Do you remember the first time your parents left you alone? It's usually not a date that's burned in our memories. My parents would leave us alone and it was no big deal.  They'd go to the store and we would sit & watch TV.  They'd go to work while we sat at home on summer break. They'd go to bowling league every Tuesday and we went to sleep on our own.

That's the way it worked. It's all we ever knew.


Something Changed

At some point, the switch happened. Maybe it was because Gen Xers thought about how we were raised a little TOO "free-ranged" and once we had kids we didn't want to extend the same length (or non-existent) leash to our own children.

No doubt, our parents never asked "When is it ok to leave our kids home alone?" They were of the generation who brought babies home in a cardboard box stored on the dashboard for the ride.

That's not an exaggeration. That's literally how I was brought home from the hospital.

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Maybe we know more or maybe we're more paranoid.

These days, according to, it is estimated that "over 40% of children are left home at some time, though rarely overnight." When we grew up that number was for sure close to 100%.


When Is It Legal To Leave Kids Home Alone?

Before we get to Illinois let's look at our neighboring states.

  • Iowa: According to, in Iowa, "there's no age in state law at which children are deemed responsible enough to be home alone. That means it's a judgment call each parent must make."

In Wisconsin, the rules are pretty loose too.

  • Wisconsin: According to, "Wisconsin does not have statutes or regulations that state the age at which a child may be left unsupervised, or left in charge of other children."

In Illinois, rules were a bit more strict, but that's recently changed.

  • Illinois: The STRICTEST age limit of 14 but in March of this year, "the Illinois House unanimously passed a bill to eliminate the nation's strictest standard for how old children must be to be left home alone"

So now in Illinois, formerly the nation's strictest standard, you can pretty much decide for yourself at what age you can leave your kids home alone.

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