Leaving Children Home Alone

How Old Can a Child Be Left Home Alone?

An article printed in the Green Bay Press-Gazette in Brown County Wisconsin addressed this concern for parents. The questions are good ones to ask in determining whether or not a child is capable of being home alone. There are two areas to address in answering this question. The first area to address is to ensure the home is safe enough for children. The other is to determine the child’s ability to care for oneself.

If you answer no to any of the second set of questions, it is recommended that you delay plans to leave your child alone to care for her/himself. Children need to be prepared for this experience. Setting guidelines for their behavior needs to occur. Routine should be established and emergency procedures should be taught.

Questions to Answer to Determine That Your Home Is Safe for Your Child to Be Alone

  • Are there fire dangers in the home?
  • Is there a plan for what to do should a fire occur (e.g. escape route, meeting place)?
  • Are the smoke detectors in working order?
  • Is your home “child proof” with medicines, poisons, knives, and dangerous tools out of reach of the children?
  • Does your child know basic first aid procedures?
  • Is wiring exposed?
  • Do any cords, plugs or sockets look dangerous?
  • Does your child know not to plug in electrical appliances with wet hands?

Questions to Answer to Determine That Your Child Is Able to Care for Oneself

  • Do you consider your child mature enough to care for her/himself?
  • Has your child indicated that s/he wants to take care of her/himself?
  • Is your child able to solve problems?
  • Is your child able to complete daily tasks?
  • Is your child generally unafraid to be alone?
  • Is your child comfortable entering your house alone?
  • Can your child unlock and lock the doors by him/herself?
  • Is there an adult living or working nearby that your child can trust in an emergency?
  • Do you consider your house secure?
  • Do you think your child is safety conscious? Does your child play with fire or dangerous equipment? Is your child violent or aggressive?
  • Would a telephone be available to your child?
  • Are you accessible by phone for your child?
  • Can your child use the phone?
  • Is your child free of disabilities that require supervision?
  • Does your child sleep well? Does your child have sleep disturbances or recurring nightmares?
  • Does your child spontaneously tell you about events that have occurred in her/his life?
  • Do you consider the relationship between you and your child to be close?