Family Parenting

Home alone: 7 tips for leaving kids in the house

Home Alone
Avatar photo
Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

The news that John Heard, the dad in the Home Alone films, died last week got us thinking.

However funny the Home Alone films are (the first two. Only), the mum yd dad were inexplicability ghastly at their parental job.

Surprisingly, there is no current law in the UK proscribing a minimum age for leaving children home alone. The NSPCC advises that, ‘children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time.’ While, ‘children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight.’ You don’t even need to refer to the charity’s glaring advice on babies and toddlers.

But there will come a time when you have to leave your children alone in the house. When that happens, here are seven tips to help it run smoothly…

Doors and windows

Do a test run to make sure they know how to use all of the locks on the doors (and chains) and windows. Tell them about the importance of not answering the door unless they know who it is.


If you don’t have a house phone, make sure they have a way of contacting you if they need to (assuming they don’t have a mobile phone). Give them someone else to contact if they can’t get hold of you first. If you’re friendly with the next-door neighbour, let them know you’re leaving your child alone and ask if they can go there in an emergency. Bore ‘999’ into their heads.

It was only a friend

If you don’t want any of their friends coming over while you’re out, let it be known. It might that all they’ll do is quietly watch a film or play computer games. But then again that friend might invite the other friend who invites that friend who tells the other… It could get messy.

Hell’s kitchen

As a general rule, younger children shouldn’t be turning on the oven or cooker without adult supervision. Or using sharp kitchen utensils. It depends on the age of your child but if you feel they are too young to play in the kitchen, leave a cooked meal or give them money for a takeaway as a treat.

Pet sounds

If you own a pet, like a dog, make sure they know what to do with it if it needs feeding, watering, etc.

Rule rules rules

Write up a list of all rules. Be very specific. Get them to sign it and stick it on the fridge as a reminder.

Speak up

Are they concerned about being left alone? Ask them. Maybe they aren’t so confident about it. Reassure them that they’ll be fine. (As long as they obey your every rule.)