At what age can my child...
Kids move at their own pace and do things in their own time. But if you are keen to know when to expect certain displays of independence, read on.
Camping boy

1. Choose their own clothes?

It seems that sex has less to do with this one than personality and parental interest in clothing. Most moms say that their children like to voice their opinion from around age 3 or 4. As for outright choosing, the age varies from around 6 to 8, but with parenting veto rights prevailing. “If we are out shopping and my boys see something that is appropriate, I take a relaxed approach while simultaneously guiding them. For example if there are any odd pictures involved, that’s a definite no!” says Cindy, mother of Michael (4) and James (5).

2. Sleep over at a friend’s house?

Mothers with younger children (under 6) said that they would only let their children sleep over at a friend from around 10, whereas moms with children over 6 said their children started sleeping over from that age.

3. Need to be told how babies are made?

Jean Alfeld, a counsellor with a masters in psychology offers this advice regarding the birds and the bees, “With young children you can be guided by the questions they ask. Remember to answer what they ask, not what you think they should know.

For example, if a 3-year-old asks: ’Where do babies come from?’ you could answer: ’Babies come from an egg in mummy’s tummy.’ At this point, there is no need to go into the details of how it gets there. More than likely, your child will ask how it gets there when they are ready to hear that the ’Daddy puts his penis in mummy’s vagina, so that his sperm can go into mummy’s tummy and find an egg to make into a baby.”

Jean says to stick to age-appropriate explanations and simple language and call the body parts by their real names. It’s also a good idea to talk to your children at around 8 or 9 (even if they don’t ask) about the basics of body changes and what they can expect in the next stage so they are prepared and not frightened. There are some great books for different age groups. Jean particularly recommends Let’s Talk About Where Babies Come From by Robie Harris.

4. Go camping trips?

Generally moms said from age 9 or 10, basically the first time children go on trips with the school.

5. Open a bank account?

“They can usually manage their own money at 10,” says Sarah, mother of Emma (10) and Joshua (12). Most of us have opened bank accounts for our children at birth, but understanding the responsibility of having money in a bank, keeping a bank card safe and drawing from an ATM should be taught to our children at around 10 years of age.

Karen, mother of Mia (5) and Harry (4) put it aptly, “The sooner we teach them that money doesn’t grow on trees, the better their concept of saving will be.” For the younger ones, piggy banks might be a good start.

6. Get a cellphone?

This is quite a controversial issue amongst parents but most mothers seemed to agree that from around age 12 or early teens, i.e. when they started going out without any parental supervision, is the best time.

“My kids have a cellphone when they spend the weekend with the father, but it’s not technically theirs. It’s for their use to say goodnight to me or call me if there’s a problem. Other than that they don’t use it,” says Sarah, mother of Joshua (12) and Emma (10).

7. Floss own teeth?

Most dentists recommend that children are introduced to the concept of flossing teeth around the time they start growing adult teeth which is usually around 5 or 6. However they should, at that stage, be supervised by an adult as they can hurt their gums. It’s always a good idea to set the example by having your children watch your dental hygiene regime; that way they learn to understand why and how we do things like brushing and flossing teeth and using mouthwash.

Yet as Laura, mother of Christopher (12) says, it can take some coercing to get your child into the habit of regular brushing and flossing. “Christopher only started flossing his teeth himself at 12 and I still have to remind him to do it,” she says.

8. Menstruate?

According to Dr Sandi Kuper, research indicates that most girls (i.e. 90%) have their first period between ages 11 and 14. That means that some may start earlier or later than that and mothers should prepare their daughters before the onset of menstruation, says Cape Town based counsellor Jean Alfeld.

"Answer all the questions she asks clearly and honestly,” she says. “If she doesn’t ask, you need to start talking to her about how the body works, what she can expect, what to do, feminine hygiene and your own menstrual experiences. You have to try to be positive and explain periods in the context of the joys of womanhood!

”??Remember that every child has different periods in terms of onset, duration, heaviness and so on, and it’s very normal for them to be irregular for the first few years. The Mayo Clinic advises that you should tell your daughter this and that she should let you know if her periods are unusually heavy, painful or last more than 10 days. They also suggest that you consult a doctor if your daughter’s period has not arrived by the age of 16 years.

9. Go to a movie without adult supervision?

Most moms agree that children can go to a movie without supervision provided they are age appropriately responsible from around age 11 or 12. As Sarah pointed out, “I need to feel comfortable that my children are of an age where if something went wrong or someone tried to harm them, they wouldn’t just burst into tears and panic. They should be old enough to seek help or call someone.”

Mothers would also feel more comfortable if children initially went to movies in larger groups, i.e. four children or more, and definitely not at night!

10. Wear deodorant?

According to, children start developing body odour when they enter puberty. For girls this is usually between the ages of 8 and 13, for boys 9 and 14. Once their hormones start kicking in they will start to smell. They should therefore begin using deodorant and practising good hygiene habits simultaneously.

However Dr Sandi Kuper points out that children may often start wearing deodorant earlier than necessary due to peer pressure. “Your child may not have reached puberty yet but may be swayed but what their friends are doing or by persuasive advertising to use deodorants or body fragrances,” she says. “It’s important to be aware that if the glands under the arms haven’t yet changed, deodorants and the like can be irritants on the skin.”

11. Get an iPod?

Mothers with older children said that their children received iPods between the ages of 12 and 14. What parents need to be aware of is the volume level that children listen to music through their iPods.

Research conducted by the University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital in Boston found that a typical person can safely listen to an iPod for about five hours per day at 70 percent volume using standard earphones. However, listening to music at full volume for more than five minutes a day through an iPod can increase the risk of hearing loss in a typical person.

The study also found that some people have “tougher” ears than others and are thus able to listen to louder music for longer periods. There is no way of knowing who has more or less sensitive ears and who is more prone to damage from listening. Dr Kuper points out that the younger your child is, the more sensitive the ears are, therefore it is safer to give kids iPods when they are a little older.

12. Be dropped off alone at birthday parties?

“When they are comfortable enough to be left alone,” says Genevieve, mother of Elan (12), Satara (6) and Nikita (4). Generally mothers agree that between ages 6 and 8 it is fine provided that they know the parents and the home is safe, i.e. pool cover and / or fence and generally good security (enclosed area, no one can run out).

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