This is a question that I get asked on a weekly basis. This is a complicated question that has so many variables.
As our children grow from toddlers, to young children, before we know it, they are at the age that they want to start staying at home alone, or start babysitting the neighbor to make extra cash! Sometimes this creeps up on us so fast that we just aren't prepared to deal with leaving our ‘babies’ to take care of babies.
There are not any real rules or laws regarding age frames for staying at home alone or for babysitting. There are just recommendations from our local Children's Aid Societies, as to when it may be appropriate for your child. You can check on your local Children’s Aid Society website, as most sites have a section to read regarding these topics.
As every child is different, you need to decide if your child is prepared to handle any and all emergencies that may arise, while at home alone, or while taking care of another person.
Just because your child is 10 years old now, this doesn't mean that they have to start staying at home alone. Or, now that your child is 12 years old, they can now start babysitting their sibling. As all children develop at different rates, stages and time frames, it is hard to give a specific age as to when is right to start staying home alone and babysitting.
You may want to ask your kids if they are ready? Ask them if they are interested in staying home alone or babysitting? You may be surprised to hear the feelings and ideas around this new topic. You should get a feeling as to when your child is maturing, and when you feel that they can handle emergencies that arise. Also, just because they have either The Home Alone Course with First Aid, or The Babysitters Course under their belt, doesn't mean that they have to start staying at home alone or babysitting right away.
On the other side of the spectrum, you may have a very mature 8 year old who you know could handle staying at home alone, or walking home alone and using their house key to enter the house. They may be confident and ready. You may have a 10 year old girl who already has her babysitter’s kit ready and cannot wait to take care of the neighbor’s baby! This is when you need to teach them the basics to help equip their eagerness to start staying at home alone and babysitting.
Whatever avenue you choose for your young adult, adding any type of educational information to your child’s life, can only better equip them to tackle life as best that they can.