How to Know When Your Child Is Ready... Ages 5-9
By Deirdre Wilson

Young children need to be taught how to accomplish a variety of independent activities safely – crossing the street, riding a bicycle, answering the phone at home, etc. Parenting and safety experts recommend teaching a child how to do something safely on his own and then monitoring his first attempts.

“If you live in a safe cul de sac and your child can cross the street over to a friend’s house while you watch out the window, then a 5- to 6-year-old child can cross the street,” says Jan Faull, M.Ed., a noted parenting educator, author and lecturer. “In more urban areas, though, where there’s lots of traffic, it’s probably not a good idea to allow a child to do that until they’re at least 10.”

Faull herself monitored her third child when he wanted to go to a neighborhood park on his own to play with friends. “When they were young, my two older kids went to the park on their own. When my youngest wanted to go, things had changed. It wasn’t as safe. I had to do many dry runs.”

Initially, she would follow her son to the park at a distance, to make sure he got there safely. Then she would drive by the park a few times to check on him while he was there. “I told him he could go to the park for one hour with at least two friends. We identified two houses near the park where he could go if anything unforeseen occurred.”

At what age can parents start to let a child walk the neighborhood or play in the park unaccompanied by an adult? Faull believes that, generally, kids under age 10 aren’t quite ready to judge the trustworthiness or intentions of an adult who might approach them.

“Children age 10 and over can consider many factors; they can see that someone’s intentions are not just on the surface, that there’s a hidden agenda,” she says. “So that’s about the age that I would look for.”

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Ages 5 to 9

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cle_ID=8719" class="featuredlink">Ages 14 and up

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