What Age Do Free-Rangers Think a 6-Year-Old Can Stay Home Alone for 20 Minutes?


Anita Hirth, a software engineer from Denver, CO, asks this practical question:

Dear tebabykknf
Free-Range Kids: Thank you for being a rare voice of reason in these completely insane times.

I live in a house on a very quiet street in a suburb of Denver. Yesterday evening I wanted to drive to pick up some takeout at the Chipotle 1 mile away from my house. It was 15 degrees outside, and I felt bad schlepping along my almost-6-year-old daughter with me on this cold and unexciting errand. I considered leaving her home alone for 20 minutes while I got the food, but realized that I had never taught her to use the phone to call me if there’s a problem, so I took her along with me.

This morning I taught her how to use our house phone to call me if she is home alone for any reason and there’s a problem. Inspired by her competence, I also taught her how to make fried eggs, and how to rinse her dish afterwards and put it in the dishwasher. She was very proud of herself, and ate every bite of her eggs.
I was wondering at what age other parents felt comfortable leaving their kids alone for a very short stretch while they ran an errand, so I posted the question on 3 facebook parents groups that I’m a member of. My jaw hit the ground when I saw the responses. The overall consensus? 12-14.
Holy moly 12-14?? I wrote back that I was very surprised and was expecting an age closer to 6. I was babysitting at the age of 11, as was the norm then (remember the Babysitter’s Club books? Those girls were 11). Well it may come as no surprise to you that I was attacked pretty vociferously for suggesting that a 6-year-old can be left at home watching TV for 15 minutes while I run out to pick up some dishwashing detergent. They might have thought that I was an even worse mom than you!
The very few voices of reason came from my Russian Parents facebook group, a group for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, as I am. One woman wrote that she was taking care of her grandmother with Altzheimer’s after school at age 8.
Anyway, keep on fighting the good fight Lenore, we’ve got a long way to go!
Anita Hirth
To me, a 6-year-old with a phone in her own home for 20 minutes seems extremely safe. Remember, just a generation ago, in the book, “Your Six-Year-Old, Loving and Defiant,” the author listed the things a typical kid that age would be able to do, including “travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home.” Presumably if those kids could handle the outside world, they’d be even more capable of dealing with their own homes.
And yet, if you go to the top of my blog and click on the “Laws” tab, it lists the home alone laws or guidelines for each state. And to my dismay, here’s what it says for Colorado:
From Colorado’s DHS: “Colorado in general has accepted the age of 12 years as a guideline for when it might be appropriate for a child to be left alone for short periods of time.”
Remember, Colorado is also the state where a library had declared that kids under 12 could not browse without a parent because, “Children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or, other library patrons.” (A law later rescinded due to intense public ridicule.)

So while I totally think a 6-year-old is fine at home, I guess it is legally dicey. That the age 12 this is a guideline, not a law, just makes it all the more confusing. Who decides when and why to enforce it?

All the more reason we must fight to pass the Free-Range Kids Bill of Rights which declares, “Our children have the right to some unsupervised time, and we have the right to give it to them without getting arrested.” Why must the parents who trust their kids and the actual odds be treated like outlaws? Why must children be treated like criminals and live under constant state-mandated supervision? Under Colorado’s guidelines, even a sixth grade latchkey kid could get his parents in trouble.

I think I’d still let my kid stay home alone when it made sense to me, despite the legal conundrum. But I hate the fact that anyone besides ME would get to decide what is best for my family. – L.


Is it possible this movie had an impact on our laws?

Usually when kids stay home alone, nothing movie (and sequel!)-worthy occurs.


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114 Responses to What Age Do Free-Rangers Think a 6-Year-Old Can Stay Home Alone for 20 Minutes?

  1. bob magee January 22, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    I am ok with 8yrs old/3rd grade. Of course depends on child, but at that age child can handle phone (and just about every other communication device known to man) and is able to amuse self.

    I do this for short errands of short duration – for now.

    In CT home alone age is left to parent, but child in car is 12 by statute (although with fuzzy wording:
    “presents a substantial risk to the child’s health of safety.”)

    So you can see why leaving home is preferred option – no prying eyes or busybodies to deal with about what is “substantial risk”

  2. Kerry January 22, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    My son is almost six too, and I think I would trust him home alone for 20 minutes, but I wouldn’t trust what my neighbors would say if they found out (one of them in particular). I would hate to tell him to stay shut up inside and not answer the the door while I was gone – we have plenty of neighbors he knows could ask for help and I don’t want to undermine his confidence to do that. I do, however, have a neighbor that I can ask to keep an eye on him when he’s playing outside with her son while I run a quick errand, and I often do the same for her. Mostly the boys don’t even notice, and it avoids a lot of disruption.

  3. PJH January 22, 2016 at 10:37 am #

    What Age Do Free-Rangers Think a 6-Year-Old Can Stay Home Alone for 20 Minutes?”

    I think the answer might be in the question there…

  4. Ember January 22, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    We live in Colorado, and go with 8 as a reasonable age for short times home alone, or going to a nearby park alone. We have other milestones we use, too, like being able to tell time on an analog watch, use a phone intelligently, and one of the most important ones – the child’s desire to try out being alone. My older son was venturing a bit in this area at 7, and is pushing us for more and more freedom at 11, while my younger son is resisting it at 8, so it really does depend on the child.

    It is odd – my kids’ school stops letting kids attend some of the school break camps after 5th grade – so that’s a pretty good indication that someone thinks a 12-year old is old enough to be home alone all day every day for a week or two.

    We have sent my older son to the store alone several times starting at age 10, and he’s dying to be 12 so he can walk to taco bell or burger king and buy his own dinner. My older son was offered the opportunity to take the city bus the 5 miles to school starting at age 10 in the 4th grade, but did not really start doing it until he was in the 5th grade. He does NOT carry a cell phone, but knows what to do if things go wrong. A friend from his class is sometimes on the same bus, and he very proudly told me how they sometimes go an extra stop or two so they can walk back to school together because it is fun. I thought this was a great show of independence, and he was so proud of and happy with the idea.

    I was allowed to go to a park across the street where my parents could see me from our apartment starting at 5, babysat starting at 11, and was left alone for short periods starting at 7 or 8, but I remember a friend’s parent telling me it was illegal that my parents did that.

    Without the parenting culture of fear, my limits for my kids would be younger. I would prefer to be pushing them rather than the other way around. I hate to parent out of fear of the judgement of others, but the fear of CPS is very real. I still feel like I’m pushing the boundaries that other people try to place on us.

    It feels like some parents tend to forget that they’re teaching someone how to be an adult (bit by bit) rather than simply protecting a helpless being from harm.

  5. Diane January 22, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    I waited until 3rd grade (8-9 yrs) to leave my impulsive and somewhat immature son alone for short periods, like when I went the 1/2 mile to the store for milk or ran his sister to gymnastics 2 miles away. It was good practice for him, and goodness knows, he needs all the practice in independence and life skills he can get!

    My daughter is more mature and resourceful and I started leaving her for 1-2 hours when she turned 8 last year. We live in an urban area but not a kid friendly neighborhood, and if I knew the neighbors better, and if they were home during the day, I would’ve probably done all this even sooner. But I was also careful not to mention it to too many people, for fear of busybody repercussions!

    My husband picked up my daughter from choir yesterday; I had to leave for work before rehearsal ended. I was tempted to leave the door unlocked and let her walk the mile home alone, but people freak about unattended girls, especially seen on the sidewalks at rush hour.

    People are experiential learners. Kids particularly.

  6. Jason January 22, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    With regard to the Colorado guidelines above, it also depends on your interpretation of “a short period of time.” 20 minutes is one thing, and several hours is another.

  7. Michael La Porte January 22, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    What is really scary about this (among other things) is that it begs questions about how far from the house can you be ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY and leave a six-year old unsupervised?

    In other words, if you live on 4-5 acres, are you allowed to do yard work several hundred yards away? What if that acreage is forested?

    Does this, in other words, mean you are chained a certain distance from a six-year old at all times? We are getting absurd in our paranoia.

  8. Pophouse January 22, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    My twins are very responsible 7 year olds, and we have been leaving them for short errands for about a year now. They just have rules like ‘no trampoline when we are gone, stay inside, etc.’ We don’t have a land line, but they have learned how to call one of us on the cell phone, so we leave that with them. Luckily we have an 11 year old neighbor who watches them for cheap when we have to leave for longer times. She seems to enjoy making them clean their rooms, the little power tripper.

    In my state it is left to the parent to decide when kids are capable of being home alone.

  9. JB January 22, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    I’m going to go with “Knows his/her numbers well enough to use the phone and call me if needed.” If there are younger kids too, I’d add “Has the ability to stop their younger siblings from doing (x dangerous thing they are prone to*).”

    *Whatever the case may be for the younger sibling.

  10. Michael La Porte January 22, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    What a difference a generation makes. I was curious about the topic of “latch key” kids, as I intend on having my 8-9 year old daughter be one. I came across this article and this quote:

    “Estimates of how many elementary school children come home after school to an empty house range from 2 million to 10 million nationwide. Most studies show that about 15 percent of children from 6 to 9 years old do not have a parent or other adult present when they come home from school, said Fern Marx, a researcher at the School-Age Child-Care Project at Wellesley College. ”


  11. M. January 22, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    My mother started leaving me home alone (with my 2 year old sister) for short periods when I was 6, in the mid 80’s, like to run pick up dry cleaning, stuff like that. For me and my own son, I feel like 8 is going to be the magic number, but he’s a little nuts at the moment (4 years old), so maybe I’ll feel comfortable at a bit younger when he gets there. He is already allowed to play in our yard by himself and I have left him for very short periods to walk the dog on our street while he eats breakfast.

