If you've ever expressed an interest in babysitting, then it's inevitable that someone will ask you to babysit for free at some point.
Should you babysit for free? There are lots of situations where babysitting for free makes sense, and also a few where it doesn't. Some good reasons to babysit for free include as a favor or gift, as a community service, or to gain childcare experience.
In this article, I'll share some situations and reasons where babysitting for free makes sense. I'll also give some situations where I think free babysitting might not be a great choice!
Why Should You Babysit For Free?
It depends on the job requirements and your personal situation. But offering to babysit for free can actually really benefit you in a number of ways.
Babysitting for free helps you get experience if you're new to babysitting, and it's a great way to give back to your community.
Free babysitting is often a win-win situation that benefits both you and the parents you're babysitting for.
Six Times When It’s Good To Babysit For Free
Free babysitting might involve either watching children at your own house or in their own home. It's more common to have parents drop their children off at your house when you're babysitting for free. Parents are likely on their way out somewhere anyway, and it's a lot more convenient for you.
Are you considering sitting at your place? Read this guide first: Babysitting At Home to learn the necessary laws and requirements.
When I say free babysitting, I don't necessarily mean you get no compensation. Parents will often give gift cards, pay for your dinner, or offer other tokens of appreciation for your work. But generally, you accept the babysitting job with no expectation of getting anything in return.
Here are some situations where I think babysitting for free makes sense.
1. As A Favor
You might be able to use babysitting as a bargaining tool to get something that you want to be done.
Maybe you're not too handy around the house, but a friend or family member is. You may need someone to hang some pictures or paint a room for you. In exchange for having someone else provide a service for you, you can offer some free babysitting for their children in return.
This kind of bartering is usually a win-win situation where everybody involved gets something that they want. Plus it can save some money since everybody is just trading their time and labor.
You can also offer some free babysitting as a favor for something nice that somebody has done for you. Or you can even proactively do a bit of free babysitting to save up some favors that you might be able to cash in later! If you babysit your sister's child now, she's way more likely to remember and volunteer to babysit for you if you have children of your own in the future.
Even if you aren't expecting to get anything in return, babysitting for free as a favor is just a nice thing to do out of the kindness of your heart for those you care about.
2. As A Gift
Babysitting is expensive! The average pay for a babysitter is around $10 per hour, but it may be $15 per hour or more in some cities!
So if you were to offer 5 hours of babysitting as a gift, you could realistically value that service at $50 to $75.
The best way to give a gift of babysitting is with a babysitting voucher. Think of it as an IOU that the recipient can cash in at any time. (Although it's good to add a few stipulations, like requiring 48 hours notice and making it not valid on holidays.)
For many new parents, an evening away from their infant or toddler is one of the best gifts you can give them! The most precious commodity for parents is time. Often families with a baby don't get enough downtime to take a relaxing bath, let alone do grown-up things like go out for a romantic dinner or see a movie.
For some people, offering a service as a gift may feel tacky. But an offer to babysit will be hugely appreciated. Much more so than a gift card or some other generic gift.
To really take babysitting as a gift to the next level, upgrade your babysitting voucher to include a full night's sleepover for the child at your house. That will give the parents a full night of rest and relaxation.
Printable Babysitting Coupons
We have a selection of beautiful Kidsit babysitting coupons that are free to download and print out whenever you need them, they come in full color, light coloring, and black & white.
I recommend printing them on thick card stock to make them feel more professional and well thought out. If you don't have a printer at home, your local office supply store can help you with making them. Simply fill one out when needed and give it to a family as a superb gift!
Download Free Coupons
Also, see our other babysitting documents.
3. To Get Childcare Experience
There are several situations where babysitting for free to gain experience working with children makes sense.
If you're a brand new would-be babysitter who hasn't had their first babysitting job yet, offering some free sitting for family members is a great way to get an idea of what babysitting is like.
Did you know that some kids start babysitting as young as eleven? Check out our babysitting age guide for more details.
Some families may be hesitant to hire you if you don't have any previous jobs that you can use as a reference. You need to have someone who can put in a good word for you with other parents, even if it's a family member or a friend of the family.
For couples that are expecting their first child or planning to have a family in the near future, babysitting can also be a valuable way to gain experience. Both partners can benefit from watching their nieces or nephews for free, either babysitting together or individually.
If your partner isn't sure if they want to have children of their own or not, spending some one-on-one time looking after a child for a few hours can help them to make a more informed decision as well.
Lastly, free babysitting is also a great experience for people who are going to school for Early Childhood Education or anyone who wants to become a teacher or work for a daycare. It gives you an opportunity to apply the theoretical information that you're learning in the classroom. Plus it's one extra reference or work experience that you can put on your resume.
If you're new to babysitting, I'd also recommend reading this article: How to Start Babysitting with No Experience.
4. To Provide A Community Service
In many places, it's mandatory for high school students to complete a certain number of hours worth of community service or volunteering before they can graduate. Even if it's not required, community service still looks great when it's time to apply for college.
Babysitting can be a great way to complete your required community service and I think it's a much more comfortable and laid-back choice compared to some other options like mowing lawns for the elderly, cleaning up a local park, or helping Habitat For Humanity build houses.
Of course, community service isn't just something people do when it's mandatory. You may want to offer free babysitting to low-income families as a way to give back to your community.
There's a popular saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Some people don't have many family members or friends that they can turn to for free childcare options, which is where you can really help out.
Still not convinced that babysitting counts as community service? Check out this article which shows it definitely is! Does Babysitting for Free Count as Community Service?
