Leaving children home alone can be a significant turning point for both parents and kids, but their safety is paramount. Whether it’s an unforeseen business meeting, a sick day home from school, or a childcare arrangement, you’ll likely have to leave your kid home alone at some point.
When this inevitable time comes, the first thing to do is decide whether your child is mature and responsible enough to remain at home alone. Age is a crucial factor, as is your kid’s comfort level. Most states have a minimum age for kids who can stay home alone (usually 11 years).
If your child can’t stay home alone, opt for after-school child care, local community programs, and more. So, back to our question: what are the safety tips for kids when home alone?
The safety tips for kids at home alone include not opening doors for strangers, not disclosing to anyone online that he is alone, managing common emergencies, and the rest, which we will outline later in this guide. Following these safety tips, children can feel confident and safe when home alone.
Why Is the Safety Of Kids Important, Especially When They Are Home Alone?
With changing lifestyles, it is almost certain that parents will have to leave their kids home alone at some point. However, most parents are concerned about their children’s safety at home.
At the same time, staying at home alone can be a rewarding experience for kids, allowing them to take a step toward self-reliance. It also offers them some much-needed freedom. But is their safety crucial, primarily when they are home alone? Check out these reasons:
Physical well-Being: Children are more susceptible to accidents when left alone. Home environments have potential hazards, like electrical appliances, open flames, chemicals, and protruding objects. Ensuring kids’ safety at home reduces the chances of accidents and encourages their physical well-being.
- Emergencies: Kids may face fires, intruders, or medical incidents when home alone. Knowing about safety precautions allows them to respond accordingly, saving lives and deterring further harm.
- Stranger danger: Children should be well-informed about not opening the door or providing personal information to strangers. Teaching them about the dangers of dealing with unknown people helps to protect them from harm when alone.
- Internet safety: The internet is only getting better each day, but with it comes the risks of kids being exposed to cyberbullying and inappropriate content. Teaching children about internet safety and responsible online behavior helps deter online harassment, identity theft, and so on.
- Emotional well-being: Staying home alone may sometimes evoke feelings of fear in children. Parents instill confidence and encourage emotional well-being in their absence by initiating safety measures. Parents can offer open communication lines, letting their kids know they can reach out if they’re uncomfortable or require assistance.
- Developing independence: Allowing kids to stay home themselves promotes independence and self-reliance. However, ensuring they are safe and secure throughout this transition period is vital for their growth.
Overall, it is important to prioritize children’s safety when they are home alone. By providing them with the necessary knowledge and precautions, parents encourage their kids to deal with risks responsibly, enhancing a safe environment for them to grow.
Safety Tips for Kids When Home Alone
As mentioned earlier, kids’ safety at home should be the top priority for all parents. By implementing the following tips, you can be confident that your child is safe even in your absence:
- Keep Emergency Contacts Handy
Give your kid the phone numbers of everyone you think he can get in touch with during an emergency. It would be better to stick a list of these numbers on the refrigerator or doors and ensure it includes your contacts, numbers of relatives, and trusted neighbors.
Teach your kids how to dial these numbers during an emergency and instruct them only to receive calls from known numbers.
- Teach Your Kids to Lock Doors
Teach kids how to lock doors, emphasizing keeping them secure throughout. This will keep intruders from entering the house and prevent younger kids from finding their way out. Instruct them to avoid opening the door to unknown persons: instead, they should use a peephole or window to confirm the identity of any guest.
Another tip is telling your kids not to accept strangers’ gifts. This will prevent them from being kidnapped or raped. Make sure they understand ‘stranger danger’.
- Create an Emergency Plan
Tell your kid what to do during an emergency. Create the exact procedure he should follow in a dire situation, like a stranger persistently knocking on the door or a power outage.
The best way to teach your child is through role-play and recurrent drills where you engage in various scenarios. You can print the emergency action plan and hang it where your child can see it.
- Fire Safety
Educate your kids about fire safety precautions, including identifying fire exits, using fire extinguishers correctly, and evacuation drills. Ensure they understand the essence of vacating the house and contacting the fire department during a fire outbreak.
- Household Hazards
Educate kids about household hazards, like electrical appliances, repairing tools, and sharp objects. They might try to play with these objects out of curiosity.
Stress the importance of not playing with deadly items such as matches and lighters. You’ll also want to lock away guns, power tools, ammunition, razor blades, hand tools, scissors, and other objects that can trigger injury.