  12. K January 22, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    The law in my state is 8. I started leaving my daughter for short periods, like a grocery trip, at maybe 7 1/2. I think this is a call parents need to make depending on their kids. Some 6 year olds can handle it and some can’t. But 12 is ridiculous. I was babysitting at 11!

  13. ChicagoDad January 22, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    In my humble opinion, 12 is too old for most kids to start leaving them home alone for short periods of time. I think that when kids can handle a responsibility, they should be given an opportunity to “exercise” that responsibility. That way, they will be able to build the skills needed to handle progressively more challenging responsibilities. If a parent waits until 12 to exercise this responsibility, it unnecessarily delays other important developmental milestones that make a teen responsible, capable and self-sufficient.

    How do you know when a child is ready to handle the responsibility of staying home alone for 15 to 20 minutes? I think they should have these basic skills, they should:
    – Be able to play independently and unsupervised for at least half an hour without getting into mischief
    – Know the rules and demonstrate trustworthiness to follow them. For example, if the child is allowed to play in the backyard unsupervised as long as they don’t leave the yard, and they don’t play with something that is off-limits (the hose, garden tools or whatever), and they follow those rules.
    – Demonstrate that they can calmly handle a minor mishap. For example, they clean up on their own when they spill something.
    – Understand that there are consequences when they break the rules.
    – Be able to use the phone to contact you.

    Here’s a caveat. A kid has to start developing these basic skills when they are a toddler so they are ready to handle the responsibility of staying home for short periods by grade school. If a parent doesn’t encourage a toddler to learn clean-up skills, or doesn’t let a preschooler play independently, they may not be ready for more responsibility by grade school!

    I’m cautious and I ask my kids to earn my trust for their responsibilities, so I start with small steps, verify they can handle it and correct them if they can’t.

    By 12, a kid should have a pretty strong skill set to handle the responsibility of being home alone, and much, much more. Like you said, Ms. Hirth, they should be able to babysit by this age!

    Here’s my thoughts on the “safety” crowd that says, “wait until 12”: they are delaying their kids’ development and that is more dangerous than guiding a child to be responsible, capable and independent. The safety crowd will call me “lazy”, but I’ve never worked so hard at being “lazy” as I have to teach my kids important life skills.

    Ms. Hirth, I say that if your daughter is ready at age 6, then by all means do it, and while you’re at it, ask her to set the dinner table while you run to pick up Chipotle!

  14. Sarah M January 22, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    12-14??? Good grief. I actually just let my 8 year old stay home alone last night for the first time for about 20 minutes, and he did great. When prepping him with a few rules (no stove, no fireplace) he was so excited to be given this responsibility he took it upon himself to make not one but TWO copies of ‘the rules’ (hah!), one for us, and one for his room. When I asked him how it went he said he was a little scared the first few minutes but then liked it. Honestly, the thing I’m *most* afraid of with letting my kids stay home is that they’ll inadvertently find something on the internet while getting a free app in the app store. Sigh, I’m not naive. I just want them to stay little in that department as long as possible.
    Sarah M

  15. Warren January 22, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Put it this way, it takes me close to two hours to cut the grass. Just over an hour to clear the drive with the plow and blower. At no time during those activities would you be able to get my attention other than to come out and pretty much get in my way. Not to mention the various times I am working in the garage or doing whatever.

    So I ask, how is that any safer than letting them watch tv for 20 mins, while I run to the corner store?

    Problem is that far too many people cannot see life beyond their own little world. They cannot understand how a family with kids would do things so differently from them.

  16. Tony January 22, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    Given recent reports of ecoli at Chipotle’s leaving a 6 year old for 10 minutes is not the danger in this story.

  17. lollipoplover January 22, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    Holy moly, I can’t think of a worse age than 12-14 to choose as trustworthy to be left alone! Hormonal teenagers left on their own, finally….

    There is no magical age of maturity. Every child is different. We’ve left ours alone to do short errands once they were in school. We had firm rules and expectations (with consequences) and never had a problem (well, except when they colored the dogs in with magic marker). As they got older, we allowed for more freedom when they demonstrated how capable and responsible they were. They can cook meals and do chores while we are at work. Our older teen and tween are babysitters and dog sitters for neighborhood kids and pets. My oldest has his phone lighting up right now with shoveling requests as we get ready for a blizzard. I can’t imagine waiting until he was 14 (his age now) before allowing him to demonstrate responsibility. What do you do with your kids all that time if he can’t even be allowed to stay home for 20 minutes?

    I also felt like leaving my kids at home alone was my own “dirty little secret” as a parent. I know other parents out there are doing it too but to admit it is another thing entirely. Even yesterday, at a business meeting, a colleague asked me at school dismissal time who was picking the kids up from school. I said “Their legs” and gave him a funny look. He then asked how they would get in the house on their own (it was only my youngest home alone and she’s probably the most responsible out of the 3) and I told him that she’s known our keypad code since she was 4 (and needed a stool to punch it in) and is probably cooking a snack (she made hard boiled eggs, her favorite). She did her homework then bingewatched her awful Disney shows with no one to bother her and enjoyed every minute of blissful peace before the rest of us came home.
    How is that bad parenting?

  18. Jeremy January 22, 2016 at 11:19 am #

    At age 7, in the mid-80s, I was home alone all day during school breaks (summer vacation, holidays, in-service days, etc). I was home alone before school for about an hour every day. I was home alone after school few 3-4 hours every day. No mother in the home and my father worked long (~12 hour) days. I was left every day with a list of tasks, sometimes only a few minutes work, sometimes a few hours, including things like taking out the trash, vacuuming, dusting, weeding the garden, digging out tree stumps with a mattocks, and by the time I was 8, running the weed whacker and lawn mower. I made my own lunches, and I often made dinner. When my jobs were done, I went out to play with friends. We rode our bikes on (rural) roads as far as about 5 miles away. Five miles wasn’t any kind of limit; rather, we didn’t have any reason to go farther.

    I have no issues whatsoever with a responsible 6 year old, as judged by his or her parents, staying home alone for a few minutes, or even a few hours.

  19. Anna January 22, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    I’m not saying 6 is definitely too young, but personally I might be more inclined to go with 7 or 8, but that’s just me.

    I would say she should know not to fry eggs or turn on the stove at all while Mom is gone, though.

    About that Colorado guideline, I live here, so I’m miffed about it too. The absurd thing is, the rationale given (indirectly via another state’s law/guideline which Colorado cites as its authority) is based on a legal age of 12 for babysitting. So according to the state of Colorado, a child goes from being unsafe alone for a single moment to being capable of taking responsibility for a completely helpless tiny human for whatever number of hours, literally overnight. What genius thought that up?

  20. Ann in L.A. January 22, 2016 at 11:28 am #

    We started at around 9.

    Our decision was complicated by having two kids who could on fairly rare occasions get into serious fights. Either one was fine alone, but it was hard to leave them alone together until later.

    That illustrates how complex the issue is, and how it is up to the family, who are the ultimate experts in the home, to judge when it is okay.

  21. Donna January 22, 2016 at 11:32 am #

    I left my daughter home for short periods of time beginning at age 6. But we were in A. Samoa at the time and I probably wouldn’t have done it if we had been in the US proper. I was okay with it there because we lived in a government housing compound within yelling distance of co-workers who could be in the house in 2 seconds if something happened (and were frequently walking in and out doing laundry in my apartment anyway). At home where we tend to live more isolated lives, I would probably go with 8-9 as a reasonable age, depending on maturity.

  22. Warren January 22, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    Really it is all about timing. Wait until they are totally zoned out with a show or whatever. Put a snack and drink with them, tell them you’ll be home in just a few minutes. Know what usually happens? After you are back and their show or whatever is done, they will ask you when you are going to the store.

  23. Anna January 22, 2016 at 11:42 am #

    “Really it is all about timing. Wait until they are totally zoned out with a show or whatever. Put a snack and drink with them, tell them you’ll be home in just a few minutes.”

    Maybe you’re just being facetious, Warren, but I don’t agree with this. The child should be aware that he’s responsible for himself. Not that I think an emergency is likely, but it is important that if there were one, the child know he needs to deal with it for himself. So the original writer was right, for instance, that the child needs to know how to use the phone.

  24. SKL January 22, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    Totally depends on the child. I can imagine that many 6yos are not ready for this, and many are.

    Of course in today’s world, I am more worried about what others would do about it than what my kids would do at home alone.

    I think I did leave them alone for very short periods at age 6. For example, I seem to remember a time when one of them was sick and I left her home watching TV while I carted the other one somewhere. At 7 I gave them a housekey and they occasionally let themselves in and waited for me to come home after work (15-30 minutes). At 8 I gave them the choice to come or stay home if I was running an errand that I expected to take less than an hour. And all this is without them having a phone to call me in case of emergency. They had instructions on how to decide what was a big enough emergency to go to the neighbors about. I did tell them that going to the neighbors could cause my parenting to be questioned by the cops, so it had better be worth it.

  25. Steve January 22, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    Perceptions on this vary enormously between cultures.

    When I lived in Mongolia, my girlfriend (now wife) and I shared an apartment with a mom, her 17 year old daughter, her 21 year old daughter and her 7 year old daughter. They had one room, we had another. We shared bathroom and hallway.

    The 7 year old was often left alone (and I count being left alone with the foreigner who doesn’t speak any of the girls language as effectively left alone!)

    From what I observed this girl was extremely independent and resourceful. She would cook her own food (in a Mongolian home cooking is usually done very close to ground level which makes it a lot easier for kids to participate!) and clean up after herself. She would, of her own volition, sweep and clean their room. She’d take her own school clothes to the bathtub and wash them by *hand*. All with no supervision whatsoever.

    This is a culture that produces extremely self-sufficient, independent adults.

