Babysitting Age: When Can You Start?
(Laws & Maturity Requirements)
If you're tired of not having any money and always relying on your parents financially, then you are probably pretty eager to get a job like babysitting. But how old does a babysitter need to be?
Most babysitters start working between the ages of 11 to 14 years old but in most places, there is no legal minimum age required to babysit. You can take a Red Cross babysitting course starting at age 11. If parents consider you responsible enough to offer you a job then you are old enough.
In this article, you'll learn how to tell for yourself if you're old enough to start babysitting, and things you can do to make yourself more likely to get hired as a young babysitter.
Are You Old Enough To Start Babysitting?
You might start to feel like you're old enough to start babysitting once you're a tween. That's kind of a grey area between the ages of about 9 and 12 where you're not a baby anymore, but you're not a teenager yet either.
The Red Cross offers its babysitting course with a recommended age range of 11 to 15 for students (source). That's a pretty good guideline for the age when most people start babysitting.
See my recommended babysitting courses.
In most places, there aren't laws that specifically state an age when children are allowed to be left alone or start babysitting. For example, in the United States, all but one state has no minimum age requirement for babysitters. The one exception is Maryland, where babysitters are required to be at least 13 years old (source).
To decide what age you can start babysitting, you really need to take a few different factors into account.
- Do you feel that you're old enough to start babysitting?
- Do you feel confident enough to know what to do in any situation if there are no adults around?
- Will parents think you're old enough to hire you as a babysitter?
Do You Think You're Old Enough To Start Babysitting?
To understand if you're old enough, the first place to start asking questions is with yourself.
Are You Mature Enough?
When I've asked parents in the past, most say that it's okay to start leaving a child alone for short periods during the day around 10 or 11 years old. Kids should be at least 11 or 12 before they're left alone at night.
Personally, I think 11 is a good minimum age for when kids should start babysitting, although lots of parents would probably say at least 12. Of course, it depends on the maturity of the child.
Do you feel like that's a fair assessment? Do you feel like you're old enough to start babysitting even if you're only 10 or 11? Be honest with yourself. If you're not sure, ask a parent and they should be able to give you some feedback on whether you're mature enough.
Do You Know What You're Signing Up For?
Could you see yourself being alone in a stranger's home after dark with a crying toddler or child?
Do you feel like you're prepared enough and have the knowledge to deal with emergencies or any other babysitting situations that might come up? Have you learned basic First Aid in case someone gets hurt while you're babysitting?
Would you be able to tell a child no if they wanted to eat something or watch television when parents said it wasn't allowed?
If you think you're ready to start babysitting, check out my article: How to Become a Babysitter for tips to get started.
Have You Looked After Other Children Before?
Have you ever stayed at home alone before? If not, that's a good place to start. You need to be capable of taking care of yourself before you can be left alone in charge of another child!
If you have younger siblings, have you ever been left alone to take care of them before? You might want to ask your parents to leave you home alone to watch your little brother or sister for a few hours. That way you can prove both to them and yourself that you're really ready to start babysitting.
If you don't have any siblings of your own, maybe you can speak to an aunt or uncle about watching one of your younger cousins for a few hours to get some babysitting experience.
How Will You Get To Babysitting Jobs?
Being young can really put some restrictions on how you're able to get around.
If you're too young to get a driver's license, then the logistics of how you'll actually get to your babysitting jobs and back home is a real consideration.
Will you get a parent or older sibling to drive you to babysitting jobs? In that case, you'll need to do a lot more planning to make sure someone is always available to take you. If you don't have a ride, you won't be able to babysit.
You could take public transportation like a city bus. But in some areas, there are limits on how young you can be while riding the bus alone. 10 or 11 might be too young in your area, which could rule that option out.
You could get the parents you're babysitting for to pick you up and drop you back off at home after you're done, but that seems like a hassle many parents wouldn't be willing to deal with if they could just hire a different babysitter instead.
If you can find babysitting jobs within a couple of blocks of your home that would be ideal since you could just walk there. But depending on where you live, that might not be an option.
Are You Babysitting For The Right Reasons?
Think about why you're interested in starting babysitting. In some ways, there are right reasons and wrong reasons to want to start babysitting at a young age.
You may have heard older friends or siblings talk about how much money they've made from babysitting.
Babysitting is one of the few rare jobs that a preteen can do. Even with consent from your parents, most places like fast-food restaurants or grocery stores won't hire you until you're at least 14.
Babysitting just for the money is the wrong reason. If you don't enjoy looking after children, then it's going to be a negative experience for you. You also might not be as attentive to the job and giving children you're watching the care they need.
If you're not excited about babysitting just for the sake of it, completely detached from getting paid, then babysitting might not be right for you.
You might want to consider a different job like delivering newspapers or mowing people's lawns where you aren't responsible for another child's life!
See our article on the benefits of being a babysitter for more reasons why it's the first choice for many people starting their career.
Are You Easily Distracted?
When you're babysitting children, you need to be able to focus and give them your undivided attention for long periods of time.
If you're somebody who gets bored easily, then babysitting might be a very challenging experience for you. Particularly if you're watching infants or toddlers who are somewhat limited in what they're able to do.
You also need to be able to stick to any tasks or schedules that parents give you while they're away. They won't be very happy if they come home and their child isn't fed and hasn't been put to bed at the required time!
Part of this just comes down to maturity. But you also need to have systems in place to keep track of information and remind yourself of what needs to be done. And you need to be okay potentially sitting and watching a baby do nothing eventful for 4 hours straight.
Babies can't be left alone for even a couple minutes or they risk getting hurt or into something they shouldn't. So being able to focus for long uninterrupted periods of time is crucial.
