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News / Northwest

At what age is it OK to leave your child at home? Here’s what Washington state law says

By Rosemary Montalvo, The News Tribune
Published: June 23, 2024, 6:02am

TACOMA — School is out and the kids are home for the summer, which means parents and guardians will now have to find ways to keep them busy for the next couple of months.

While summer camps and other childcare options are available to keep kids busy and out of the house, not every parent can afford to enroll their children in summer programs.

  • Is leaving your child home alone an option in Washington state?

Here’s what to know about leaving your children home alone in Washington, and how to prepare them.

  • What age can a child be home alone in WA?

Washington State does not have clear laws that specify the exact age when children are allowed to stay home alone.

However, according to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families, children under the age of 10 years old should not be left alone.

Other experts say children between the ages of 11 or 12 years old are fine to be left home alone for a few hours a day, while children aged 8 or 9 years old should only be left alone for 30 minutes or so every once in a while, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Preparing your child to stay home alone

If your child is old enough to be home alone, it is important to make a plan and set rules with them.

Here are some things you should do to prepare your child to be home alone, according to the AAP:

  • Post key contact information details in a visible place such as the refrigerator
  • Make sure your child is familiar with when and how to call 911
  • Have a first aid kit that is easily accessible
  • Show your child where emergency supplies are located
  • Show your child how to turn on and turn off an alarm if you have one
  • Practice using kitchen appliances if they are allowed to use them while they are alone
  • Make an emergency exit plan