    Watching my son grow up (he is very nearly 3 now) under my (Mongolian) wifes guidance has taught me that children START OFF wanting to be functioning members of society; he cleans the table after meals, stacks the dishes etc.

    I can easily see him being left home alone at 6.

    We now live in Canada. She was absolutely horrified to hear that a 10 year old cannot be left alone at home for 2 hours and that this could result in the child being taken away from the parent. This just makes no sense at all to someone from her culture.

  26. acm January 22, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    “at what age should a 6-year old . . .” makes no sense, heh.

    I taught my daughter to cross streets alone at 7 and had her run an errand to a friendly store. she was nervous and thrilled. I suggested to her nearly a year later that I could leave her at home for a short while as ran out, and she said no, but then she later let her dad run out while I was asleep upstairs, which feels similar, so that’s a step.

    I guess I think 8 feels ok for a short daytime errand, but probably 10-12 for an evening. yeesh, we were actually babysitting at 12-13, so how could anybody take responsibility for other kids if unable to care for self in basic ways?? of course, most of our babysitters now are college age or more, so there’s that…

  27. SKL January 22, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    When I was 9yo, it was my job to take care of my baby brother after school until my mom got home. Feeding, cloth diapers, making sure he didn’t burn the house down. In those days, it would have been unusual for a great big 9yo to need a babysitter after school.

    Funny thing, now that my kids are 9 it seems younger to me. But then again, we had a phone in case of emergencies, and also neighbors were more involved in those days. There would have been no CPS call if I ran next door to ask the neighbor lady for help in an emergency.

  28. John January 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    You know, my gut feeling tells me that many parents actually do let their 6-year-olds stay home alone like if they need to make a quick trip down to the convenience store to pick up some milk. Perhaps they’re just afraid to admit it…..LOL.

    But it seems as if America is way overly cautious when it comes to children and I don’t believe that’s a good thing. Heck, when I was in New Delhi, India it wasn’t unusual to see a couple of young street kids around 7- or 8-years-old cross a busy street while holding the hand of their 4-year-old sibling and they made it across OK. Same thing in the Philippines. Children as young as 8 were out on the streets of Manila washing car windows.

    Children are actually quick learners when it comes to survival skills and Americans need to give their kids some independence at the youngest age possible so they’re able to acquire some survival skills on their own. Now I’m certainly not advocating that we throw are kids out onto a busy street but I mention the stories above to point out that even in extreme conditions, young kids can and will do OK. Oh sure, a burglar could break in the house and steal your kid or a fire could break out and burn your kid alive, but instead of looking at the worst case scenarios we need to start taking some chances with our kids because one thing is for certain and that is the more independence you give your kids at the youngest age possible, the stronger and more confident they’ll be as adults. But apparently with the exception of most people on this blog, most Americans haven’t figured that out yet.

  29. karrie January 22, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    I started leaving mine alone around 8 or 9.

  30. librarian January 22, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    I left my kid alone in our New York City apartment since she was in K-grade (5-year-old) for 10 minutes it takes to load/unload a washer and drier in the basement. At six I was leaving her alone for 10-15 minutes to walk to the corner grocery store and back. We have no home phone.
    I would hesitate if I were in the author’s situation – too many things can happen to a person driving a car and delay her return. However, maybe it is just how it is in my mind, since I never had to rely on cars for getting around.

  31. Lyndsay January 22, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    I have a very competent (if short) six year old of my own. If she wakes up early in the morning and I’m leaving for work, she will happily get herself some cereal or a frozen waffle and watch TV until her father gets up or her baby sister needs something. She’ll even help my three year old get breakfast and put the TV on. They have both handled themselves like this for at least 40 min at a stretch. Were it not for legal fears, I would happily let her stay home while we run my other two children to day care or something else quick.

  32. Jennifer January 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    I would be less concerned with the child alone at home and more concerned about mom getting into a car accident and being incapacitated. What does the child do then? Child might do well to have a back-up phone number to call if mom doesn’t return in 20+x minutes. Not worst-first thinking, just the realities of bad drivers and winter weather setting in.

  33. Julie January 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    So a snowstorm’s coming. What’s a single mom of two–ages 5 and 7–to do? Just what I did the last winter (and the winter before that)…set the kids up with cocoa, cereal, blankets, books, and the remote, and head outside to shovel. They know where the bathroom is. They know where the extra snacks are.

    In Boston, even my teeny stretch of sidewalk takes some time to clear. I’ve been outside, with the kids “unattended” in the living room, for an hour or more. Yes, I am RIGHT outside most of the time (unless you count the time I cross the street to clear the steps of my elderly neighbor’s house). But it would take the kids a few minutes to unlock the front door, come out, get my attention…what’s the verdict, fellow Free Range parents?

    And yes, as soon as they are able to help more than hinder, they will certainly be right beside me, shoveling away. Actually I’m going to make sure they take care of the elderly neighbor’s sidewalk first.

  34. CO January 22, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    My 7 and 9 year old boys get home 15- 20 minutes before I do. There have been a couple of times when traffic has slowed me down, and then I will just call them and tell them I’ll be a little later. We live on a very quiet street. They can use the phone to call us if they need to, or go to a neighbor’s house (our neighbors are great). They usually just play on their devices until I get home, although I wish I could get them to do their homework! I used to worry-now I don’t. They have been handling this routine well for the past 5 months. Nothing even close to earth-shattering has ever happened.

  35. JulieH January 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    If one is going to leave a 6yo alone for short times, I think that phone skills and “knowing” a phone number is not sufficient. If something happens to upset the child, that phone number might go right out of his/her head. I strongly suggest what we did for our children – a phone list. Posted near the main phone of the house, we have a typed up list of phone numbers with names, listed in the order they should be tried. Can’t get mom on her cell, try dad, then grandma, then uncle, we have a list of about 7 phone numbers. Some of them the kids “know,” and others they do not.

    Actually, I recommend this for any home with children, even when mom and dad don’t leave them alone.

  36. Jill s. January 22, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    At the age of 9 I stayed home from school for a whole week by myself when I had chicken pox. My parents both worked for the schools in town about a mile away. This was way before cell phones. At that age, I was also in 4-h making cookies and cakes for the fair. Yes, using an electric mixer and a gas stove by myself, because that was the rule. I was babysitting at the age of 11 until wee hours of the night. How are these kids ever going to be self sufficient if mommy and daddy have to be at their side 24/7? I dread the day these kids are the leaders of this country. The ones it there now are scary enough.

  37. Warren January 22, 2016 at 12:27 pm #


    Wow, you really like to make a big deal over nothing. Nowhere did I say I would sneak out. Nowhere did I say they would not know I was leaving. What I was saying is that when a child is engrossed in something, time flies, and they will not even notice what has transpired.

    Sorry, I am not paranoid enough to make an everyday activity, like going to the store, into a major issue. You go ahead and run down lists of rules and crap each and every time. Me, I would rather just keep things casual and real. So you can get off your high horse.

  38. Susan January 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    It doesn’t matter if your child is ready to be left alone at age 6 (which I would never, ever do.) It matter’s what the local police & child services think. All you need is one neighbor to see your child walking around alone & you will be arrested (probably fired from your job etc.) Many people wait until age 12 because they don’t want to get arrested & go bankrupt from all the lawyer fees. Age 6 is way too young, Age 8-9 is probably too young. What if there is a fire? What if they cook something on the stove & their clothes catch on fire? When I first left my son alone, we had a “no stove” policy. Is your child ready to be left alone? Are they comfortable with all the creaky noises in your old house? Are they comfortable staying in the house & not going outside since the neighbors will all report you. Good luck.

  39. Liz January 22, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Michael La Porte, I think about this all the time! I live in a tiny apartment in SF. If I walk a block away to grab a coffee I’m closer to my son than many others would be if they walked to a different part of their own property.

  40. Reziac January 22, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    I’d say the practical limit for how long a 6 year old can be home alone is “how long til the next meal?” — tho I know a 6YO who is perfectly capable of cooking for himself and his siblings, and does so regularly. (He makes better eggs than do most adults.)

    I went to the corner grocery by myself when I was 5 years old, including crossing a busy 4-lane street. I was home alone for a whole weekend when I was 8 or 9 years old. I cooked my meals, did my dishes, and neither burned the house down nor was abducted by aliens.

    This wasn’t all that unusual 50 years ago. Apparently today’s kids are raised to be incompetent little clingers.

  41. Papilio January 22, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    ““What Age Do Free-Rangers Think a 6-Year-Old Can Stay Home Alone for 20 Minutes?”

    I think the answer might be in the question there…”

    Yes exactly! Glad I’m not the only one whose brain seems to be out of office every once in a while 😛

  42. Suze January 22, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    @Warren …. when I bought my house, my son was just 2 and put in a bed from a crib. I used to put him down for his afternoon nap and while I went out and shovelled snow which is roughly an 1 hour job, depending. His bedroom window faced the back of the house, our living room window faced the front. I taught him to go to either window and knock really loud and yell for me if he woke up. I would then come in and get his stuff on so he could come out with me. So, there you have that. Never had an issue. I’m not advocating or saying a two year old is capable to be left on there own; in my case my son was sleeping but it seemed the same because of going out to clear the lane of snow.
    Generally, we left him alone while we went for roughly a 30 minute walk or to the mall which started when he was 9-10. The door was locked, he stayed in the house and if the phone rang he didn’t have to answer; same thing with the door. He loved the freedom and the independence even if it was just a half hour.

  43. EricS January 22, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    12-14?? Seriously? Bahahaha! If your kid can’t stay home alone till then, your doing something wrong. Very wrong. Let’s put it this way, again…before this generation…it was normal for us to be home alone at 7-8 years old. Both my parents worked full-time. I was 6 by the time I started walking to school on my own, or with my siblings. At 6 years old, my mother’s work hours made it so that she was home by the time we got home from school. By age 7, her hours had changed, so both parents were arriving home at 5:30-6pm. 2.5 – 3 hours after we got home from school. So were were by ourselves for that length of time.

