When is it OK to Leave Children Alone?

We read stories all the time about parents that have been arrested, or warned, for leaving their children home alone. Or even for leaving them in the car for a few minutes while they pay for petrol. But, with no specific legal guidance, when is it OK? Why do some people get arrested and some not? Is it just a case of who gets caught?

This has been on my mind a lot lately. The Boy has started asking if he can play outside without me (just literally right outside) and I keep making excuses. You’re not old enough isn’t good enough, as some of the other children he sees out playing without parental supervision are I would say, at most 3. There is a little girl we see playing in the street with her brother, who is in year 2, so at most 7, and she can only be 3.

playing alone

So, it’s not ok to leave a 15-year-old at home alone, where they are safe and comfortable, or a 5-year-old in a secure car for a matter of seconds, but a 3-year-old roams the streets? In what I might add is not a particularly safe area.


I remember being left from quite a young age, maybe 9-10 (Note to Bobsy’s nan, please comment and correct if I am wrong) because my parents worked. So, it was maybe a few hours after school some days. But, I was very responsible. I had a bizarre obsession with my mum’s hair mousse (sorry), but that was about as rebellious as I got.

I believe I also played out in the street from quite a young age (although certainly not 3! Perhaps 7…Mum??) but we lived in a quiet cul-de-sac, and I knew the neighbours. I don’t feel ready to let The Boy out, but, is this me not being ready, more than him not being ready? Perhaps if we lived on a nice quiet street. I don’t think he would leave any boundaries I set, but, I don’t think he’s mature enough to make a decision if something happened. I would also be worried about him speaking to strangers, he has no fear, and no ability to hold back.

boy posing

Nor do I feel I could leave him alone at home alone, even for a short period of time. But, would I feel differently if he was a bit…calmer? I don’t know, no, I don’t think so.

I’ve forgotten what my point is. Perhaps that there should be a legal age, or at least more guidance. It’s fair enough saying we know our children. But the parents arrested for leaving 15 year olds knew their children, and made the decision that they were mature enough. Then got arrested. And the parents of that poor 3-year-old, have decided her brother is mature enough for them both.

When do you think, you will leave your children alone? Do you already?

Two Tiny Hands