have been home, or spending ridiculous amounts of money on babysitters. This year she stays home. I go to my meeting without wondering whether I can afford to be involved in the community, she gets to bed on time (or close to). It’s great! Plus her confidence and independence has soared. I am comfortable with her being home alone for several hours, awake or asleep – the only thing I worry about is the mess I’ll find sometimes when I get home! Even when she didn’t have school and I had to work – I left her sleeping, when she woke up she called me, had breakfast, played for a while, did her chores, then walked to my office and met me for lunch. I wouldn’t have done it if I worked further, but I’m SO close, I could be home in 5 minutes in an emergency.

    As for the rule about staying in bed: it depends what time they normally wake up. If this is a time they should be sleeping, I think that rule is fine – you don’t want them getting up just because it’s exciting to be home alone. If you were home and your child woke up at that time, what would be happening? Would you be getting breakfast and having them get dressed? Or saying “it’s too early, go back to bed”. I would say they should just do what they need to, and it shouldn’t be different whether mom/dad are home or not.

    One more thing: having been trying to make more “free-range” choices in my parenting for the past several years, I recently had to be hospitalized for 2 nights. I did of course make arrangements for my daughter to be watched overnight while I was there, but when I came home after major surgery, she was essentially my caretaker. At 8 years old, she did everything that needed to be done around the house, got herself off to school and home, did her homework, got me anything I needed, and played quietly while I napped (often, for the first week). It was ok that I couldn’t do much for her, because she’s not accustomed to me handling basic day-to-day tasks that she’s capable of. She *always* makes her own breakfast and lunch, and she was able to microwave dinners for a few days until I felt up to cooking. It was great! They grow up so fast, but as my daughter gets to the age and ability of really being able to function independently, I’m so enjoying seeing her become the person she is! It’s completely worth any fear I have of someone reporting me.

  117. Lafe January 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    By the time I was 10, I was often left in charge of younger siblings while my mother worked or went for doctor appts. This included caring for a newborn, cooking, diaper-changing, later potty-training, etc.

    If something came up that was too hard for me to handle, I could ask a neighbor for help, or call my mother at work. Big deal.

    Are all kids going to be able to handle “home-alone” responsibilities like I did? Maybe not, but if we don’t give them the one-hour test runs, how do expect them to later handle the three-hour runs? And how do we expect them to learn how to be parents and do it 24 hours a day? They learn by doing. So let them do.

    To the poor woman who said, “I’d be the neighbor to report you!”, I truly feel sorry for you. Reporting people doesn’t do anything to teach kids how to be capable, experienced adults later in life. It just tears apart families, upsets lives, and teaches people that their neighbor can’t be trusted. Neighbors are for helping, not for reporting people to the authorities at the drop of a hat.

    You would be a real neighbor if you noticed someone’s kids being left alone once in a while and you stopped over to say, “Hi! I’m usually home next door if you need help with anything. Tell the kids it’s perfectly okay to call me or knock on my door if they need help.”

    Let’s make the world look like that again, instead of the dark days of Stalin’s Russia, with everyone reporting their neighbor because they heard a rumor that they might be doing something that the State wouldn’t approve of.

  118. Ira January 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    I started leaving my kids alone for short periods of time when they were 9 and 5, but I am probably the only one in the entire state of NJ ( where by the way no specific age is given as part of the law). My kids are very responsible, and have been taking care of themselves ( brekfasts, lunches, getting ready in the morning routine) for a long time. At first I would leave them for maybe 1/2 hr, and call to check on them. Now, they are 13 and 8 and I have no problem leaving them home and going out for an evening. They also stay home alone on a snow day if neither my husband or I can work from home that day. They are the only ones in their school who are allowed to be home by themselves so I tell them not to advertize that fact to much to their friends, in case we have some “concerned” citizins.

  119. Karen January 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    My biggest issue with this is that the kids are sleeping. I would feel more comfortable if they were awake while you were gone. Statistically the most likely thing (although extremely unlikely!) is a fire occuring in your home. There are many studies showing that children (including teenagers) are not woken by a standard fire alarm.

    Frankly, I am a big free range advocate, but this is a little far for me. I’d go to boot camp a little later in the day or run around the block for an hour.

  120. Donna January 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    Even the risk of fires needs to be looked at realistically. Fires are caused by something; houses don’t just spontaneously combust. There are risk factors for fire that IF they exist in your house, you should worry about leaving your children alone. However, if you live in a well maintained house with a good electrical system and central heat, the odds of your house catching fire while the only occupants are sleeping is about the same as the odds of your child being kidnapped from their bed. Yes, it could happen but it’s highly unlikely.

