A suburban mother in the US state of Iowa has been jailed after she left her four children home alone while she travelled to Europe for a 12-day vacation in Germany, police say.

Johnston police have charged Erin Macke, 30, with four counts of child endangerment and one of transferring a firearm to a person under 21. Police said the latter charge was filed because a firearm was left at home within the children's reach.

Police said Macke tried but failed to make child care arrangements for her children, two aged 12, one 7 and the other 6, before leaving on September 20 for a vacation in Germany.

Macke left her two 12-year-old twins in charge. Photo / Supplied
Macke left her two 12-year-old twins in charge. Photo / Supplied

The father of one of the children was called by his child the next day, and he tipped off police that the children had been left unsupervised, Johnston police spokeswoman Janet Wilwerding said on Friday (US time).

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Johnston police Lt Tyler Tompkins told Des Moines television station KCCI that Macke's babysitter options all fell through, so she left the two 12-year-old twins in charge.

"They were concerned, they didn't know, they were confused," Lt Tompkins said of the youngsters. "I mean, we're only talking about 12-year-olds being the adults here."

Officers went to the residence on September 21 and called the Iowa Human Services Department, which took custody of the children.

They have since been released to the care of relatives, Ms Wilwerding said.

Police called Macke in Germany, demanding she return.

She had planned to fly home on Sunday.

Macke in one of her holiday snaps from Germany. Photo / via Instagram
Macke in one of her holiday snaps from Germany. Photo / via Instagram

The mother was arrested on her return on Thursday. She remained in custody on Friday, according to Polk County Jail records.