Kids playing out alone / being left home alone...

(116 Posts)
Itsnotahoover Fri 19-Apr-13 21:46:16

There's been a lot of threads recently about what age to leave kids home alone etc and I'm just wondering what the general consensus is.

It seems that the majority think that a child of say 6 or 7 shouldn't be left in the house alone in case of fire/parent having an accident/some other unspeakable disaster, yet it seems to be more acceptable to allow kids of the same age to play out unsupervised, and I'm a bit confused as to what is acceptable?

My ds is 7. He's very sensible in the house, never touches anything he shouldn't and won't even get himself a drink without asking. I know I could safely leave him alone while I nipped to the shop up the road and he would still be parked in front of the TV when I got back. I never have done but I know I could.

However, loads of his friends play out on the local park. We live in a little village and it's pretty quiet, but there's a fairly busy through road to cross to get to the park, and I just wouldn't trust him on his own as he has a tendency to dilly dally on roads and isn't aware enough of cars coming out of driveways etc.

I guess my questions are these:

At what age would you let your 7 year old stay home alone for say 30 minutes?

At what age would you let them play out unsupervised?

If the answers to the above two questions are different, why? Do you perceive more dangers within your own home or on the street?

Would you be more likely to judge someone who left their kids home alone, or who let them play out alone and why?

Just curious why opinions differ that's all smile

Itsnotahoover Sat 20-Apr-13 22:58:23

Thanks for all your replies, I've certainly got some food for thought smile

Was talking to ds's dad about this today (we aren't together) and it turns out he's already left ds in his house once or twice to nip to the shop next door which made me a bit cross as I felt he should've discussed this with me first hmm Not really sure how I feel about it, as, like I said, I know ds is very sensible, but I just wouldn't feel comfortable doing it yet.

I have spoken to ds tonight and said that I will start letting him walk ahead of me and use the crossing on his own a bit so as I can see how he copes, and possibly work up to him nipping to the shop at the top of the street with me stood watching. He's very happy with this as he says he feels grown up!

BegoniaBampot Sat 20-Apr-13 23:32:31

moved to a quiet estate so the 7 and 10 yr old can play out alone at the park a minutes walk away. left the 10 yr old alone recently for the first time as he wasn't well and had to do school run so not for long. also sent him to the shop round the corner (busy road to cross but with pedestrian crossing) since 9 yrs.

SpanishFly Sun 21-Apr-13 00:00:11

Depends on the child, depends where you live. When ds1 was 5 I'd never have dreamed that he'd be playing out at the age of 7. We have a few kids in the street so there's always a few of them out playing. We also live in a very safe area. I also ask ds to ask the parent to text me to let me know where he's playing. Hes often out for hours (aged8) but I usually know where he is and theres a mum on hand.
Home alone? Hmm. I remember a thread saying 7 was acceptable and I was appalled. Being in a house unattended is very different from being in the quiet street with a few kids and people walking dogs etc. ie they wouldn't be completely alone if something happened

livinginwonderland Sun 21-Apr-13 22:30:45

i was home alone for 30 mins plus from the age of eight or nine. i was home alone all day during the holidays from the age of 12.

i played out in the street from the age of about six.

momcop1495 Tue 24-Sep-13 10:24:37

NSPCC states http://www.nspcc.org.uk/help-and-advice/for-parents-and-carers/guides-for-parents/home-alone/home-alone_wda90645.html
a link from the COAM website.

Though I hate the thought and doing of leaving my children for a second, (going to toilet, into a different room, shower, filling petrol, collect a medicine or posting a letter,) I do it, because as my children grow and I have more faith in them to understand that certain things are dangerous, as long as I know that they should be ok to leave them during my activities, (even when I am unconscious - asleep at night) I will do it, it is all part of their growing into independent people. I think if you don't allow this individual trust and space, they cannot or will not think for themselves and be tied to you enough to become a constant burden, and this is not natural, nor healthy.

But there's no "correct" age is there? I mean other than obviously don't let a 4 year old stay at home alone or walk to school alone.

And FWIW I have a 14 and 15 year old. I would leave them overnight only if it was an absolute emergency and there was literally no other option

Not because they are clueless and cosseted and don't know how to be independent. But because I don't really see why I would need to. And because if someone broke in, or there was an emergency in the middle of the night, id rather they didn't have to cope with it alone if they don't have to.

My 10 year old ds2 rides his bike to school alone now. I can leave him at home, I don't tend to be gone for more than 30 minutes and he knows the rules whilst I am gone.

But I have 3 DCs who were all ready for different things at different ages.

