At What Age Can Your Oldest Child Babysit Your Younger Child/children

Updated on February 06, 2012
S.M. asks from Denton, TX
19 answers

At what age would you allow your daughter/son to babysit their younger siblings? My husband says 12, at which time my son would be 2. But I say 13, at which time my son would be 3. I can't remember how old I was when I started babysitting. My daughter is 11 now and loves to play with her younger brother, maybe in a year she will be mature enough to babysit him without me here for a short amount of time, but I really think we should wait until she is 13. What do you all think?

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answers from Williamsport on

Depends on the child. I babysat the entire neighborhood for pay when I was 12, including toddlers and infants.

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answers from Richmond on

I was YOUNG when I was put in charge of my little brothers (and one of them is 7 years younger than I am). But that was before state laws ;)

It's all about the child's maturity, as well as the laws in your state. Here, I think it's no child under 8 can be left without adult supervision, so even when my oldest is 12, she won't be able to watch her younger brother (who will be 6, bummer!)

My 2 daughters are 6 and 8 now, and once they're 8 and 10, I will have no problem running to the store without them. I wouldn't leave them all day or anything, but for an hour or so, I know they'd manage NOW, and I trust that will stay the same. But legally, I couldn't leave them with the 'baby' until he's 8.

At 10 I was babysitting other people's kids, most often 3 boys ages 6 months, 2, and 3 (and I did that for 2 years before we moved). It depends on the child, and you know your kids best! Check your states laws though...

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answers from St. Louis on

Really you will know and there is no number. My oldest was 13 but only because we were talking about a two year old and a newborn. Before they were born I let my older two stay home together when they were 8 and 10. As a matter of fact that new freedom of mine was probably why we have number three and four.

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answers from Kansas City on

It totally depends on the kids involved. You daughter might be very mature/level-headed at 12 or 13. Some kids may not be ready for the responsibility until 14 or 15. Also, how well-behaved is the 2 or 3 year old. Some kids are super at that age. Others are quite wild and hard to control. Also, think about the worst-case catches on fire; stranger trying to come in the back door; child starts choking...would the 12 or 13 year old know how to handle the situation?

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answers from Dallas on

My two are 6 years and 2 days apart - now 12 and 6. My son started watching his sister for just short periods of time when he was 11 - just for me to run to the grocery store, something quick and close to the house. Now he's up to watching her while we go to dinner or out with friends - if we leave around bedtime and know there won't be much going on. But, my son is a really mature 12 and my children are very close to eachother. You really have to just go with your gut on your own daughter and decide for yourself if she's ready or not. What was right for my kids may not be right for yours. Try it for short times - 30-45 mins at first and see how it goes.


answers from Orlando on

My daughter is almost 14 and sometimes she babysits my 3 going to 4 year old daughter, 3 hours max.
She stared "babysitting" a year ago under my husband's mom supervision, meaning she my MIL was home with them but my daughter was "the babysitter" and so she would heat her sister food, keep her entertain and change a pee diaper if necessary,brush her teeth, etc. but for all emergencies my MIL was in charge.
She has being asking to get her a babysitting class on YMCA this vacation and if she finish it with the CPR and first aid class we will start paying her for the babysitting.



answers from Muncie on

I started baby sitting at 11. I took rounds in our church's nursery and had rooms to myself at 13. It depends on the child, start small "Watch your brother while I go do something that takes a couple of minutes." Then if everyone still has their parts, then all is good and you can go from there.



answers from Dallas on

I personally don't feel comfortable having anyone who does not have a drivers license, some sort of babysitter training, and CPR training watching my son. I can't imagine allowing a 13 year old watch my son. I have a 13 year old niece who I am very close with, and she is very mature. However, when I think about any emergencies, I think there aren't a whole lot of 13 year olds who will react promptly, calmly, and maturely. Like, say my son falls and slams his head on the ground. He is bleeding. Do I think she will know how to stop the bleeding, or be on the phone with 911 and follow those directions without feeling panicked and too shaky? Probably not. I live in an area where it's faster to get in a car and drive to the hospital, then wait for an ambulance. She couldn't do that, either. I guess I just think of all the things they are and likely aren't capable of, and it makes me too nervous. Playing with versus being entirely responsible for, are so different in my opinion. Like I said, it's just my opinion. I know others are likely to disagree.



answers from Minneapolis on

I was 12 when I started babysitting for my mom's friends. I babysat a newborn at 12 for about 3 hours. I think it depends on how mature and responsible your child is and if you trust them enough to leave them. I would say at 12 you are probably safe leaving her with a 2 year old for an hour or 2.



answers from Dallas on

Depends, I was 12 when I started babysitting, my son who is 10 is mature for his age and sometimes watches his little sister who is 7 for 15 minutes at a time, but no longer than that. Next year I am sure we plan on longer increments of time. We also plan on getting him CPR/first aid trained in the next year or so, because he wants to babysit other kids.



answers from Tyler on

Hey -
I started babysitting at age 12, but I think we were more responsible as kids back then, than kids are today.

