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Choosing a babysitter

4-minute read

A babysitter is someone who is paid to look after your children in your home. Choosing the right babysitter will mean you can be confident your children will be well cared for when you go out.

When do you need a babysitter?

Every parent needs some time out. Whether it’s an evening out, regular child care or emergency care when you have to leave your child unexpectedly, trusting your babysitter will set your mind at rest.

There is no legal age in Australia at which children can or cannot be left alone. However, the law says you must make sure your child is properly looked after. Small children will always need to be cared for, but you may still need a babysitter for older children if they are easily afraid or likely to misbehave or take risks. It depends on the child.

Getting a babysitter is different from employing a nanny or using childcare. Nannies and childcare workers have qualifications and training, and look after children for a living. A babysitter could be a friend, neighbour, local teenager or someone you find through a babysitting agency. They are likely to be less experienced than a professional and only look after children sometimes.

How best to find a babysitter

Many people rely on friends and family members to babysit their children. There is no legal age that another child, such as an older sibling or local teenager, is allowed to babysit. But the law says you should make sure your child is safe and well cared for.

Sometimes you might need to find a babysitter who you will not know — for example, if your usual babysitter is not free, you are unexpectedly called in to work, or if one of your other children is sick and needs to go to the doctor.

There are several ways to find a good babysitter:

  • Ask other parents or a community health nurse in your area
  • Ask local child care workers if they will babysit outside their usual hours
  • Check the noticeboards at your local community health centre, school, library or shops
  • Use a babysitting agency
  • Use an online list of babysitters, such as Care for Kids

Make sure you always screen babysitters you have never met before.

What to look for in a babysitter

The main things to look for are that the babysitter is someone you can trust and someone your child likes. It is also important that the babysitter is available for the hours you need them.

Babysitting agencies conduct police and reference checks for all their babysitters. In some states and territories, babysitters who are employed through an agency need to have a Working with Children Check.

For informal babysitters, it is up to you to decide if they are suitable. Things to consider include what experience they have, how they perform when you speak to them on the phone, and what they’re like when they meet your children. Look for people who genuinely enjoy looking after children.

Some things to ask include:

  • Does the babysitter have experience with children of the same age as your child?
  • Can they provide references?
  • Do they know first aid?
  • How will they deal with emergencies?
  • How will they discipline your child?
  • How will they occupy your child?

Always check references or ask others about their experiences with this babysitter.

If you have any concerns about the babysitter, you should ask them to leave. If you suspect that the babysitter has harmed or endangered your child, you can report them to the agency, the person who recommended them, or the police.

Creating an agreement

Tell the babysitter what you expect of them and when you will be back. It is also a good idea to agree on a fee. There are no set fees for babysitters in Australia – how much you pay them depends on their age, experience, how often you need them and the hours you need the care. As a guide, most babysitters charge $15 to $25 per hour – more if the babysitter comes from an agency.

Before you leave, give the babysitter important information like:

  • where you are going
  • how to reach you
  • your child's likes and dislikes
  • any medication or allergy instructions
  • house rules (meal time, bath time, bed time, what they are and are not allowed to do)
  • emergency contact details

Make sure the babysitter understands child safety, especially if they will bath your child, put them to sleep or drive them in a car.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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