  121. michelle pope January 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    We regularly leave my son (9 yrs) home alone for an hour or so to run errands, etc. My son is also in charge of breakfast on the weekends for he and his little sister. As far as I’m concerned you could exercise then grab a latte and find your kids up, dress, and eating breakfast by the time you get home. Embrace the glory of capable children!

  122. Rachel January 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    People often catastrophize various horrible what-ifs of elevating intensity (“What about an armed sociopath who gives dogs poisoned meat?”) to the point where almost nothing would protect the children from danger. The fire alarm issue seems to me a real and practical one. It seems the original writer could perform a simple test to determine whether her children would in fact wake up if it went off. Then again I’m not a sleep expert–does it depend on what stage of sleep you are in, etc.? What I wonder is why we trust ourselves to such infinite degree. I’d trust my dog more than myself in most dangerous situations. Hope I don’t get reported for this — I don’t mean to imply I actually let the dog babysit my toddler.

  123. maggie January 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    Thank you, Donna! I was just thinking the same thing! Don’t leave lit candles, unplug space heaters if you use them and don’t leave matches and lighters accessible! Warn your children against playing with fire. Fires don’t start without something causing them. I don’t have statistics, but I think a lot of fires that happen when children are left alone are from those children playing with matches or lighters., or poorly maintained space heaters.

  124. maggie January 21, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    C’mon Rachel, Carl the Rottweiler babysits all the time!!:)

  125. coffeegod January 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    My now 9 year old son has been staying home alone since he was 5. It started because he HATES shopping. I would leave him at home, run to the store with cell phone in hand and my number on the speed dial. At first, I got calls every 5 minutes. These days I get calls after 2.5 hours, usually asking when I’m coming home, did you get me a surprise and will you fix me something to eat.

    He fends for himself after school. He can make hot dogs (Yes, he uses the stove unsupervised). He gets his homework done. All in all, he is MUCH happier than when he had to go to aftercare.

    They’ll be fine. Go to boot camp.

  126. SKL January 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    Funny thing about smoke detectors – ours goes off every time we make toast. So the kids’ learned response to it is to grab a towel and wave it at the smoke detector until it shuts up. Maybe I should do something about that . . . .

    We do have a big, loud siren that goes off if smoke reaches the 2nd floor – and it calls the fire dep’t too. I don’t think my kids have ever heard that one. Guess I should teach them about all that before I start leaving them alone.

  127. Dee January 22, 2011 at 12:48 am #

    It’s kind of depressing me that people don’t think they can trust their neighbors.

    My kid is 4, it’s going to be a few years yet before I leave him home alone while running out to do an errand (although, he’s already ASKED). But there are times when my husband is on a business trip and it’s him and I at home for days. We don’t have a phone line, and although I try to remember to put my cell phone in the same place each day, sometimes it doesn’t happen. I’ve told my son that if something bad happens, he needs to go first to see if Mr. B is home (our directly next door neighbor, work-from-home recluse, he’s probably there), and if Mr. B isn’t there, then across the street to see if Miss D. is home. 99% of the time one or the other will be there, and they know I’ve told my kid that they are emergency resources. They will help him. The biggest problem we have is that he’s still too short to reach our really high doorbells, so we’ve taught him that if needed, he needs to knock really, really hard.

    I was staying home alone for short periods–or even in charge of sibs–by the age of 9, I recall knowing that in case of problem I could go to any of our neighbors and they would have helped me.

  128. Dragonwolf January 22, 2011 at 2:04 am #

    I’d be mostly concerned about what the dogs do around the kids with both unsupervised, and only because that’s the most likely place where anything would happen that would require first aid or a trip to the emergency room (aside from the usual hazards of things like falling down the stairs), as long as the kids know, and obey, the rule of not cooking when home alone.

    Disclaimer – not saying that anything would happen (it depends on the dogs and the kids), but just that, of all the things that could happen to a child when home alone in a house guarded by a security system and dogs (who sound as if they’re large enough to scare someone off), a dog turning on a kid for whatever reason would be the most likely, and even it is rather remote with well-trained dogs and kids.

    Delurking – 4.6×10^-6 comes out to be a 0.00046% chance, or 4.6 in a million. Not as much more than one in million as you might actually think, just FYI.

  129. maggie January 22, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    Carl would never hurt a child!:) Bite your tongue!

  130. nevada trust January 22, 2011 at 3:47 am #

    it’s always best to pray before leaving a child alone in the house.

  131. Carrie January 22, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    Just sort of a devil’s advocate on the cooking, my 9 year old asked for instant oatmeal during Christmas break. I told him I was busy, he could read and follow the directions and he should make it himself.