5. To Spend Time With Family And Friends
As family members start to have children and build a family of their own, it's not that uncommon for siblings, cousins, and friends to begin to drift apart. Between work and looking after their children, your family or friends might seem too busy to see you except for special holidays.
Babysitting gives you a great way to keep in touch with your family. Sitting for family members gives you a chance to spend more time with your younger cousins or nieces and nephews that you may not get much time to see any more. Plus you'll get a chance to chat with the grown-ups before and after babysitting.
If you have children of your own, babysitting is an awesome way for them to spend more time with their relatives. Or if you're just babysitting for a friend, it's still great as a way for your kids to socialize.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are from days where an aunt or uncle would take me for the afternoon and we would have a day with some special activity like going to a carnival. Don't miss out on the chance to create those special memories with your own younger relatives or children of your friends!
6. To Prove You're Capable
Maybe you're around 12 years old. You've taken a babysitting course, but you haven't yet landed your first paid babysitting job.
Sometimes parents can be hesitant to leave their children with brand new babysitters who have little or no experience.
In that case, it's worth taking on a few babysitting jobs for free with whoever will offer them to you. That way you can build up some experience and start to gain some babysitting references. (Learn more about babysitting references here)
Plus if you prove you're responsible and do a good job during your first free babysitting gigs, you might be asked to provide regular babysitting services and start to get paid for them!
Making a name and reputation for yourself as a great babysitter requires building a foundation of clients who love the work you do and will recommend you to friends. Doing some free babysitting, in the beginning, is a great way to kickstart your babysitting career and set yourself up for years of lucrative paid babysitting work down the road.
If you haven't yet started high school, now is the perfect time to fit in as many free babysitting jobs as you can to get started. Your schedule will only become busier in secondary school with more homework, extracurricular activities, and a social life to fit in as well.
Avoid the temptation to do the bare minimum just because you aren't getting paid to babysit. Going above-and-beyond and taking on some extra responsibility will really make a great impression on the parents that you babysit for.
It can definitely feel like you're getting the short end of the stick while you're doing a bunch of work for free. But in many jobs, paying your dues is just a part of climbing up the career ladder. Think of it as an investment in yourself to really get your babysitting job off the ground.
But, When Shouldn't You Babysit For Free?
Babysitting for free doesn't always make sense. Below are a couple of situations where I don't think you should babysit for free.
1. When You're An Established Babysitter
If your main source of income comes from babysitting, then it probably doesn't make much sense to babysit for free. You're a professional doing a full-time job just like any other job.
You wouldn't expect your friend who is an accountant to do your taxes for you for free. And you wouldn't expect a relative who is a mechanic to come fix your car whenever there's a problem. So why should babysitting be any different?
Babysitters have a highly valued skillset to offer parents, so their services should be appreciated and respected. As an experienced babysitter, you likely have specialized education including a number of certifications and licenses.
If you want to occasionally babysit for a friend or family member that's fine. But all too often I see full-time babysitters being taken advantage of by people they know, just because they're the go-to babysitting person.
If you babysit kids for 8 hours every weekday, the last thing you want to do is be volunteered to do the same thing in the evenings and on weekends too!
Often having family or friends have you watch their children for a couple of hours might be more skill than is necessary when a part-time teenage babysitter could do the job just as well.
2. If It's Causing Relationship Issues
You shouldn't take on free babysitting jobs just out of guilt. Especially if you don't enjoy it.
It can be very easy to get sucked into a cycle of regularly babysitting for a friend or family member.
It starts off as just a one-time favor. But then the next time a babysitter is needed, you're the first person they look to again. Eventually handing off their child to you just becomes the most convenient and normal thing to do, so it keeps happening.
You could easily start feeling taken for granted if you're babysitting for free every week.
It may even get to the point that the parents just start showing up unannounced to drop their child off, or start making assumptions about your availability and willingness to babysit.
If that's the case and you need a break from babysitting, you need to put your foot down! Otherwise, it will only get worse.
If you feel like too much of a babysitting burden is being put on you, it's okay to speak up. Maybe the parents you're babysitting for just didn't realize how much they had come to rely on you and how much of your time they have started to take up.
Babysitting can cause resentment from both sides. For the parents, it can be annoying if you're not up for babysitting and they have to find other plans. But it's also annoying to feel like your generosity is being exploited or people only call you when they need free babysitting as a favor.
It's not worth having friendships or relationships with family ruined over babysitting. So it's important that both sides have reasonable expectations and communicate what they need and expect.
Maybe you don't necessarily need to get paid for babysitting, but it would be nice to get a box of chocolates or a free dinner out of it once and a while. Or maybe all you want is some more consideration, such as the parents giving you more advance notice or not always calling you as the babysitter first.
Depending on your situation and circumstances, babysitting for free can be a win-win situation for both you and the parents you're babysitting for.
Offering to babysit for free is perhaps most valuable when you're young and inexperienced. Babysitting for free is a great way to get some references and start building a reputation as a responsible babysitter. When you babysit for free, parents might be impressed and refer you to their family and friends for paid babysitting work.
Free babysitting also makes a great gift or favor to offer to new parents. Anybody with an infant or toddler will really appreciate a chance to get away and have a nice dinner without worrying about a crying baby!
Free babysitting is also a fantastic service to offer as a way of giving back to the community.
However, free babysitting should only be done because you want to do it. Not because you feel guilted into it or because you have to. If you're doing a lot of free babysitting work and feel like you're being taken for granted or not appreciated, don't be afraid to speak up.
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Babysitting Secrets Revealed!
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