At What Age Can Kids Walk Alone?

The first time a parent sends their child to walk to school or around their neighborhood on their own, it can be scary. It’s difficult to know when kids are old enough to take the walk alone. And it has a lot to do with the parents.

Helicopter parents — parents who believe they should be heavily involved with their children’s lives —  may think kids should walk with parents until they are as old as 15. While “free-range” parents — parents who believe they need to give children more independence and autonomy — may think kids should be allowed to walk alone as young as nine.

Federally, there is not a legal age for when children are allowed to in public walk alone during the day. But that doesn’t mean this issue doesn’t have any legal implications. As MamaBear covered early this year, a set of Maryland free-range parents found themselves in legal trouble after permitting their children to walk home alone.

So, how do you know what is right for your family?

Identify the Real Danger

While many parents are afraid to allow their children walk alone because of concerns about kidnapping, The Washington Post says this shouldn’t necessarily be the primary concern. It is extremely unlikely that a child walking alone will be abducted.

In cases regarding missing minors, less than one percent of cases involve a stranger abduction. Ninety-six percent of missing minors are situations related to runaways or other family issues.

The real danger in children walking alone is street safety.

Street Safety Is Just as Important for Older Kids

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that parents wait to allow their children to start crossing the street on their own at ten years of age. This is the age that it is believed that kids begin to have enough maturity and brain development to form  a better understanding of road dangers — which are serious.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, an estimated 61 children under the age of 19 are injured as pedestrians every day.

Their report also says that as kids age, they are actually at an increased risk of being injured as a pedestrian. Their report showed that 14-year-olds were the most likely age group to be injured while walking.

Prepare Your Child For Walking Alone

When it comes to deciding on an appropriate age, there is no perfect answer. It will be different for each family and child based on the maturity level of the child and the values of the parents.

But one thing will be true for all families. It is important to teach street safety rules to children at all ages, and the lessons and reminders need to follow children into their teen years.

  • Before crossing a street, look left, then look right, then look left once more. Be aware of  cars making a right turn, they could be behind you as you cross. And listen, too.
  • Do not run across the street. If you think you need to run to make it across the traffic, don’t go.
  • When crossing the street in front of a stopped car, make eye contact with the driver before crossing.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk when it is available.
  • If there is not a sidewalk, walk facing traffic so you can step away as vehicles pass.
  • Only cross the street at crosswalks. And don’t assume cars will stop just because you are in the crosswalk. Wait for them to come to a full stop in both directions.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Do not assume that cars will always be where they are supposed to be on the road.
  • When crossing at intersections, always look for cars that may be turning.
  • If listening to music when walking, only put in one ear bud so you can hear what is happening around you.
  • Do not text, look at  your phone, or talk on your phone while you walk near streets. It may not seem distracting while walking, but using a phone requires eyes, ears and concentration, all of which you need to be safe around traffic.
  • Avoid walking in the dark. If you must, wear reflective or bright clothing.

Related Post: Safety Ideas For Both Free Range Parents, Helicopter Parents and Those In Between

Parents can find additional peace of mind by using MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™. With the free app, available for iPhones and Androids, parents can receive automated notifications based on GPS technology that alerts them when their child has reached their destination. It’s never easy to see your child walk off alone, but MamaBear helps make it less stressful and more liberating for both child and parent.


16 Replies to “At What Age Can Kids Walk Alone?”

  1. My Daughter is 6 1/2 and I allow her to walk .5 miles to her friends house. There are no major roads and very little traffic. Do you think that is to young.

  2. I’m currently 12, my parents think that the chances of me getting kidnapped while taking a 5 minute walk to a park in my neighbor hood is 100%. My parents will remind me constantly that there COULD be someone with a child that needs a kidney, and that they will kidnap me to take my kidney. They also say many drivers will purposely runover a kid on the sidewalk. Even when I show them real facts about the statics of kidnapping cases all across America, they will still say there is a risk, this is just stupid because they drive me to school and home everyday in a car, which is statically more dangerous than walking to school.

  3. I am 10 and all my friends walk alone. I dont usually step off sidewalks, because i am scared. My parents still wont let me take a walk!

  4. I’m 14 almost 15 and my parents refuse to let me walk around the neighborhood alone. Usually, I have to walk with a sibling but even then they’re skeptical and ask me to bring some sort of weapon (usually a stick). My mom even tells my sisters and I to stay within her view when we’re playing in the church parking lot across the street. I know I can be a little immature sometimes, but I see myself as a somewhat responsible adolescent. Our city is pretty safe and the locals have some decency, so I think my siblings and I deserve a lot more freedom.

  5. im 14 soon to be 15, I pay attention to cars, strangers and avoid sketchy places. I can’t walk with friends of mine to a park that is less than 2 miles away. it seems ridiculous to me. I understand my parents point of view tho. I tell them my chances of being kidnapped are like 1 in a thousand but they tell me if it happened it was always going to be 100%. so yea they are those kinda parents. I dont mind walking with weapons and im a good fighter but I dont think my parents will ever let me go.

  6. I am thirteen and my parents want me to walk alone to my activities every day the walks are about 20 mins long but I don’t know how to get there and I’ve never walked there before. I hate walking by myself especially if I don’t know where to go . Do you think my parents are right or wrong and what should I do?

  7. I’m 16 and my parents don’t let me walk around alone. What do I do to change that? I have straight A’s, and I am responsible. PLEASE help me change their minds

  8. Im 12 year olds and my mom wont let me go to walmart even tho its right next to my apartmeant so I can walk there by myself because I want to get something from walmart and my grandma has the money like she will let me go but my mom would not let me plsss can you help me change her mind.😭

  9. To all the children with overbearing parents… I was one of them and it comes from love and fear of losing you. Unfortunately, it can and often does create undue anxiety and mistrust of the world. I am doing differently with my youngest and she is so much more independent and confident due to this. The 10- 15 year old crowd minus a disability, has the maturity and aptitude to handle solo walks and store trips, and definitely the park. A 14-15 year old are so close to driving, the lack of freedom is unwarranted as well. Speak to your parents and take baby steps. A walk for 30 minutes with you returning on time can turn into a few hours in a month. It’s all about building trust on both sides.

  10. Hey i’m 13 about to be 14 this year but i understand the dangers of outside like this @suck a feather. he just wants a bit of freedom…
    If you would like to talk to me please follow me on instagram @hatchetsurge22 thx 🙂

  11. I really want to walk alone, I am in a safe neighborhood but the worst city to be in America, Stockton. It’s a 2% chance of me getting kidnapped. One kid got kidnapped in daylight a couple houses down. Really, my parents complain about me staying in the house sitting around and doing nothing all day but they won’t let me go outside. The store is only a block away. I understand that my parents are concerned but they need to let it go. I am 12 about to turn 13 but I want to at least start walking at 14. It’s one thing to limit your child’s freedom but when you start complaining about them not doing the exact thing you don’t want them to do it creates a lot of tension. All I want to do I ride a bike or walk with my friends. How much is that to ask for. Of course we can’t just put away all of our concerns but also we can’t just lock away our desires either. Hopefully this will all go away when I enter highschool.

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