    The problem was, when he read 2/3 cup water, he read it as 2 TO 3 cups and practically drowned the oats. No amount of continued cooking could remedy it and we had to dump it and start over.

    Not a catastrophe by any means but something that, if I hadn’t been there, he likely wouldn’t have known how to fix it. He either would have given up and been hungry until I got back or he would have gone through the whole box, ruining each package, until he ran out and was hungry until I got home. Again, not the end of the world, but it opened my eyes about really teaching him how to cook and know how to follow directions correctly.

  132. Brian January 22, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    Maggie–that may be the funniest reply ever on this site. I am cracking up sitting at work right now. Good Dog Carl, Good Dog.

  133. Jessika January 22, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    Considering your scenario, I would be ok to leave them alone. The only thing I would be worried about is them getting out of the house by themselves or trying to cook in the stove. But if you’ve put those limits clear for them and you trust they’re mature enough to listen, go have some time for yourself… Good luck!

  134. Marybeth January 22, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    You said the magic words – you think your children are mature enough to handle it.

    Go get your workout and undoubtedly they will be disappointed that you are back so soon.

  135. staceyjw January 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Of course, this coming from someone who will leave her 5 month old in his crib, sleeping, and go outside for a walk or run to the corner store. He’s not going anywhere, and whats really going to happen in a locked (concrete) house in 5 minutes? I won’t be able to do this once he walks, but for now, I don’t see the big deal. (My DH won’t do this, he doesn’t want to get in the habit he says.)

    Oh, you can hang up the phone- there is no CPS in Mexico……

  136. staceyjw January 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    This constant pushing up of the age of accountability kills me. Except for crime- they are babies until 18-unless they do something wrong, then they are deviants that should be punished like adults, with the full extent of the law.

    This means that same 9 yr old may not be allowed to stay home alone for an hour, yet could be imprisoned for life, and in some places might be tried as an adult at an age not much older.

    Our society has a sick way of dealing with kids. Especially if they are poor or not white.

  137. staceyjw January 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    UGH- where I live, Kids may be working, nothing crazy, but a money earning job, at this age! Not that I’m for child labor, but come on, they aren’t babies at 7 or 9.

    How fast we have forgotten how responsible a 7 yr old can be if they need to be.

    And for those who worried about fire and the kids not hearing the alarm, there is a solution; put a LOUD detector right above their door, its new code anyway. If she has an alarm, it can be hooked into the smoke alarms too, the house alarm is way louder. Do a drill.

    BUT- how often are there house fires where you live? Do you smoke, leave candles on, overload old electrical wiring or get electrical work done by unlicensed workers?
    Unless you are in an apartment building with little outdoor access, a very old house,or in row houses in a firebug area, I doubt there is a real chance of fire. If you don’t do any of the above, the chances are even less.

    I would be more afraid of a false alarm that brings police than a real fire!

    (I live in a non smoking, all concrete house on the ocean with no heat or AC loads, so I find fire very low on my list of worries. This would change if I was somewhere else. I DO worry about carbon monoxide, only when we run a generator- outside of course- and would never leave a kid alone when it was on. I’m not totally nuts you know.)

  138. Shelley January 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    I use to run 2 miles every morning at a park a few blocks from home. My kids about this age. At the time I felt guilty and didn’t tell anyone but that was before I knew there were other parents who had some common sense.

    My oldest would meet me at the back door if I was 15 minutes concerned about my safety!

  139. Debbie January 23, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    When I was young ( 5 or 6 or so) in the late 70’s my dad left both my brother (who is two years younger than me) home every morning around 5 or 6am (still dark outside) while he drove my mum to work. Every single day. Some days I was already awake in my bed. Some days I slept through it. But we were always fine. Kids will be fine. 7 and 9 is not too young, in my opinion. Trust them and they will live up to that trust.
    Good luck at the bootcamp. 🙂

  140. Sky January 23, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    My county has these explicit CPS 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. ”

    Of course, these are guidelines, and not laws. I see an awful lot of under 7 year olds unattended in back yards, and front yards, and driveways, and sidewalks in my neighbourhood.

  141. baby-paramedic January 23, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    when I was 9 I was sick in bed. My mum had to go fetch my siblings from school (no busses). She was delayed, and during that time people entered the house.

    So, I hear people in the house, I know they do not belong. So I hid under the bed behind some boxes. They even came into the room.

    Now, Im fairly sure I was never specifically taught ‘hide’, but in my mind it made sense.

    Incidentally, it was a real estate agent showing people through. They had shown up an hour early. I didnt know they were coming. But when mum got home and I heard it was alright to emerge I did.

