What is a latchkey kid? These are children who let themselves in or out of empty houses and supervise themselves for an hour or more each day. Now that school has started, many children will find themselves coming home to an empty house.
How do you know if a child can be home alone? They should not be afraid to stay alone and should be able to follow directions. Make sure they are willing to follow certain rules like doing their homework and doing chores. The best thing to do is ask a child if he or she wants to stay alone. Most will answer truthfully.
Is cooking alone ok? Kids should never cook or bake without an adult. Plan snacks ahead of time so kids aren’t cooking alone. If they use the microwave, they should be very careful and only use microwave-safe dishes – no aluminum foil!
Who is in charge? A child younger than 10 cannot effectively supervise other children.
What is that sound? Make sure your children know what a smoke alarm sounds like. If the alarm sounds, tell your children to get out of the house fast and then call the fire department from a neighbor’s phone. They should not go back into the house for any reason unless the fire department has given the okay. Practice fire drills with your children so they know the sound of a smoke alarm, how to get out, and where to go in case of fire.
Lock the doors. Latchkey kids should keep the doors locked at all times and not open the door to anyone they do not know.
A good experience. Make the latchkey kid experience a good one. Prepare your children with carefully set rules, a daily schedule, chores, and a phone list. Have regular meetings to discuss how things are working.
By: Cinda Seamon, Fire & Life Safety Educator, HHI Fire Rescue