They both care for your kids and are responsible for keeping them safe, but there are significant differences between a nanny and babysitter. If you want to find the right childcare fit for your family, it’s important to fully understand how a nanny’s job differs from a babysitter’s job and vice versa.
What is a nanny?
A nanny cares for children when their parents are at work on a full-time or part-time basis depending on the family’s needs. Nannies are often an alternative to daycare or aftercare, though usually have more experience or training than your average after school or weekend babysitter. Because nannies typically spend a lot of time with your children at your home, they are naturally immersed in your family’s life. Nannies often prepare kids’ meals, help with homework, and may even take care of the kids’ laundry. Parents also have nannies take their children to activities, appointments, and playdates. They are responsible for taking care of children’s physical, social, and emotional needs.
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What is a babysitter?
A babysitter provides childcare when parents are either at work or have personal engagements during the week or on the weekends. They typically care for kids at the family’s home and are less likely to take children out of the house. Babysitters may or may not be employed on a regular basis depending on the family’s schedule and needs. While babysitters may help kids with their homework, their primary responsibility is the physical and emotional well being of the kids in their care. Babysitters may hold other part- or full-time jobs, which could sometimes impact their availability.
Key differences between a nanny and a babysitter
Professional nannies care for kids as a career, they typically have more direct experience compared to babysitters. Nannies may also have deeper knowledge of popular parenting styles and how to handle kids at different developmental stages. However, both nannies and babysitters can receive child-specific education or training, so it’s important to ask for relevant details when you’re hiring, especially if you are looking for your caregiver to have specific certifications or experience levels.
For full-time or part-time childcare, your family definitely needs a nanny. If you need an on-call caregiver or someone to watch your kids only a few steady hours a week, a babysitter may best suit your needs. Babysitters often work with a few families at a time, so you may need to develop a relationship with more so you have options for childcare when you need coverage.
Nannies and babysitters may both require a minimum number of hours (for the week or workday, respectively), then charge based on hours worked, but nannies usually have a higher rate based on their experience and hourly employment status. How nannies and babysitters are paid differs, too. Nannies receive a W-2 along with sick time and vacation days, whereas babysitters are usually paid in cash since their wages don’t typically meet the threshold for filing for taxes.
A babysitter’s main job is to supervise kids and encourage play for the handful of hours they’re in charge. They may prep meals or encourage clean up, but any kid-related chores are second to ensuring everyone’s safety and wellbeing. A nanny, however, does much of what a parent does–think scheduling, meal prep, pep talks, rides, etc.–while providing physical, emotional and social support to the children they care for. They’re hands on and often need to guide and discipline children, which requires deeper understanding of childhood development and effective caregiving strategies.