How Old is “Old Enough?”

kidbabysitterWhen I was growing up my friends and I were given a lot more freedom than kids today are.  I began babysitting my younger siblings when I was just 8 years old.  My siblings were 6 and 1.

At first my parents felt that they could safely leave me alone with my siblings for a few hours while they went across the street to play cards and have some cocktails with the neighbors.  They knew once my 6 year old sister was asleep she wouldn’t wake up, and that if my 1 year old brother awoke, I could competently change his diaper and/or give him a bottle and put him back to bed.

As time went on, i.e. I turned 9, my parents began having dinner out, going to high school football games, and making other trips out for a few hours knowing that I could safely hold down the fort.

About that same time I began sitting for other families on the street, even one that had 3 kids under the age of 3.  No one worried about the safety of their kids because they knew that I was competent enough to call my Mom a few doors down and then dial 911 if there was an emergency.

By the time I was 10 years old, my parents began spending all day and even entire evenings (until last call) out confident that I could take care of both of my siblings, prepare meals and get everyone into bed.  All of the neighbors were doing the same with their pre-teen children, except for my friend Shawna’s family who had a live-in.  Unless our parents were going to be gone over night, none of us had babysitters.

There are nosey neighbors in every neighborhood.  Most people know who they are and avoid their snoopy interference in their lives with tall fences, thick foliage, dark drapes, window tinting or blinds drawn (lol) so that they can’t be reported on.  In lieu of that kind of precaution, the woman behind the blog at Thirty Handmade Days, made a chart based on the state-by-state guidelines (if they even have them) for when it’s acceptable to leave children without adult supervision.


Had this chart been around as a reference in the late 1970’s my parents, and those of many of my friends, would have been reported and hauled in by the County Sheriff’s Department regularly!  Hmmm

Even without an official legal requirement in most states, in today’s overly intrusive, judgmental, busybody, litigious society, I’d recommend you leave the following on a laminated sheet secured by magnetic clothes pin type clamp on the refrigerator (just as a precaution of course) for when you decide your little darlings are ready to be left on their own:

  • Identify your child (ren) by name(s) & age (s) and which has been left in charge
  • State that the instruction has been given to call 911 in case of Fire or any other Emergency and that the second call is to be made to parents
  • In non-emergency, put the name of a neighbor or nearby relative that is aware the child(ren) is/are home unsupervised
  • State that you judge this child to be perfectly capable of the responsibility for the time that you are away from the home
  • Put your name, cell phone number as well as the other parent information
  • Sign the document.

Should there ever be a neighbor complaint that you have left the children unsupervised this will give whatever authority that is sent to investigate the information they need to reach you.

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