Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
As a parent, I know it can be hard to decide when your little baby is finally ready to stay home without a sitter. What happens if something goes wrong? And how do you know that it's not too early?
What age do children stop needing a babysitter? Some kids are ready to stay home alone without a babysitter as early as 11. Other kids might need to wait until they're teenagers. There are signs of maturity that you can look for to suggest that your child might be ready to go it alone.
Learn what age kids stop needing a babysitter, how you know they're ready to be left alone, information and tools to leave them with, and more.
As a nervous first-time parent, your answer to this question might be when they're 18 and move off to university! But both you and your child know that isn't really realistic.
Unfortunately, there's no magic age where all children instantly become responsible and mature.
Some kids are willing and able to be left alone at age 10 or 11. Others might be teenagers before either they or you feel comfortable leaving them unsupervised for long periods of time.
The laws regarding leaving your child alone can vary a lot depending on where you live. Some places only give suggested ages, while some have firm limits in place. There are also differences in how long you can leave your child alone during the day or night.
Rather than list the specifics for each country and state here, I'd recommend doing a quick Google search yourself to confirm by searching something like "leave child alone age legal (your country or state/province)"
Most child experts think it's okay to start leaving your kid alone for short periods of time around 10 or 11, starting with less than an hour at a time and only during the day.
12 or 13 might be okay ages to start leaving your child alone at night if they've had previous experience being home alone during the daytime. You shouldn't leave them alone overnight at that age, but they should be fine if you need to go to a movie for a few hours.
Of course, there's the caveat that you should think they're mature enough to handle it and won't be scared.
Before you consider leaving your child home unattended, you should make sure they:
In addition to your child being mentally ready to be left home alone, there's some critical knowledge that you'll need to share with them.
They should know emergency numbers. Your child should know 911, 999, 000, or whatever your country's emergency number is to contact fire, ambulance, and police (See emergency numbers for your country). They also need to know when it's appropriate to call and when it isn't, and what information like your home address they'll need to share with the dispatcher if they ever call.
They should know how to get help if they need it. They should have a way to reach your family, friends, or a neighbor they can trust if they run into any problems they're unable to solve themselves, like if your basement starts flooding.
They can prepare food for themselves if they get hungry. Whether that's just getting simple snacks or preparing basic meals like sandwiches or reheating leftovers in the microwave. (They also need to be responsible enough to not eat an entire block of cheese, or container of whipped cream while you're out!)
They need to know how to clean up a mess. Accidents happen, but it's important that your child can deal with it on their own. As opposed to just letting orange soda soak into your carpet for three hours until you get home.
They need to know how to follow the rules. They need to follow the same rules that would be expected of them when a parent is around. For example, no friends over without permission, no wrestling, limits on TV or video games, etc.
They need emergency plans. For example, what will they do in case of a power outage, fire, or severe weather? Be sure to have flashlights and fire extinguishers around your house in easy-to-find places. As well as a first aid kit stocked with bandaids, disinfectant, and other medical supplies.
You should have a basic list with all of your emergency numbers in one place that's easy for your kid to find and access, for example, stuck on the refrigerator.
Include emergency phone numbers like:
|Country||Poison help number|
|Australia||1800 875 204|
|New Zealand||0800 764 766|
Don't forget to give them a way to phone as well. Nowadays more and more homes don't have a landline. If that's true of your home, you'll need to leave them a cheap prepaid emergency phone they can use.
There are basic precautions you should take to prevent your kid from making bad decisions and giving in to curiosity or temptation.
Set up parental filters on your computer and TV to make sure they can't access any material that you deem inappropriate for them.
Hide anything you don't want them to get ahold of as well. Things like alcohol, prescription medications, cigarettes, weapons, and lighters.
What happens if you've got two children, for example, a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old.
Your 12-year-old is mature enough to leave home alone. But you'd never leave your 8-year-old by themselves.
Will they be okay together? In most cases yes. Again this will come down to maturity in the older child. They'll need to act as a babysitter to keep the younger child under control.
Some younger siblings are really good at taking orders from their big brother or sister. While other pairs of children feed off each other and can quickly get out of control or become antagonistic toward each other. If your kids are the latter, you might want to wait an extra year or two before leaving them alone together.
You're setting your child up for failure if you go from a lifetime of full supervision to leaving them alone for an entire day.
Start with trial runs where you only leave your child alone for 30 minutes or an hour while you run to get groceries. If the house is still standing after your first few test runs, you can start gradually increasing the time you're away.
Your child should understand that being able to stay home alone is a privilege. They need to earn that privilege by showing they can be safe and reliable.
There's a big psychological difference for your child when it comes to being home alone at night compared to during the day. They might be perfectly fine to take care of themselves during the day.
But at night, the darkness can be overwhelming even for a tween. Every noise can trigger a fear response and set their imagination ablaze with ideas of monsters in the basement.
For that reason, it's a good idea to make sure your child is already completely comfortable being alone during the day before you leave them alone at night.
To make sure they're ready, you can start off with short trial runs again where you only leave for an hour or less at a time. You can also phone periodically to make sure everything is going okay.
If your child is in that borderline age like 10 or 11 it's unlikely you'll have a problem. But leaving younger children (like 4 or 5) home alone can be considered neglect and child abandonment. In that case, Child Protective Services would likely get involved.
Infants should only be left alone for very short periods of time (a few minutes) and in safe conditions. Your baby will be fine if they're safely tucked in their crib for a few moments while you take a shower or tidy up quickly. But your baby should never be left home alone, even if you're just quickly running to the shop down the road or doing some gardening outside.
Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
Published: 2 February 2019
Learn about the pros, cons, and costs of both daycare programs and hiring a nanny, plus we investigate some alternatives to consider.
Babysitters can take care of more than one child at once. But there is a limit on how many kids a babysitter can watch effectively.
Make the right choice for your family by learning the subtle differences between babysitters and nannies and their typical responsibilities.
Learn some non-obvious benefits when it comes to hiring a babysitter for your child or children. We'll also touch on a few of the disadvantages to consider.
The majority of families will need to hire a babysitter between once per week and 1-2 times per month but it depends on your family's individual needs.
Learn how to fire your babysitter nicely and as smoothly as possible. As well as reasons you might fire a babysitter and reasons why you probably shouldn't.
Use our babysitter reference questions to quickly and easily vet potential candidates and find the best sitter for your family
This guide will answer all of your questions about finding, vetting, teaching, and working with the right babysitter for your autistic child.
Learn which jobs are super flexible and let you work around your existing childcare schedule and earn some extra money!
Discover the best holiday gift for your babysitter that's not stressful or costs a lot of money but still shows them that you care.
Be aware that pulling a prank on your babysitter means you're probably going to get one in return. So make sure you can handle the consequences!
Your best option is to reach out to family and friends for a favor. If they aren't able to help, try our list of creative alternatives.
A male babysitter can be just as safe, caring, and responsible as a female one. Compare their qualifications and recommendations just like other candidates.
Learn what paperwork is required to allow your babysitter to take your child to the doctor if you’re unavailable to do so.
Learn how to choose a mature and capable babysitter that can keep your kids safe on overnight sitting jobs.
Learn what babysitters expect from parents when it comes to food. If you decide to provide dinner, try our 8 easy food ideas that are perfect for babysitters on the job.