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What is a Babysitter?

(And Why Parent's Love Them)

What is a babysitter, and what is this entire website about? That's what I'm going to discuss in this article.

What is a babysitter? A babysitter is a temporary childcare provider who typically watches children in the evenings or on weekends when parents are out. Babysitters range in experience levels, qualifications, and age, from young teenagers on their first job, up to retired school teachers making extra money on the side.

In this article I'll talk about what a babysitter is, what kind of job duties they have, the hours they work, how much they typically charge, and more.

In Basic Terms – What Is A Babysitter?

A babysitter is a type of childcare provider. They're similar to a nanny or in-home daycare, although they typically work on a more temporary basis. Only for a few hours at one time when parents need to go out for an evening every couple of weeks.

They don't have a regular schedule and are usually just on call whenever parents request their services.

Women or men of any age can be a babysitter. Although it's most common among young female teenagers. Usually at an age where they're too young to get a traditional part-time job such as working retail locations or in a fast food restaurant. Being a babysitter gives young teens an opportunity to earn some money and display responsibility.

Babysitting as a role emerged around the 1920s and really gained popularity in America in the 1950s and 1960s. It's unclear where the word babysit came from, but some theorize it's related to the way that hens sit on their eggs.

In some places, organizations such as the Red Cross or YMCA run training courses for young babysitters. These focus on first aid and safety for infants and young children and give babysitters the information to keep themselves and the kids they care for safe in various situations.

What Work Do Babysitters Perform?

At the core of the role, all babysitters supervise and ensure the safety of the children under their care. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the kids they're watching is their most important job above all else. But besides that, their job duties and expectations can vary significantly among babysitters.

At the most basic level, parents might just expect a babysitter to be around in the house, watching television or playing on their phone while the children of the family are asleep in their beds. Other parents may have much more involved plans for their babysitters.

For infants, babysitters will be required to change diapers, warm up bottles of milk or formula, and feed the baby. Newborns are a lot more work and responsibility than older kids, so a more experienced and mature babysitter is normally needed.

Babysitters may be asked to prepare meals for the children they're watching. It might be preparing a full meal from scratch, although more commonly parents will leave leftovers or pre-made frozen dinners that just need to be reheated. Some parents will also give babysitters money to order pizza or other food deliveries for both themselves and the kids to enjoy.

Some babysitters will take a more active and engaging role, playing games and doing arts and crafts with the children they're watching. Others will help bathe kids and help put them to bed. Babysitters may even be willing to do some light housekeeping or help with homework for some extra money.

Some babysitters will even be expected to drive if they're old enough and may pick kids up after school and take them home to watch them until their parents are done work. They might also take kids to play dates or the playground.

What Kind Of Hours Do Babysitters Work?

Babysitting is usually a part-time job and they get paid by the hour.

Babysitters most commonly work for one family once or twice a week, for about four hours at a time. They may also babysit for other families on their off days.

Some babysitters will watch kids for a couple hours every day after school.

During the summer, it's not so uncommon for a babysitter to watch kids for an entire 8 hour day or more while their parents are at work. It might still work out cheaper than the parents putting their kids into a summer camp or daycare.

Most teenage babysitters work evenings, such as 6 pm to 10 pm, or on weekends. They might also cover special occasions like New Year's Eve or Valentines Day, as well as anniversaries or any other special occasion that parents might want to leave their kids at home for.

How Much Does A Babysitter Cost?

A babysitter's rate is largely determined by what city they live in and the cost of living there, more than anything else.

In the US, a babysitter's hourly rate can vary from $10 in cities with a low cost of living, all the way up to more than $18 per hour in big cities like New York City.

Babysitters in Canada charge a bit less, usually $10 to $13 per hour. British babysitters charge anywhere from £8 to £10 per hour, and Australian babysitters average about $19 per hour.

Besides location, other things that impact a babysitter's rate include education, experience, and job duties that are expected of them. A babysitter with CPR or first aid training or a degree related to childcare can charge more than a less experienced babysitter.

To find out what a babysitter costs in your town, it's best to ask around to other parents to try and get some kind of consensus.

If you are using a full-time babysitter, they might qualify for what is called "nanny taxes." If they earn a certain amount of work a certain number of hours (depending on where you live,) you could be expected to pay employment taxes and benefits for them. A babysitter that watches your kids for a few hours every couple of weeks won't meet the requirements, but if you use a sitter more regularly, it's worth seeing what the tax laws in your area say about it.

Read our article The complete guide to babysitter pay for parents for more details on babysitters costs for your particular situation.

Related Questions

What's the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?

A babysitter watches kids part-time, usually only for a few hours per week for each family they work for. A nanny is more of a full-time role. They watch children all day, usually for 40 hours per week or more. They have more responsibilities including house cleaning and are more involved with the development of a family's children. A nanny might even live with the family they work for. They typically earn a higher wage than a babysitter, because of their additional duties, experience, and qualifications.

Learn about the subtle differences between babysitters and nannies by reading our full article: Babysitter vs nanny (what's best for your family).

What's the difference between a babysitter and daycare?

Babysitters usually travel to a family's home to watch children there. Daycare is either in-home at the daycare provider's home, or they have an actual daycare or nursery center where the childcare is provided. Parents drop their kids off at a daycare in the morning while they go to work, and pick them up at the end of the day.

A babysitter provides more one on one care, while a daycare center has multiple caregivers and watch larger numbers of kids. A daycare might watch anywhere from 5 kids to as many as 30 or more kids in a larger licensed daycare center. Employees at daycare usually have more education and training in childhood development or education.

At what age do kids need babysitters?

Kids need a babysitter to make sure they're safe and staying out of trouble from when they're born almost up until the time they become teenagers. It depends on the individual maturity of your child, as well as your local laws. But many kids start to become ready to stay home alone around age 10 or 12. Start slow and only leave your child alone for a couple of hours or less at first, and gradually build up their level of trust and responsibility.

Learn how to judge if your child is ready to stay home alone by reading our guide: What age do you stop needing a babysitter?.

Vacation babysitting - what options are available?

Written by:

 Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor

Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.

Published: 10 February 2019

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