Also, I have a friend who has kids older than mine. When her son was 13 or 14, we decided to let him babysit my 2 year old. He made a pizza for both of them. BUT, he put the pizza tray on the table and let my 2 year old reach for the pizza himself (on a hot tray). So, of course, my two year old burned his hand (nothing serious). But, this boy's family (my friend's family) put the pizza on the table and that is how they ate. So, he wasn't thinking about the special precautions you would need to take with a 2 year old. My friend's older son was more upset about all of this than I was. He was so upset that he went home and cried. I was devastated for him. And, I don't think he has ever babysat again - he just doesn't want to be put into that position. But, also at that point, I decided that I wasn't going to have anyone less than 17 or so babysit. And mostly, I use 20 somethings as babysitters.

Now, my kids are 8 and 4. I leave my 8 year old at home sometimes when I run to the store. I think to myself - when would it be okay for me to leave them both home alone together? When my youngest is 6 or 7? Then, I think, well, the reality is, it is more dangerous to leave them home together no matter what age the youngest is. If they are rough housing, one of them might fall off the couch and crack a head on the coffee table. Would the other be prepared to deal with that? With those thoughts, it will be a LONG time before I leave them alone together.

Further, if you leave your 2 or 3 year old with your older child, will the older child be able to deal with cuts (minor or major)? Choke hazards? etc? Those are the types of questions you need to ask yourself. As a much older teenager (18 or 19), I babysat a 3 year old and an older child. This house had a wooden staircase, and the 3 year old fell down the stairs while I was babysitting. I flipped OUT. How was I to know if the child was okay or not? She wasn't bleeding, but maybe she had hit her head? Thankfully, the parents had always said to call the neighbors if I needed anything, so that neighbor came over and looked her over and dealt with her and so I felt MUCH better at that point. There are just decisions you can't make at 13, 18, 20 - if you have never had a child.

Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

I think you need to base it on her maturity, not her age number. My 12 year old is AWESOME with her little sister (who just turned 5). Even if my little one was 2, I would have no issues leaving my 12 year old in charge for a couple of hours because even when she was 10 years old she was fantastic with her little sister. I also have a 17 year old, and there is NO WAY I would have let her babysit when she was 12, she just didn't have the maturity.



answers from Dallas on

I think it depends on the maturity of your daughter, and when she feels ready. My daughter started babysitting her little sister when she was 12 and she was comfortable with it and did great. Have her take the red cross class for babysitters first.


answers from Lynchburg on

Hi S.-

The guidelines vary from state to state...

And in 'my' state (va) they are VERY

I waited til my eldest was 15 or so...BUT that is because he had so many with medical challenges. ( well as other older sibs had CPR)

I remember, as a kid, babysitting for a neighbor. My mom was home...literally only a shout away...but I was mature...and these were short periods of time...with my mom as a back up.

I would see what your state has to say...and maybe consider one of those 'babysitter' they offer basic first aid and CPR as part of the course...BOTH very helpful for ANYONE dealing with kids IMO.

Best Luck!



answers from Dallas on

Hi. I think I would consider the younger child's disposition. If he is calm and an easy toddler, who isn't always putting things in his mouth, doesn't try to open doors or get into things, then allowing your daughter to babysit at 12 could work. But if you find your self having to keep a very diligent eye on the youngest, then 13 might be a better age to start the babysitting.... It's really sitting up the best situation for your daughter. Our babysitter was 14 when she started sitting for us (at night for out date nights), and she completed her babysitter training at our local athletic center. You might want to look into something like that as you considering the appropriate age.



answers from Washington DC on

I think it depends on the kids and the law.

My stepson kept an eye on his sister when he was about 12 and she about 8, for short periods of time. If it had been my SD who was the older child, no way. We barely trusted her with herself at 12.

They help keep an eye on DD now and then, but they have yet to truly babysit her while we are gone for the night.

If you are not comfortable, be it the sitter is 12 or 20, then that's a no-go. It's not just about age.

I also think that the age of the younger child matters. Will your 12 yr old change a diaper? Take the toddler to the potty? Etc. My SD was horrified when she watched DD for a short time, maybe an hour or two and had to change a diaper. And the other day she looked like she would rather have eaten a spider than be handed the potty insert by DD. The way she called me I thought something was wrong. Yeah...I think more sister time will wait til DD is more self-reliant on the toilet.

I watched babies/toddlers from about 16 on. The moms were either friends of my parents or they hired me from an interview where they determined my maturity.



answers from Dallas on

I began sitting for neighbors at 12, but I had taken my SafeSitter's course which includes training in infant and child CPR/First Aid.
Regardless of if you allow her to start at 12 or 13, get her certified through a SafeSitter class - it teaches much more than just the "must haves" of safety, but how to be a "good" sitter with the children in your care - even a sibling:)



answers from Chicago on

It depends on the kids, not the age number. I would let my 4y/o babysit my 14 y/o any time but not the other way around. I have a friend who has a daughter who is also 14 and she would never leave her with the 3 y/o brother - the girl is very irresponsible and selfish (same as my son, they share the same horoscope sign, hm...)
Asses the maturity, whether the children's personalities a good fit, can the older child handle an emergency has a good foresight, things like that. Age number is useless in my opinion.


answers from Dallas on

If you're talking legally, in the state of Texas there is no "age of consent".

They go by maturity of the child versus the responsibility.

My 11 yr old "stayed with" my 6 yr old for an hour every day after school (and before I got home from work) when I was a single mother.

I think it all depends on the child and what their level of maturity is. (but I would never leave my kids alone at night)

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