When would you let your child go to the shops on their own?

A what age do you think you'd let your child go to the local shops on their own? We asked 1,427 parents - plus an educational psychologist offers her tips and advice

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At a certain point – for some, perhaps younger than you might expect – your children will start asserting their independence that bit more. One key way they’ll do this is by wanting more freedom to do things on their own.

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This probably often starts with going to school alone – either in the last year or so of primary school, or once they start secondary school.

But at what age do you reckon you’ll let your children start going out on their own for things other than school? Like, for example, popping down to the corner shop on a Saturday…

What do MFM parents say?

We asked 1,427 parents at what age they’d let their children go to the local shops alone.

By ‘local shop’, we specified within roughly a 15-minute radius of your house, so for many, it’d be more like a local corner shop rather than a major town centre high street.

The most popular answers were:

  • Over 12 years (30%)
  • 10 years (21%)
  • 11 years (16%)
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When we probed further, lots of parents said, understandably, that a big part of when they’d let them do it would depend on how mature their child was.

Others said they’d be OK if the shops were a 5-minute walk, or somewhere they could see from their front door.

A few pointed out there was safety in numbers and that they’d be happier for their kid to do it with siblings/friends rather than entirely alone.

The other main factor, as lots pointed out, is whether or not there’s a big/busy road to cross. As one respondent said:

“It would depend on the roads – how busy they are – but at the age of 11 they are on their way to high school, and need a bit more trust, and freedom.”

And, in fact, quite a few parents pointed out that the idea of giving your kids that bit more freedom was important as they got older, with one saying:

“When they need to be able to travel to school alone I think they should be capable of popping to the local shop (which is closer).

“It is a task that can be used for growing confidence of travelling on their own.”

What does the expert say?

This question brings to mind thoughts about community, says educational psychologist Naomi Burgess.

“Smaller areas, where everyone knows each other, tend to engender a natural sense of safety and security in you and your family,” she advises. “So, my advice would be to begin creating that sense wherever you are.

“It is so easy as a busy parent to mix only with other local parents and you may find that you do very little in your locality.

“Why not take the time to go the local shops with your young ones, chat to the shopkeepers, find out their names, introduce your child, and build yourself a broader local network?

“That way when the time comes to even consider trips you will know where they are going, who they are going to, and you can even ask the shop to send you a discreet text when they arrive.

“This is such a great way to build independence in the safest possible way, and for both parent and child to feel they belong. And it’s such a great way to learn to love where you live.”

Here are some of the keywords that came up from parents on this topic…

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Image: Getty Images

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