What age can my child be left alone at home?

As a parent you are required to adequately provide for the supervision of your children at all times. Parents and legal guardians are ultimately responsible for the safety of children in their care.

In Ontario, the Child & Family Services Act does not specifically state a minimum age your child must be before you can leave them unsupervised. It does explain that caregivers should not leave children under the age of 16 alone without making reasonable arrangements for their care and expressly says children under the age of 16 are not permitted to be out alone between midnight and 6am.

According to Durham Children’s Aid Society, you may leave a child alone for a short period of time without supervision starting from the age of 10; keeping in mind that every child is different.

Here are some questions to help you decide whether it is appropriate to leave your child alone for a short period:

  • How old is your child?
  • What is your child’s behaviour generally like?
  • Is your child home from school with an illness?
  • Does your child have special needs that may impact decision making?
  • How long will your child be left alone?
  • Does your child know where you will be and how they can reach you?
  • Is the emergency contact person for your child easily reached?
  • Does your child know your house rules when you are not there?

It is important for you to keep in mind that every child and situation is different and you should consider these as a guideline only.

What should I consider if I need a short-term babysitter?

There is no age specified by law for what age a teenager can start babysitting. As a parent, you must consider if a teenager is responsible enough to provide a safe environment for your younger children.

Questions you might ask a potential teenage babysitter:

  • Have they taken a certified babysitting course?
  • Do they have previous babysitting experience with positive references?
  • Are they good with younger child? Can they watch more than one child at a time?

It is good to keep in mind that younger babysitters are not used for long periods of time.

How do I find long-term child care?

Child care services in Ontario are in high demand and have long waiting lists. You may not get a spot right away. It is important to plan ahead if you need child care. When you contact child care providers it is important to ask a lot of questions. You can learn more about the kinds of questions to as in our article about finding child care in Ontario.

What are my child care options?

In Ontario, there are three basic types of child care, licensed child care centres (also known as daycare), licensed home care, and unlicensed child care. You can learn more about your child care options in our child care article.

Child care is expensive, but there may be options to help you pay for it, you can find more information on how to pay for child care at the Ministry of Education website.

You may qualify for other types child care benefits depending on which region or municipality that you live in. You can call 211 for free information about benefits and referrals to programs in your area.

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Last updated: August 18, 2020 4006326