What Is the Difference Between a Babysitter and a Nanny?

Learn what type of sitter you need to hire to best fit your care needs.

babysitter playing with two boys

Part-time nanny, live-in nanny, mother's helper. There are endless caregiver names posted all over caregiving websites (like Care.com!). It can be confusing for both families looking to hire a sitter and caregivers searching for jobs. Here's a look at how we would define the roles.

Watch the video and read the tips below to learn the diffrences between nannies, part-time nannies and babysitters.

But no matter what name you choose, one thing remains the same -- caregivers have the great responsibility of supervising children in a way that is healthy and safe. And hopefully everyone has fun in the process.

What Is a Babysitter?
Generally, babysitters care for children of any age who are in need of supervision for a few short hours. Most sitters will work either by specific occasion or on a regular schedule (after-school babysitters, date night babysitters and weekend babysitters are common). Their main tasks are watching the kids, playing with them and maybe putting them to bed. Many babysitters are trained in basic skills like CPR and first aid. They usually work for hourly rates, but may be paid extra if they agree to handle additional services such as cooking, tutoring and light housekeeping. It's important to discuss expectations for the job during the interview process. Learn about typical babysitting duties by reading What Responsibilities Does a Babysitter Have?

What Is a Nanny?
A nanny is someone who is fully invested in a child's development and well-being. Generally, a nanny will care for children full-time while both parents work. It's a nanny's responsibility to create daily schedules and engage in activities to ensure healthy mental, physical and emotional growth in the children they care for. Most nannies will be tasked with preparing meals, helping with household work (dishes, laundry, etc.), driving the children to and from activities and assisting with homework.

Many nannies have their own place of residence (and are called live-out nannies), but there are some nannies who live with the family (called live-in nannies or au pairs). To learn more, read All About Au Pairs

Typically, nannies have more responsibilities and duties than a babysitter does (and, because of that, a bigger salary). In addition to basic safety classes, they may have had advanced child care training or many years of nanny experience. Often, nannies earn a weekly salary (based on hourly expectations), have taxes deducted from their paychecks and work year-round for a family. It's expected that nannies receive at least two weeks of paid vacation and earn holiday pay as well.

Nannies often become part of the family, bonding with the children in a different way than parents do. Sure, nothing can replace Mom or Dad, but children will bond with that special someone who sings with them at music class, teaches them to use the potty and drives them to and from soccer practice. Some families consider their nannies co-parents or partners in parenting, getting info from their nannies on their child's development and interests or asking their nannies to help their kids cope with losses and stress.

Because the job of a nanny is much like that of a parent, most families and nannies work together to create a nanny contract that lays out all terms and conditions of the job, including vacation time, sick days and much more. To learn more about what's included in nanny contracts, read Do You Need a Nanny Contract?

What Is a Part-Time Nanny?
Some families need a mix of babysitter and nanny. They need someone to care for their kids a few hours a week (maybe only Monday through Wednesday or only after school). But they want a caregiver who will be more involved that a typical babysitter. A part-time nanny is usually the answer. This option can provide the best of both worlds for families trying to juggle responsibilities.

>>Have more babysitting questions? Check out the main Babysitting FAQs.

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Comments (17)
Photo of Kathy T.
Kathy T.
To Neera A. You should have hired me, I was 60yrs when I started, I was originally a legal secy. I have my own grandchildren and I have raised twin daughters now 35. I have a lot of experience and I kept the house spotless esp the kitchen, liv area and kids rooms. you really should have hired me.
Posted: April 16, 2014 at 11:21 PM
Photo of Kathy T.
Kathy T.
I worked as a "babysitter", although I called myself a Nanny. I was with this one family, whom I loved for almost 4yrs. I even went on vacation with them and took care of kids and slept w the 1yr old. Don't get me wrong, I loved those kids, and still do. I had them from early birth till 4yrs. Yes, I got paid good for watching the kids for a week at a time when they went on vacation and I got some perks, but I also worked very hard, I potty trained, drove all over the place, nurtured & loved them as if they were my own grandkids. I miss them terribly till this day but unfortunately, never got to say goodbye because of an argument whereby I quit. It was very unfortunate, but my own family comes first. It was a health issue with my husband and she gave me a hard time. I new her whole family, helped w Jewish holiday dinners, and didn't get paid extra for that just the same pay. I walked in every Monday to piled high dishes in the sink from weekend, laundry, did food shopping all for $18 an hr. I was no Babysitter, I WAS A NANNY who was taken advantage of your right, we r not a teenager we r mature and demand to be paid as such.
Posted: April 16, 2014 at 11:18 PM
Photo of Elle K.
Elle K.
I love seeing other nannies say "you get what you pay for". I pointed that out on a Facebook group for nannies and got attacked for it.
I charge a lot for my time as a nanny because I feel like I do a lot more than a lot of nannies. I do not put on the TV, allow video/computer games, I try to only let young children play with toys that do not need batteries (unless it is musical), I plan art activities, I research gross and fine motor skill activities, and I also read up on any developmental/educational/ parenting theorists books. I test healthy recipes at home that I will take to work for the kids to try, and if they like them I add it to our rotation at their house. I also make sure parents know that Sunday-Thursday nights I go to bed early, and do not consume alcohol so that I am feeling my best when watching their child for 10 hours a day. I do not feel entitled to my asking salary, I feel like I am giving the family what their children deserve from a care provider.
Posted: March 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM
Kerryann E.
So I have concluded that all nannies are babysitters but not all babysitters are nannies. I have worked as a caregiver most with elderly clients and a few special needs kids. Being a caregiver is very challenging and an awesome responsibility, and on that note I agree that if employers expect much then be prepared to pay much, there is a saying that says " Encouragement sweetens labor" and it's true. To those families who are requesting dual or triple roles ((Nanny/Maid/and any additional duties assigned) from nannies for infants and toddlers please stop.Those babies require constant supervision do please think safety first and be reasonable.