Mumsyblouse Tue 24-Sep-13 10:52:08

Mine are 7 and 9 (nearly 8 and 10) and I let them play out but only in the immediate limits of our street (which is all pavement/pedestrianised, no cars), they know not to go beyond there, because it means if I need them I can go out and shout their names and they will hear me even if out of sight!

My 9 year old is allowed to walk to the local shop which is about 5 min there and back (and I do wait with baited breath for her to arrive back but know it's really important for her to start taking steps towards independence).

Next will be walking to school, there's no major roads to cross except one but this has a crossing lady on it.

I think a 7 year old is probably too young to be left alone at home, or at least mine both were at 7, just because they still rely very much on adults to direct them. I've noticed a huge difference between 7/8 and 9- my 9, nearly 10 year old could be left (and has been once/twice for about 15 minutes) as she can use the phone/go to neighbours- we have practiced and she is very sensible, however, accidents could happen at any age, so I don't leave her for longer periods.

With all of this, I am more stressed than the children, they are quite keen to have more independence and are pretty sensible, it's me who ends up running out to check where they are or feeling anxious til they return.

Thingymajigs Tue 24-Sep-13 10:53:05

I've always been confused by this too. My 13 yo son is perfectly fine in the house by himself but I have only recently allowed him to go out to the shop and now into town (10 min walk away). He is autistic so I fear he wouldn't be able to handle social situations and crowded shops.
My 10 yo is very sensible and I have no qualms about him going to the shop, going to town with his brother or staying at home but he doesn't like to be alone so I don't leave him at all.
Playing out is a different issue because we live in a terrible area. They don't want to play out anyway.
It really depends on the child and the area you live but I've always considered it safer at home alone than wandering outside.

IneedAsockamnesty Tue 24-Sep-13 11:12:58

Some of you need to remember that these 16 year olds you won't leave overnight,can actually leave home and there is bugger all you can do about it.

Granted the law says they need your consent but in reality they can just leave and nobody no agency no police officer no nobody will bring them back unless they are located in a seriously dangerous situation and if you do against there will its considered to be abuse.

But on the other end of the scale of you leave a under 16 and something bad happens you can be prosecuted. Some years ago my 9 yo was playing out with a group of friends,she was being looked after by a friend of mine as I had gone out (first time in 4 years).less than 30 mins after I left she got run over. The sole police investigation into the actual accident consisted of a interview with a 6 yo stood next to the driver and a accident report full of mistakes took less than 90 mins.

But the 3 day investigation into if I had left her home alone was really quite in depth involving several police officers a few social workers.they only decided to believe me when they connected the dots and realised the friend of mine who was looking after her was indeed an adult and coincidently at the time was the manager of the next counties out of hours SS emergency duty team.

HicDraconis Tue 24-Sep-13 11:16:11

Home alone - 14. Because it's illegal here to leave a child under 14 at home alone. And my cousin is a police officer, he'd have to arrest me or be in a really unv

treaclesoda Tue 24-Sep-13 11:17:54

I wouldn't leave my 7 year old alone in the house. I have no need to anyway, and I wouldn't do it because she is anxious and would be terrified. And lastly, I just don't think its big enough.

But playing out? Well, she has played outside with friends for years now. We live at the end of a very very quiet cul de sac, and there are several children who play out together. They are nice, sensible kids, there is no fighting, they enjoy each others company and the older ones look out for the younger ones. She is allowed to go into friends back gardens, or into their houses, as long as I know where she is. The parents all know each other, and we all look out for each others kids - there is always someone looking out the window, or coming out to check that they are where they say they are. And they always are, I've never had any problems with her wandering off. She has no desire to anyway, she is anxious and likes the safety of home, and anyway she knows that if she went somewhere that I told her not to, it would be the end of playing out. Its win win, it has built up her confidence, and she gets to run round, ride her bike and get plenty of exercise.

HicDraconis Tue 24-Sep-13 11:21:24

Home alone - 14. Because it's illegal here to leave a child under 14 at home alone. And my cousin is a police officer, he'd have to arrest me or be in a really uncomfortable situation if he was aware.

Play out alone - there's nowhere really for kids to play out alone where our house is. They have the garden to run around in (200sqm plus trampoline plus climbing frame area), a playroom with bookshelves, games, craft stuff - just because they don't play out doesn't mean they're not growing and learning and it doesn't mean they're permanently in front of the tv either.

treaclesoda Tue 24-Sep-13 11:24:54

the NSPCC say its not illegal to leave a child home alone under the age of 14, the law doesn't state a specific age, its just illegal to leave a child if it may put them at risk.

