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Knowing When Your Child is Ready to Stay Home Alone

Knowing When Your Child is Ready to Stay Home Alone


The start of summer signals no school and endless fun for kids, but to parents it can be a stress inducing time trying to determine what to do with kids while at work. There are many different factors that parents and caregivers need to consider before making the decision to let their children stay at home alone during the day.

Ohio law does not indicate an age that children can be left unattended. Therefore, parents and caregivers need to consider their child’s maturity level and their ability to make safe and sensible decisions. 

Communication is Key

It is important to talk with your children about how they feel about staying home alone to gauge their level of readiness. Ask them questions about what they would do if someone they did not know knocked on the door. Their response will offer insight into their readiness and can be used to start the conversation about the rules and expectations. While your intent may be for your child to stay in the house until you return from work, it is important that they are able to leave if an emergency should arise. 

Have a Safety Plan

Make sure that children can unlock and open the door or window and that they know what to do once they are  safely out of the house. It is also important that children know how and when to contact 911 and that they know how to give police and fire the contact information for you at work. Consider creating a family information sheet that contains the names and phone numbers for parents as well as for a safe, adult emergency contact. Place the contact list in a plastic sleeve and leave it in a central position in the house where children can get to it quickly. If you have a neighbor that you trust, make them aware that you are letting the children stay home and ask that they keep a watchful eye on the house and be a safe place if the children need to get out of the house. 

Keep A Schedule

A full work day is a long time for kids and it is important for them to have positive safe activities. Take some time to set a daily schedule for them to follow. It is important for children to read during the summer months to keep from suffering from the summer slide. Many local libraries and book stores have summer reading programs that offer prizes for each completed book. Spend time after work talking with kids about their book and ask them to write up a short report to help develop and strengthen their critical thinking skills. 

Easy Meals and Snacks

After all that reading kiddos will be hungry, keep easy to prepare meals and snacks available. Avoid foods that would require the use of a stove or conventional oven and stock things that can be reheated in the microwave or eaten cold or at room temperature. Weekends are a great time to grocery shop and prepare meals that can be eaten during the week.

Staying home alone can be a major milestone in the life of a child. Parents need to have open and honest discussion about the responsibilities and expectation that being home alone brings. To get more tips on how to determine if your child is ready check out the Factsheet for Families' from the Children's Bureau.  

Check out these great kid friendly lunch ideas!

Charcuterie Board for Kids

Picky eats can test the patience of any parent or caregiver and during the long days of summer break that frustration is multiplied. The summer months are a perfect time to take advantage of lower cost fresh fruits and vegetables. This kid friendly charcuterie board will have kids happily eating their veggies. 

  • Baked boneless chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken cut into bite size pieces 
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes 
  • Red, yellow, or orange sweet bell peppers
  • String Cheese
  • Veggie Dip
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Berries

Line the outside of a large cutting board or platter with the fresh cut fruits and vegetables. In the center place two small bowls. Fill one bowl with the diced chicken and string cheese and the other with the veggie dip. Place on the table with small plates and napkins and let the kids dig in! 

More Great Kid Friendly Summer Recipes