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At what age is it ok to leave them in the car?

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
I'm wondering at what age you think it's ok to leave your child in the car while you run inside some place?

I'm not talking about the mall or grocery store - I'm talking about parking right in front of some place and running in and right back out in a matter of seconds with the car in sight all the time.

Like the Post Office - it literally takes me 15 seconds to run inside, dump a box in the barrel and be back outside. I can see the car the entire time.

Or the dry cleaner. I can park and run in - I can see the car the entire time and am parked directly in front of the door.

My kids beg me to be allowed to stay in the car for short little things like this. They hate getting in and out. I try to reserve trips like that for when they're in school but, that's not always possible.

So, at what age do you start allowing your kids to stay in the car. Again, I'm not talking long trips into a grocery store or mall, I'm talking short trips where the car is in sight the entire time. My kids want me to start allowing them to do this and up to this point, I've not allowed it but, I'm wondering if I'm being over protective. They are almost 7rys old and 5.5 and very mature. They would stay in their car seats and read. But still......
post #2 of 42
Depending on circumstance, I sometimes leave my similarly aged children in the car. I've never understood the big hubub that people make over leaving a child locked in the car, keys taken out of the ignition, for less than a minute while the car remains in sight.

Um, I live in MN where the temperature was -20 last week, nevermind the windchill. You bet I left my kids warm in the car while I dropped off a package at the post office.
post #3 of 42
I agree with the PP, but check your state's laws.
post #4 of 42
If I could see the car the whole time, I'd probably do it for children the age that yours are. But ask me again in two years when I'm actually in that situation. Because if I think about it long enough I'll probably change my mind. I've left my ds in the car in someone's driveway to go up to their front porch. Even for that short distance, I take the keys and lock the door.

For a post office situation, I would bring them in with me if there was any chance I'd be detained even for a minute.
post #5 of 42
I will let my kids stat in the car for just these situations and they are 8, 7 and 2. I have been comfortable doing it for about a year or so. Until recently I would bring my toddler with me but now I am ok with it since her sisters are older.
post #6 of 42
Where I live, there's no such thing as ANY errand that's guaranteed to be "a matter of seconds with the car in sight the whole time."

My post office just isn't that efficient, and the way it's set up, the front door isn't visible from the area where the clerks are. I suppose if I was just dropping off a letter or into an outside mailbox it would be different, but honestly I wouldn't even go to the post office for that, as we get mail pickup from the mailbox near my front door. If I go to the post office, it's to go inside and stay 5-30 minutes while I stand on line for a clerk. And we don't use a dry cleaner- the only "dry clean only" items I own are a couple of winter coats that only get washed in the spring.

If you're talking about it literally being a few seconds, and not going more than 5 feet away from the car (say, dropping a bag of stuff for donations into a drop-box in a parking lot) I've done that with infants in a carseat. I do make sure to turn off the car first, and keep the car keys in my pocket, not the transmission, to minimize the chance of a car-jacking while I'm right there.

If you're talking about an errand that's normally 5 minutes but could potentially be delayed, then I didn't give my kids the option of staying in the car until they were about 9 or 10, and I also felt safe giving them the option of staying home alone while I went out to do errands. By age 11.5 or 12 I've let them babysit for younger siblings.
post #7 of 42
My sons are 6 and 3 and I leave them in the car if it's going to be a matter of seconds-- running up to the book drop at the library, for instance, or handing a $20 bill to a gas station attendant. I wouldn't leave my 3 yr. old if the older one wasn't with us, though, because he'd be upset.
post #8 of 42
I've left my 4 and 7 year olds in the car while I run in and drop something off and FedEx. It literally is running in, putting the item on the counter and walking away. No need to wait, no need to pay.

If you're truly able to keep the car in sight, take the keys and set the emergency brake, I'd say errands of under 5 minutes would be my limit.
post #9 of 42
I think that you should check your state law to see what age kids can legally be left alone. Someone may write down your license plate number and report you to CPS, especially if the weather is very hot or very cold and they see you doing this.
post #10 of 42
Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post
I think that you should check your state law to see what age kids can legally be left alone.
This feels like an obtuse question, but how does one do this?

post #11 of 42
Here in Illinois we had a bad run of kids getting baked in cars in the summer a couple years in a row. So, now thanks to the few we have the "Not even for a second" laws. It sucks. I feel paranoid just running back into the house to grab something. Good luck.
post #12 of 42
For me, it depends on the place.

