Supervising Children

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When is a child old enough to stay home alone? When is it ok to let a child play alone outside? Because children have different abilities and levels of maturity, there is no set age as to when children can be left alone. The national SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends that children not be left alone before the age of 12. Also, experts recommend that older siblings are generally not ready for supervising younger children until the age of 15 years or older. When leaving children home alone it is best to do so gradually – first 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, and so on. The following are questions to consider before leaving a child home alone:

  • Is the child comfortable staying home alone?
  • Have I role played with my child what might possibly happen and how to handle it (a knock on the door, the telephone ringing, a fire, what do to if hungry?)
  • Does the child have the ability to calmly provide his or her name, address, and phone number in an emergency?
  • Can the child lock and unlock the doors and windows?
  • If more than one child will be staying home alone, do they get along well?
  • Is the neighborhood safe?
  • Are there neighbors that the child knows and that are trustworthy?
  • Does the child understand the importance of safety and basic safety procedures?
  • Are emergency contact numbers available with a working telephone and does the child know how to dial them?
  • Is there food available that does not require heating?
  • Does the child know where you will be, when you will be back, and how you can be reached?
  • Are there rules for leaving the house, having friends over, and using the computer?

After answering these questions you will have a better idea of whether or not your child is ready to stay home alone. If the answer to any questions is no, you should consider other child care options before leaving your child alone. Consider sharing supervision with other parents in the neighborhood when children are playing outside.

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