Overnight babysitter

How Old Should An Overnight Babysitter Be?

(Safety Guide)

Leaving your kids with a regular babysitter for just a few hours at a time can be nerve-wracking enough. Having a babysitter stay overnight is a whole different level of responsibility.

How old should an overnight babysitter be? Most people would agree that a babysitter should be at least 16 to watch your children overnight. Younger babysitters may seem capable, but being alone in a strange dark house is too overwhelming for most. There are other things to consider such as the babysitter's maturity as well.

Learn how old a babysitter should be, when it's okay to leave kids home alone overnight, how to prepare teens for a night alone, and more.

What Age Should A Babysitter Be? (In General)

In the UK, Australia, and Canada, there is no minimum age that's legally required before you can babysit.

Most states in the US (more than 60% of them) are the same and have no legal minimum. Ten US states have a suggested minimum age, and five have a legally defined minimum age which can range from 10 to 14.

Most children begin babysitting around age 12 and continue during their teens and even into their college years. I would say 12 is a good general age when most children are responsible enough to begin babysitting.

What Age Should An Overnight Babysitter Be?

I think that most parents would agree that 16 years old or older is an age when most teenagers are ready to handle the responsibility of babysitting overnight.

I'd say that a 13 or 14-year-old would likely not be capable of babysitting overnight. They're more likely to get spooked and think that every little noise might be someone trying to break into the house. Especially being alone in a strange house in the dark.

Other Factors To Consider Besides Age

Maturity. This is perhaps an even more important factor than age. I've seen 13-year-olds who conduct themselves like 18-year-olds... and vice versa! Just by interacting with your babysitter for a few minutes you can probably get a reasonable estimation of their maturity level.

Safety. Has your babysitter taken a Red Cross certified babysitting course or a similarly nationally-recognized course? If not, they might not be fully aware of everything that the job will require. Does your babysitter know CPR and first aid? They should have enough knowledge to know what to do if your child gets a cut, chokes, or becomes ill.

Age of your children. There is a huge difference between babysitting a newborn compared to an 8-year-old. Infants should likely only be left alone with teenagers or older, and generally the younger your child is the more care they'll need.

Special needs. If your child has behavioral issues or special needs, you will likely need a special kind of babysitter. One that is familiar with the child's needs and able to help them, or at least a babysitter with an above-average level of patience and maturity.

See our handy guide: How to find a babysitter for a child with autism for more complete information on what to do.

Where you live. Do you live in a residential neighborhood or a quiet rural area? What is the crime rate like in your area? Do you have neighbors, friends, or family members nearby who could quickly help in case of an emergency? Do you have an alarm system?

Have they babysat your kids before? Letting a brand new babysitter watch your kids overnight is a big step to take. It's better to use your regular babysitter that the children are familiar with or to have the new babysitter watch the children for just a few hours at first.

Can your babysitter drive? If something happens to your child that warrants a trip to the emergency room but isn't bad enough to warrant an ambulance (like needing stitches,) does your babysitter have a driver's license and car to take them?

When in doubt, ask the parents of your babysitter if possible. They interact with them every day and have a better idea of their maturity and other attributes.

See our complete list of babysitter qualities that you should be looking for when hiring a sitter for day or night.

A Babysitter Can Be Too Old Too!

When we ask how old a babysitter should be, we automatically assume we are talking about a minimum age. But consider that there could be a maximum age that a babysitter is effective as well.

If your children are extremely active, they'll need someone who can keep up with them, keep them engaged, and stop them from getting into mischief. Having a grandparent or other senior watch your children might not be practical if your kids are always bouncing off the walls.

An elderly person might also not be able to do more physically demanding tasks that you need in an overnight babysitter. For example, bending over or kneeling to wash your child in the bathtub or tasks that require fine motor skills like getting them dressed.

Rules To Set For Your Overnight Babysitter

If you have a regular babysitter who comes over for a few hours at a time, they probably already know most of your house rules. But there are some that might change at night time.

What do they do if the doorbell rings? After dark, it's best just not to have them answer the door unless they're expecting someone.

What do they do if the phone rings? Again, after a certain time of night, it might be better to tell them not to answer it. It could give away information to callers, such as the fact that there's no adult in the house.

Can they have friends over? If yes, how many friends can come over at once, and what time do they have to leave by?

What kind of snacks can the kids eat? You might want to set additional restrictions after a certain time or a certain number of hours before bed. Especially for sugar or caffeine.

How much TV can they watch? And what programs are they allowed to watch? There may be some things on television later evening that you don't consider appropriate for your kids.

When is bedtime? Routines help your household functioning smoothly, make sure you communicate your requirements clearly to your babysitter.

Read our complete guide: How to interview a babysitter to learn how to find the perfect sitter to match your requirements.

Related Questions

What is the minimum age that children can be left alone without a babysitter?

Much like the age for babysitters, there is no one age that children can be left alone and this can vary a lot even within different regions of countries.

In Queensland, Australia, it's a misdemeanor to leave a child under 12 years old alone for an "unreasonable time." But the law doesn't specify what an unreasonable time is. In other areas of Australia, the law simply says you're legally required to make sure that your child is properly looked after, which is also quite vague.

In Canada, the UK, and much of the US the law contains a lot of similar recommendations and "should" type language as opposed to strict guidelines.

For more details about leaving your kids home alone see our article What Age Do You Stop Needing A Babysitter?

At what age are kids ready to walk to school alone?

This will vary by a number of factors such as maturity and where you live as well. But the consensus seems to be that 5 or 6 is too young. Around 7 years old most kids could walk to school if they're in a group. By around age 10, most kids are ready to start walking to school by themselves.

At what age can children ride public transit alone?

In most places, the minimum age for an unaccompanied minor is 8 years old. Drivers can refuse service to children who look younger than this age. Even if 8-year-olds can technically take the bus, it might be better to wait until they're older (12 or 13) before allowing them to take public transportation alone. Otherwise, it can be easy to get on the wrong bus and become lost and overwhelmed. If your young child is traveling alone, it's best to give them an emergency phone to carry just in case.

Written and Illustrated by:

Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor

Kidsit Founder & Editor in Chief, Father of Three, Artist, Illustrator, and Web Designer.

Published: 9 January 2019