Child Care

How Old Does a Child Have to be to Babysit?

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After you have a child, you can start to feel trapped in your home. Nights that were once spent out on the town having a nice dinner or watching an acclaimed movie are now spent sitting bleary-eyed and praying that no child starts to cry. In time, you’ll begin to wonder: How old does a child have to be to babysit?

If you have a quality babysitter, you have freedom. Yes, the cost of nights out skyrockets due to the additional expense, but you’ll enjoy those nights out that much more. Freedom is nice to have after it’s been lost, even if only for a short while.

So, if you’re wondering how old a child needs to be to babysit, here are the answers to your pressing questions.

There’s a legal answer to this question, of course. Different states have different minimum ages at which a child can babysit, so be sure to check your local regulations before making a decision. Since different states have different minimum ages, the information below will focus on when a child should be able to babysit — not when a child is legally allowed to babysit.


Bottom Line: When is a Child Old Enough to Babysit?

The appropriate age of a babysitter is really dependent on the conditions — as you’ll see below. But, if you’re looking for a bottom-line age, 11 years old is the bare minimum a child should be before taking on a babysitting job.

That said, you wouldn’t leave an 11-year-old to watch a newborn overnight. A babysitter that age simply doesn’t have the experience or capabilities to handle even the most modest of emergency situations. But an 11-year-old could watch a 4- or 5-year-old for an hour while you run some errands.

The right age for a babysitter really depends on multiple factors. What types of factors? Read on to find out.


What to Look for in a Babysitter

As noted above, 11 is the bare minimum age at which a child can handle babysitting alone. But there’s another option: Try hiring someone as a household helper. For example, you could hire an 8-, 9- or 10-year-old to spend time with and look after your child while you remain in the home as a parent.

A household helper does several things. First, it gives you a set of helping hands with your child so that you can get some work done or just relax. Also, when you hire a 10-year-old as a household helper, you can groom him or her to serve as a traditional babysitter in a year or two.

What exactly are you looking for in a household helper or babysitter? Consider the following:

Age of Children to be Babysat

The younger the child who needs babysitting, the older the babysitter needs to be. If you have a newborn, you really need a teenager, college student or someone older who has experience with babysitting children that age. But, if you have a 7-year-old who needs babysitting, the 12-year-old from down the street can likely do the job for a short period of time.

Maturity of Babysitter

Ah, maturity. This quality is at a premium when you’re looking for a babysitter. In short, you want to find the most mature possible babysitter for your child, someone who brings a true sense of personal responsibility to the job. This is one reason why it’s nice to have a recommendation from someone you know and trust. If you have a friend who recommends a babysitter, there’s a good chance that sitter has the maturity needed to look after your child.

Experience of Babysitter

As noted above, experience is nice to have. Look for babysitters who have done a lot of babysitting, or look for sitters who have younger siblings. Older brothers and sisters have typically collected some babysitting experience, whether they wanted it or not.

Safety Threats

What types of safety threats are there at your home? The more safety threats that are present, the older and more experienced the babysitter that you should seek out. Look for lifeguards or any other possible sitters that have training or education that would help them in an emergency situation.


How Old Should a Child be to Babysit Overnight?

Here’s a good question: How old should a child be to babysit overnight? A good rule of thumb is someone who is of driving age: If a babysitter can operate a vehicle (or, better yet, has his or her own vehicle), that sitter can likely handle the rigors and needs of overnight babysitting. You may get a little squeamish about leaving your child overnight with a 16- or 17-year old, in which case it’s best to find someone 18 or older.


A Must-Do: Red Cross Babysitter Training

One last thing for parents who want the perfect babysitter: Have your sitters take a Red Cross Babysitting Course. These courses cover all the necessities, including:

  • What to do in an emergency
  • First aid
  • Dealing with behavior issues
  • Appropriate activities
  • More

These courses are great when you want to develop a long-term relationship with a babysitter. And the sitter who takes the course benefits, too — each course includes tips on growing a babysitting business.


Final Thoughts on How Old a Child Needs to be to Babysit

You likely have a gut feel about whether or not a babysitter is ready to handle your kids or not. Follow that gut feel. Don’t let an unqualified babysitter do the job just because you want to get out of the house.

And don’t forget the power of asking for recommendations. If you know people in the same life stage as you, ask them for babysitting recommendations. You can also leverage social media. Put out a post on Twitter or Facebook asking for babysitting recommendations in your neck of the woods.

Do you have any other tips or thoughts on finding the right babysitter? Let us know in the comments section below, or you can always send a message directly.

Uncanny Kids is where moms and dads speak to moms and dads by sharing experiences, offering insights, providing tips and much more about the parenting journey. Explore our site to find product reviews, hacks, home remedies, news, trends and anything else related to raising Uncanny Kids.

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