When Can Children Start Going Out Alone?

When children want to start going out alone for the first time, their parents may now know if the time is right. Here's advice on how to tell if your child is ready or not!
When Can Children Start Going Out Alone?
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

It isn’t easy for parents to see their children growing up and distancing themselves from them. Finding a balance between providing space and overprotection can be quite a challenge. When children want to start going out alone, fears and insecurity arise in their parents whether the time is right.

There’s no precise age at which children can start going out alone. This will depend on many internal and external factors. However, one of the most determining elements regarding whether the time has come is the child’s degree of autonomy.

When children can start going out alone is a matter of autonomy

As a parent, thinking about letting go of the reins and gradually allowing your children small periods of freedom can scare you. Despite this, it’s your duty and responsibility to raise capable and independent children.

Autonomy isn’t something that children acquire automatically when they reach a certain age. Instead, it’s a skill that develops progressively from the first years of life.

It’s important for you to assign small chores and responsibilities to your children. Getting children used to setting the table, cleaning their room, or preparing their school backpack will help them build self-confidence and have a sense of personal worth.

When Can Children Start Going Out Alone?

A child who’s been entrusted with responsibilities since they were very young will have developed the ability to reason and solve problems. They’ll be more prepared to face the world on their own than a child who’s always been overprotected.

Factors to consider

In addition to autonomy, other factors also influence the decision of when to allow children to start going out alone.

  • The child’s personality. Some children are more adventurous and determined, while others are more fearful. The decision to start going out alone to places is totally personal, meaning that your child must make it themselves. You shouldn’t force your child to do so nor compare them to their peers.
  • The distance to travel. Allowing your child to go to the bakery across the street or throwing out the garbage isn’t the same as letting them walk to their school, which is 15 minutes away.
  • The safety of the environment. If you live in a small, quiet town or in a residential area, it’ll be safer to let your child go out alone with their friends than if you live in a big city.

Guidelines to help your child start going out alone

  • There’s no specific and valid age for all cases. However, experts recommended against allowing children to go out alone before they’re 9 or 10, as they don’t have the cognitive maturity to recognize and evaluate dangers.
  • Progressively give your child autonomy. Start by leaving your child home alone while you go out to run errands nearby. Later, switch roles and let them go out without you. If you live in a residential area, let them play with their friends without your supervision.
When Can Children Start Going Out Alone?
  • The first few times they travel long distances without you, such as the distance to school, it’s preferable for them to do so in the company of their siblings or friends.
  • Before leaving your home, offer them age-appropriate information on the dangers and situations to consider. For example, avoiding suspicious people, choosing the safest routes, and memorizing their parents’ address and phone number.
  • However, you must avoid overwhelming and scaring them by listing excessive risks, especially if you don’t also give them instructions on how to act. Warm them but don’t cause paralyzing insecurity.
  • Pose some situations and ask them how they’d act in them. This way, you help them reason and look for coping solutions, in addition to giving value to their opinions, which will reinforce their self-confidence.
  • Rehearse situations with them. This way, you’ll see if your child has assimilated the instructions and also help them face difficulties that may arise the first few times. In addition, begin by accompanying your child during their journey but allow them to make the decisions. Later, allow the child to walk alone in front of you while you supervise them from behind until they finally feel prepared to do so alone.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.