How Old Do You Have to Be to Babysit? Key Considerations

It can be hard to determine if your child is ready to babysit. Get the facts about the age limits and maturity required for the job.

Published January 30, 2023
Smiling babysitter and kid drawing while sitting on sofa together

Books and movies make babysitting look like an exciting adventure, and it can be. But how do you know if your child is ready to babysit? Is there a mandated age children must be to babysit? Interestingly enough, this is an area that's not typically regulated by the federal government. See for yourself how old you have to be to babysit by state and get a few tips on how to know if your child is ready for the task of babysitting.

Legal Age for Children to Babysit By State

You're curious about dipping your feet into the babysitting waters to make yourself a little money. Maybe you're wondering if your tween can babysit their siblings. States rarely mandate a specific minimum age to babysit. It's left up the parent's discretion. But 12-13 is considered a good age to start babysitting or letting your child babysit. Additionally, most government agencies don't recommend anyone under 10 babysitting.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that three states regulate when children can be left home alone: Illinois (14), Maryland (8), and Oregon (10). However, some states provide some guidelines for staying home alone and babysitting age requirements.

Important Things to Consider Before Babysitting

Since most states don't mandate babysitting, the ball is pretty much left in your court. So, how do you know if a 10-, 11-, or 12-year-old is ready for the responsibility of babysitting? They need to prove it. This means checking a few different areas.


Maturity is big for future babysitters. Not only must you be able to care for yourself, but a child as well. So, you can ask a few questions to figure out if they're ready.

  • How are you responsible?
  • Have you shown you can take care of a small pet or siblings?
  • Do you know how to make a small meal?
  • Do you know how to set boundaries and enforce rules?
  • Do you know what to do if a child has a tantrum?
  • Do you feel comfortable being alone?
  • Can you pick up after yourself and others?

Focus and Attention Span

Taking care of kiddos takes a lot of focus. That doesn't mean you need laser focus on them every second, but kids need your undivided attention. There are also schedules and tasks parents provide that are important to stick to. A babysitter can't be sidetracked by a phone or tablet. Someone that gets bored or sidetracked easily might need more time before they start babysitting.


For babysitters, patience is a must. It's important to provide gentle reminders to kids to follow directions, do chores, etc. Children must also be reminded of the rules and what happens if they break them. A babysitter must understand that children will test you and be stern but patient with them.

Attitude and Ability to Follow Directions

Is your child impulsive and prone to behavior that's rash or hasty? They might need to wait to babysit. Parents need to know their babysitter has the ability to think in case of an emergency and follow through with any directions that they might leave.

Emergency Preparedness

Knowing the steps to take in case of a fire, accident, choking, etc. are vital to being a babysitter. You need to be prepared for every situation and know when you should call 911 or parents. These are just a few areas babysitters need to know.

  • Do you know who to call in case of an emergency?
  • Do you know where a first aid kit is?
  • Who do you call if a child is injured?
  • What do you do in case of an intruder?
  • Where are the emergency plans?

Childcare Preparedness

No one should go into babysitting blind. They should always prove themselves by watching their own siblings or neighbors for short stents. These short trial runs let them know if they have what it takes to babysit.

It can also be beneficial to take a first aid and babysitting class. This gives a clear understanding of what it takes to be a babysitter like time management, handling tantrums, play, etc. Plus, they teach exactly what to do if an accident happens.

Age of Children Babysitting

There's a big difference between taking care of babies and toddlers or older kids. Starting out in the babysitting domain, it's important to try older kids first. These kids are more self sufficient than a toddler and can do well with an older sibling of 11 or more. However, babies require dedicated attention, patience, and careful handling. Therefore, they require an older child or a very mature child.

Young babysitter and boy in kitchen

Length of the Babysitting Job

Think about how long the job is. Watching siblings for a few hours after school or while a parent goes to the store can be trusted to a mature 10-12-year-old. A longer stent like six or so hours might be too much for a tween. Anything from 3-10 hours is going to require an older, more experienced babysitter. Many government agencies, like Fairfax County, VA, regulate overnight babysitting to teens 16 years or older.

Prepare a Young Babysitter

All the marks were hit. They are ready for babysitting! Make sure they have the rules down to a science before taking on real babysitting jobs.

Do a Babysitting Trial Run

Ask around if anyone who has younger children needs a babysitter for a short time. Check to see:

  • Did you enjoy babysitting?
  • Where their any problems or issues?
  • Are there any specific things about babysitting you want to discuss?

If the first run went well, try a longer one. Success means you're ready!

Get House Rules and Emergency Contacts

It's important to get a clear understanding of the house rules, especially when watching a child. Therefore, talk to the parents and have these all ready before taking on the job.

  • Clarify exactly what to do if the doorbell or phone rings, and the limits for specific media. It's helpful to have everything written out, so it's not forgotten in nervousness or excitement.
  • Babysitters should also have all the necessary phone numbers in their phone or on a contact sheet, like cell phones, poison control, alarm system, and other emergency numbers, along with emergency plans for power outages and severe weather.

Babysitting Age Requirements

Your tween might be chomping at the bit to babysit after reading The Babysitter's Club. But are they ready? From a legal standpoint, few states regulate the age at which a child can babysit. It's more important to know if they are mature enough or have enough patience for the job. Once you figure that out, start thinking about the hourly rate to charge.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Babysit? Key Considerations