  142. Staceyjw aka escaped to mexico January 23, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Daniela- you are an idiot. Short trips KILL 100x more kids than all the rare accidents that could happen in a safe home in that time. *sigh* some people just don’t get it. CARS KILL!

    To turn it around, how would YOU feel if you woke up and lugged your kid along for a quick trip to the corner store, but got in an accident? A dad did that in my neighborhood and got a kid killed and seriously injured

    Fact is, home IS safer than the car, billions of pervs not withstanding. /snark.

    We don’t need neighbors like YOU Daniela. Instead of calling the authorities because YOU don’t like what another parent does, why don’t you mind your business. better yet, TALK to the parent, you might find out they are more intelligent and caring than You think. PEOPLE LIKE YOU are what’s wrong with society today- ready to call the government over everything YOU don’t like! I hope no one talks to you, as it seems it would be bad for them if they don’t do what YOU like.
    freaking idiot.

  143. Michelle the Uber Haus Frau January 23, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Depends on how responsible and mature the kids are, but personally I wouldn’t leave them alone.

    staceyjw, on January 22, 2011 at 16:14 “””
    This means that same 9 yr old may not be allowed to stay home alone for an hour, yet could be imprisoned for life, and in some places might be tried as an adult at an age not much older.
    Our society has a sick way of dealing with kids. Especially if they are poor or not white.”””

    Not in Canada apparently, they let kids(and adults) no matter what race back out on the street to get arrested again and again and again.

  144. Kiwimum January 23, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    For New Zealanders reading this – one of the posts quoted the common myth that it is ‘illegal’ in NZ to leave a child under 14 home alone. This is widely believed and quoted parent to parent but is not in fact the law. Section 10B Summary offences Act says : “Leaving child without reasonable supervision and care
    Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $2,000 who, being a parent or guardian or a person for the time being having the care of a child under the age of 14 years, leaves that child, without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child, for a time that is unreasonable or under conditions that are unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances.”
    Note the provisos about “reasonableness”. CYFS gives more detailed guidelines at

    It is clear from the guidelines that even CYFS doesn’t consider that there is a complete ban on under 14s at home alone.

  145. Frau_Mahlzahn January 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Oh, okay, at first I thought, we were talking about small kids — but hey, they are 7 and 9, and should be able to voice their concern should they be afraid to stay home alone in the morning. So ask them, they’ll know.

    Right now I have a four years old kid, who I leave with my oldest daughter (13) to babysit, but I wouldn’t leave her in the mornings, because they’d both be disoriented, should the younger one wake up and go looking for someone.

    But then, she’s only 4, and I’m sure, things would be different, if she were 7.

    So long,

  146. Lisa January 24, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    “Stacey, your kids are sentient beings, they know how to reach you if they need you, and in a lot of the world they would be herding sheep already (alone, on a mountain), or going off to fetch water for porridge.”

    Um, what? I don’t think so, not completely alone. And not without a lot of build-up, like going free-range most of the day with the local community of kids of varying ages for many years by the time they are 9.

    And that is what’s missing here – build-up. I read a comment where their kids were home 15 minutes before Dad. Seems like a reasonable first step.

    I don’t think it’s selfish to *want* to just let the kids sleep and keep your gym class going, but I don’t think it’s a reasonable first step. Two boys alone for an hour as a first step of independence seems like too much.

    I mean, you don’t know until you try, right? And what if you find out it was too much after the fact? I say start smaller. Let them prove themselves ready. It doesn’t sound like you’ve been training them to do this.

  147. Gary January 24, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    “Anyrhiing you do for a child that they can do for themselves, you harm that child” Alfred Adler

    I am 70. As the eldst of four boys I was frequently left at home and in charge. we all knew what was expected. we knew how to prepre food, when to go to bed, how to clean. We took pride in being able and independent. It wasnt often but we were fine on the occassional 2 nights alone when the folks had to drive to Denver.

  148. Mich January 24, 2011 at 7:33 am #


    Isn’t that what neighbours are for? Why don’t you see if your neighbour beside you, across the street can be watchful for the two weeks. (Not be there babysitting but just watchful).

    Good luck with whatever you decide.
    (Not going for two weeks is also a reasonable decision).

