What Age Can a Child Stay Home Alone in California?

When Your Child Is Ready and How to Do It

Children mature at different rates and ages. Somewhere around late elementary school, it is likely that your child will ask if she can stay home alone because one or more of her friends are no longer attending day care or using a babysitter. Or, perhaps you need to run to a medical appointment and wonder if it is OK to leave your child home by herself. Learn the guidelines and recommendations so you can make an informed, safe choice for you and your child.

California Law

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California does not have a law pertaining to the age a child is ready to stay home alone. They trust you to use your judgment as to safety and readiness. Though you could legally leave a child home alone at any age, it is wise to use discretion and assess your child's level of maturity and development.

When Your Child Is Ready

One child could be ready to stay home at age 12, while another needs supervision well into his teen years. Consider whether your child keeps his word and does what he says he will do. When he goes outside with friends, is he good at letting you know where he's going and coming home on time? Having basic fire safety training is a must, as is an awareness of how to call for help in an emergency. Your child should know his address, phone number, your phone number, and how to get in touch with friends and family. He should be able to keep himself occupied with constructive activities, know how to fix a basic meal or snack, and not be too easily frightened. Neighborhood safety is another thing to consider, as well as how well you know your neighbors. When in doubt, ask for input from your child's pediatrician, teacher and others who know him well.

Take It Easy

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Ease into allowing your child to stay home alone by trying it out for a half-hour, then an hour, two hours and so on. This will help calm fears, concerns and built trust between the two of you. Practice what she would do in a variety of emergency situations. Consider installing security cameras that you can monitor from your cellphone for extra peace of mind.

Babysitting Younger Siblings

The Red Cross offers a babysitting class for 11- to 15-year-old children to prepare them for looking after younger kids. If your child will be responsible for caring for younger siblings, consider enrolling her in this course, where she will earn a certificate and a healthy dose of confidence, as well as a way to earn extra money. She will learn basic first aid, CPR, emergency plans, as well as how to keep younger children entertained and on-schedule.

Alternatives to Staying Home Alone

If your child is not ready to stay home alone, chances are good that several alternatives are available in your community. The Boys and Girls Club offers a variety of after-school programs to keep kids entertained until their parents get off work. Alternatively, organize a child care co-op with other parents, or enroll your child in the same sports program as a friend, so they can share a ride.