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What is a babysitter?

The Babysitting Guide: What Is a Babysitter?

There are several types of child care providers who are available to parents — from babysitters and live-in nannies to mother’s helpers. With so many options, in fact, it can sometimes feel confusing and overwhelming for families who are looking for care — and even for caregivers looking for jobs.

Here, we focus on giving you all the babysitting information you need to know about babysitters, including who they are, what they can help families with and how much they cost.

What is a babysitter?

A babysitter is someone who is hired to temporarily care for children on behalf of the children’s parents or guardians. A babysitter may also be referred to as a “sitter,” and they generally take care of children of all ages who are in need of supervision.

Read more: What Is the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?

What do babysitters do?

Sitters are generally responsible for planning activities for your children (e.g., games, sports, arts and crafts, etc. ) or supervising playdates. However, for extra money, some sitters may be willing to take on additional responsibilities (e.g., cooking, light housekeeping, driving children to and from scheduled activities and helping with homework).

Above all else, though, a babysitter is responsible for the safety and well-being of the children in their care.

How long do babysitters work?

Most babysitting jobs are considered part-time jobs that are paid by the hour and are either scheduled regularly (e.g., every day after school from 3-6 p.m. or every Saturday night) or for special occasions (e.g., New Year’s Eve).

How much do babysitters cost?

Since babysitters are paid by the hour, jobs are paid by the going hourly rate in the area where you live. According to Care.com’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey, which used data from over 3,800 parents across the country, parents paid after-school babysitters an average of $16.20 per hour to care for one child for about three hours a day, or a total of 15 hours per week.

Babysitting rates vary from city to city and depend on a number of different factors. To find out what the babysitter rate is in your town or city, try using our babysitting rates calculator.

If a babysitter has a significant amount of child care experience and/or has any skills or certifications that parents find particularly valuable (e.g., first aid/CPR, multilingual, special needs), you may want to consider paying them a little more than the going rate.

Another important cost consideration is what’s referred to as “nanny taxes.” (Yes, they still apply if you’re hiring a babysitter instead of a nanny.) If you end up paying a babysitter $2,400 or more during the year, you are expected to pay taxes on that money.

According to Tom Breedlove, Sr. Director of Care.com HomePay: “Not only is it illegal if you don’t, but it may also do your [babysitter] a huge disservice — setting them up for a future without retirement benefits and leaving them to apply for a mortgage or a car loan without proof of income.”

Make sure to visit your state’s website or IRS.gov to learn more about babysitting taxes.