An Overview on Babysitting

Published on Monday, 05 December 2016
Last updated on Monday, 16 November 2020

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When you have children, a successful night out involves more than just a nice meal and good company. You also need someone to keep an eye on the children, and that's where a babysitter comes in.

A babysitter is paid to look after your children in your home. They can be the teenager from next door or a full-time babysitter from an agency. They can work for you on a regular basis, or just for special occasions when needed.

What is the difference between a nanny and a babysitter? A nanny is an experienced person who provides child care as a living. They will usually have child care-related qualifications and training, and being a nanny will be their main job. A babysitter will often have another job or be studying, and may not be as experienced in child care as a nanny. Babysitting is not their main job, but they should still enjoy caring for children.

How to find a babysitter

Professional agencies provide casual or regular babysitters. These agencies will charge a fee, but they can access a wide range of babysitters, and the babysitters will have been checked before they are employed. Agencies have specific policies for completing reference and background checks on potential babysitters.

You could also ask your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues if they know of any good babysitters. If you are in a parents group or attend a playgroup, speak to the other parents. If your child is in child care, ask at the child care centre. The centre may be able to recommend someone, or some child care workers are able to do casual babysitting in the evenings or on weekends.

How do I choose a babysitter?

A babysitter is applying for an important job – looking after your child. You need to interview them, check their references so and feel comfortable with your choice. It doesn't have to be an intensive interrogation, but even if the babysitter is referred by an agency or a close friend, you should still ask questions about:

  • Their experience with babysitting children, and any qualifications, such as first aid
  • Why they like babysitting
  • How they deal with emergencies and difficult situations
  • Their attitudes to discipline
  • How they will occupy and amuse the children.

Ask as many questions as you need to feel that you can trust this person to look after your child. We have developed a Babysitter checklist to help you choose and prepare for a babysitter.

How much should I pay the babysitter?

How much you pay your babysitter depends on factors such as:

  • Their age and experience
  • How long they will be babysitting for, a couple of hours or a full day
  • How often they are needed, regularly, weekly, or half-day
  • What they are paid by other parents
  • When you need child care, there may be higher rates for holidays and evenings.

If you are going through an agency, booking fees are a consideration. You may also be charged a cancellation fee if you need to cancel the booking, and there may be a minimum number of hours per booking, which is generally 3 to 4 hours.

If you have found the babysitter yourself, a typical fee, depending on the age, experience and responsibilities of the person, might range from $15 to $25 an hour.

How can I prepare the babysitter?

Before you leave the babysitter with your child, you need to ensure that they have all the important details:

  • Contact details for you, other family or friends and any emergency numbers
  • Information about schedules and routines such as feeding, sleeping
  • Information about any particular health issues or medication required
  • Your guidelines for discipline, television watching, and games
  • Any house rules about visitors, phone and computer usage for the babysitter.

Ideally, with a new babysitter, you should let your child meet them beforehand. You could arrange for them to come over for an hour or so earlier in the week, while you are also around. On the day they are babysitting, try to have a little time when you can ‘handover' to the babysitter, before you rush out the door. This means that you will have time to give them any special instructions.

Use our babysitter checklist to remind yourself of the information you should give your babysitter.

Now you can leave the house and enjoy a night out.

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