Are Parents Willing To Hire You?
Do you feel like you're mature enough to be trusted by other people's parents?
The honest truth is that no matter how mature and ready to babysit you think you are, it doesn't matter if parents aren't willing to hire you.
Parents might worry that a pre-teen babysitter would just let kids they're babysitting watch television and eat junk food, and think they'll come home to a mess.
If you're in the younger age range for babysitters and look small or young for your age, it can be especially hard to get parents to be willing to trust you as a babysitter.
If you don't have the appearance of a babysitter that parents are looking for, then no matter how mature and ready you feel, you might just need to wait an extra year or two until you look a bit older.
How To Prove Yourself To Other Parents
If you feel like you're reaching out and offering to babysit for plenty of parents but nobody is hiring you or even interviewing you, then there are a few things you can do.
The major things you'll need to do to prove that you're a capable babysitter is by getting some qualifications and experience.
Take A Babysitting Course
If you've never babysat before, then taking a babysitting course is a good place to start.
The Red Cross babysitting course is among the most popular worldwide and you can find it offered in most countries like the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. You might also have regional organizations such as St. John Ambulance or private companies that also offer babysitting courses in your area.
Take Safety Courses
CPR and First Aid qualifications are a great way to show parents that you know what to do in an emergency situation. Most parents would be a lot more comfortable leaving their kids with you if you can prove you'd know what to do if their child cut themselves or went unconscious.
At Kidsit, we recommend babysitters buy this first aid kit to bring along to your jobs too!
A big concern for parents about younger babysitters is that they might panic in a stressful situation. A First Aid course gives you the information you need to be prepared and stay calm during any emergency.
It's a great qualification to have for all babysitters, but especially younger ones.
For more qualifications that could help you land your first babysitting gig, check out my article on Babysitting Qualifications.
How To Get Childcare Experience
When you're brand new to babysitting, you want to do whatever you can to start getting your first work experiences as a babysitter. You need families to list on your resume, as well as for references that people can call and verify with.
(See our guide to babysitting references for help with this.)
Start by reaching out to anybody in your immediate family or friends that have younger children you might be able to watch. You can get your parents to help contact family members and put in a good word for you if that's easier.
Sometimes it's even worth offering to babysit for free a couple of times just to get some initial experience. For more information on why this is a good idea, check out our article: Should You Babysit For Free? you might be surprised by how beneficial it is to you!
Also see our article: How to add babysitting to your resume, a good resume that lists your experience and qualifications can help you to find work.
Once you've babysat for family and friends, try reaching out to neighbors in your area. If you belong to a church or other type of larger community, you can see if anyone there needs a babysitter as well.
Can't manage to get any on-job experience? See my article: How to Start Babysitting with No Experience.
Other Factors To Consider
Besides qualifications and experience, there are some other considerations that might determine if you're able to start babysitting yet or not.
Where Do You Live?
Do you live in a small town or a rural area? Are you in a quiet residential neighborhood? Or are you in the middle of a big city?
Do you know what the crime rate is like in your area?
Parents might be less likely to leave their kids alone with a young babysitter if they live in a rougher area. Your own parents might be a bit more hesitant about letting you go too!
Think About Offering A Trial Run
Maybe parents are almost around to the idea of hiring you as a younger babysitter, but they just need a little more convincing.
You could offer to work as a mother's (or father's) helper a few times. This is basically where you babysit, but one of the parents is still in the house in case you have any problems or questions. That way they get a bit of time away from their baby to do some other things without having to leave you home alone.
You could work your way up slowly by offering to watch their child for short periods of time. For example, 30 minutes or an hour while they go to the grocery store by themselves. Then you can increase the time until you're being left alone for 4 or 5 hours at a time.
If you're planning to work as a mother's helper then read this article first: How to babysit when the parents are home for some handy hints you should know.
Also, consider offering your babysitting services for free for a limited time to help build up your experience and trust with the family.
Look At The Age Of Children You'd Be Watching
Parents are more likely to leave older children with a younger babysitter since they're better equipped to take care of themselves and less likely to get into trouble.
If you're only 11 or 12 years old and looking to start babysitting, many parents won't feel comfortable leaving you alone with a newborn or infant. However, other parents might be totally comfortable letting you watch their 5 or 6-year-old.
When you're brand new to babysitting, I would avoid looking to babysit kids under 3 years old. They require a lot more effort and specialized knowledge like how to change diapers or prepare a bottle and feed them, which you might not be ready for yet.
See these articles to learn more about what's involved:
How Long Will You Be Left Alone?
Parents might be fine leaving a young babysitter alone with their kids for a few hours during the day. But if they need to go away for a lot longer, like 6 hours or more, they'll probably want an older babysitter that they perceive as more responsible and capable. Particularly if they need a babysitter to be there until late into the night.
In many places, there's no legal minimum age for babysitters. To take a Red Cross babysitting course you need to be at least 11 years old.
If you can find a family that wants to hire you to babysit, there aren't really any limitations. But the struggle might be finding a family who is willing to work with a brand new babysitter who is only 11 or 12 years old.
If you're eager to get started as soon as possible, you can increase your chances of a family being willing to hire you with some extra training.
I'd highly recommend taking a babysitting course, as well as basic First Aid and CPR training. That will show parents that you have the knowledge to take care of most emergency situations.
Getting experience is also really important. You want to have previous families you've babysat for on your resume, and for use as your references. If you're having trouble getting paid jobs, try doing some free babysitting for family members or friends of the family just to get some initial experience.
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My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If you're serious about becoming the best babysitter you can be, or if you want to make as much money as possible, then this book is perfect for you. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder