At What Age Can a Child Be Left Home Alone?

The answer depends on both state laws and your child’s maturity. Eight is probably the youngest age it’s safe to leave a child alone, but depending on area guidelines and your child’s abilities, age 10–14 may be a bit safer.

While Kevin McCallister did just fine at age 7, most states have guidelines suggesting the age to leave a child alone, and a few even specify legal minimum ages for kids to be left alone:1

  • Illinois: 14 years
  • Maryland: 8 years
  • Oregon: 10 years 

Additionally, you should take into account your child’s capabilities: Do they know how to contact authorities in the event of an emergency? Can they keep themselves safe for a few hours? These factors and others should go into the decision of whether to leave your child home alone.

child left alone
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Skills kids need before staying home alone

Emotional maturity and decision-making skills also play a role in whether your child is ready to stay home alone. If the thought of being alone frightens your child, it's a good sign they're not ready.

Kids also need a few safety skills before they get some independence:2

  • How to stay safe in the kitchen when making an after-school snack
  • How to self-administer first aid if they get a minor injury, such as if they need a Band-Aid
  • What to do if they get locked out
  • How to stay safe when walking home
  • What to do in an emergency

Come up with your own list of expectations about answering the door, having friends over, doing homework or chores, or getting online.

If your child is excited about being home alone but you're not sure they're ready, have a conversation about what kind of behavior they need to demonstrate to show that they're ready. For example, they need to follow directions so that you can trust them to stay safe when you're not there.

Connected devices help you keep an eye on kids old enough to be alone

If you check your local legislation and evaluate your child’s abilities and determine that they’ll be safe alone, consider bringing home some products to ensure your kids stay safer when you’re not home.

  • Wearable devices: Give your kids GPS wearables so you can stay in the know at all times. These smartwatches or pendants track your child’s whereabouts, let you set emergency contacts and safety perimeters, and allow your kids to call you if they’re in trouble. Some like AngelSense are made especially for kids with special needs, so they let you listen in to see what’s happening.
  • Home security systems: Home security systems range in function and pricing, but there are many options to tailor a perfect solution to your household. If you’re worried about your kids, choose a home security system with lots of home automation features so you can check in on them from wherever you are—getting alerts when they open the front door, get a visitor, or set off a smoke alarm. Get help finding the perfect home security system for your family.
  • Smart video cameras: You can purchase surveillance cameras and nanny cams to keep an eye on your kids at all times. You can purchase video cameras with or without a larger home security system. To get the ultimate home security for your family, we recommend going with a full home security system.
  • Video doorbells: Knock, knock? You’ll know who’s there when you install smart doorbells. These futuristic devices have a video camera, wireless signal, and motion sensor so they turn on whenever someone comes to the door. You can sync your smart doorbell to your phone through an app, so whenever someone comes knocking while your child is home alone, you’ll get a real-time alert to see who it is. Most smart doorbells also offer two-way voice communication, so you can find out what the person wants before advising your child on how to proceed.
  • Smart door locks: What goes perfectly with a smart doorbell? A smart door lock. These cool safety devices let you arm and disarm your deadbolts from wherever you are. If your kids come home from school but don’t have a key, let them in through the app. This also helps you control who your kids let in the house when you’re not around. Plus, you’ll get alerts when the doors are locked and unlocked, so you’ll be aware of who’s coming and going and at what hours.
  • Smart smoke and CO alarms: Smoke and fire can engulf a home in mere minutes. Keep your family and precious belongings safer with smart smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. This type of smart technology is a literal lifesaver. The Nest Protect, for instance, can sync with your smart thermostats to turn off the furnace if it detects fire. It can also alert you through phone notifications if smoke is detected—perfect for keeping tabs on your kids’ safety while you’re not home.

Options for children who are too young to be alone

If you have a busy schedule and can’t be home when your kids get off the bus, consider hiring a nanny or babysitter. Companies like Care.com carefully vet all nannies with thorough background checks and interviews. You can read reviews from other parents to see what caretakers are like before you welcome them into your home.

Find out what kind of before- and after-school programs are offered by your child's school. They're designed to give your child a safe, social, and educational experience when you can't fit the typical school drop-off and pick-up times into your schedule. 

Finally, talk to trusted neighbors or other parents who live nearby, especially if your kids go to the same school. Your child may be able to go straight to their house after school on days when you work late. 


Sources

  1. Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Leaving Your Child Home Alone," 2018. Accessed July 26, 2022.
  2. Kathleen A. Olson, University of Minnesota Extension, "Is My Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?" Accessed July 26, 2022.

Compare the best child safety products

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Price
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Best booster seat For kids up to 120 lbs. 3 layers of side-impact protection
Best kids GPS tracker Encrypted location trackingGeofences
Best kids phoneUnlimited talk and textGPS tracking
Best kids smartwatch Two-way voice and messagingUp to 53 parent-approved contacts
Best parental control appRequires iOS 11 or Android 5 and upMonitors 24 social networks
Best kids bike helmet47–57 cm. head circumferenceEasy-to-adjust tri-glide strap sliders

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. SafeWise uses paid Amazon links.

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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