- Safe Activities
Create guidelines for appropriate activities when home alone. For example, you can set restrictions on using certain appliances, engaging in outdoor play, or cooking without supervision. Emphasize the importance of engaging in safe and age-appropriate activities, like reading books.
Additionally, you can create a routine for your kids to follow when you are away. This should keep them away from mischief. Teach them basic first aid and keep a first aid box at their disposal with supplies, such as antiseptic cream and Band-Aid.
- Keep Food and Medicine Ready
Stock the dining area with food and non-messy snacks. Ensure your child won’t need to use the stove to prepare food. At the most, you may settle for letting him warm his food in a microwave.
Also, specify the utensils he can use, set aside the precise medication dosage (if he’s on regular medication), and keep the remaining out of reach.
- No Inviting Friends
Peer pressure is an issue every parent fears, and considering it comes from kids of a similar age group as your kids make it more challenging to handle. Instruct your child not to bring friends home in your absence, as they can introduce him to bad behaviors.
- No Entering Certain Rooms Unsupervised
As your children develop, you may no longer need to use safety gadgets like baby gates because they have outgrown them. So what you should do as a parent is to guide your kids in the rooms they’re not permitted to access, including the laundry and kitchen.
- Have Grills on Large Open Windows
When you are at home, kids often act innocent because they want to avoid being disciplined. However, they may engage in mischief when you are away. They will climb on prohibited platforms and peer far out of the window. As such, you should install grills on open windows.
- Teach Kids About Their Body
The cases of kids being sexually assaulted by unknown persons and even familiar people are increasing. It would help to educate children about the risks surrounding them.
Educating them about their bodies early will protect them from misinformation online. Also, this safety precaution will ensure your kid understands how to conduct themselves and how those in their surroundings should interact.
- Close Balconies and Terraces
Balconies and terraces can create a danger zone, especially when kids are left unsupervised. Kids might climb and fall, and birds can fly into the house. So the only way to restrict kids from accessing these areas is by locking them and keeping the keys with you.
Creating a safe environment is another way to keep kids safe at home. Keep walkways clear of barriers, ensure proper lighting throughout the house, and keep emergency supplies, like flashlights and a charged phone, within their reach.
- Keep Poisonous Substances Out of Reach
Insecticides, toilet cleaners, mosquito repellents, pesticides, and paints, present a poisoning risk in case kids inhale or ingest them. Keep these and similar substances out of their reach before leaving home.
- Password-Protect Your Child
If you’re unwilling to lock your kids in, create a password system with them. This will help them distinguish friends from strangers. You can memorize a word that will serve as your child’s password.
Only those who know the password should be allowed to enter. You and your kid can also memorize a sentence to make this trick work.
For example, your child can recite the first half of the sentence, and the person wanting to access the house should recite the remaining part. It’s also advisable to create a question-answer password system.
- Promise a Reward
Nothing encourages good behavior more than a reward. So after giving your child all the necessary guidelines, tell him you will buy them a gift if they follow all the instructions and avoid getting into trouble.
- Teach Kids to Use Home Security Systems
If you have a security system, familiarize kids with its working mechanism. Show them how to activate panic buttons and arm or disarm the system, among other basics.
- Have Trustworthy Persons Check-In
Another essential safety tip is having a reliable neighbor or friend check on your kid at least once when you’re not home. Inform your child and the guardian about this plan in advance.
You should also develop ground rules for how your child can notify the guardian that he is safe and sound. For instance, he can choose not to open the door but instead come to the window and wave.
Note: Ensure you do not instill fear in your kids as you educate them about safety rules for staying home alone.
How Do You Know When Your Child Is Ready to Stay Home Alone?
Self-care can be a great milestone for children who are prepared for it. It assists them in developing independence and can provide them confidence in their capacities. However, self-care can be terrifying and dangerous if the kid is unprepared.
So, how do you know when your kid is ready to stay home alone?
In some states, children above 11 years are considered mature enough to stay home alone. While there is no standard age at which kids develop the maturity needed to stay by themselves, some signs indicate your child might be ready. Check out these essential tips:
- Age and Legal Requirements
Verify the legal requirements in your jurisdiction concerning the minimum age for kids to be left unsupervised at home. While age alone is not the only indicator of preparedness, it presents a general guideline.
