Can Kids #Playoutdoors Alone?

girl on scooterI just saw this come through the news feed and thought, “I’m sure that this has been a hot topic of conversation on the boards.”  Playoutdoors proponents must be screaming about the injustice – you can leave your child to play alone in the basement, but out on an empty street (on a cul-de-sac no less), and the neighbors call the cops!

Mom arrested for letting kids play outside

Here’s the original article in the Huff Post. Now, I’m not one to leave my kids unsupervised for any length of time, but they do (at 3 and 5) occasionally play in the backyard while I’m cooking dinner (I watch through the kitchen wind0w).  This seems to be commonly referred to as the “through the window” view used by mom’s everywhere.  No, they aren’t allowed in the street unsupervised, but they also aren’t yet 6 or 9.  There are opinions on this issue from each end of the spectrum from “when I was a kid. . .(insert left home unattended, rode bike across town, was gone for hours etc) to “people need to keep their kids in sight at all times, have you any idea the number of pedophiles out there?”.  I think the answer is somewhere in the middle, and varies from parent to parent and kid to kid.

What are the current laws on leaving kids unattended in cars?

In Pennsylvania, there are “kids and cars” laws that dictate that children under 6 should not be left alone in a car.  14 states have similar laws (found here on kidsandcars.org).

What are state laws for leaving kids home alone?

PA State laws (and generally most other states) do not directly address age of children being home alone, but general consensus seems to be age 12. The official “Latchkey age registriction” list by state is shockingly non specific.

There seems to be a large disparity between kids unattended in cars (which is ultimately a safety issue due to a lack of temperature control and risk of overheating/hypothermia) and leaving kids home alone (something that seems to be subjective rather than ruled by a specific law addressing a specific age).  Still, letting a child play outside unattended is even more vague and unregulated and it is difficult to know where and why the woman above might have been arrested.

Either way, the law most often only provides guidance for basic minimums, not best practices and while my 12 year old (when I have one) may not be allowed home alone, my 5 year old is allowed to play out back without my constant presence.  What are your thoughts about letting kids play outside unattended? What do you think about the home alone laws across our nation?

New River Gorge with Kids

New River Gorge Climbing Trip We finally made our way back to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of climbing.  It has been years (pre kids) since we had been to this area as it seemed to be a bit less kid friendly than other areas that we had been to.  Our ClimbingWeather.com app was showing predictions of snow on Friday night - and it wasn't far off.  The drive took us eons, especially in the Appalachians with the travel trailer.  We … [Read More...]

Hiking in a Creek

Have you ever started out on a day hike with children only to have it turn into something completely different that what you planned?  Ha. Of course you have. Many of our adventures start out as one thing ("I want to climb X route" or "sleep at X campground". . . "I want to relax in a tube on the water", or "I want to sleep in the sand") and end up as something completely different ("The route had a group staked out on it for the day" or "I couldn't … [Read More...]

Climbing Gym Etiquette With Kids

Tips for taking kids to the climbing gym. There are few things more troublesome than going to a new place and not knowing the spoken and unspoken rules.  Add to the uncertainty the presence of children, and it can be quite intimidating to enter into unknown territory.   For those new to indoor climbing and/or new to indoor climbing with kids, here are a few tips for bringing your kids to the gym. Those that know me will laugh at the irony. . . My … [Read More...]

Stand Up Paddleboarding

The best rock climbing areas tend to be located in or near wilderness, national parks, mountains, and forests.  There are exceptions, of course!  Still, when we took a family trip to the jersey shore this summer, there was no rock to be found.  As usual, my husband and I sought out something both "active" and "family friendly" to try with the kids. Surfing, Kite Surfing, Kayaking Ryan has wanted to try surfing for years, but that's a solo endeavor, as … [Read More...]

The Mount Rushmore Dilemma

Visiting Mount Rushmore with Kids Our summer trip to Wyoming and South Dakota was amazing.  We combined climbing with family time, history, geography, science and more.  When we planned the trip, climbing was the main focus, but hitting some of the National Parks and National Monuments were also a must.  Mount Rushmore is one of those locations that combines both.  There are amazing climbing opportunities in the shadow of the National Monument.  There are … [Read More...]

About Laura Boniello Miller

Laura Miller is a internet marketing professional and a mother of two. Her interests include sport climbing, bouldering, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She believes that playing outdoors is integral to health and well being, and that if your kids aren't dirty, they haven't had enough fun.