When I lived in DFW, I NEVER left my kids in the car, not even to run in the house for something. It just did not feel safe.

It's just different in Vermont. I would not go into the grocery store, but I would go into almost any storefront type place if I could see the car. If they want to stay in the car, that's fine by me.

It should be noted that growing up, my parents ALWAYS left us in the car, and it was fun and nothing ever happened. It sure was better than dragging around after my mom in the fabric store. And, my aunt and uncle still leave kids in the car, especially if they're sleeping. They don't babysit for me, but I remind myself of this when I get antsy about going in to pay for gas, and I don't want to drag all three into a nasty gas station.
post #13 of 42
I live in Chicago. I do NOT leave my kids in the car for a second if I'm not htere with them. I hesitate to buckle them in and then run back to the house. I was at a total loss as to what to do when the twins were infants because I could only bring one out to the car at a time.
Dh started leaving our oldest ds in the car I think when he was 12. I still feel iffy about leaving our oldest alone in the car (now 13). HOwever, I do leave him and with his siblings. Afterall, I allow him to babysit them at home - but there we can keep the doors locked and we know the neighbors. In a car - who knows what freak could come along.
post #14 of 42
I don't think it makes much difference how old the kids are in the type of scenario you described. I would consider that safe with any age child, unless the child is likely to get herself out of her carseat and do something dangerous (which seems unlikely in that amount of time.) There's no reason why it would be more dangerous to leave an infant alone in the car for a minute or two than it would be to leave a 7 year old. In fact, it's probably more dangerous with an older kid who can get out of her carseat and open the car door. (Of course, even if it's safe, it may not be legal.)
post #15 of 42
The way I see it. If they are old enough to understand the situation, and understand the safety rules of staying in the car and react appropriately to a situation that may come up then they are probably old enough to stay in the car alone for a short period of time. I think the first time DD was left alone in the car she was about 7 or so. Because of something that happened to a friend DH insisted she know which pedal was the break too. My friend was in the car alone when it started to roll back and only an unlocked front door and a quick thinking pedestrian avoided a potentially dangerous situation.
post #16 of 42
My basic approach is I have to be comfortable with my ds coming to find me. So I started letting him stay in the car in situations where he wouldn't need to cross a parking lot, knew where exactly to find me, etc. I know he refused to get out of the car at the post office once or twice when he was 5 1/2 (the parking lot is around the corner from the entrance, not in sight). I let him since I was really confidant he stay put, based on his mood, and he was really familiar with the place. He's a pretty cautious kid and we don't live in the sort of neighborhood where people get alarmed and try talking to kids in cars (I think well intentioned folk are more of a hazard then ones with poor intentions, lol) or call the police for that sort of thing. I wouldn't have done it in another neighborhood. I'm more comfortable with it now, at age 7. 5 was iffy, imo, but how is it different then the 5 yos I see walking to school alone?

I never would have left him if he couldn't get out of the car by himself. I always worry what if something horrible happens to me and I get taken to the hospital unconscious and no one knows there is a child in my car.

And, of course, I take the keys and the lighter has been removed.
post #17 of 42
OP, for the situations you described, I think it sounds fine. If you are comfortable with it, then I am sure it is fine. There are so many variables... you just gotta go with your gut sometimes. If it is starting to feel ridiculous to make them go in the post office with you, then it probably kind of is.
post #18 of 42
I live in a very rural area and I leave my kids in the car if I am just going to be a matter of seconds and if I can see them. I don't ever leave them in the car in the summertime, no matter how long I'll be. I live in the desert and our summer temps can reach 125+

When I run in to the post office I can see them, if I drop library books in the bin, if I'm running in to the gas station to plop a $20 on the counter for gas...all of those are fine by me.
post #19 of 42
Here where I live and knowing my kids I have been doing it since dd was 7 and ds 3. Both strapped into their sets and dd knowing what to do should she need me.
post #20 of 42
Quick story:

When my husband and his sister were about 9 they stayed in the car while their dad ran into the drugstore. They released the emergency brake and rolled back in the parking lot and their dad ran out and got behind the car to stop it.

So even with older kids it can still be risky. My son is only two and still strapped in the car seat. The most I'll do is jump out of the car to put something in a donation bin, put the cart back or drop of a book or movie.
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