    But by then, we knew how to take care of ourselves till our parents got home. That was the norm for most kids that age. We lived in an apartment building, so we knew if there was an emergency to call our parents at work, and then go to a neighbors apartment till our parents got home. But 98% of the time, we were totally fine staying home, making ourselves snacks if we got hungry, watch tv, did homework.

    12-14 years old??? Man, that is doing more harm to your kids. Children are more than capable of learning and comprehending by the time they are 4 years old. So if you taught them well and proper, by 6 years old, they can do what most 14 year olds are just learning to do. lol

  44. Vicki January 22, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    I think this goes hand in hand with airlines and unaccompanied minors. So many parents are waiting until their children are 12-13 to give them responsibility, so that they are incapable of taking care of themselves and handling issues like flying alone until a much later age. Airlines have noticed this and are compensating by raising the age for unaccompanied travel. If we let our children learn to take care of themselves from an earlier age, they will be quite competent by the time they are 12. I think age 6 if the child is capable is a fine age to try leaving alone for small amounts of time. I left my son alone around age 7 while I went on a walk. The sprinklers came on and one was broken and gushing everywhere. He called my cell phone and I was able to talk him through shutting down the sprinkler system in the garage. Children can be quite capable if we let them!

  45. Tabitha January 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    One of my best friends has a remarkably competent young son and she would routinely leave him for quick 15-20 min errands when he was nearly 6. He had an iPad and they would text each other when she was out. He knew his address and how to use the land line. At age 8 he is just as competent and is home solo for 1-2 hrs at a time on occasion – just like his mom was at his age (but she didn’t have an iPad). My own daughter, the same age is not quite ready for that. I have left her for brief errands. She too knows how to use the phone and can text from an iPad but we are taking it a little slower. All this is to say, it really depends on the kid. It doesn’t help when we are in the middle of “worst case scenario at all times” world. If she is comfortable with leaving her daughter for a few minutes with the knowledge of what to do in an emergency then then she should go for it!

  46. Michelle January 22, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    I think it depends on the child. Some of my kids were very responsible and mature at 6, and some were not. All the more reason to leave such decisions to the parent.

    When my oldest two were 12 and 13, they started babysitting their five younger siblings, the youngest of whom was 3. Now the oldest is almost 18 (and we’ve added another one), and we’ve never had a problem. At least, nothing worse than siblings fighting.

  47. Backroads January 22, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    I have left my daughter home alone (in bed asleep with all doors locked) while doing 10 – minute runs to the shop down the street… she is two.

    12-14? I’m aghast. And I’m the defense of the Babysitters Club, our babysitters are two eleven – year-old girls. I’d happily take one, but it’s a friendship thing.

    When I worked at Scour camp, our counselors in training were 14… up in the mountains alone with relatively few adults and a butt load of responsibilities. If you had never been left home alone before, you were in for a veritable sink-or-swim summer.

    Teach. Your. Kids. Basic. Skills.

  48. Angela January 22, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

    As others have said, it really does depend on the child/ren. For years I felt like I had a ‘case study’ in my home of the opposite ends of a spectrum.

    My first two are just under 11 months apart. The first, a boy, is a laid-back type of person. He has always enjoyed observing other people do whatever they do, didn’t start initiating conversation until he was nearly 2 years old (he could talk, just wouldn’t unless someone else began the conversation) and has trouble standing up for himself. The second, a girl, has always been a go-getter. She potty trained at the same time as her brother (I don’t remember ever actually ‘training’ her, she saw my efforts with her brother and caught on), began speaking much earlier so that they developed a language all their own (twin-speak) and made her first phone call at 4 years old without any help – her friend’s mother and I had to get together to let the girls know that 6am on a Saturday was not an appropriate time to be calling, as they would take turns calling each other every 5 minutes.

    I couldn’t leave either of them at home alone when they were young. My son didn’t know how to use the telephone (he’s 20 now and still talks in a stilted manner when using one) and had difficulty speaking to/explaining things if he did require help. My daughter, on the other hand, was likely to invite friends over and throw a party. Together, however, they were great. They were alone at home for 15 minutes before school in 1st and 2nd grade with a neighbor keeping an eye out for them (work and school schedules didn’t mesh). When they were 10/11 they spent the summer babysitting their little sister as I worked just a couple miles down the road.

    Now I have only my step-son at home. He is almost 10, but he spent the first 5 years of his life living with his mother and so I have very little concept of how he was raised then. His father and I got custody 3 days into his kindergarten year after his school threatened to call the police because he refused to walk into a room. Besides normal kid stuff, I’ve never had a problem with him. He feeds the cats, cleans litter boxes, empties the dishwasher, reads (he loves reading) for 20 minutes a night and does his homework with few, if any, complaints (and occasionally without even a reminder). At school, however, he was a little demon for a while. In fact, this year is the first year we haven’t had “incidences” requiring calls home.

    We began leaving him at home last year, although it was usually just an, “I’ll be home a few minutes after the bus drops you off” situation. It helps that the neighbors in the other half of the duplex are our landlords, one of them drives a school bus and we have gotten close. We have begun leaving him for an hour or two at a time and he has thus far proven trustworthy.

  49. Roger the Shrubber January 22, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    It depends on the child. My boys were ready at age 6 but seeing other kids that age, not all are capable.

    My wife and I were dining with 2 other couples. One told how the neighbors, gasp, leave their 8-10 year old kids home alone. They found out because they knocked on the door one day and the kid told them they couldn’t open the door because doing so set off the house alarm! I don’t know which household is worse in this case.

    The other mom at the dinner said that she didn’t leave her daughter unattended until she was 15! It’s funny that we intended to have this same mom’s 15 year old son babysit our boys over summer break.

    My wife complemented me on staring at my plate and eating my meal during this conservation.

  50. Warren January 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm #


    Way too paranoid for your own good. Sorry but that is exactly how you come across.

  51. Suzanne January 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    I think it depends heavily on the child. I left my daughter home for a little over an hour, several times, when she was 7 but my youngest is 9 now and I would only leave him for an hour or so at this point only because he is less mature. I also think it’s good to have some ground rules- like no using the stove, no one can come in the house, etc. It’s important to know what the law is in your state. In Indiana, there is no minimum age to leave a child and there is literature available to help you gauge how mature your child is. Here is a real-life story:

    When my children were 9, 8 and 4 I asked my husband to not leave our 4-year-old without an adult for any length of time because he was head-strong and unpredictable (but the other two could stay home alone or together for reasonable lengths of time.) He did not agree and left the kids while he ran to Kroger, he was only gone for about 15 minutes but that 4 year old left to walk to Walmart (where he thought his father had gone) and they other two didn’t stop him or go with him. I got a call (4yr old knew my number) from some lady who had detained him and very nicely called the police (why no sarcasm font?). The police officer told us our daughter (remember she is 9 at the time) was “old enough to babysit but maybe not mature enough” (no kidding) he was obligated to call CPS, who visited us and stated the same thing, we agreed not to leave him without an adult anymore, until he was older, and that was the end of it; after 6 months without another incident the file was completely closed and we received no follow up visits.

  52. Diego January 22, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

    I regularly leave my 5 year old home alone for about 20 minutes the times i walk my 7 year old to classes in the afternoon, she always stays in the kitchen with her tablet.
    One day i was coming back from my walking trip that took about 40 minutes instead of the usual 20, as i was crossing the street i saw her standing in the street with one of the girls that work in the dentist´s office in my building.
    She just got scared of the dark and thought i was taking too long so she took the elevator down and walked into the dentist´s office (whom we know) and asked them if she could wait there for me.

    i think that was very good problem solving.

  53. Warren January 22, 2016 at 1:50 pm #


    That is exactly what I am talking about. People just cannot see and understand life outside their little world.

    My kids could be kicking and yelling, and cranking the stereo when I am doing the snow. From the time I put the plow on the truck, to the time I put the snowblower away it is well over an hour. My drive is probably anywhere from 10 to 20 times the length of yours, if not more. It is also not just a matter of pushing the snow to the side, because to maintain a good width a lot of the snow needs to be removed to behind the house.

    Your talking about shoveling your drive, and that is your world. I am talking about maneuvering a 6000 pound plus truck around to plow. Big difference. There is no looking around and taking in the sites, unless you want to damage the truck, the plow, trees, the drive, buildings and so on.

  54. Vicki Bradley January 22, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    I think the title of this article was supposed to be: “For how long can a 6-year-old stay home alone?” or “At what age can a child stay home alone for 20 minutes?” I know, I’m splitting hairs here.

    What I find astounding is that all this fear of the police and CPS becoming involved is making kids less safe, not safer. Because parents are so afraid of being reported by neighbours for leaving their child alone, they longer feel comfortable telling him/her to go to a neighbour’s home if there’s an emergency. I find this state of affairs very sad, as what’s the point of living in a community if you can’t rely on each other to help each other out, if need be. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this automatic behaviour of immediately calling CPS or the police upon seeing a child who’s alone has got to to stop! If you purport to want to help out a child, deal with the child FIRST and find out what’s going on. I bet in 99% of cases the child is fine but if he/she does need help, then provide it without resorting to calling the police.

  55. pentamom January 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    There are three different questions here

    At what age is a child competent to be left alone, and remain safe and behave appropriately?

    At what age is a parent comfortable leaving a child alone, in terms of whether the child will actually be safe and behave appropriately?

    At what age is a parent comfortable leaving a child alone, in terms of the potential legal consequences if someone doesn’t agree with the decision?

