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Parents' Guide to Babysitting

How Many Babies Can a Babysitter Watch?

Babysitter with two babies

23 Nov 2020

 Matthew James Taylor

Written & Illustrated by
Matthew James Taylor

 Alison Stegert

Reviewed & Edited by
Alison Stegert

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Babysitters can take care of more than one child at once. But there is a limit on how many kids babysitters can watch before they're not able to provide a necessary level of supervision and support anymore.

How many babies can one babysitter watch? Logistically, it depends on the age of the children, among other factors. Legally, countries and states set their own laws about the maximum number of children that a babysitter can watch. There is no consensus between different locations, but it's safe to say that a babysitter can certainly watch two children of any age.

This article covers some of the laws regarding how many children an unlicensed babysitter can watch at one time, factors that impact how many kids one person can watch, and whether babysitters charge per child.

Babysitting Limits - What Are The Rules In Different Countries?

The number of babies that a babysitter can legally watch will vary from place to place. There’s a lot of variation in the rules and their rationale.

In Canada. there are no specific rules for babysitters, but we can safely assume that a babysitter could be classified as an unlicensed daycare if they're watching multiple kids. In that case, a babysitter in Canada could watch:

  • A maximum of five kids.
  • A maximum of two children under the age of two. (This changed recently. Caregivers could previously care for five children of any age.)

The babysitter needs to include their own children they're watching in the group of five if they're under six years old.

Above these numbers, a license would be needed.

In the UK a babysitter can watch:

  • A maximum of six children under the age of eight.
  • Of those six, a maximum of three can be a "young child." According to UK law, a child is a "young child" until the September 1st that comes after their fifth birthday.

In the US, the number of kids that a babysitter can watch varies widely from state to state.

As an example, in Florida, a babysitter could watch up to five preschool children but no more than two that are under one year old. They can also watch additional school-aged children up to a maximum of ten.

In Michigan, it’s different again. Babysitters need a license to care for children in their own home more than four weeks per year and if paid more than $600 per child in a year.

Factors That Impact How Many Kids One Babysitter Can Watch

Besides the number of children, there are other factors that will impact how many kids a babysitter can watch at a given time.

Age of the children. Age is a key consideration. The younger a child is, the more work it takes to look after them. Kids and infants under 12 months are by far the hardest to watch and need the most attention. Once a child is older than five or six, the amount of hands-on care starts to drop. Kids around eight to ten tend to take care of themselves compared to younger kids—as long as they're well-behaved.

Babysitter's experience and age. These two aspects of the babysitter can make a huge difference to the number of kids they can effectively manage.

A 13-year-old who has been babysitting for less than a year will probably struggle to care for two kids. On the other hand,an experienced babysitter who has previously worked for a daycare can probably take care of three kids without breaking a sweat. Because of their training and experience, they're probably capable of taking care of five kids at once, with two of them being infants, all on their own.

Special needs of the children. Watching kids with special needs or disabilities is a lot harder than watching other kids. A child with ADHD or autism might be challenging on their own.

If your child is on the autism spectrum, I highly recommend you read our guide: How to find a babysitter for a child with autism to learn what qualities to look for in a caregiver for special-needs children.

Behavior of the children. A babysitter’s job is a lot easier with well-behaved kids who will just sit and watch a movie or quietly do crafts while being watched. Dealing with hyper or moody children makes the job exponentially harder because of the constant micromanaging of each minute.

Do Babysitters Charge Per Child?

More children means more work as any parent can attest to! When there's a range of ages, this is especially true.

Experienced babysitters will normally charge an hourly rate that depends on the number of children they’re babysitting.

Brand new or inexperienced babysitters probably have one flat amount in mind that they want to earn. To be honest, they will probably accept whatever you offer them.

A good general rule is to pay your babysitter an extra $1 - $2 per hour for each child. So if you're paying your babysitter $10 per hour for one child, then for two children it would be $11 or $12 per hour.

Most people agree that's pretty fair. Watching two kids isn't double the work, but it's definitely not an unnoticeable difference either.

I'd pay a bit extra for a babysitter who is watching your infant too. They require so much more attention. Plus nobody likes changing dirty diapers.

Should You Pay A Babysitter Overtime?

Say you're running really late one day. Maybe your car broke down, and your babysitter had to stay an extra two or three hours later than you had originally planned. Do you have to pay them overtime? For example, should you pay a higher hourly rate for the extra hours?

At a regular retail job, you normally wouldn't be entitled to an overtime rate just because your boss asked you to work late or cover someone else's shift. I'd use the same logic when it comes to babysitters.

In some places, it might be the law that employees need to be paid time and a half if they are working more than 40 hours per week. Your babysitter is unlikely to ever hit that cap. And even if they do, babysitters are considered contractors, so that wouldn't necessarily apply.

So no, you aren't legally required to pay your babysitter overtime if they work extra. You should definitely pay them their normal hourly rate for the extra hours covered, and it’s a considerate gesture to add in a few extra dollars for inconveniencing them.

How Do You Pay An Overnight Babysitter?

There are a few different ways to pay your babysitter when they have to stay the night.

Lots of people will pay a babysitter's regular hourly rate up to a certain time, like until 10 pm, and then pay a flat rate like $50 for the entire time they're asleep until a reasonable morning time like 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.

Other people pay their babysitter their regular rate while they're awake and minimum wage while they're asleep.

Your babysitter might also want to charge their regular hourly rate if they need to wake up and help the kids for any reason in the night, and will charge for as long as they're awake.

If you have a newborn or infant who requires feeding and changing during the night, you'll probably want to pay your babysitter above their normal rate for their inconvenience and loss of sleep.

Learn more about babysitting costs in our article: The complete guide to babysitter pay.

Related Questions

What's the difference between a licensed and unlicensed daycare?

A licensed daycare is regulated by the government and has to meet specific standards, including staff qualifications, fire escape plans, menus that meet nutrition guidelines, adequate space for play, eating, and sleeping, and mandatory inspections from a government inspector.

An unlicensed daycare isn't regulated by the government. Some unlicensed daycares or babysitters may voluntarily do these things, but it's not required.

What other things affect a babysitter's rates?

In addition to charging more to watch extra kids, babysitters may ask for extra if:

  • They hold specialized certifications, like CPR or first aid
  • They carry out additional responsibilities, such as picking up the kids from school or helping with homework
  • They are hired on special occasions or holidays, like Valentines Day or New Year’s Eve
  • They have to travel or incur expenses related to the job

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