(Book Review) A Smart Girl’s Guide to Staying Home Alone

I don’t remember what exactly I was searching for on the library website when I stumbled upon A Smart Girl’s Guide to Staying Home Alone: A Girl’s Guide to Feeling Safe and Having Fun, but I was curious about what advice this publication from American Girl had to offer. Perhaps the ongoing pandemic means that girls are staying home alone less than they had in the past, or maybe the demise of childcare for many parents means that they are staying home alone more. Whether your girl is staying home alone while you run a few quick errands or as part of a regular family schedule, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Staying Home Alone actually makes a pretty good primer to get her ready and provides some fun ideas to do while she’s home alone. 

Staying home alone grew to be something I really loved. I had space and quiet and access to the good snacks all by myself. But it was occasionally scary. If you have an anxious child, I think that this guide could be particularly helpful. The book starts with a quiz to help girls get an idea of where they are emotionally in regards to staying home alone. The quiz really has nothing to do with safety or what to do in particular situations; it is all about taking a girl’s emotional temperature about being alone and gives a brief idea about how to proceed depending on the girl’s results.

The next sections provide ideas for girls and their parents to layout some house rules about staying home alone and then some Golden Rules that the publication believes all girls should follow. These Golden Rules really are golden. As a woman who lived alone for years, I can tell you they remain golden to me. This section is really good advice, as any true crime fan will affirm: always lock the door, trust your gut, do not let strangers in the house, never tell anyone you’re alone. My one quibble is that I wish it was firmer on ignoring the doorbell. I think it would probably be pretty easy for someone to pose as an authority figure and talk their way out of being a “stranger.” Girls, just don’t answer the door when you’re alone. The book says this, but I wish it was firmer and more explicit. 

The next section goes over things to take with you when you leave the house—again, sage advice—and guidance on getting to know your neighborhood. These are ideas that have less to do with staying home alone than with getting home alone and therefore might not apply to all girls. Still, good advice. 

I love the part about doing a security sweep when you get home alone. Checking the doors and windows. Smart. Be paranoid, girls!

Next up is a quiz about what to do once you’re home alone. This is often less about safety than it is about good habits. I’ll allow it. Then, there’s some guidance about quelling anxiety as it crops up. 

The rest of the book is mostly focused on fun things to do when you’re alone and/or dealing with your siblings when you’re home alone together. There is some kitchen safety and basics, plus some recipes, which seems like it could/should be a whole other book. This book finishes with a section troubleshooting tricky situations. It focuses on trusting your gut, but also aims to help girls hone their instincts by working through some scary situations. Here, the guide is a mixture of reassuring and just the right amount scary. 

Overall, I was impressed with this book and would probably buy it if my daughter were old enough to stay home alone. It’s a quick 63 pages long and I think it would be smart to keep it someplace easily accessible when you’re leaving a kid home alone—after you’ve read and discussed it together. 

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