Leaving Your Child Home Alone: Minimum Age By State Laws and Parental Recommendations


As parents, a moment will arise when you might need to leave your child unsupervised at home. For a mature and prepared child, this experience can foster a sense of confidence, independence, and responsibility. However, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks of leaving children unattended.

Minimum Age Requirements by State

In the U.S., laws regarding the minimum age at which children can be left home alone vary by state. While twelve states have specific age requirements, the remaining 36 states do not have fixed laws but typically provide guidelines or recommendations for parents.

Even in the absence of specific age regulations, parents and guardians can be held accountable if an accident occurs during the child’s solitude. Stanford Children’s Health reports that approximately 2,000 children aged 14 and under succumb to home accidents every year. These accidents are primarily attributed to causes such as fires, choking, drowning, firearms incidents, falls, suffocation, and poisoning.

Minimum Age Required to Leave a Kid Alone at Home

Colorado12The minimum age to leave a child alone for an extended period is 12 years. There’s no minimum age for shorter durations.
Delaware12The minimum age for extended periods is 12 years, with no minimum for shorter durations.
Georgia8The minimum age to leave a child alone is 8 years. Children under 8 must not be left unattended.
Illinois14Illinois has a higher minimum age requirement of 14 years. Parents or guardians may face charges of child endangerment if children under 14 are left alone for extended periods.
Kansas6Kids aged 0-6 shouldn’t be left alone, even for a short time. Those aged 6-9 can be left alone briefly, while those 10 and older can be left alone for longer durations.
Maryland8Maryland requires children to be at least 8 years old to be left alone. Those younger than 8 must be with someone at least 13 years old.
New Mexico10Children aged 11 and up can legally stay home alone. Regardless of age, ensure they’re mature enough and understand the rules to your satisfaction before leaving them alone.
North Carolina8North Carolina mandates children be at least 8 to be left alone. If younger, they must be accompanied by someone 18 or older.
North Dakota9The North Dakota Department of Human Services suggests children should be at least 9 years old to stay home alone. Those aged 0-8 should never be left alone.
Oregon10While Oregon doesn’t have a specific law, ORS 163.545 states that a person with custody or control of a child under 10 may be charged with second-degree child neglect if the child is left unattended and at risk.
Tennessee10Tennessee doesn’t have a legal age requirement, but tncourts.gov recommends a minimum age of 10.
Washington10Washington sets the minimum age at 10 years. However, parents should use their best judgment.

Tips for Considering Leaving Your Child Home Alone

When contemplating the decision to leave your child alone, it’s vital to weigh the state laws against your child’s physical, mental, and emotional readiness, as well as their genuine desire to be left alone.

  • Maturity: Know their level of maturity. Are they responsible? Can they follow safety rules? Do they know how to handle emergencies?
  • Duration: Think about how long they’ll be alone. A quick run to the store is different than leaving them for hours.
  • Time of day: Daytime is generally safer than nighttime.
  • Safety measures: Ensure they know basic safety, like not opening the door for strangers, avoiding dangerous appliances, and not telling others they’re alone.
  • Emergency procedures: They should know what to do in emergencies, like calling 911, having emergency contacts, and basic first aid.
  • Emotional readiness: Some kids might feel anxious or uneasy about being alone, even if they’re old or mature enough.
  • Surroundings: Consider your neighborhood’s safety. If it’s not secure, it might not be best to leave them alone.
  • Adult backup: Having a trustworthy adult nearby, like a neighbor or relative, who can help if needed is ideal.
  • Sibling dynamics: If older siblings are tasked with caring for younger ones, their relationship is another factor to consider.
  • Communication: Ensure you have a reliable way to communicate with your child, whether it’s a phone or another method, so they can reach you anytime.
  • Gradual trial: Before leaving them alone for extended periods, try short durations first to gauge their reactions and feelings.

These tips are just guidelines. Every child is unique, and what works for one might not for another. The key is to know your child and decide based on their actual needs and feelings.

Fan Zhao

A smart and thrifty homemaker who loves baking.

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