- Maturity and Responsibility
Assess your child’s maturity level and responsibility. Is he aware of others’ needs? Is he receptive to your instructions? Can he think critically, make sound decisions and respond accordingly to unexpected situations? Does he demonstrate accountability in his daily activities? Does he know how to seek assistance from emergency services?
Children who can prepare for school on time, solve problems independently, and complete homework and household tasks with minimal supervision have the necessary skills to care for themselves when left alone. For most children, these abilities start to develop between 10 to 12 years.
- Safety Awareness
Evaluate your kid’s understanding of safety precautions and their ability to identify and avoid possible threats. Have you discussed safety topics like stranger awareness, handling emergencies, and using household appliances carefully? Are they familiar with basic first-aid procedures? They should be well-informed about these basic safety tips before they’re ready to stay home alone.
- Communication Skills
Assess your child’s communication skills. Can they express their needs, concerns, or fears effectively? Your child should communicate with you easily about interests and fears. Excellent parent-child communication is necessary so you can discuss and handle any fears arising from staying home alone.
Equally important is your child’s comfort level with the idea of remaining at home alone. Are they enthusiastic about this idea, or do they express fear or anxiety? If your child exhibits these signs, consider leaving them home alone, but only briefly. It’s also advisable to do so during the day rather than at night because emergency services can easily be available in the daytime. Also, many kids can develop fears in the course of the night.
Remember, kids are different, and readiness to remain home alone varies. It would help to make wise decisions depending on your child’s characteristics and abilities.
- Preparing Your Child
If your child is comfortable and ready for self-care, give them some guidelines and training. Involve them in decisions and discussions affecting them. Children are likely to follow the rules if they understand why they exist and take part in developing them.
Here’s what children should know:
House rules about:
- Use of leisure time (TV and the rest)
- Caring for siblings
- Talking on the phone
- Appropriate snacks and meals
- Specific responsibilities and activities
- Use of appliances responsibly
- Checking in with a responsible adult
- Having friends at home
- Vacating the house
How to respond in situations like:
- Being locked out
- Being lonely, bored, or nervous
- Arguments with siblings
The Skills Children Should Have
Telephone Skills Like
- A list of emergency phone numbers
- Know how to respond to incoming calls
- Know what to say in emergencies: know the address and phone number
- Understand the reasons for calling parents or other reliable persons for help
Personal Safety Skills Like
- How to answer the door when left alone
- How to respond when strangers or familiar people touch them inappropriately
- What to do if approached by unknown persons
- How to close and unlock doors and windows
Home Safety Skills Like
- Basic first aid skills and when to seek help
- What to do in case of power outages or severe storms
- How to respond if they smell gas or smoke in case of a fire
- Kitchen safety, including the use of tools and knives, etc.
This knowledge instills confidence in your kids and will help them handle emergencies correctly. It would be better to give information to them one at a time rather than all at once. Too much information can be challenging to retain at one time.
Create some scenarios and have your kids act out their reactions. For example, pretend you’re an outsider at the door requesting to use the phone to contact a tow truck or a sales agent wanting to leave free samples. Giving your kids such examples and having them respond will help them develop quick responses if the situation occurs in real life.
You should not assume your kids have understood just because you instructed them what to do. You’ll discover what they thought was important through role-playing and discussing various scenarios. Then, you’ll have the chance to reinforce key points or ask questions. Think about what might go astray and brainstorm remedies with your kid.
Try it Out
If you’re considering leaving your young one alone, you should conduct some trial runs first. You can achieve this by leaving the kid alone for a set period while you go to a meeting, shopping, or visiting a neighbor. After the experience, discuss how it felt and pay close attention to reactions.
If it works as expected, continue the trial runs with slight variations. Increase the length of your absence and provide the specific guidelines to be followed. Sit down with your child after each experience and discuss how it went and felt. If there are issues with fear or unwillingness to accept responsibilities, the child might not be prepared for self-care.
If the signs dictate that the child can assume the responsibilities, keep communication lines open to discuss arising issues.
Regularly review house rules and safety precautions with your child. Children forget information quickly, primarily if it’s rarely used. However, this little-used knowledge, like what to do during a fire, may at one point be essential for your child’s safety.
What Are Home Hazards Among Children?
