Skip Nav
Shutterbug: 10 Pictures to Take on Baby's First Day
Enough With the Droopy Tops — We Have 32 of the Best Maternity Clothes
Little Kids
The Hysterical Differences Between Your First and Second Child

What Is the Appropriate Age to Leave Kids in Car?

I ran into the grocery store for a few items over the weekend. While exiting with my kids, I noticed a baby in the backseat of a vehicle and did a double take since there were no passengers in the front of the parked car. The child looked to be about a year old and was sound asleep. Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was another little girl seated next to him reading a book. Though she was small, I figured she was about seven or eight-years-old since she was engrossed in a thick paperback.

The SUV was packed with presents and a few balloons as if the family was headed to a party, the sun roof was cracked, the doors were locked and the youngsters looked well cared for, but I still worried about them being left in the car alone. Though there is much debate and even laws in certain states about latchkey kids and when it's alright to leave children home alone, when is it appropriate to let them sit unattended in the car?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Mary15038483 Mary15038483 3 years
I wouldn't leave my kids in the car unless the oldest is a teen, mine are close in age but only for getting gas or something like that but not somewhere that will take more than 10 minutes. I was never allowed to sit in the car by myself unless there was an adult.
Shannon-N-Tommy2732776 Shannon-N-Tommy2732776 5 years
I'd say 11 is about the right middle child is 11, and only for the last few months have I been comfortable enough to leave her for 3-5 minutes to grab a cup of coffee from the coffee shop on the way to work/school.  She likes to squeeze in a few more minutes of study time for any tests that day...NOT going to insist on interrupting that.  Sometimes she comes in with me.  Sometimes I MAKE her come in with me if I get a "weird" feeling about leaving her.  (Am I the only one who gets those?)  My friends tell me I'm overprotective...I won't let her play in the yard unattended, or walk 2 blocks down to her friend's house without me standing in the driveway watching her.  I take the job of keeping her safe very seriously.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 8 years
just today in norwalk california a man left his kids in the car while running into the store, when he came back his car was gone along with his children. a local buisness caught the whole thing on tape so hopefully they will find the kids
domino2728 domino2728 8 years
well I guess it depends on where you live but I would never leave my kids in the car. If they are 8 or older what kind of trouble will it be for them to just go into the store with you. Aside from that it is absolutely illegal to leave your children in the car in Texas, I am not sure what the age cut off is but I am pretty sure an 8 year old cannot be left in charge of an infant or toddler. The police can actually take you to jail and have CPS pick up your kids and they have!
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
I'm with you, dani. It really depends on so many factors. My initial response was to say around 10, but it's so situational. It depends on the child(ren), the length of time he will be left alone, the neighborhood, etc.
plus_2_kid plus_2_kid 8 years
I agree with Akpril. 8 is pretty old. I waited in the car reading all the time when my mom went grocery shopping. It was win-win.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 8 years
i would never leave a child in the car alone or with another child. it only takes a few seconds for someone to snatch up a child. a child or even two can not fight off a adult who is trying to take them. age 12+ then maybe if its only for a short time and i leave them with pepper spray or something to protect them.
Sarana Sarana 8 years
I think children can be left in de car from about 6 years old. Especially if it's more than 1 child and it's just for a few minutes. If someone would keep watch on my car I would probably glare at them too! We all parent differently and should respect each others choices.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
i would probably have stuck around until the parents showed up. we were over by costco a few weeks ago, at a speciality food store. there was a car parked on the street with a child about 6 in it. she was looking around a little nervously and not seeing anyone i walked over to where she was and asked where her mommy was. she knew enough not to talk to me, so i walked (with my girls) about 15 feet away and waited. it was about 5 minutes before her dad came out of a pool supply store across the street. it's not a very nice area, and i thought it was a poor choice. then he glared at me :oy: i don't leave my kids in the car alone EVER. my husband will, for something like a receipt at the gas station, or to get a replacement item at the drive through. i wish he wouldn't. 12 seems old enough to be in the car w/o adult supervision during the day, in a nice neighborhood, safe weather (lol, guess it will be awhile).
Akpril Akpril 8 years
I think an 8 year old watching a baby in a grocery store parking lot is perfectly fine. Most 8 year olds are capable of watching a kid for 5 minutes.
dani17731 dani17731 8 years
Ehhh...this is tough. It really depends on the neighborhood, how long you'll be gone, and the maturity of the kid. I only started leaving my little cousins when I go in for gas this year, and only because she's 9 and he's 12 and almost 6'2". I think he could fight someone off. I probably am a little more wary about it because they're not my kids, so I really couldn't say.
Chrstne Chrstne 8 years
I wouldn't leave my kid in the car. No way. I mean, there are psycho's out there. There are crazy drivers who slam into cars in parking lots. As a kid, I was terrified to be in the car alone. Since I was scared as a kid, I guess I am scared as an adult thinking about what I would do with my kids. My parents never left either of us in the car. I would rather take the time to get the kids put together and out of the car and take them in for a 2 minute trip than compromise their safety.
MuppetsForDinner MuppetsForDinner 8 years
I think it's fine for an 8 yr old to stay in the car to finish her book if you're just running in quickly. I do take issue with the baby she's left to watch... couldn't someone stay?
Teacher's Extra Homework Note Before Exams
What School Is Like For Kids
Homework-Burning Parties
Kids Getting Perfect Attendance Awards at School
From Our Partners
Latest Moms
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds