Can I leave my children home alone? 

by Kim Cook

Have you ever wondered what the rules are for when a child can stay home alone?  Here is a helpful way to know if your children are old enough and most importantly if they are ready to do so.  


The guidelines from this study were adopted by The MN Department of Human Services and added to the statewide Maltreatment Screening Guidelines. These guidelines are:


  • Children under age 8 should not be left alone for any period of time.

  • Children ages 8, 9, and 10 may be left alone for no longer than three hours.

  • Children under the age of 11 should not provide childcare (babysitting).

  • Children ages 11­ to 13 may be left alone for no longer than 12 hours.

  • Children ages 14 and 15 may be left alone for no longer than 24 hours.

  • Children ages 11 to 15 that are placed in a childcare role are subject to the same time restrictions of being left alone.

  • Children ages 16 and 17 may be left alone for over 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to respond to an emergency and have adequate adult back-up supervision.


Is your child ready?


  • Is your child physically and mentally able to care for him- or herself?

  • Does your child tend to obey rules and make good decisions?

  • How does your child respond to unfamiliar or stressful situations?

  • Does your child feel comfortable or fearful about being home alone?

  • For how long will you be gone?

  • Will you be gone during daylight hours or at night?

  • Will older siblings or kids be with your child?

  • How safe is your neighborhood?

  • Does your child know how to reach you when you're away?


Rules to consider:


  • When to open the door to a stranger or neighbor.

  • Can a friend come over or the child leave the house?

  • What to do in an emergency & which neighbor to turn to if necessary

  • Whether or not it is appropriate for your children to cook/use stove

  • What restrictions are expected in terms of internet use or TV watching

  • Make sure your child knows how to lock doors and windows in order to increase safety

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