When Can You Leave Kids Home Alone?

When Can You Leave Kids Home Alone?

Being able to stay home alone is a big milestone for both kids and their parents but there are several considerations to keep in mind. Here are a few things to think about before leaving kids home alone.

How old and mature they are: Generally, kids under 10 should not be left home alone. But three states specify a minimum age: 14 in Illinois, 10 in Oregon and 8 in Maryland. If you don't live in one of those states, look instead for proven independence and maturity.

How long they should stay alone: Start with a short amount of time 30 minutes to an hour and gradually increase it as both you and your child feel more comfortable.

How they can handle the following:

  • Kitchen safety and meal prep. Your child should know basic kitchen safety rules, including how to safely use the oven, stove and knives and how to clean up after a meal. It may be a good idea to set out snacks or a premade meal for your child while you're away.
  • Visitors. Does your child know what to do if someone comes to the door? One of the safest options is to advise her not to open the door while you're away.
  • Emergency situations. Your child should know what constitutes an emergency and what steps to take if one should arise. He or she should know basic first-aid and feel comfortable calling you or 911.

Phone calls. In case of an emergency, your child should be comfortable making phone calls and speaking on the phone. She also should know what to do if the phone rings while you're not home.

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