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

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13 thoughts on “When is it OK to Leave Children Alone?”

  • I leave my youngest who is 13 years old at home alone if I am popping to the supermarket or to a gym class and did the same to my eldest when he was her age too, but I wouldn’t advocate anything younger than that and certainly not at night until 18. #familyfun

  • I was left alone with my siblings from about the age of 12 as our parents worked – I used to collect them from the childminder after school and we’d all go home. Sounds like a young age now but it seemed fine at the time! #familyfun

  • We lived in a very quite dead end road growing up and all the kids that lived on the street would play outside together. My 11 year old daughter plays outside with her friend who lives a minute walk from our house. Most of the time they play on the path that goes down the side of our house. I do not like them going any further than that. My daughter is never left at home on her own, though she would be quite capable I don’t think it is the right time to do so.

    • We were the same as kids. I see very young children outside and I’m not sure it’s right. I don’t know when I’ll leave them home alone, certainly no time soon

  • I didn’t know that, I had to have a read of the telegraph article. There definetly needs to be some clarification but it is difficult as all children are so different. Personally I wouldn’t allow my 3 year old out alone I am not sure what age I deem acceptable. Again I think it would depend on your child. If I am honest I think my child would have to be quite old and nature for me to leave them or let them play or alone, but I guess we never really know what we will do until the time comes. Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

    • I think it depends on your child, area, neighbours, so there’s that much to consider it’s hard to have a law. But there are obvious no’s I’d have thought that a law could be based around. You certainly can’t not have a law, then arrest people

  • I remember playing out from quite an early age, not sure what age, but it was only on the street right in front of my house and we weren’t allowed to cross the road. Ha. All the kids on th street played out. It was amazing.

    There are some children on my cul-de-sac now who range from about 5 plus who always want to play with Molly and my niece Jessica but at 2 and 3 they are too young to play out. I have a feeling when summer comes though I will be out there on the street playing with Molly and Jess, and I guess all the streets kids… haha. I’m not sure what age I would let her out on her own though. Definitely not for a good few years yet anyway.. x

    • I think if we lived in a quieter area, and I knew our neighbours, I’d possibly let the boy out right in front of our house sooner. But here I just wouldn’t feel safe. But then in a flat without a garden, I feel guilty saying no to him.

  • As per the previous comments, it totally depends on circumstances! I think I’d let mine go out and play if it was a good area but I don’t know till he gets older! Play dates it is for now. ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

  • I’m so glad you brought this topic up! I have often wondered how I will handle this when my kids get a bit older. My initial thought was to go with my gut. And also, it may depend on the child. I began babysitting others at 14. I don’t remember at what age I was left alone in the home….maybe because I wasn’t?!? Or didn’t want to be? I’m thinking that age 11 (middle school age, in general) may be a good time to begin popping out for quick errands during the day. 13 at night. And playing outside alone? Probably the same – age 11. We’ll see what feels right when I get there! Looking forward to following you! #FamilyFun

    • My gut instinct is also 11. I’d imagine when he changes school, he might travel there alone, as I will still be taking his sister to primary school. So he will gain extra responsibility. It’s hard though. We live in a flat, so don’t have a garden. But there is a yard for the flats, which some children play in, and he’s started to ask if he can. I can see through our window, and the girls that do play out there (3 sisters, oldest i’d say 12) all seem lovely and very responsible. I just didn’t feel ready last summer. They haven’t been out much over winter, but i know when it gets to summer he will ask again.

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