Nanny vs. Babysitters – Which is Right for You?

All About Nannies vs Babysitters

When it comes to caregivers, the terms nanny and babysitter are often used interchangeably but in the world of in-home childcare, the two hold many different meanings.

Both babysitters and nannies are hired by parents to provide childcare in private homes and are responsible for keeping the family’s children safe and well cared for while in their care. Babysitters and nannies have varying levels of education and childcare experience, but typically have some experience working with children and enjoy being around kids. While babysitters and nannies may share similar qualifications, the roles they play in the families with whom they work are much different.


Babysitters are hired by parents to provide occasional or short-term childcare. They may also provide backup or temporary childcare services. Babysitters typically provide childcare in the children’s home, but they may also provide care in their own homes. Parents often hire babysitters so that they can enjoy an evening out without the kids or so that they can tend to personal or social obligations. Babysitters provide supervisory care. They’re responsible for meeting the children’s basic needs during the time they spend with them. Typically parents provide detailed instructions for babysitters to follow while the children are in their care and babysitters do their best to follow the children’s typical schedule and routine.


Nannies are hired by parents to provide part-time or full-time ongoing care for the family’s children. This care is provided in the family’s private home. Full-time nannies typically work between 40 to 60 hours per week and may live with the family or commute to work each day. Nannies are expected to provide high-quality, personalized childcare and work with the parents to meet the children’s ongoing physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs. Nannies are responsible for all tasks related to caring for the children, including preparing the children’s meals, doing the children’s laundry, and keeping the children’s bedrooms, bathrooms, and play areas clean and organized. Depending on the model of nanny care employed, nannies may be full-charge nannies and given the authority to make day-to-day decisions based on the understanding they have of the family’s parenting style and objectives, or they may be more closely managed, checking in with the parents before any decision is made.  Most nannies work for dual-income families and typically work without supervision, however, some nannies work with families who have at least one parent who does not work or works from home.


Since nannies provide extensive care for children, they must be knowledgeable about best practices in childcare. In addition to understanding important safety practices, like putting babies to sleep on their backs and how to properly use a car seat, they must also have a solid understanding of basic early childhood development. Nannies should be familiar with developmental milestones and be able to provide a wide range of age-appropriate educational and social opportunities that will support the healthy growth and development of the children in their care.

For most nannies, working as a nanny is their primary form of employment. While many nannies view working as a nanny as their career choice, others use it as a stepping stone to other careers in early childhood education. Many daycare workers and teachers opt to work in private in-home childcare as an alternative to working in a formal classroom setting since nannies are typically the highest paid of early childhood workers. For those who nanny, picking up babysitting jobs in the evenings or weekends provides an additional stream of revenue as well as experience in caring for children of different ages and developmental abilities and additional references for her caregiving portfolio.


Since there are no real regulations in place regarding the usage of terminology for in-home childcare providers, virtually anyone can call themselves a babysitter or nanny. The only exception to this is for baby nurses. The law has been changed to reflect that anyone calling themselves a baby nurse must have the appropriate nursing credentials. Those who do not are now widely called newborn care specialists.

When it comes to paying babysitters and nannies, however, there are regulations in place. Both nannies are considered employees of the families for whom they work, but since parents are only responsible for reporting the wages of caregivers who are paid more than the annual wage threshold babysitters are most often viewed as casual employees. Since nannies are either part-time or full-time employees and are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act, they are entitled to wage earnings of at least minimum wage for every hour worked and live-out nannies and live-in nannies in a limited number of states must be paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a 7-day period.

Although a majority of in-home childcare workers are female, male babysitters and nannies do exist. When it comes to newborns, most parents hire a woman caregiver because women tend to have more experience caring for newborns than men, some parents seeking a male role model for their preschool-aged and older children will opt to hire a male nanny who can serve as a solid male influence in their children’s lives.

While no across-the-board regulations are in place that outlines babysitter or nanny qualifications, many organizations exist that provide training and independent credentialing for caregivers. Many local hospitals, 4-H, and the American Red Cross offer babysitting courses geared toward students and members of the International Nanny Association offered educational programs and training. The International Nanny Association also offers a basic skills exam and nanny credential exam caregivers may take.


Regardless of whether an individual wants to be a babysitter or nanny, all caregivers should share some similar characteristics. Qualified caregivers will have previous childcare experience, solid childcare references, a clean criminal background and driving record, a basic understanding of child development, and current CPR and first aid certification. While parents may be willing to hire a younger babysitter who has limited childcare experience, most parents and placement agencies require nannies to be at least 19 years old, have at least two years of verifiable professional childcare experience, and be at least a high school graduate.