  149. Joel January 24, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    Not having kids of my own yet, I learned more about kids’ capabilities by traveling. My wife and I took 18 months and traveled the world recently, primarily in underdeveloped countries. In these countries, my heart was broken many times over watching VERY young children with enormous responsibilities, some of them even in child-slave situations. Five year olds watching an infant all day – not unusual. 5-6 year olds begging on street corners for the family. 8 year old rural kids sent into the city to be a live-in “slave” for a wealthier family. Their parents couldn’t afford to feed them, so being a slave they could at least survive. They cook, clean, shop, do laundry, watch younger kids, etc, for the family in return for food and a place to sleep. I witnessed this first hand at several different houses (my wife has distant relatives that we stayed with). Another relative was having a new house built. The builder hired entire families to provide the labor. He builds temporary huts where they live and all day the entire family works on the house – ages as young as 4 helping carry materials, water, etc. Saw African sheepherder boys in Lesoto that have to relocate high in the mountains and live up there on their own for the entire summer – ages 9 or 10ish. Nepalese, Indonesian, Cambodian, Chinese kids herding water buffalo / cattle at around the same age. 8 to 10 year olds that act as guides to tourists for a few bucks, often giving quite thorough tours of a town. 6 to 8 year olds fishing (shoreline) all day in Africa in Malawi to bring some food home to the family. Its incredibly sad to see, but it shows you how we’ve evolved as humans with very little supervision at very young ages. We live such different lives, its hard to even imagine these scenarios. I already have to look at photos and videos to remind myself because I’ve quickly re-assimilated to our culture.

    Contrast that experience with my free range experience as a child in the 70s. We roamed the neighborhood freely, walked to school, played down the block till 9 at night, slept over at friends houses, ran to the store for my Mom, all starting around 6-7 years old. To be fair, all of our peers were doing it too, so we had older kids to learn from / watch over us. I feel so lucky just typing that description.

    Contrast that with today’s environment…. Our society has changed in its rules / expectations / paranoia, but the capability of children has not changed one iota.

  150. wendy January 24, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    My kids (7 and 9) walk home from the bus stop 2 blocks. I do tell them not to tell anyone. My son one day mentioned what a great sense of freedom he had walking home one day last year on his own. How very sad how little freedom our kids have.

    They have let themselves in at times. I want them to know how to do this vs. rely on me, because hey… what happens if I get in an accident driving home and don’t make the bus…

    Honestly the most dangerous thing my kids are doing during that time is riding the bus, not walking home and letting themselves in.

    I’m not sure I could do the boot camp, but hopefully soon. The older is my son and he isn’t the best listener:) I give my 7 year old dd the key!

  151. LEA January 24, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    I think the kids would be fine being home alone and that it’s not selfish or dangerous to do so. I don’t think they need to have a rule to stay in bed. What if they have to go to the bathroom or just are awake and bored? Give them things they can do if they wake before you return and then do a bit of practice with them. Keep your number posted in a couple places and if it helps a basic list of yes they can do and no they can’t do things.

    I was babysitting others at 8 and I could handle a fire, choking and just about any other emergency situation. I actually had put out a couple kitchen fires (and later a couch on fire) and had been taught how to do the hymlic (sp) by a nurse at that point. It’s amazing the life skills kids can learn and be able to properly put to use at a young age if they are expected to. Heck I was proud of my knowledge and abilities. Maybe not all 8 year olds can or are ready to handle that responsibility but most can handle caring for themselves as in, waking up, getting dressed and having a bowl or cereal or toast and doing a chore or reading a book or watching tv while mom and dad are out of the house for a bit without a problem.

    Waiting until 12 seems crazy to me. They can’t be kept babies forever and at 12 they should have long learned how to handle being alone for a bit safely.

  152. Hineata January 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Ta Kiwimum, will take note of that. You’re right, just gets passed parent-to-parent. Cheers

  153. Karin S. January 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Don’t have time to read the comments, so maybe someone has already addressed this. Though I leave my almost-11-year-old alone for a couple of hours when she’s awake, I don’t when she’s asleep because she doesn’t wake up if the smoke detector goes off–and it’s right outside her room! It means I exercise at 5:30 a.m. while my husband is still home, but that’s worth it to me.

  154. Wendy January 25, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    My first reaction was no way. But then I read the ages of the kids again and reminded myself that these are not my kids, who are 5 and 2. I think I would do it, although I would practice leaving them alone for a half hour in the afternoon or something to see how that goes(if you don’t do this already). Also, do they get along well? I know they’ll mostly be sleeping but if they’re excited to be alone, they might wake up and if there’s a lot of conflict between them, that would be a concern.

    I’ve left my kids home alone for 5-10 minutes while the 2 year old is napping and the 5 year old watches a movie. I lock the door and take the dog for a quick walk, while staying within sight of the house. I feel like this is fine but I worry about running into neighbors and having them ask where my kids are(they know that my husband works a lot).

  155. EricS January 25, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    7 and 9 years old, IMO are ages were they understand and know right from wrong. Ages, where they should have already been taught a sense of responsibility. If you feel comfortable enough (forget about what others say), and trust your children enough to follow instructions and be responsible enough, I say go for it. They will have to eventually do things on their own, no better time than the present. It’s true you can “teach an old dog new tricks”, but the older they are and set in their way, the harder it is. Mold them at a young age, and they’ll grow up as you have trained them.

