At what age can you leave kids home alone?

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Leaving your child home alone for the first time is a fairly major milestone in a parent’s journey, as it means a lot more freedom and independence — for everyone involved.

But it can be hard to determine when a child is ready for this kind of responsibility. If you have young kids, you might wonder: At what age is it OK to leave kids home alone? It’s a big question, and one that’s become hotly debated in recent years.

There are a number of factors to consider when making this decision — including local laws — so we put together a chart that displays legal age requirements per state and other considerations at a glance.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when making this decision for your own family.

Get Familiar With Your State’s Laws

Some states have laws that specify the age kids need to reach before they can stay home alone (Illinois is 14 for example, whereas Kansas is 6). Others offer a “suggested age,” and some states don’t touch the matter at all.

state map infographic

Becoming familiar with your state’s law is important, as there can be serious legal repercussions for leaving kids alone before the law deems them ready.

Get Input From Guidelines

Using FindLaw‘s guide to these laws, we put together some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not your child can stay home alone.

chart infographic

Remember: You Know Your Own Child Best

As with many child-rearing decisions, this one depends on a kid’s specific personality, temperament and maturity level.

Some 8-year-olds would be fine if left alone for an hour in the middle of the day while a less mature elementary-age child perhaps should not spend time alone until closer to age 10.

Likewise with the recommendation that a 16-year-old may be able to stay home alone for two consecutive nights: If you’re a parent of a child that age, you’re probably thinking “yes, definitely” or “no way” depending on the maturity and capability of your child.

The true answer to whether or not your littles can stay home alone lies with what you and your family are comfortable doing and what your state law specifies, if you live in a state with such legislation in place.

We’ve combined all of the above guidance into one handy infographic you can print out for easy access or share with other parents and guardians:


What do you think is an appropriate age to leave kids home alone?

MORE: When can kids walk to school alone?

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About the Author
Genevieve Lill
Editor in Chief of Simplemost. Passionate about digital media. Mom. Yogini. Grammar fan. Proud Northwestern University grad.

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