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A teen who wants to become a babysitter doesn't have to jump through legal hoops or become an expert in childhood development. Finding babysitting jobs for teens is often as simple as reaching out to family members, friends and neighbors. Actually getting hired for those jobs is a little trickier. Many parents will only hire sitters who have maturity, experience with kids and some safety training, so focusing on meeting those criteria is a good place to start a sitting career.
Legal Babysitting Requirements
One of the reasons that babysitting is such a viable option as a first job is that there are no legal babysitting requirements that casual caregivers must meet. Sitters who operate home day care programs or stay with kids for long periods of time do have to comply with certain laws, but a sitter who does standard daytime or evening jobs has more legal leeway.
Few states have laws that govern the minimum age at which a child may be left unsupervised by an adult, so in most places even an 11-year-old sitter can legally do this job. (Illinois has the strictest minimum age laws: kids under 14 can't be left alone for an "unreasonable amount of time," so Illinois babysitters younger than 14 should only be hired for short jobs.)
Although there are no education or legal requirements that sitters must meet – there's no need to get working papers or a babysitting license in order to do this job – sitters should undergo safety training before booking work.
Preparing to Start Babysitting
Even teens with child-care experience can benefit from taking babysitting training classes. They're offered by the American Red Cross and through YMCAs and local community centers. These courses cover subjects like childhood milestones, how to get sitting jobs, ways to interact with kids and a variety of issues related to safety including first aid and CPR.
A teen who doesn't have any or much experience caring for kids should get some before trying to land solo sitting jobs. Parents who are looking for sitters want to be sure that they hire people who know how to behave around kids and who are comfortable being in charge, and a sitter can only demonstrate those abilities through prior experience. After taking a sitting course, teens looking for these jobs can start by volunteering to watch neighborhood kids or younger family members while their parents are home. Not only will a prospective sitter get some valuable experience this way, but she'll also be able to use those parents as references later on.
If a new sitter knows any more experienced sitters, like an older sibling, she might also ask about tagging along on jobs (with parental permission) for learning and observation purposes.
Getting Babysitting Jobs
For a new sitter just starting out, reaching out to family, friends and neighbors is often the easiest way to find paying work. A teen might ask local family members to share her name and contact information with their friends who have young kids, or ask them to write social media posts alerting parents to the teen's availability.
Parents typically want to interview or at least meet a new sitter before making any hiring decisions. A teen should be prepared to answer questions about why she wants to babysit, what her experience is, how she might keep the kids entertained and what she would do in a variety of tough situations (like if the child is crying or a stranger knocks on the door). She should also bring proof of completion of any babysitting and/or safety courses and contact information of any parents for whom she's previously worked.
What Sitters Will Earn
The parents who hire a sitter will often decide in advance what they're willing to pay, so a new sitter might never have to name her hourly rate. Still, some parents will ask a sitter what she charges, so it's always best to have a figure in mind.
Average rates vary dramatically depending on location, the number of kids and the sitter's age. An older sitter who has years of experience and cares for three kids in San Francisco might charge $25 an hour, while a young teen caring for one child in a small town might charge $8 or less. An hourly rate of $12 to $15 is fairly standard, as of 2018. A sitter just starting out should ask local parents and other sitters for advice about what a reasonable rate is in the area.
- Put together a Babysitter's Magic Bag of little books, a handpuppet or little stuffed animals, age appropriate craft items, puzzles or anything else you think you could use as a surprise or distraction.
- Plan a trip to the park or other fun free outing, as long as it is parent-approved and age appropriate.
- Make sure to ask about any allergies, forbidden food, medicine schedule or any other health-related needs the kids have.
- First aid kits designed specifically for babysitters are available through most American Red Cross offices.
- Stay away from swimming pools or other bodies of water unless you are experienced in lifeguarding or are an incredible swimmer. This is one liability issue you do not need to expose yourself to for a parttime position.
- Never smoke or consume alcohol while on the job.
- Never leave children unattended.
- If the children are older and use a computer, monitor their usage based on the rules of their family.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.