  156. cmb January 27, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    If the law in your state specifically states that under 10s should not be left alone then I would not do it. Your 9 y.o. is almost there; hopefully she’ll be 10 by the next time your spouse is away.

  157. NJDAD January 31, 2011 at 2:32 am #

    Hey Stacey, only you know your kids.. and I agree with some comments said here re: “test it out”. However, one word of caution, be sure to check your state/town/municipality rules/laws — make sure there are no “stupid laws” that could land you in trouble. Problems is, god forbid something goes wrong, & cops are called — Don’t want to hear about you, from jail.

  158. Mike Harris February 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I don’t think that your plan is unreasonable at all. When I was 9 I regularly babysat my 6 year old sister when our parents went out. My job was to fix us both dinner, and make sure she got to bed on time.

    I’d usually cook something simple like mac & cheese (this was pre-microwave) and a salad, but keep in mind that I’d been cooking with adult supervision from age 5, starting with helping mom cut the vegetables.

  159. Nicole McKeon February 9, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    I totally agree! But in truth, I would be too scared of legal consequences to try it. Big brother doesn’t know best but also doesn’t care. I would love to leave my twins in a locked warm car for the two minutes it would take to run in and buy some milk but a”helpful” citizen might call the police. When I was young, my mom would leave me at age 9 to watch my younger siblings when she had a quick errand.

  160. sara February 10, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    In the mid 80s, I took a bus for an hour, was dropped off a mile and a quarter from home, and walked home alone and let myself in and waited there until Mom came home about an hour and a half later. She called me most days to just check in that I was home.

    They also requested that the girl next door, who was in 7th grade, walk with me if we were on the same bus, and she knew I was home alone.

    This was totally fine. I made food (often opening a can of corn or using the microwave – remember those microwave corndogs? no stove or oven), snuck in some cartoons that I wasn’t supposed to watch, read, napped, whatever.

    It all came to a crashing end for me when they started all the Stranger Danger crap at school. All the sudden, I was terrified the whole time walking, every time someone knocked on the door, every time the phone rang and it wasn’t Mom. After that, I’d come home and walk around the house making sure everything was locked and the curtains were all hermetically sealed so no one could see I was there. God.

  161. Nikoe February 15, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    we leave our kids home for bits of time (6 and 8) they do fine with it, we have developed a great relationship with our neighbors though, the kids know who to go to for anything, and they know and follow the rules, we dont leave them when they are sleeping just because i dont feel confident they would be able to function in an emergency if they were suddenly awakened by a fire or something. but i think if the kids are cool with it then go for it, but… maybe wake them up and let them watch tv or play or something – makes it more real for them too, that you trust them with the task makes them more trustworthy IMO

  162. KFS February 18, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    I’d say do it but for goodness sakes HUSH UP ABOUT it.

    If anyone questions you “where are the kids?” mumble and change the subject.

    This is one of those “better not to share” things because all the uber-protective parents who are already ticked that you work out daily would LOVE to make an example of how “selfish” you are to leave them home alone where “anything can happen!”

    It sounds like they will be fine. I’d keep my cell phone with me and let them know they can call/text. You’re a block away AND physically fit. He@# I’m a chubby lazy mom and I could sprint a block to my kids if I had to. You’d pass me by a country mile. 🙂

    They’ll be fine!

  163. JB February 27, 2011 at 2:36 am #

    The position that CPS has to take is based on the reality that altho many kids may be ready to be home alone for couple of hours at these ages, there are lots of outliers. And the bad things usually happen to those non-typical kids (fires aside). The non-typical feature can be related to intelligence, common sense (not the same thing!!!), distractability, accident-prone-ness, and so forth. So altho I was a dedicated free range mom, I believe in those guidelines. And, parenthetically, the parents of the less-competent kids always seem to be the ones who are also not that alert.

  164. North of 49 February 27, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    @JB – the problem with CPS is that those guidelines do not take into consideration what kids are actually capable of. Between mandatory schooling and the loss of apprenticeship trainings, children spend too much time being “children” and not enough time learning how to be an “adult.” I still don’t believe it is safe if CPS finds out, but only if CPS finds out. Then again, those souless minions of orthodoxy are simply out there to justify their jobs and mandate instead of actually helping families raise their children.

  165. ROA March 8, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    It’s never ok to leave a young child, especially one that is still in a crib all by themselves, so one can go do an errand or pick another child up at school. 4 small children died at a house daycare in Texas when the provider left them sleeping to go do some errands at Target. 3 of the children survived. It’s a lot of work to raise and take care of children. Yes, it is a pain at times to have to bring children everywhere you go, but I’d rather have a grumpy, tired child than a dead one.

