What is a babysitter?

A babysitter is someone who looks after your children in your own home for short periods of time. Most parents need to use a babysitter at some stage whether it's to enjoy some free social time in the evening or to attend an appointment during the day. Babysitters are not regulated so it's completly up to parents to ensure they are happy and comfortable with who they use as a babysitter.

How would I find and choose a babysitter?

  • Talk to friends or relatives who have children. They may be able to recommend a babysitter they have used themselves.
  • Consider older children of friends.
  • Place an advert in a local shop window or on a school/college notice board.
  • York Family Information Service can give you details of Ofsted registered childminders who are also willing to offer occasional babysitting.

Some suggested precautions:

  • Ask a potential babysitter to provide you with at least two people you could contact for a reference. These could include a parent who has used them previously, a college tutor or a teacher. Check the references thoroughly.
  • Introduce them to your children to see how they react to each other.
  • You will need to ensure that the babysitter understands any needs your child may have, such as allergies or dietary requirements.
  • Tell them about the bedtime routine and what to do if your child won’t settle.

Think about what other questions you would like so you are comfortable with them looking after your children.

Discuss rules with the babysitter before they agree to babysit for you

These could include things like:

  • If the children wake up, are they allowed to come downstairs?
  • Can the babysitter give the children a snack?
  • Can the babysitter help themselves to a snack?
  • Can the babysitter bring a friend along?
  • Be clear about your expectations around the babysitter drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes in your home.

It is a parent’s responsibility to make sure their children are safe, so you must be comfortable and happy with the babysitter you choose. Follow your instincts and if you have any doubts about a babysitter, don’t take them on.

How much do babysitters normally charge?

The amount a babysitter charges per hour should be negotiated before any babysitting takes place. It will depend on experience and qualifications (if any) and time/day of the week (a higher rate would normally be paid for weekend babysitting and for after midnight).

Refreshments should be available and if the babysitter does not have transport, the cost of this may need to be paid too.

Would a babysitter be able to cope in an emergency?

You do need to think about what would happen if something went wrong. Always make sure the babysitter knows where you are and leave a contact telephone number. If this isn't possible, leave the telephone number of a relative or close friend who lives nearby. It's also a good idea to find out if they have a first aid certificate.

Do babysitters need to be registered with Ofsted?

No, because they are looking after your children in your own home. Babysitters will not normally have a formal childcare qualification but parents usually prefer to use someone who has some experience of being with children.

York Family Information Service can give you details of Ofsted registered childminders who are also willing to offer occasional babysitting.

What is the law regarding babysitters?

There is no law in England or Wales to prevent anyone of any age from babysitting, but a person under the age of 16 cannot be charged with neglect or ill treatment of a child left in their care. Parents remain responsible and can be charged themselves if their child is harmed in any way. The NSPCC recommend 16 as a minimum age for babysitting.

What is the law regarding leaving children at home on their own?

The law does not set a minimum age at which children can be left alone. However, it is an offence to leave children alone if it places them at risk. Parents can be prosecuted for neglect if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’. The NSPCC offers guidance to parents on leaving children alone and advises that:

  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
  • Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for more than brief periods of time
  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.

You can get further guidance on this subject, including the ‘Home Alone - advice for parents’ leaflet by calling the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.




Family Information Service

01904 554444