My boys are in Grade 1 and 2 and as much as I'd love to leave them at home to run an errand now and then, they are definitely not mature enough to handle the responsibility.
The thing is, they will always be my little boys. I will always worry about them and want to protect them. My brain will always think to worst-case scenarios and err on the side of caution. They might never seem mature enough to me. What if someone comes to the door? What if there's a fire? Will they know what to do?
The problem is they often would rather stay home than run errands with me. Getting them out the door so we can get groceries is a battle. We aren't even able to have a dog even though they desperately want one because I can't leave them home alone to walk the dog in the rain. They would have to walk in bad weather with me. The situation is limiting, for them and me, and I often wonder at what age they can be left on their own for even a little bit.
I have friends with kids only slightly older than mine and it seems life changing when you can run out and leave your kids at home. I think back to when I was younger and I clearly remember walking home from school when I was the same age as my boys. I used to babysit for my neighbours' kids when I was only a few years older than my oldest. My boyfriend used to take the TTC to grade school.
So at what age is it appropriate? Does it depend on the age of your kids? Their level of maturity? Do they need to take a babysitting or CPR course first? Or does it just depend on when I'm ready to let go? I'm honestly not sure I'll ever be ready . . . or that they will be.
There's no federal law that addresses the topic in Canada. The age at which a child can be left and for how long is mainly up to different jurisdictions. Where I live, 10 seems to be the benchmark, as safety courses are geared toward kids this age.
For instance, St. John Ambulance offers a safety program for kids 10 and up. (Visit sja.ca.) Babysitting courses tend to be offered for kids ages 12 and up at Red Cross. (redcross.ca.). They'll cover the basics of first aid, solving problems and preventing injuries.
When my kids are older and more mature, I will probably sign them up for these courses before I leave them at home alone for even a few minutes. I want them to be independent and confident in their skills. I want to learn to let go, but that time hasn't arrived yet.
For now, my kids will have to come to the store with me, even if I have to bribe them to get them out the door.