If you are considering making a key available to your child, here are a few things to consider:
Does he or she actually need one? Is it a precaution, a needed tool to get in the house when I am not there or a status toy?
Is your child responsible enough to safely hold on to and transport a key? Here’s a clue - Do they remember to bring home their lunch box, jackets or backpacks from school? If the answer is no then a key may be more responsibility than they are actually ready for right now.
Can they handle being home alone? Are they easily scared or uncomfortable being alone in a house without a parent or other adult?
Are there any neighbors nearby for help if needed? If your child is going to be home and alone for an extended period of time, do they have a friend or neighbor they can call if help is needed?
Do they know how to reach you by telephone?
Do they have a place to safely keep a key during school hours? Can you pin the key into a backpack or book bag and be assured that it will stay there? Are they the kind of child who would remember to pin it back in once it is no longer needed to enter the house? Would they do better remembering a code to a key pad?
Can I trust them to get themselves a snack without using the oven?
From all that I have read it appears that parents are more often giving keys to kids who are 10 years or older. However, before offering any child a key, carefully review each of the above questions and make sure that you are comfortable and confident that your child can handle this responsibility.
If the likelihood of your kids actually needing a key is small, you might be wiser to hide a key somewhere safe at home and just tell your child that it is there. Please don’t slide it under the front door mat as this is easily discoverable by bad guys!
And don’t forget practice the following with your child:
How to actually use the key. You might be surprised that some kids have trouble with this.
Where the key goes after they have opened the door. Make sure that this is a mutually agreed upon place.
What to do if they lose the key. This is important and kids should know that losing a key can be problematic for the entire family.
Not to answer the door when they are home alone. Role play with your child what to do if someone knocks on the front door when they are home alone.
Who to call in an emergency. (Make sure the number is handy)