    Each question has to be considered separately (and rationally) to arrive at a number for each child and each parent.:

  56. Michelle January 22, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    “I guess I think 8 feels ok for a short daytime errand, but probably 10-12 for an evening. yeesh, we were actually babysitting at 12-13, so how could anybody take responsibility for other kids if unable to care for self in basic ways?? of course, most of our babysitters now are college age or more, so there’s that…”

    I always wonder why people feel like it’s safer to leave kids home alone during the day. Break-ins are more likely during the day when most people are at work, and at night all of the neighbors are home if the kid needs help. And it just seems like kids are safer when they are asleep. Even the most responsible kid can fall and hit his chin on the entertainment center and need $200 worth of liquid stitches, but not if he’s asleep in his bed, LOL.

    I mean, I’m not especially worried about my kids being home alone during the day. I just feel like, unless your area has a lot of nighttime crime, being home alone at night is pretty safe, too.

  57. everydayrose January 22, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    I started leaving both of my girls home alone when they were 7. It wasn’t something that I gave a lot of thought to with either of them, it was more that 7 was the age that it just felt natural to leave them for a bit. There were a couple of times I left them together when they younger one was 5 and the older was 8 but it wasn’t until they were 7 and 10 that I started leaving them regularly after school.

    When they were 11 and 8 we moved from TX to WA and I had a job working early mornings so I bought them an alarm clock and they were responsible for getting themselves up and to the bus stop every day, and they never had a problem. Now at 14 and 11 they both babysit other people’s kids and can pretty much do whatever they want when they’re out of school as long as they’re communicating with me and getting their chores done. I can’t imagine if I were just now beginning to leave them alone. The idea is mind boggling to me.

    Warren’s comment made me laugh and reminds me of a funny story. One time when they were around 6 and 9 we were home in the evening and I got a phone call from a neighbor who was cooking and needed to borrow an onion from me. I stood behind the girls and very loudly told them that I was going to Mindy’s house and I’d be back in a few minutes, and then walked out the door right in front of them. I ended up over there chit chatting for 10-15 minutes when there was a knock on the door. I opened the door and my sobbing children fell into my arms. I was shocked and asked them what was wrong and they told me that they had looked up and I was just gone. They couldn’t find me anywhere! They said that they thought I might have been taking the trash out so they checked the dumpster and when I wasn’t there they decided to go to Mindy’s for help. I thought it was funny and told them that they should pay more attention, and then we all walked home together. When I opened my front door there was a hammer in the middle of the floor so I asked them why it was there.

    “Oh yeah…we wanted to leave you a note in case you came back but I couldn’t find any tape so I nailed it to your door.”

    Sure enough, right in the middle of my bedroom door was a note stuck through with a two inch nail!

    While I didn’t appreciate the hole in my door I was impressed with the way they handled everything when they thought that they were in an emergency situation. And it gave me a good story to laugh at now that they’re older and more level headed 🙂

  58. Dee January 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    I can totally imagine what kind of responses she is getting! Ugh. 12-14 is ridiculous but sadly not uncommon. I started leaving my son home alone for short errands at at 7. Now, at 13, he comes home alone after school and there are days he is alone if there’s no school and we have to both work. He can make some things to eat and does just fine. But few if any of his friends have this same freedom. Most are not even allowed to walk the 2 blocks home from school with him to our house (even if we are home).

  59. Maxine January 22, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    I live in Louisville, CO – another safe, quiet suburban neighborhood – and I routinely leave my 10 year old for long periods of time. IN fact last year I even went skiing one day when she was home form school because she had not had 24 hours of medication and could not go back even though she felt fine She had a phone, knew she could go to the neighbors if there was an issue, and I discussed what do to in case of an emergency, e.g. a fire.

    I started leaving her for 10 to 20 minutes at a time when she was 6 ( we lived in NJ then) while i ran an errand or went for a run in the neighborhood. BTW: She started going to the Louisville library by herself after her theatre class downtown 2 years ago at 8. Her class was about a block from the library so I would drop her off for class and pick her up at the library when I was done giving me enough time to get my work out in. She was quite happy to be at the library be herself – as was I at the at age.. Our librarians never said boo about her being there alone. She now takes voice and dance lessons at the same location and the next step is to teach her how to use the local RTD buses so she can get to class by herself

    Colorado does have a recommended age but it is not a requirement and there is no law on the books about when you can leave a child alone. That is not to say some over zealous neighbor, CPS, or Police Officer might not be a problem. I have been sending my daughter and her friends to the school yard for the past year and half without issue, though sadly they are either the only kids there, or the only ones without parents. .

  60. Andrea January 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    I think the age depends on the individual child. The above posts that state an age, however low, are buying into the idea that I thought free-range rejected, which is that there is some magical “safe” age an anything below is “dangerous.” They are further using what they know about their own children to make determinations about other children. That is also bad.

    I have a six year old. If I had been more diligent in showing him how to take care of himself for a little bit while he was alone and felt comfortable that he could manage it, including if something happened to me while I was gone, then I would say yes. But he hasn’t learned that and hasn’t had much opportunity to develop those skills himself, so I would not leave him. His age is irrelevant. I have no idea how old other children should be before they can be left alone. I don’t know them.

    I also agree that the legal question is a COMPLETELY different question. In America, what you think is best for the child you bore and have sacrificed for every day is trumped by what “society” thinks is best for your child even though it basically doesn’t know you child exists and doesn’t know anything about you child, and wouldn’t cry if he died.

    The problem with these laws is that they are basically saying, “this is the age we think the vast majority of kids are able to be home alone. Sure there are kids who can be left alone younger, but because our system isn’t equipped to determine who those kids are, we are going to force those kids to be treated like those who can’t.”

    America is the land of the lowest common denominator, and our laws and policies reflect that.

  61. MichelleB January 22, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    I’m with Warren on this one. SO much of parenting depends on timing! Things get done while the kids are occupied with other things.

    In the original question, the woman is asking about her “almost-6-year-old daughter.” I wouldn’t leave a child home alone who wasn’t comfortable using the phone and didn’t have some experience dealing with minor mishaps. Almost anything that’s going to happen in twenty minutes can wait for a quick phone call to mom. Those few things that really truly can’t wait (fire? Home invasion just seems too unlikely to even list…) are probably worthy of a 911 call and I wouldn’t want my kids to be afraid to make that call in a genuine emergency.

    I’d work my way up to leaving a child alone. Working in the yard or garage, going for a walk around the block… Looking back, that’s what we did, although it wasn’t planned out that way. Before I hopped into the car to run a twenty minute errand, I wanted to be sure that my kids would be okay if something went wrong and it took a lot longer than that.

  62. lollipoplover January 22, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    “Many people wait until age 12 because they don’t want to get arrested & go bankrupt from all the lawyer fees. Age 6 is way too young, Age 8-9 is probably too young. What if there is a fire? What if they cook something on the stove & their clothes catch on fire? When I first left my son alone, we had a “no stove” policy. Is your child ready to be left alone? Are they comfortable with all the creaky noises in your old house? Are they comfortable staying in the house & not going outside since the neighbors will all report you. Good luck.”

    Wow. Creaky noises? Oh, the humanity.

    Raising capable, savvy, confident children is a process that does not magically start at age 12. And I don’t NOT teach my children important life skills for fear of the police. This is the STUPIDEST idea I’ve ever heard!
    Sorry, kids you’re too young to sit still on the sofa for 20 minutes without something very bad happening. Way to raise your child with an anxiety disorder.

    Most of the times I’ve left the kids home it was at THEIR request. They felt confident to stay back while I completed an errand and they could continue playing legos, reading, or watching TV. These small steps led to bigger chunks of time and more freedom to do other activities, like cooking food or playing basketball in the driveway while I’m not home. Soon they will be driving and I will have to trust them with this big responsibility.

    Our neighbors are a resource, not KGB calling the police on us. We watch over their kids and they watch over ours. They wouldn’t call the police on us for teaching our kids to be capable adults, that would make them assholes. I don’t live in fear of the police or my neighbors, this sounds like a very mentally imbalanced way to raise your children. Good luck with that.

  63. angie January 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    I live in Westminster,CO and I’ve left both of my children (now 10 and 8) alone for about 20 or so minutes starting around 6. Most of the time my younger child is with my oldest but I’ve had them both stay on their own individually (ok so not totally alone most of the time my dog stays with them but alone human wise). The main thing I made sure is that they know if someone knocks at the door, even if it’s someone they know they do not open the door. I’ve also instructed them to not answer the phone for any number not in the phone memory and to not tell their friends that they stay home alone. I did what you did and made sure they knew how to get a hold of us in an emergency (or if they just feel they want to) and also what sort of things constitute as a valid emergency. I made certain they knew to exit the house in case of fire. You know all the basic common sense stuff so they don’t end up deer in the headlights “how do I handle this situation”. It’s not a “omg this horrible thing could happen to you”, but just hearing a scenario and what to possibly do. They don’t have our life experiences and sometimes hearing about a possibility and getting the subconscious going on a problem can help them figure out their own strategies in life.

    Above all I made certain they felt comfortable with the idea of us leaving them alone. My younger child took a bit of confidence boosting. As she has almost always been with and played with her brother, she even sometimes has issues playing on her own, so it wasn’t a surprise that she needed a little work. It’s not like she is shy, heck she’s been known to go over to the neighbors and “help” them out around the house, she is just a social butterfly. I started out small with them and would leave them home while I went on a walk. Then if they had concerns about staying home we would talk about it and maybe go over strategies for any issues they thought of. All of it paid off though and I have been after school care and summer care free for about a year now (woot only paying for the mortgage and not mortgage + what could be a rent payment).

  64. SKL January 22, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    Funny about the hammer story. My kid’s explanation would have been that they wanted to be prepared in case a bad guy busted through the door. 😛

    My kids go into serious survival mode when they feel nervous. It’s cute. But more importantly, it shows that they need more real-life experiences to understand the real world, where in fact nobody has ever tried to break in over the 20+ years we’ve lived here.

