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

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

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Climbing Gym Etiquette With Kids

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Stand Up Paddleboarding

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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.