  166. Apple March 14, 2011 at 6:38 am #

    I know this is an older post, but here’s my $.2

    When I was 8, I was allowed to stay home alone, in the middle of the day or even in the evening, for… generally two or three hours. Our backyard was fenced, and our pool had a separate gate, so the rules were thus:

    I could not go outside the backyard, I could not go into the pool area, and I could not cook anything that involved the stove or oven. Other than that, the normal rules for playing were in place (don’t play with mum’s things, don’t break anything, etc). I fared just fine.

    At 7 and 9, your kids should be fine. Ask them to not leave their rooms if they wake up (unless they have to go to the bathroom), and to obviously not go outside or answer the door, if you’re concerned, but most likely they’ll sleep through it like they always do.

    By now, I know your husband’s back, but I hope this provides a little help, even so late.

  167. Kristina - March 20, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    I remember when I was 7 my folks would leave me alone for hours. I believe it’s a matter of maturity. You alone can determine if your child can be trusted home alone awake or asleep. And yes, there has to be a set of rules. Maybe you can try leaving him/her for 15 mins or 30mins just to test how he/she would fare.

  168. Beatriz May 4, 2011 at 4:48 am #


    I agree 100% with you. If a fire would break I would never forgive myself. We have to be realistic, always.
    I have a 2 year old boy, he’s my everything. Sometimes I need to do some groceries even if only milk but I wait for him to wake up, I wouldn’t risk it. I don’t think it’s fair that people gang up on you like that, everyone has their right to expose their opinion and beliefs.

  169. Trishasmith August 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    In general, it’s not a good idea to leave kids younger than 10 years old home alone. Every child is different, but at that age, most kids don’t have the maturity and skills to respond to an emergency if they’re alone. As a parent the most important thing is my child’s safety. This blog covers how a mother is dealing with a heartbreaking experience and how you can better protect your kids. This is the link:

  170. concerned parent September 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    I left my 5 yr old home a sleep at 4:40am for less then 10 min while I took his dad to work, came back home and he was GONE. I as I hysterically searched the house thinking he got scared and found somewhere to hide (to later find out he woke up and walked across the street to the neighbors house and place where he goes to play daily). After calling 911 and starting to canvas the neighborhood he appears from across the street before the police get here. My son is very smart for his age he has been walking since 7 months old spelling and writing his nsme since he was 10 months old, I believe his level of maturity is extremely high for a 5 yr old so I felt he would be completely ok to be left sleeping for under 10 mins. Never in a million yrs did I think he would leave the house. But since he did and like what all parents would do if they came home and found their child missing is call the police. I fear that he will be taking from me.* I have found no laws stating the age a child can be left alone in the state of Alabama*

  171. kevin September 15, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    My wife are having this same discussion about her attending an early morning bootcamp while I work out of town. She thinks it is OK, but I am not comfortable with it… maybe paranoid/ over protective about what could happen…

  172. Melanie November 5, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    How do you deal with the label of “bad parent” in a positive way? I don’t meet my six year old daughter at the bus stop (right across from our house. Literally.). I let her walk across the street and come home by herself every day. I let her run around in the neighborhood and play with friends. And on Thursdays I get home at 3pm. The bus gets there at 2:45. She has all of 15 minutes every other week – or 30 minutes a month – at home alone. Recently, she went to the neighbors house after school and the neighbor fed her a snack and was all concerned that I wasn’t home. I explained that on some Thursdays I get there at 3. She offered to watch my daughter on those days and I thanked her but never took her up on it. Yesterday (Thursday), the same thing happened again. And at the bus stop this morning a dad confronted my husband and had a ten minute talk with him about how they were concerned for my daughters safety because I am not at the bus stop when the bus pulls up and sometimes I am not at home for 20-30 minutes at a time and they had to feed her a snack after school. So it is like the whole bus stop has had this conversation about my parenting choices. I don’t really know the best way to defend my decisions or put the neighbors at ease. I think they feel like they are doing some kind of favor for me, and that it is such a burden to have to protect her and do my job, but really I would prefer my daughter to just use the key in her backpack to go in our empty house and open the fridge to get an apple and use the stool to pour a drink of water all by her bad six year old self. Maybe watch PBS on one of our seven total tv channels while she waits for 15 minutes. The funny thing to me is I was sitting with this neighbor when her daughter broke her arm the day before, and the neighbor didn’t take her daughter to the doctor for an hour. I didn’t go all crazy and say “oh my gosh why didn’t you take her sooner?” I brought her an ice pack and offered to watch her kids. She didn’t take me up on it, of course. But that happened under the close supervision of two adults. When I got home on Thursday and my daughter was playing at her house, all the kids were playing outside with no adult supervising. I honestly feel like my daughter is just as safe sitting at my house alone on a Thursday as she is under the care of this well meaning neighbor. I want to find an effective way to put all these grownups at ease, while still giving my daughter what I believe are important opportunities for independence. Thoughts?