Various household hazards endanger children, the most deadly being electric shock, poisoning, and burns. Here are common home hazards among children:
Falls can cause serious injuries among kids. Unsecured staircases, unstable furniture like bookshelves, slippery floors, cluttered walkways, and the absence of safety gates or guards on balconies and large windows often cause them.
Prevention measures: Use wall brackets or anchors to secure furniture. Install safety gates at the top and base of the staircases. Check that floors are always clean and dry, and use non-slip rugs. Lastly, remove clutter from walkways.
Kids are curiosity-driven and can be tempted to explore their surroundings by inserting things in their mouths. Medications, cleaning supplies, and household chemicals can be harmful if ingested. Also, kids can mistake things like laundry detergent pods for sweets.
Prevention measures: Put harmful substances in locked cabinets. Keep toxic products in their original containers and properly toss out expired medications.
- Burns and Scalds
Kids have sensitive skin and are more susceptible to burns. Hot surfaces, like radiators, stoves, and irons, can trigger burns if touched with bare hands. Spilled hot liquids, like boiling water or milk, can scald.
Unattended open flames, like candles and overloaded power outlets, are also fire hazards.
Preventive measures: Don’t leave candles unattended. Install smoke detectors and educate children about fire safety. Use stove guards to deter young ones from accessing hot surfaces. Keep kids far from the kitchen area when cooking. Also, keep hot liquids out of children’s reach and use spill-proof mugs.
- Electrical Hazards
If a kid touches exposed electrical outlets by mouth, finger, or foot, he can be electrocuted. Also, accessible electrical devices, like hair dryers, can be harmful if kids tamper.
Preventive measures: Use tamper-resistant outlets and cord shorteners to deter kids from pulling on them. Check cords regularly for damage and replace the worn-out cords. Keep electrical devices out of reach or unplug them if not in use. Above all, have a fire extinguisher handy and ensure household members learn how to use them.
- Suffocation and Choking
Young ones are at risk of suffocation and choking because they’re curiosity-driven and tend to put things in their mouth. Balloons, coins, and other small objects can present suffocation hazards.
Prevention measures: Keep small objects and plastic bags out of children’s reach to deter suffocation. Check that sleeping areas are safe and free of loose bedding, pillows, and toys with small parts.
- Firearms and Weapons
Accidental firearms discharges can cause severe injuries among kids. You can prevent this risk by storing firearms and weapons in locked cabinets or safes. Use cable locks for extra safety.
Unsupervised access to bathtubs, buckets, and swimming pools can bring about drowning incidents, especially for young kids. Avoid leaving kids unsupervised near water sources and empty buckets after use.
Note: Understanding these household hazards and initiating the appropriate measures can reduce risks of injuries, creating a safer surrounding for kids.
What Should Children Do Incase of Hazards When Home Alone?
Teaching young ones how to respond during hazards when home alone can save them from potential injuries. Check out these guidelines for kids to follow in various emergency scenarios:
Fire or Smoke
- Vacate the house immediately following pre-established escape routes. (Only if it’s safe)
- Crawl low beneath the smoke to avoid breathing toxic gasses.
- If unable to evacuate, go to a well-ventilated room and lock the door. Put a towel under the door to obstruct smoke.
- Contact emergency lines like 911.
- Stay near windows and signal for help by shouting for attention or waving bright materials.
- Call the designated emergency phone number immediately if the condition is life-threatening.
- If the condition allows, the child should administer basic first aid.
- Call a reliable relative or neighbor to help.
- Stay far from exposed electrical appliances or power lines.
- Use a battery-powered lantern for lighting rather than candles to deter fire hazards. A flashlight can also suffice.
- Call the designated emergency numbers immediately to inform authorities about the incident.
- Avoid opening doors or windows to unknown persons.
- If a perpetrator attempts to break into the house, find a safe room or closet and be quiet.
Injury or Accidents
- Determine the extent of the injury. If it’s minor, the child should conduct basic first aid measures. If it’s severe injuries, he should immediately call the emergency services.
- Seek help from a trusted neighbor.
It’s normal for parents to be concerned about leaving their kids unsupervised. But the good news is that you can feel prepared and confident with some safety tips for kids when home alone. Key safety tips include knowing emergency contact information, avoiding risky activities, closing doors at all times, and knowing fire safety measures.
Children should be well-versed in potential household hazards and how to deter accidents like furniture tip-overs and electrical shocks. Above all, regular drills and ongoing supervision will boost your child’s readiness and confidence when left alone.