  65. SKL January 22, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

    I mostly prepared my kids for being alone by leaving them on their own while I worked in my bedroom for many hours. When they had occasional days off school, I would give them a list of work to do and tell them that when they finished the list, they could play or use screens. This started when they were 5 or 6. They were also on their own for breakfast & lunch, though they had to ask permission to use the microwave. (Now at age 9 they can use the microwave, but need permission to use the stove.) So when I started leaving them home alone, it was not like they had never before made independent decisions or solved small problems.

  66. Wendy W January 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    There are so many variables that go into this, that setting a particular age seems ridiculous.

    With my oldest, a girl, when she was 5-6 we lived on a small military base, and only had one car. My husband used his motorcycle for his primary transportation. On the rare occasion that he could not ride due to weather and I needed the car that day, we would leave my daughter eating her breakfast while I dropped him off at work. If we had taken her with, it would have disrupted the morning schedule enough to make us really rush through her prep for school and possibly miss the bus. As on all military bases, the minimum age to leave a kid at home was 10, so we were thankful a certain neighbor never caught on.

    With my second child, a boy, we were living in a small neighborhood in a small town, and I did not leave him until at least 10. He was the kind of kid that managed to get into everything and usually break it, so there was no way I was leaving him alone. Number 3 was around 8 when I would leave him to drop his brother off elsewhere- only about a mile round trip. He might have been OK to leave sooner, but our life and routines did not require it.

  67. Nicole R. January 22, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

    I think 6 if I was just running to the neighbor’s house, 8 if I was actually leaving the street.

  68. Cassie January 22, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    I would be fine with my 6yo staying home for 10min by herself, but given the panic factor I have never done it so far. I mean, I have offered it to her, but she always looks at me wide-eyed in horror at my suggestion.

    Both times I had to go get petrol or milk or something around the block. The whole thing would have taken 10 minutes, and the kids (4 and 6) were both settled (watching tv, or drawing or something). I offered to let them stay doing what they were doing while I quickly ran my errand. But neither took me up on it, they will when they are ready I figure.

    My friends always worry about the “what if something happened to me” factor. E.g. a flat tyre, or a prang that takes some time to resolve. Which is a fair point, the risk of something like that happening is high enough to be a reasonable consideration. I need to be sure my kids could cope if something caused the errand to take an hour (and I don’t mean because I stopped for a cup of tea). At this stage I am really not, and we don’t have a house phone so I couldn’t even call home to find out if they are okay. That would be stressful for them, but they wouldn’t die from it.

  69. Donna January 22, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

    “I always wonder why people feel like it’s safer to leave kids home alone during the day.”

    I don’t feel that it is safer to leave kids home alone during the day. My child, on the other hand, is afraid to stay home alone in the dark by herself. She is fine for a quick errand, but doesn’t want to do it if I am going out for the evening.

  70. david zaitzeff January 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    6 to 9, if and when and after they have learned to make some phone calls to parents, friends and 911 . . .

  71. Sara Dogan January 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

    I think age 8 is about right. I believe that’s when I started to be left home alone. Now, of course I will leave my 7-year-old first grader in the house if I am walking next door to talk to a neighbor or something and have for years, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable actually taking the car and going to a store with her home alone yet–plus I know she would not be comfortable yet either.

    For me, the bigger issue is, could your kid handle it if some unforeseen circumstance meant your 20 minute errand stretched into an hour or two. What if there’s a traffic jam, or you get into an accident? I think an 8 year old could probably handle it, but 6, I’m not so sure. Of course, I do think this is best left up to a parent’s comfort zone, rather than a court of law.

  72. John January 22, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    My daughter is 6, and I haven’t left her alone in the apartment for more than 5 or 10 minutes, like to get something from my car or the corner market, but If I had to there’d be no problem with doing so for a longer time, even if she couldn’t use the phone. Until recently, my landline was an old cordless phone that didn’t harldly work. Recently I bought a new corded phone and taught her to use it, she was quite excited. So now she’d know how to call me (or her mom, who lives nearby) if there was a problem or she had a question. (I don’t tell her my password on my smartphone as I don’t want her misusing it, like by playing video games or calling my friends).

    The “home alone” stuff is really some of the most ridiculous stuff out there, which is saying a lot.

  73. Donald January 22, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    Perhaps a child can safely manage being alone at age 6. Still others are not mature enough at age 14!

    It all depends on the maturity of the child. Many people have forgotten the role of parenting. The duty is to teach children to become adults. They are going to physically reach adult age. However some college students have the mental maturity of an 8 year old!

    Some parents can’t stop thinking WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF?

    Instead of fighting this feeling, they should put it to use such as the question; ‘What if they child still has the maturity of an 8 year old when he’s 24’?

  74. SanityAnyone? January 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

    I would feel comfortable leaving my capable six year old alone for 30 to 60 min while I am not far, except for the threat of other worried people. For now, I will do it only if I am at a neighbor’s home. I prefer not to go out in the car while they are this young since an accident could delay me. Even if I were in an accident or stuck out there, he’d probably be fine but I don’t like the situation any of us would find ourselves in for a variety of reasons.

    We were latch key when I was in 2nd and my sister was in kindergarten, if I remember correctly. It might have been a year later. The worst thing we did in a lifetime of caring for ourselves after school was climb up on our one story roof. The neighbor told on us. Other than that, we snuck after school specials, Little House, and sugar cubes. We also cleaned up and did our homework.

  75. Michelle January 22, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    @Donna, that is sensible. I wouldn’t leave my children any time that they were afraid. But it does seem to me that most people assume that staying home alone at night is more dangerous or requires more responsibility, as evidenced by the fact that they seem to get MORE upset about parents leaving kids home alone at night than they do during the day. Of course, they also get upset about parents taking their kids out at night, even for short errands.

  76. Beverly January 22, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

    We have a 200 acre farm, with the bus stop about 300 yards from the house. I sometimes leave my nearly-5 year old preschooler at home, especially in cold or rainy weather, or if she’s engrossed in something, while I get my 6 year old from the bus. The 4 year old can easily walk down on her own if she chooses, and has never failed to dress appropriately for the weather when doing so. Typically though, she playing right where I left her when we get back in 10-15 minutes. The ridiculous part…The reason I do this in the first place is that the bus driver won’t allow the 6 year old to get off the bus, and walk up our long driveway, if she can’t see that I’m home.

  77. FreedomForKids January 22, 2016 at 5:21 pm #

    I still think fighting to enact laws that will enable us to parent our own children is NOT the way to go. We need to fight AGAINST laws that take away or reduce our parental rights.

  78. pentamom January 22, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    Michelle, I think what you quoted was contrasting a “short errand” with “for an evening.” I didn’t read it so much as being about time of day, as length of time. A twenty-minute trip to a destination a couple of miles away and back is different from dinner and a movie.

  79. Jennifer January 22, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

    I would leave my 6 year old home alone in a pinch, but I do think he lacks the judgment necessary to make decisions in an emergency. I have left him to take the dog for a quick walk or to drive to the farm up the road to get milk, but I don’t do it often. I think closer to 8 is better.

    I would add to the author’s skills that a child should understand not to answer the door if they don’t know and want to talk to the person there. Also, I don’t let my kids cook when home alone. My 10 year old is a decent cook, but she occasionally forgets to turn off the stove or oven.

  80. Lena January 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

    We started when the oldest was 8 and the youngest 6. I turned on the TV which is a rare treat in our house. With both of them in front of the TV I was pretty sure they wouldn’t fight, drink bleach, play with matches etc. We reviewed basic safety rules (don’t open the door, call 911 and leave the house if the smoke alarm goes off) and everything went fine.

  81. Donna January 22, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

    Michelle – I think for many people leaving children home alone at night connotes leaving children home alone while the parents have a date night, not a quick errand. Which is probably true. Occasionally errands need to get done at night, but it is certainly not my traditional errand-running time. Half the places I would need to go aren’t even open, and I often can’t get out of my house alone to go to the places that are as my little shopaholic wants to come.

  82. david zaitzeff January 22, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    does it depend on whether or not “you” have taught the kid about fires, floods, intruders and other problems?

    It seems like there are a limited range of things that would go wrong in home alone situation . . . that would cover 90% of the problems–burning food or clothing, pipe burst or sink overflowing, evildoer tries to break in . . .

    and there is 1 mom or dad does not return in the expected time

    and 2 a light bulb goes out unexpectedly . . .

    but I am sure that there are a lot of kids who will just play a video game or watch tv or read a book or surf their version of kid’s internet and do fine . . .

    and the kid needs to learn to make some food for him or herself at some point . . .

  83. Emily January 22, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    @David Zaitzeff–I remember making PBJ’s in kindergarten, and taking them on a picnic–not on the school playground, but at a park that was about five blocks away. No permission forms were sent home (as far as I recall), and no parent volunteers were recruited–it was just our class, with our teacher, and we made the PBJ’s with white bread, peanut butter that wasn’t natural, and cheap, sugary jam. That was my first-ever field trip, and it taught us how to prepare a simple meal (and clean up after ourselves), walk together as a group following the rules of the road, play safely on the playground equipment, and obey our teacher when she said it was time to regroup and walk back to the school. Also, when you think about it, a ten-block walk (five blocks each way) with playground time in the middle, is a lot of physical activity for a five-year-old; probably enough to burn off the sandwiches we’d consumed, since they weren’t for lunch–I was in kindergarten from September of 1989, through June of 1990, and back then, it was still half days. I was in the afternoon class. Anyway, as fun, educational, and invigorating as this little adventure was, I don’t think it could happen nowadays. A lot of schools have gone nut-free because of allergies, and now there are rules and regulations and mandatory supervision ratios whenever you take kids anywhere. So, you’d probably need extra supervision by background-checked (and preferably female) adults, a risk assessment filled out beforehand, permission forms, alternate arrangements for the kids whose parents didn’t want to give permission, alternate food items for kids who couldn’t eat peanuts, or gluten, or whatever, and the school board would probably want to know how this trip counted as being “educational,” meaning, does it teach literacy and numeracy skills that’ll be tested later? The fact that it teaches life skills that’ll be needed later, would be completely immaterial to them.