Best of luck to you guys and have a prosperous and productive New Year.
Posted: January 07, 2014 at 6:04 PM
Photo of Susan B.
Susan B.
I think you get what you pay for. If you want a teen babysitter eating your chips and texting her boyfriend while she watches your kids watch Disney, then maybe 5 dollars and hour. A Nanny is someone who is involved emotionally with the children, acting as caregiver, driver, fixing meals and band aiding boo boos....just like a parent. I see people saying 5 -10 dollars an hour and wanting all this and more. to me, you pay 15 to 25 an hour and get someone who loves being in your home. These are your children...you get one chance. Pay the Nanny a wage she can live on, not just some pocket change and then expect her to go out of her way to cook and clean. We are not all Mary Poppins,.but some of us are that good!!!! Susan
Posted: December 13, 2013 at 3:56 PM
Michelle M.
When looking at positions, and trying to determine whether the family is looking for a Babysitter vs. Nanny, and the differences in those roles, including a difference in pay rate, I also suggest a clearly outlined Nanny contract, of what specifically will be their responsibilities and the expectations. One may have the responsibility of preparing meals and snacks, including the clean up from these. One may be required to change a childs soiled or dirty clothes, bib, blanket, bedding, and launder it. One may need to clean a floor, etc. from a childs accident. Cleaning up toys and things that the child may have had out during your shift. Assist a child with homework. Help a child deal with issues. Those are normal things to expect from a Nanny, and more than some Babysitters would do. So Nannys are paid more than Babysitters. But, do not mistake a Nanny, for a Maid. Unless both parties come to a written agreement in their Nanny contract, and the Nanny is monetarily compensated for those additional responsibilities. If not, a family runs the risk of loosing a good caregiver, that would likely feel disrespected and taken unfairly advantage of. It comes down to respect...and it is a 2-way street.
Posted: December 05, 2013 at 9:04 PM
candace M.
I pulled this article today to affirm what I already knew. In general terms I feel that a babysitter is one who watches your child for a few hours a day, potentially more and cares for that child by meeting thier needs. If asked she will prepare a meal and clean up after that meal. She will also help that child in any capacity while that child is in her care. Like I said,these are general terms and conditions.
A nanny in general is as the article said is "a co parent". It is a complex and tenacious roll that carries a great amount of responsibility with it. The parents and nanny almost need to have the same out look on life and have similar beliefs and background because that nanny is for the most part has a large part in raising the children that they look after. I even would go so far as to say it is an excellent way for a young woman to know if motherhood is for her or not.
As I said in the beginning of my comment, I read this article to affirm what I already knew about the differences in these rolls. Might I add that there are similarities and subtle nuances as well. For instance a baby sitter and a nanny should both have a responsibility to discipline a child especially if the child is doing something harmful or dangerous. Feeding the child,that's a no brained. Explaining things when the child asks a question, ummm yhea,by all means please do,but don't explain if you don't know. So, I feel these are a few similarities between the rolls. I mean, if I leave my one and only thing I live for in your care you better treat that child to your best ability,no,...you better care for my child as if your life depended on it.
I digress . I'll be back to give my initial comment. Motherhood calls internet needs to be put in hold.
Posted: November 23, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Photo of Gretchen V.
Gretchen V.
The primary difference between a nanny and a babysitter, from my point of view, has nothing to do with age. It has to do with initiative. Period.
Posted: October 17, 2013 at 3:07 PM
Photo of Paige D.
Paige D.
I really resent the generalized statement made by Neera. I am a babysitter that has dubbed myself the title of nanny. I'm 20, I am finishing my bachelor's degree, I work a full time job AND I take care of a three year 3 to 4x a week. I cook steaks and pastas and anything in between. I organize their home, wash dishes, clean, dust, etc. All just because I work there. They do not ask me to do those things. I also discipline him, take care of him, teach him. All for 11$ an hour. I'm sorry that you have had bad experience with nannies, but I assure you not all 20 somethings are as lazy and selfish as you portray us.
Posted: September 06, 2013 at 2:52 AM
Neera A.
