The Minimum Age to Start Babysitting

Teen girl feeding baby
••• Adie Bush/Cultura/Getty Images

What age is the right age to start babysitting? Is there a minimum age for babysitting? Find out everything you need to know about the right age to start babysitting.

Minimum Age for Babysitting

The minimum age to work varies by state; however, many states do not have any specific age for babysitting laws. One writer attempted to compile them and came up with over two-thirds of the state with no defined age, 10 states with a suggested minimum age, and only five states with a defined minimum age, which ranged from eight (Maryland, North Carolina) to 10 (Oregon, New Mexico, and 14 (Illinois) years of age.

 Laws can change, especially if there is a tragedy that spurs new legislation. You need to check with your state department of health and welfare or children and family services. This means that in most of the country, the determination of how young a child can start babysitting will most likely fall to the parents to determine. Both the parents of the babysitter and the parents of the children she will babysit need to consider if she is mature enough for the job.

Age for Babysitting

Various ages of children can babysit. Many children begin babysitting around age 12 and continue babysitting through their teen and college years. Children too young to babysit independently can work as a mother's helper (the parent remains at home during the babysitting job).

Factors in Age for Babysitting

  • Safety: The Red Cross babysitting course is recommended for 11 to 15-year-olds to start babysitting. That age range is a good guideline to use since the course is recognized nationally. Use caution and judgment when deciding a child of 10 or younger is old enough to babysit. If your child expresses an interest in babysitting, have her attend the Red Cross course so she understands what the job will require. That will prepare her for the day you feel she is ready, and it will reassure you that she has received training.
  • Maturity: The age when children can start babysitting often depends on how responsible the child is. The best judge of your child's maturity is you. Children vary widely in how fast their body matures and in how fast their judgment and responsibility matures. How comfortable would you feel leaving your younger children home alone with your child? How would you feel leaving her home alone with a baby? If your child is not ready to babysit, encourage her to look for mother's helper jobs until she is ready.
  • Age of Children: The age of the babysitter will be dependent on the needs of the child. Specifically, infants may require a teenager to babysit. Very active children will need a babysitter who can keep them engaged and out of mischief. Children with special needs or behavioral issues may need a more mature babysitter or one with care skills or rapport with the child.
  • Parents of Child: Ultimately, the parents leaving their children with your child will determine if they are ready to let your child babysit. They are the employers and she is the employee.