  173. flick November 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    there are children who are left in this world and although initially its exciting for them, there is that nervous moment for them of unease. a feeling thats not easy to describe but is overwelming to feel.
    i know this because as a young teenager my mum would have to work and although it was legal for her to leave me to let myself in (and i would cook for her and do other chores) i actually MISSED her.
    But then she didnt have a choice. she had to work. I did respect her working to keep us and as soon as i was old enough it encouraged me to get work.
    I dont think i would leave my children.despite them seeming quite `mature` at times, a lot of maturity is learned behaviour.Children do have some common sense and abilities but what if a obscure scenario occoured, i.e-you teach them how to use a microwave, but they put their drink in a glass to warm it through? doesnt bear thinking about.
    Children in other countries who work and look after younger siblings do it because they Have to.But are they happy? and they can only do it because they have probably had loads of teaching, who`s to say they dont come into trouble or get lost? -we probably just dont hear about it.
    Also, if your child is running around a neighbourhood on their own, `visiting` people, getting snacks from people who feel bad not being fair giving their own child a snack and not the (uninvited) guest, making the parent uneasy because they dont know if that child has allergies,/is allowed that treat, is a really uneasy feeling.
    i had two children come to my house once, who lived out of sight of our house, so i took them back!! and told their mother where thay were. they then came back for three hours! i aloud them to play with my children but i just thought how irresponsible it was particularly as the parents hardly knew us.i think there are fine lines between what is right and wrong with parenting. We need to be careful that ok, their phyical wellbeing is fine, but are they REALLY happy with the situation, and in a few week when the novelty of being trusted to be left alone has worn off, are they still feeling ok about it. And also are the siblings being ok to each other? just be careful is all im saying.

  174. Jen January 28, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    I do not think it is safe. My neighbor left her two children, 7 and 9, sleeping in the morning. There was a house fire and the kids could not get themselves out. They were okay, but she was charged.

  175. Rich Wilson January 28, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    Seven and nine and they can’t get themselves out of a house? Ya, that is a problem.

  176. Juliet January 28, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    I agree with Rich Wilson. That comment has a hint of bogus-ness to it.

  177. Alice March 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    When I was a todler my mother would leave me in my bouncy chair surrounded by the couches while I would watch tv because she had to take my brother to school which was 15mins away. My father was at work and the only reason why she would not bring me was because it was too hard to bring me out in the cold. We live in Canada where snow reaches to our knees and temperatures are low. My parents are forgeinrs who we’re raise differently and in a poor situation. She knew that my brother needed his education, one that her parents couldn’t afford to give her. I’m not saying that what my did was right but I completely understood her choice and I’m she happy she did it. She loved me and never abandon me, she was mom that needed to do what had too because she love her children.

  178. Tammy Monaghan April 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I have to say I’m suprized at how many people do this and are ok with this! I guess having known to many house fires n whole family’s not getting out let alone two sleeping kids scares me! We have became so tied up in us n time that we can’t take a week n work out at home for the safety of our children then I know plenty of people who can’t have children that would make that sacrifice! We have to start putting our priortys in the right order! Do I think it’s great you are making yourself better to be here longer for them heck yes! But if something were to happen god for bid would you be able to live with that!
    I do think kids need to learn responsibility but the ages n other factors need to play in. They can die from smoke within a few minutes and if they are asleep its twice as likely. There was recently a women who lived right behind a convince store she left her child in the house asleep ( I think 6) to get a soda. Directly behind her house. That’s like going in your backyard n her house was on fire n she couldn’t get in to her baby! So I guess that’s why I’m so upset is if she can’t go that far then how far is to far!
    N to me having 8 to 23 yr old 4boys they do crazy things. N we had some fire mishaps with us around just out of kid curiosity n behaviors so home alone who knows what you are open to!
    It’s also amazing kids survive when you think of stuff you probably did as a kid ( I know when I was away from my parents I did some crazy things, like walking on a frozen river that I have know idea if it was really safe, or across a train bridge over that river) & my older boys now tell me things that I’m surprised they lived through. So as parents I think we talk talk talk until we are all shades of the rainbow but they still will try to do things.
    Keep in mind this is just my opinion n it comes from a loving heart! Good luck


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