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Choosing a babysitter

5-minute read

Key facts

  • There is no legal age you can leave a child home alone, and parents need to use their judgement based on the age and maturity of the child.
  • The law says that you should make sure your child is safe and well cared for.
  • Getting a babysitter is different from employing a nanny or using childcare.
  • The main things to look for are that the babysitter is someone you trust to provide your child with safe care, and someone your child is comfortable being with.
  • If you use a babysitting agency, ask if they conduct police and reference checks for their babysitters.

Why would I need a babysitter?

Every parent needs some time out. Whether it’s an evening out, regular child care or emergency care when you need to leave your child unexpectedly. Having a babysitter you trust will set your mind at ease.

How should I choose a babysitter?

A babysitter is someone who is paid to look after your children in your home. You can arrange a babysitter directly with the individual, or through a registered agency. This type of service is not regulated. Choosing the right babysitter will mean you can be confident your children will be well cared for when you go out.

There is no legal age in Australia at which children can or cannot be left alone. Law says you must make sure your child is properly looked after. Young 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 your child.

How can I find a babysitter?

Getting a babysitter is different from employing a nanny or using childcare. Nannies and childcare workers have qualifications and training, and look after children as their main income. 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.

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 you have more than one child and you need to take one 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 childcare 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 should I look for in a babysitter?

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

Babysitting agencies should 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.

It is up to you to decide if the babysitter is suitable. Things to consider include what experience they have, and what they’re like when they meet your children. If you have more than one child, check if they have experience taking care of a number of children at once. 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 manage if your child misbehaves?
  • 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, report them to the agency, the person who recommended them, and/or the police.

What information should I give the babysitter?

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 $26 per hour — more if the babysitter comes from an agency.

Before you leave, give the babysitter important information like:

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

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

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Last reviewed: June 2022

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