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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

SignoraStronza Wed 25-Sep-13 11:16:36

Mine plays outside (year 2) with her friends from the year above who live either side of us. We live next door but one to a park and I can usually hear them. They're in and out of each other's houses and gardens during the summer, roaming feral. grin

We live in a village, no roads need to be crossed and we know several people in the houses that border the park. They're all well versed in the 'do not go with anyone' and 'sticking together' talks too.

Wouldn't leave her at home on her own though - she'd be a bit scared.

JulietBravoJuliet Wed 25-Sep-13 10:53:34

My ds is 7.5 and, personally, I would feel safer leaving him home alone if I had to, rather than him playing out where I can't see him. He's a pretty sensible little chap, and wouldn't dream of touching the kettle/cooker/iron etc but is in a little world of his own where cars are concerned, so, for me, the chances of him not looking properly when crossing a road are far higher than a random fire breaking out in the house. I perceive my home to be safer than the street so will be leaving him home alone before he's allowed to play out alone.

That said, I've let him walk to the shop, on the same side of the street, with me watching from the door, and left him on the park (1 min away) after school while I've nipped to fetch the dog, but always mentioned to another parent where I'm going, and I'm back in literally 2 minutes.

I've also left him in the house while I've nipped to fetch a parcel etc off a neighbour, and took the dog onto the verge opposite the house for a wee when he's not wanted to come, but I'm gone for a couple of minutes and can see the house at all times. I spend longer outside de-icing the car in winter and he's never once come wandering out or set fire to the place.

sashh Wed 25-Sep-13 08:38:55

I think a lot depends on where you live and the local neighbours.

My parents went to visit one of my dad's brothers and family. As they turned into the top of the street there was a group of children playing, including their niece who was about 6 or 7. They stopped the car and said hello and then drove the 100 yards to dad's brother's house.

They were met at the door by his wife who said the kettle was just boiling. She'd had 3 calls from various neighbours about a strange car and people talking to her daughter.

I think if you live somewhere like this your children can play out from a younger age.

goodasitgets Tue 24-Sep-13 23:39:39

Can I just divert (although relevant!) to teach children 999 no matter how young? Especially if they have gone on a bike ride or something away from home, or you are at home on your own a lot or a lone parent
I've spoken to some amazing children from age 3 up, and it still amazes me how calm and great they can be

Retroformica Tue 24-Sep-13 22:16:25

DS is 10 and I would leave him for 20 mins or so in the house. I wouldn't Lear him walk into town yet as he has zero road sense. Maybe in another 6 months?

MoominsYonisAreScary Tue 24-Sep-13 21:55:01

It depends, ds2 was out playing on our street from age 8, hes 10 now and goes off the street with his friends, think i started leaving him on his own from just before he turned 10. Only for 10-15 mins though.

DS1 was probably around 10-11, i would have left him home alone in the evenings for a few hours from 14, but he wasnt keen so i never did. Actually even now at 18 hes not keen on staying on his own, even though hes fine babysitting the others, has been abroad on his own and doesnt come home most weekends until the early hours of the morning.

jinglejungle Tue 24-Sep-13 21:24:41

We have a corner shop about 5 doors down.

I have nipped out for milk leaving DSs 7 & 4 in front of TV.

It would take me longer to put the bins out.

However recently I have taken to sending DS1 to the shop by himself. & watching him from the driveway.

In my head, this is better but actually DS2 is in the house alone (4) while I'm standing outside the front door watching DS1.

Groovee Tue 24-Sep-13 21:17:20

In 2010 when we had the heavy snow, dh and I went out to clear the driveway leaving dd 10 and ds 8 in the house watching tv. Before we knew it, both children had appeared citing "we didn't like being alone!" fully dressed for outdoors!

It took another 8 months to get dd to stay on her own. Ds has been happy for about a year to be on his own. He's 11 soon.

So it would depend on each individual child.

ilovebabytv Tue 24-Sep-13 21:12:13

I think it depends on the child and where you live. I live in rural scotland and at my last house ds1 was out playing at 4 with all the other kids in the street. He was left at 6 for very short periods whilst i nipped to the corner shop initially and now a teen whilst we wont leave him overnight have no problems leaving him if we are going out for a drink and coming home at 2 in the morning. However our new house is on a busy road so ds2 is still preschool and wont ever get to play out, only in the back garden. He will probably have to be about 10 i guess before he is allowed out and about. Going by how he behaves now, i dont think i'll ever allow him to be alone in the house :D

hippo123 Tue 24-Sep-13 13:54:05

Ds has played outside since 4/5 years old. Wouldn't leave him alone for 30 mins until about 10 I guess. Reason there's such a difference is that when playing out there's other children around, other parents glancing out of windows etc. safety in numbers I guess. In the house no one but myself would know if he was in there and fire would be a big concern to me.

VinegarDrinker Tue 24-Sep-13 13:08:07

Why has this suddenly been bumped 5 months on? confused

Mumsyblouse Tue 24-Sep-13 13:05:57

Jan49 I don't do any of this stuff for my own convenience, it's much less convenient to have my children playing out and me checking on them every 10 min/them coming back in every 10 min and worrying about them than have them sat in the house on screens or playing nicely in their rooms which they will do. Same for going to the shop, I would prefer to do it myself, but want my child to learn to cope with money and being in a public place in a very safe small way.

I also do it because as someone else says, my children love playing out around our house on their scooters, nipping to friend's houses having asked if they can play, and playing in the local park with me (usually hovering around secretly). They are learning all kinds of stuff that is hard if your children are always in your sight, and I'd rather they learned to negotiate and play with other children without my constant presence - bit like school playground really.

But that doesn't make it easier for the parent, I hate this stage!

steeking Tue 24-Sep-13 13:00:59

Would be interested to hear how the children themselves feel about being left.
I let my DS out alone for a bike ride when he was 10, provided he had his phone and I knew where he was going- he was really keen to do this.
He's now 12 and still isn't comfy being left for any longer than about half a hour at home on his own, so TBH I don't push it.

Crowler Tue 24-Sep-13 12:46:58

I live in a street with no kids in London, so mine don't play outside at all.

I recently started going to the corner shop & leaving my 7 year old home alone. He's nearly 8, actually. This is about 10 minutes.

treaclesoda Tue 24-Sep-13 12:43:09

By letting my DD play out, its not for my convenience though, or because I'm in a rush to give her independence. Its just for the sheer joy it brings her.

I've sat in my living room on a day when its bucketing down with rain and watched eight children in waterproofs and wellie boots build themselves a 'tent' out of every umbrella in the street. It took them about an hour, as it kept falling down, and then once it was done they didn't know what to do with it anyway. But they had such fun doing it, I could hear them laughing from inside my house.

I've watched them all play schools, pretend to be pirates, and pretend to be running in the olypmics. Amongst other things. That sort of thing is priceless, they get such a lot of fun from it, and where we live I have weighed up the risks and made the decision that its worth it.

If I lived elsewhere, it might not be a risk worth taking. Its not that some parents are overprotective (although some are) and that some are irresponsible (although again, some are) its just that we all live in different areas, and our DC have different characters, and different peer pressures. All any of us can do is make the decision that we feel is best.

Iwaswatchingthat Tue 24-Sep-13 12:41:01

I think you just know when they and you are ready. I already know it won't be before secondary school for mine, probably not until teen years to be honest.

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.

Ghostsgowoooh Tue 24-Sep-13 12:32:03

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.

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.

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.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

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

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.

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.

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