CloverkissSparklecheeks Tue 24-Sep-13 11:27:33

Y6 IMO but possibly Y5 if popping to the shop at the end of the road for milk.

Mine are only 7 and 5 at the moment so it is hard to say. My 7 yo is extremely sensible so has a little bit of freedom but not enough that he is anywhere alone.

FeltyPants Tue 24-Sep-13 11:28:11

Thing the playing out timing really depends where you live - when I was in Home Counties in busy commuter town there really was no playing out. Now I've moved back home most kids play out from about 5 and its 'the norm' and everyone looks out for them. You even see young children with even younger ones in buggies some times. When I first moved back my eyes nearly burst out of my head but now I think it's great - my kids have real adventures and have grown in so many ways. But if I went back to near London then there wouldn't be people for them to

FeltyPants Tue 24-Sep-13 11:28:54

Play out with so they would really stick out and be more vulnerable

treaclesoda Tue 24-Sep-13 11:30:24

I meant to say in my original post that although I am happy for my 7 year old to play out, that is based entirely on a combination of her particular personality and the place that we live. If either of those were different, my answer would be different. If I even lived a few houses further up the road I wouldn't be so relaxed about it, as there would be traffic there that we don't get in front of my house. And if she was the type of child who would make a reckless decision to run off somewhere that she shouldn't, then that would change things too.

Mumsyblouse Tue 24-Sep-13 11:46:11

Yes, I agree location is everything for playing out, there are lots of places where children just can't play out so it is unusual, whereas if you live in a cul-de-sac or on an estate or have an alley running down the back of your house, it's a lovely thing for children to do- and as you say, if they all do it, it is automatically safer for everyone.

Boosterseat Tue 24-Sep-13 11:53:32

DS is 9, i can pop to the shop for 5 minutes but he knows the protocol.

Do not answer the door
No appliances are to be used that heat ANYTHING including the toaster
If I'm more than 15 minutes later than i said I would be call the numbers by the phone in list order.

He is allowed to play on the green behind our house but if a child asks him to play at their home he must inform me so I can check its ok with the parents.

The last point doesn't usually come up, the kids always seem to want to come to my house nothing to do with DH being super fun Dad always dishing out all sorts of treats/water balloons/gross science kits

vikinglights Tue 24-Sep-13 12:04:45

dd1 is 7
she is allowed to play out with certain restrictions to where she can go (not allowed to go to the lake or the sea without an adult) and cycling is restricted
she is allowed to go to call for friends who live reasonably near, she is not allowed to cycle to friends who live further away
she is allowed to go to the local shop
she has been at home alone for up to about 10 mins but her grandparents are in the house next door

so much depends on where you live

topicofaffairs Tue 24-Sep-13 12:13:36

Dd is 10, I nip to shop and she stays in.

No way to overnight, possibly 14/15.

She can't play out as we live on a very busy road, we did from age 4 but in a very quit cul de sac and only one had a car in street [old]

Jan49 Tue 24-Sep-13 12:25:11

I can't see why people are often in such a rush to give their dc independence. It might be convenient for the parents but it won't make any long term difference to the dc.

Personally I think the minimum age to leave a child alone at home for any length of time should probably be around 10 or 11, depending on the child's abilities. My ds has SEN so was a little older, I think 13.

If you leave a 6 y.o. and anything happens, the social services are likely to get involved. The point is not whether your child will stir from the TV or not but how they will deal with an incident or emergency such as a knock at the door.

KatyTheCleaningLady Tue 24-Sep-13 12:26:01

"We had " wars" with local children, friends shop lifted, there was an element of sexual abuse, we played "chicken" on our bikes. And we were "nice" children in a good area."

This was my childhood too. Add on stuff like throwing rocks at cars and vandalism.

I used to let my kids play outside in the village we lived in in the Highlands,but had to stop because of that sort of thing. One or two bad apples in the neighbourhood spoil it for everyone.

I wont be letting my six year old out anytime soon as unfortunately we live on a steep and very busy road with no green or grassy bits. There has already been a child killed outside the house next door to me so it frightens me to

I do feel dd2 is missing out, her friends all live on quiet roads and play out all the time.

LittleRobots Tue 24-Sep-13 12:38:55

I'm still amazed at how young people let children play out. We've had kids knock on our door since my child was 3. Once or twice I went out and played with them. I wouldn't let her out now as a reception child and can't imagine for some time yet. Its a working class estate and occasionally a bit rough. There's cars in the cul de sac. Not a chance in hell.

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