  84. K2 January 22, 2016 at 10:01 pm #

    I think that even if the child is of “legal age” if something bad happens CPS and other authorities are all over it. If the child goes outside and neighbors think you aren’t home, fire, anything. The guidelines do not absolve the parents from responsibility if anything happens or in the case that the children go outside “might happen”.

  85. olympia January 22, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    Interesting how so many are coming up with age 8. I know it’s the age my parents started leaving me home alone and it seems right to me, but I suspect there isn’t much scientific evidence that only by 8 are kids safe to leave alone. It’s at least partly a reflexive belief in my case- always good to question such things.

    On another note: does anyone get concerned about kids choking? I know it was a primary fear of my mother’s, and to be sure, a kid alone with an obstructed airway would be very bad indeed. But, well, so would anyone.

  86. K2 January 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

    When I was growing up most kids enjoyed tremendously more freedom, benefitted from it, and were responsible enough for it; but there were also a lot of tween and teen criminals. There were gangs in some places that almost took over entire cities. Unsupervised does not automatically equate to free range. Kids have to be well behaved, likeable, use common sense, etc.. The kids that I see now who are unsupervised usually lack some of the judgment they should really have. One kid (8) was playing hide and go seek and went to hide in an outdoor, filthy, garbage can. Another kid (7) didn’t leave someone’s property (inside garage) when the owner said, “goodbye” and went inside.The kid didn’t steal anything or mean any harm. He just didn’t grasp that he shouldn’t be there. Another younger kid (4) didn’t have any road sense. We have made the age that kids are allowed to do things on their own much older and now it seems that they are often not ready to do things on their own until the older age. Parents do not seem to talk to their kids enough or notice any of the mistakes they make when they are on their own. We are still guiding them, even if we are not on top of them. If parents do give their children more freedom, they should discuss it enough to know whether the kid did surf the net the whole time and whether the kid is in the habit of telling the neighbors he or she stays home alone, etc.

  87. lsl January 22, 2016 at 10:31 pm #

    In my town, the hospital provides a self-care class for kids starting at age 7, and a babysitting class at 9.

  88. Red January 23, 2016 at 1:35 am #

    12? My son will have have just turned (as in days before) age 11 when he goes to 6th grade and there is no longer any afterschool care …

    But then again, he’s 9 now, and he’s already earned the right (as in explaining to us what he needs to do in case of particular emergencies) to stay home alone for periods of time in the daytime. Plenty of his 4th grade compatriots are already latchkey kids in our neighborhood, so I don’t think it’s all that unusual.

  89. Red January 23, 2016 at 1:38 am #

    (As for when he earned the right … the first time he was left home alone while someone had to drive away was when he was 7, for about a 15 minute period of time. I stopped taking him on grocery runs at age 8. In the past 6 months or so–late age 8/early age 9–he’s been left home alone for longer periods of time during daytime hours. He still does not stay home alone if the period is going to stretch past his bedtime.)

  90. sexhysteria January 23, 2016 at 4:30 am #

    If people answered age 12-14, it must be a group for parents of retarded children. What age a child may be left alone depends on the individual child and the individual home. If a child has been overprotected or emotionally abused and/or the home is particularly dangerous, the right age might be: never.

  91. Dasy2k1 January 23, 2016 at 6:50 am #

    I tend to think 7-8 is a sensible age for anything longer than 5-10 minutes.
    In the UK this is the age when kids go from infant school to junior school (essentially from kindergarten and 1st grade, on to the main part of elementary school)
    But it always depends on the kids…..

  92. Katie January 23, 2016 at 8:00 am #

    There have been a few instances, bear with me why, that my 9 year old has been in charge at home of all the children (the others are 6, 4, and 6mo) for 15 minutes or less already. Those instances have happened when I’vebeen out, usually running, and my husband has heard an emergency call that he feels warrants his response from home. Such is EMS. My 9yo is allowed to be at home longer when it’s just her, when those instances arise, which aren’t very frequent. They just rarely come up.

  93. Sharon January 23, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    I frequently see middle school age kids waiting for bus around here with their parents, so sometimes I’m nervous to tell people that I that I let my 8 year old get home half an hour before me. Believe me, it is awkward to figure out child care for half an hour. We live in a rural area and I work a half an hour away from home. The schools have a check box you can mark if you child does not need supervision (they must be at least in 1st grade), otherwise you need to meet them at the bus. We started when she was 7, the same age that my parents started leaving me (in the 70’s). I totally trust my daughter. During the summer when I was working, my kids went to work with me. My older daughter would bike around the property (a rural community set up as village that cares for adults with disabilities) with an another 7 year old, while my then 3 year old played alone in a room on the other side of the building where I was working (she would come and get me if she needed anything). I would have been fine leaving my older daughter when she was 6 but given society’s norms I avoided it.

  94. EB January 23, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    Well, if the American Red Cross thinks that babysitting training for 11-year olds is a good thing (and they do, because they provide it), why would anyone else think differently? The Red Cross is all about safety, after all.

    Funny story: I was once home, but in the basement, when my 6-year old son decided for some reason that I was gone. When I came up the stairs, he was on the phone with the operator, reporting me as missing. He caught sight of me and said, never mind. I had not taught him what to do in the case of a missing parent, but he had figured it out. Not sure why he thought I would leave with him and a three year old and a baby in the house.

  95. Anna January 23, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    “Interesting how so many are coming up with age 8. I know it’s the age my parents started leaving me home alone and it seems right to me, but I suspect there isn’t much scientific evidence that only by 8 are kids safe to leave alone.”

    Perhaps it’s not “scientific” but that doesn’t mean it’s baseless. Personally, I have quite a bit of experience of kids in that age range (former elementary school teacher and member of a VERY large family) and I think in most cases a child of 7 or 8 has quite a bit more impulse control and self-awareness than a 6-year-old. But of course, cultural practices can be a large part of that. No doubt a 6-year-old child in the Himalayas who’s been out herding the family goats for three years has a different level of maturity than an American 6-year-old.

  96. Red January 23, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    I think that by 8 years old, most kids have demonstrated that they’ve gained some sort of common sense. They’re not going to be able to solve a major emergency, but they are going to be able to get themselves safe in most household emergencies.

    And most 8-year-olds are able to get themselves snacks, water, and are probably going to spend their time home alone either watching TV or playing on the computer. You can tell them to stay indoors until mom gets home, and they stay indoors but also can understand that doesn’t mean “stay indoors even if the house catches fire.”

    Also, age 7-8 is about the time when kids start expressing opinions on where they do and don’t want to go. When they start to realize there are decisions they can make–like staying in the car and reading their books while mom runs into the grocery. Except that is now an explicit crime in some states, which is why I started leaving my kid home alone for short periods at age 7. It was explicitly illegal (and easily identifiable) if I left him reading in the car while I ran into the grocery (the grocery/gas station was two miles from the house). It was not explicitly illegal if I told him to stay home and read his book on the couch instead.

    So, it was both far more comfortable for him to hang out at home on the couch and read his book, and far less dangerous for both of us than him reading his book in the parked car (dangerous not because of any risk of him overheating or anything–dangerous because of the risk of a nosy someone calling the cops on a kid happily reading in the car) . And that’s the risk analysis I did back then.

  97. Evelyn January 23, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    My two boys have just turned 6 and 3. The other day I had to pop down to the app for milk and biscuits as we were expecting company. The round trip would have taken me 15 minutes and I too considered leaving them home, but fear over took and I brought them with me.
    I loved the baby sitters club books and clearly remember being left home alone with my sister aged 10, and me 8. I’m from a German background and my parents also mentioned leaving us girls asleep in our beds aged 2 and 3, and popping across the road for drinks and board games with neighbours. Every 15-20 minutes mum and dad would take it in turns to check in on us.
    I think the fear these days is not just about stranger danger, it’s that we haven’t prepared our children to be without us for even a few minutes from a young age. Our fear lies with their coping mechanism, not just the outside world.

  98. Miriam January 23, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    Most kids are completely OK left for 20 minutes at this age. BUT:
    The main problem that I see is that I, as a parent, am out and something might happen to hold me up longer. If I am far to a degree that my daughter cannot reach me – I feel a lot less comfortable. In that sense – sending her out on her own to a place she knows while she knows that I am home and she knows how to come back to me – that seems safer to me than leaving a 6 year old “stuck” in the house. There are more hazards in the house than outside.

    The other issues to consider are:

    1. Teaching a child fire safety. Practice.

    2. Teaching a child how to unlock and open close doors. Are they tall enough to reach the door? Do they open, lock and unlock the door on a regular basis? They should feel comfortable with it.

    3. Do they know how to use the phone? Have they done it?

    4. Have you practiced what happens in case there is a power outage? Do they know where the flashlight is? Which phone operates without power?

    5. Irrational fears. Young kids can still be afraid of monsters. And that’s normal. Part of their fantasy world and inability to distinguish fully between imagination and reality. Many kids don’t need the parent, for any physical function, but their presence around them or in a relatively close place – makes them feel secure. How will they behave if they suddenly have a panic attack? Probably they won’t cause harm to themselves, but it won’t be nice. Kids (and humans in general) feel safer when there is someone around. We were not supposed to live in closed houses, but be with other clan members, around the fire.

