House keys in a lock

Is Your Child Old Enough For House Keys?

December 11, 2013 by Michelle

When we moved last month, we left a great neighborhood where we knew most of the people in the neighborhood, and we trusted those who lived near us.  Additionally, our house had a keypad lock on the front door, so the wee ones could simply enter a code and get into the house.  Ditto with the garage door keypad.

On those rare occasions where I was late getting home when they were riding the bus or a child accidentally rode the bus when I was picking up from school and I didn’t get home before the bus, it wasn’t a big deal.  The wee ones could get inside the house, see that I wasn’t home, and they knew to go to a neighbor and explain the situation.  The neighbor would then call me and determine when I’d be back, generally offering to have a child hang out until I got home.

Granted, this didn’t happen often – maybe once or twice a year – but it was still a huge weight off my shoulders to know that when schedules got messed up, we had a plan that worked.  Since the move, it isn’t quite the same.

We’re now in a rental, and there is no garage.  There is no keypad, instead there is a door with a regular lock and a deadbolt.  Were we staying here longer, I’d talk to the landlord about changing this, but this is temporary until we find a new home to buy.  (And yes, keypad locks will be among the first things we do in whatever house we purchase.)  And the neighbors?  We don’t really know many of them yet, and we don’t know any of them well enough that I would trust the wee ones home alone accidentally at all.

House keys in a lock

So now I have a dilemma.  Do I make extra copies of the house keys and provide them to the wee ones?  Are they old enough to trust with a set of keys yet?

I’m still wavering.  It’s winter, and it’s bitterly cold in Chicago.  In a worst case scenario, I don’t want the wee ones to be caught outside in a neighborhood where they don’t know anyone.  And yet, we don’t have a home phone, so the wee ones would panic if they got inside and I wasn’t home anyway.

Couple that with the fact that the wee ones aren’t exactly the most responsible with their possessions, and I’m loathe to trust them with a key.  They’ve lost water bottles, hats, home folders, homework, and more already this school year.  A key is so much smaller, and I don’t know how or where they could keep it secure.  I don’t want a house key floating around town – or, worse, a false sense of security if someone gets on the bus when they shouldn’t only to discover later that the key is lost and the child is outside alone.

In the past few weeks, we’ve already had issues with getting the wee ones on the correct schedule.  I received a call from the office that Little Miss was sitting in the office on a day she was supposed to ride the bus and I was home waiting for her.  She had forgotten and was waiting outside the school for me.  By the time she went inside after giving up, her bus had long since left.  On the flip side, last week I was outside the school waiting to pick up the wee ones, and Mister Man never came out.  I finally called the office after determining he wasn’t in his classroom only to discover that he was on the bus, which had already left the school.  They had to call the bus back, as Little Miss had gymnastics, and there was no way I’d get back to the house before he got off the bus – and I couldn’t get ahold of my husband to see if he could scoot home to meet the bus.  Little Miss was 25 minutes late for gymnastics that day, but it was far better than the alternative.

I’ve since had a huge chat with the office – and they’ve confirmed it with me twice since – about the bus schedule, with the hopes that we don’t have any further confusion.  So far it’s been confusion and annoying, but it could easily be so much worse.

And yet…

And yet, I don’t feel comfortable handing a house key to the wee ones.  I simply don’t trust them with it, and I don’t think that having a key would solve the majority of the issues anyway.  I’m not ready, and more importantly, they aren’t ready.

When will they be?  I think I’ll be willing to hand over a house key when:

1) We know neighbors enough to be comfortable that the wee ones have someone to turn to if there is an issue
2) The wee ones are comfortable being by themselves for 20 minutes alone, and when I’m comfortable with that, as well
3) The wee ones have their own phones so they can call someone in an emergency or to follow up on where I am, which isn’t happening for at least another year to three
4) I feel they are more responsible with their possessions.  Right now, I end up being the one to find everything from a missing hairbrush (it was sitting on Little Miss’s dresser this morning) to homework to gloves and more.  When the wee ones stop losing so many things and start being able to find them on their own, I’ll feel more confident

Until then, I have become even more vigilant in making sure everyone knows the schedule – from me to the wee ones to the school – so there is less chance for confusion or error.  And when they’re riding the bus?  I’m not giving myself any leeway on time.  Forget that last errand; it’s more critical for me to be home early.

Do you children have a set of house keys?  When did they earn them, and how did you know they were ready?



  • Angel The Alien

    When I was a kid, a lot of my classmates had keys on chains around their necks, so they wouldn’t lose them. I wasn’t deemed key-worthy until I was 12, but my brother was not quite 10 when he got a key!

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