As a working professional mother who has odd hours I agree, there is a big differences between a babysitter and nanny. I have paid and am willing to pay more even. But what I have seen regardless of the pay, this the type of person nanny and understand what that really mean. What I see, having had a nanny since my twins were 6 weeks old and now are 10 years, is that most young people mostly women early 20's use nanny job as a holding job, before, middle, or after college job, or didn't want to go to college job. They are okay with driving the kids around but they don't want to prepare meals, other opening a can of soup or going by the drive thru, they don't want to do the laundry or make beds. THEY don't get the difference. They think you should have a maid for that, which we do, we have and always had a housekeeper comes in 2x a week, does, floors, bathrooms, rugs, etc,, all the heavy stuff. But to ask a nanny to makes sure to come home to clean kitchen and living room is like pulling teeth. But they sure want they paycheck when they want it. It is position, that helps the WHOLE family out, which for the most part is child care, but it is equally helping the whole household so parents that work so much to afford a full time nanny gets to spend what free time THEY with their kids, with the understanding that the nanny picks the difference. So when they get they get to play with the kids, not make dinner and have to clean up after a long day a work. That is why have hired help. Most Nanny's don't understand this concept. I have read responses to my email ie. " I am ok with cleaning" , "want to spend all the time with the kids" You come in door, and they are out, no explaining of what happened during day, dinner isn't made and stuff is all over the place. Not always and not with every nanny. What a employer idea of who and why their hiring a nanny, compared to the responses above are very different. The 20 something generation of today remarkably lazy. An article in Wall Street times, stated on the college graduates of 2013, the are hits the hardest job market in 80 years. Very few have the good hard work ethic. Whose that do will have job security for life. A lot of our short time nannies want to hang out, watch TV and text their boyfriend on our time. Again not all but at least 50%. Some leave with NO notice, just don't show up and oh, yeah I don't want to do that anymore. So I think the Nanny/ babysitter should consider the parents who hiring the nanny.
Posted: June 07, 2013 at 5:16 PM
Photo of Angela C.
Angela C.
While I agree with you Toni, some parents still find it hard to share. They are conflicted about how they should feel. At least that is my experience with my charge. I know they understand the bond we have, but they cannot help but wish it was them sharing some of the things we do with them. This is especially true with an only child or a mother who would rather be home. I love my children as if they were my own. But I also know there are limits to my acceptance into the family. I try not to cross the line. That is for my own sake as well as the child's emotional well being.
And to respond to those Nannies allowing themselves to be called babysitters, it comes down to this. Almost anyone can babysit. It takes a special person to be a nanny and do it well. I have had a babysitter for my own children before. You get what you pay for. If you want someone to really be invested in caring for your child and additional duties around the home than you should be willing to pay for it.
Posted: February 19, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Toni C.
How can a parent resent a bond between a nanny and a child? What kind of person can care for your kids for up to 12 hours a day, 5 days per week or more and not have an attachment? If a person can care for a child and not have a bond I would not want that person caring for my children. I have been with the same kids for almost 5 years (the smallest one was only an infant and will be starting kindergarten) in the fall, and I love them like my own kids. They call my mom gramma, and my son their big brother because he has grown up with them. I cannot imagine it being any other way.
Posted: February 14, 2013 at 7:37 PM
Photo of Darcy V.
Darcy V.
I just accepted an offer titled "babysitter" and soon decided to suggest switching the title to "nanny". The hours are from early in the morning to late in the evening 3x a week and then any extra times throughout the week as one of the parents is on call. I was cleaning up after our days of arts and crafts, planning the day and meals, and playing make believe as well as investing in the psychology of the child through the stresses of social acceptance, death, and divorce. What makes the leap from babysitter to nanny is first the hours, then the housework, and as a nanny you are really treating the child with discipline and love instead of leaving the issue to be dealt by the parents. That's my experience, anyways.
Posted: January 07, 2013 at 12:39 PM
I've been working with a family for about 9 weeks now, where I pick up the children from school and watch them for 4 hours. This occurs about four days a week. I'm not sure if I would be concidered a "nanny" or a "babysitter". I feed them, drive them to the park, pick them up from school and clean up after them as well as tidy up the rest of the house. What would I be concidered?
Posted: October 25, 2012 at 9:50 PM
Photo of Kimberly N.
Kimberly N.
I had always been confused about the differences between babysitters and nannies. I thought that the terms were interchangeable. It's nice to now know the difference and know what is expected of each :)
Posted: October 24, 2012 at 2:29 PM
Alyssa F.
This answers my questions I had about "babysitters" and "nannies". I pretty much knew what the differences were, but this pointed out a few other things I didn't know. Thank you!
Posted: August 22, 2012 at 3:23 PM
Photo of Rebecca R.
Rebecca R.
While i agree with the article, it needs to be pointed out that most families would still rather pay the lower wages while demanding the moon, sun, and stars. It also needs to be pointed out that some families actually resent any bond made between a nanny and their child.
Posted: August 20, 2012 at 12:30 PM
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