    Example: I have a 4 year old, who usually plays independently while i cook or clean or throw out the garbage. But sometimes she stops playing and wants to hear me, and know whee I am. And if she doesn’t hear me – if I’m either quiet or doing the laundry in the basement, she screams: “mommy!”, quite anxious. She doesn’t need anything from me, she just wants to know where I am. She doesn’t do it every time I am far. Just sometimes, in between stuff, if she notices. It always surprises me. And when that happens, even after I answer her, she wants closeness to relax her. She just wants to know where I am. Yes, she’s only 4, but it goes back to what I said at the beginning. Letting her roam without me is safer for her and feels safer for her, because she has the control of how far she wants to be away from me. And she is active. She has to do her task. And she knows how to reach me. If she is in control – I trust her. But being away “somewhere” and she can’t reach me coz I’m in the car in traffic? And she’s supposed to stay put without doing anything? That actually makes her more helpless and less resourceful than staying with her.

    I’m not saying there is a huge chance of fire or power outage – I’m just saying that society today is busy teaching kids the wrong skills. I’m more impressed with a 4 year old who unlocks the front door than with a 4 year old who reads. Even though it’s easier. But society (me, unfortunately, included) does not put the time and effort into allowing kids to be self sufficient…. 🙁

    Long post… I don’t have a number. I think it’s personal, and my daughter is only 4, and she’s not ready yet. She’ll be fine, but it will be scary, instead of being a fun experience…

  99. lollipoplover January 23, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

    So we are stuck in this blizzard and my 9 yo begged to go sledding. She called her friend and they agreed to meet at the sledding hill. They were gone for 2 hours and came back here to play. They said that a police car drove by them 3 times and they waved hello. They came back cold, hungry, and happy and asking for a sleepover. It’s dark now and they still want to go out in 3 feet of snow. Kids are amazingly resilient!

    On Facebook, our county police posted an alert for KIDS requesting locations and asking for snow ball fights in between calls. My kids are begging to do this -what a great idea to get police involved with the children in the community and have fun. This level of paranoia with regards to children and leaving them alone is so unhealthy for both kids and parents. They NEED for us to leave them alone. It teaches executive function and self)sufficiency which are critical for development.

  100. Warren January 23, 2016 at 9:34 pm #


    Power outage? Really? Where do you live? Here in the modern world the only time we are at risk of a power outage is during extreme, and I mean extreme weather. And the weather extreme enough to cause an outage here, is the type of weather that tells me I don’t need to go get milk right now.

  101. Anna January 24, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    Warren – that’s true about power failures in Ontario, but when I moved away, I discovered it ain’t so everywhere. In Maryland, Pepco used to treat us to multi-hour and even multi-day power outages pretty frequently.

  102. Beth January 24, 2016 at 9:40 am #

    @Anna, in the early 80’s I lived in northern Virginia, and we lost power all the damn random time there. Funny to think that might be still going on in that area!

    Back here in Wisconsin it must be like Canada; we only lose power in very extreme weather conditions, and it’s certainly nothing I ever taught my kids about. They survived.

  103. Christina January 24, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    I started running to the corner store when mine were six. As Warren said, timing was everything – favorite show set up, zoned enough to not start fighting. Cell phone with “mom” as the top contact. I stopped this past year (they are 8 now) because there were just too many shootings near my house. We’ve since moved to NY, but I haven’t resumed my solo store runs, mostly because the closest store is a half-mile away now, and the eruption of sibling warfare is less predictable :-/ I miss the freedom, frankly, and I think they do, too.

  104. Warren January 24, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    When it comes to power failures there is only one rule. Go and put all the light switches in the down position. Our extreme weather outages always seem to happen in winter, and at night. Nature of more dark hours than daylight hours. So it is usually board games by candlelight, and most are in bed early. And it is a severe pain in the butt when the power comes back on and every light in the house comes on at 2 in the morning.

  105. Michelle January 24, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    I started my kids on 5-10 minute “home alone” time at 4-5 (going to get the mail at the mail box, taking the dog outside), 15-20 minute “home alone” time (where I’d visit a neighbor, etc) once they’d demonstrated consistent competence with that, and by 6-7, 20-30 minute trips to the corner store. At 9 and 7, they stay home while I go to the grocery store, the laundromat, and they get themselves their afternoon snack and start homework when they come home from the bus until I get home from work. The oldest has stayed home by herself on a sick day, and both have stayed home on the two days that day camp wasn’t open during winter break.

    This summer, my goal is to get them bike riding to the library and to the fishing pier, which is about a mile down the road and in three summers (when both are 10–the admission age without a parent) to the aquatic center. When I was the age of my oldest, I walked to school and home, rode my bike to the library and to piano lessons twice a week, stayed home by myself in the summer and went to the pool in the afternoon; the Hubby grew up on a 250 acre horse farm and in the summer sometimes didn’t step foot into his house for 2-3 days at a time (when he finally got grimy enough to need a shower).

    Luckily, we live in a small town in the rural south where this isn’t looked upon askance. We just moved from further up north and far more urban–there was some serious “OMG, you let your kids stay at home alone?!?!?” judging there. Ironically, since we’ve moved, our car has been broken into twice. But in 10 yeas in the city, nary a problem.

  106. Donna January 24, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    “Power outage? Really? Where do you live? Here in the modern world the only time we are at risk of a power outage is during extreme, and I mean extreme weather.”

    We have power outages all the time. Lengthy (hours or days) power outages are not uncommon (well, they are fairly uncommon for me personally, but that is because we share a power grid with the hospital so we get fixed first, but they are not uncommon locally). Hell, school was cancelled for 2 days last year (or maybe the year before) because of a power outage. Mostly the issue is trees/limbs coming down onto power lines, but car wrecks taking out the power is remarkably common.

  107. Red January 24, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    My son is 9 years old, and we’ve not had a power outage (at the house) during his entire life.

    The last power outage I recall in my life, happened when my inlaws were visiting probably back in 1998(?) and I was about to pop dinner in the oven. Which was electric.

    We put dinner back into the fridge and went out. And that’s how we found out the power outage was caused by the idiot who hit the power pole at the entrance to the subdivision.

  108. Steve January 25, 2016 at 12:01 am #

    In my case, I was 10 when I started being left home alone. It probably would have been sooner, but we moved to town when I was 10. On the farm the felt that it would take to long for a response if something happened. In town there were neighbors I could go to if there were any problems.

  109. Natasha January 25, 2016 at 5:23 am #

    I have a neighbour that is a 7 year old latch-key kid. Not uncommon here. I’ll have no problem letting my kid be home alone for an hour or two when she’s 7 or so. 20 minutes at 6? No problem if the kid can be trusted. I do have the benefit here of knowing there are neighbours that my kid can go to if there’s a problem, who are always home.

  110. Anny January 25, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    My parents left me alone around age 10 (this was in the late 1990s). We talked about what to do in an emergency. There was a book they got on the topic from some organization or other, and I remember finding it fascinating and reading it again and again. I wasn’t allowed to stay home with my (younger) brother for a while after that because we would fight, but I was babysitting for elementary-aged kids by age 12 and for younger kids by 13 or 14.

  111. martha January 25, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

    When my daughter was about 2, she was occasionally left alone for 5 minutes or so if I had to leave while my husband was still driving home. He would call me and tell me where he was en route, I would put on a movie and leave, and then would text when he arrived home. Don’t think she ever noticed that she was alone.

    Now, at three I occasionally leave her alone to run books back to the library, pickup an order at the store, get fuel, etc. She’s alone for maybe 10 minutes (its a very small town). If something were to happen to me, she’d be stuck watching TV until someone came and got her.

    At our farm, she is often left either alone or with cousins younger than 6 while the adults are elsewhere on the property. The kids are usually in the garden or orchard, and generally within sight of an adult, but sometimes out of sight for 10 minutes or so. If there is a kid older than 6 with them, they might be left outside for up to an hour with someone putting their eyes on them once or twice. The older kid knows where an adult is (house, barn, pasture, etc.) and can get help or supplies as needed. Kids learn to drive a 4-wheeler at age 6 so could potentially even drive to the neighbors if something really bad happened.

  112. Stina January 26, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    I would say it depends on the kid and the way he or she has been raised. I have practiced leaving my kids alone since they were very young. To me it’s more scary to walk them to school, which I do every day. The traffic is a lot more frightening than leaving them at home for a short while. The only thing that scares my kids sometimes is that the police will come and get them…

  113. Alex January 27, 2016 at 5:26 am #

    The title here is a bit odd. It asks “what age” and then says “6-year-old”? I get that the child is currently 6, but I think the title would’ve been better if it just said “child” instead of “6-year-old”.

    Anyway, as for the question.. While I’ve never actually assigned the label “free-ranger” to myself, I do side with you about 80% of the time. (And yes, I am making up that statistic right now.) But I’ll give my answer anyway.

    I think if a child is raised well (in the sense that the parents are raising the child to gradually become and adult and not just to stay a child), I think the child could stay home alone for 20 minutes around 7-8. Talk with the kid first and make sure they’re okay with you going and know how to reach you or another trusted person if there’s an emergency or any other urgent issue. If the kid doesn’t seem like they understand how to reach someone, if you suspect the kid is too eager to destroy the house while you’re gone, or if the kid is really upset about the thought that you’re leaving, then don’t go (although all 3 of those issues will need to be worked on in the near future).

    Once the child (raised well) is 9-10, the same stuff still applies, but by then I imagine the child should be used to you being gone briefly and even a slightly longer time you’re away shouldn’t be a big deal.

    Now as for the children that were raised to be children their whole lives and may be 10-14 now… well, I say don’t leave them at home now but go watch Lenore’s TV show with them and get to work on helping them learn to do things on their own.. then maybe a few weeks down the line you’ll be able to leave them home alone and will be much happier not having to baby them so much anymore.

  114. Mike February 1, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    Age has nothing to do with it. It has to do with maturity…not age!