The “correct” or “minimum” age to let someone start babysitting is a subjective matter. Factors such as the age and maturity levels of the child or children who need care and the maturity level of the babysitter providing the care are important to consider and the amount of care required by the child or children who need care. This includes the number of hours and any special care the child or children require.
Most states do not have laws specifying an age requirement for babysitting, and only some have guidelines for how old a child should be before they are left home alone. These guidelines range from six to 14 years.
Below is a list of states with this guideline:
- Colorado: 12*
- Delaware: 12*
- Georgia: 8*
- Illinois: 14
- Kansas: 6*
- Maryland: 8
- Michigan: 11*
- Mississippi: 12*
- Nebraska: 7*
- New Mexico: 10*
- North Carolina: 8
- North Dakota: 9*
- Oregon: 10*
- Tennessee: 10*
- Washington: 10*
*Age listed is the recommended minimum age that a child may be left home alone in place of a required/legally specified minimum age.
New Mexico does not have a state law regarding a minimum age for a child to be home alone; however, an Albuquerque ordinance states that children under 11 may not be left home alone.
The rest is ultimately a judgment call of the parents of both the children needing care and the parents of the child wanting to babysit. Age, maturity level, and experience with younger children are all important factors and first aid training. Babysitters need to understand safety and how to respond if an emergency arises.
The American Red Cross offers babysitting and child care courses designed to prepare those taking the course with universal skills and techniques that every babysitter should have. These courses are available online for those who prefer to learn on their own time or as an in-person class with access to highly-skilled instructors and in-class activities. These courses cover basic care for infants and children, basic first aid, child behavior, emergency protocols, leadership, and age-appropriate activities. Red Cross also offers first aid and CPR/AED certification courses.
Further preparation aside from formal training is also essential. Children can ask to help a friend watch a younger sibling or volunteer to be a parent’s helper for a relative or neighbor with young children. Those hiring a younger sitting should ask the sitter to arrive earlier so that they can give the sitter a tour of their home, provide emergency numbers, and explain any house rules or special needs of their children being cared for.