Since both babysitters and nannies are responsible for the well-being of the children in their care, they must be responsible, trustworthy, and reliable. They must also be patient, kind, and caring in order to create the nurturing environment that children need.

25 Things That Make a Great Caregiver

Whether a parent wants to hire a nanny or babysitter or an individual wants to become one, it’s important to consider what makes a great caregiver. While there are many characteristics that a great caregiver should possess, there are 25 that stand out and that all great babysitters and nannies seem to have in common. Parents should seek these 25 characteristics out in potential caregivers and nannies and babysitters should strive to increase their character in these areas.

  1. A great caregiver has a love for caring for children. Babysitters and nannies have to do more than love kids; they have to love caring for kids. Spending time with kids and being responsible for their safety and well-being are two totally separate things.
  2. A great caregiver enjoys spending time with children. For those who work with children, to be successful they must genuinely enjoy being around children. Great caregivers don’t dread the time they have to spend with the kids, they look forward to it.
  3. A great caregiver is responsible. Caregivers must be responsible and able to take care of themselves and the children in their care with confidence. They must understand that they are accountable for the children in their care and regard their role seriously.
  4. A great caregiver is trustworthy. Babysitters and nannies are trusted to do the right thing. They must tell the truth, do what they say they’re going to do, and do the right thing, even when it’s hard and when no one is watching.
  5. A great caregiver is dependable.  Parents depend on nannies and babysitters so that they can meet their personal and professional commitments.  Caregivers must be punctual and show up for the jobs they’ve committed to doing.
  6. A great caregiver is nurturing. It’s vital for caregivers to create a nurturing environment for the children to explore their world and how they fit into it. Caregivers must strive to build children up, not tear them down.
  7. A great caregiver can handle an emergency. At a minimum, all caregivers should have current CPR and first aid certification. It’s important that a caregiver can stay calm and navigate anything that comes her way.
  8. A great caregiver is safety conscious. Nannies and sitters should be constantly scanning the environment for potential hazards. A safety-conscious caregiver can prevent many household-related injuries.
  9. A great caregiver is attentive. One of the benefits of hiring a private caregiver is that she can focus all of her energy on meeting the needs of the children in her care. Babysitters and nannies shouldn’t spend their time with the kids on their cell phones or surfing the net.
  10. A great caregiver has a great deal of patience. Caring for children requires patience. A great caregiver is able to extend her patience with a child and offer gentle guidance, even when she feels frustrated inside.
  11. A great caregiver is able to keep up with the kids.  Nannies and babysitters must be in good physical and mental health and able to get up and down off of the floor, go for long walks and otherwise play with the children both inside and out.
  12. A great caregiver knows how to say no. Even the best-behaved children will occasionally misbehave and push the boundaries. A good childcare provider isn’t afraid to stay ‘no’ and is able to effectively discipline the children when appropriate.
  13. A great caregiver has a basic understanding of child development. Caregivers with a basic knowledge of child development are more prepared to care for the children. They have a general understanding of what to expect from children in each age group and have successful strategies for dealing with anything that may come up.
  14. A great caregiver has caregiving experience. A great caregiver has experience caring for children.  It’s always beneficial if she has experience caring for children of similar ages as the family she’s working with.
  15. A great caregiver respects the parent’s style. A caregiver must respect the parent’s style and approach to parenting, even when she may disagree.
  16. A great caregiver is a good communicator. Nannies and babysitters must communicate with both the children and the parents to ensure the accurate passing on of information.
  17. A great caregiver has common sense. Nannies and babysitters must possess and utilize common sense when it comes to keeping the children in their care safe and well-cared for.
  18. A great caregiver gives 100% when no one is watching. Nannies and babysitters work largely unsupervised. A great caregiver always gives 100% even when no one is there to notice.
  19. A great caregiver can survive without adult interaction. Nannies and sitters spend lots of time without adult interaction, leaving them with no one to talk to but the kids. Great caregivers have a social life outside of work so they can connect with other adults when they’re not on the clock.
  20. A great caregiver is responsive. A great caregiver not only notices a need but immediately meets it. If a child has a need, the caregiver takes immediate steps to meet that need in an appropriate way.
  21. A great caregiver has good judgment. Caregivers must have sound judgment and be able to make good decisions quickly and in the best interest of their charges.
  22. A great caregiver supports the parents she works for. Babysitters and nannies are hired to support the parents and their parenting style. Caregivers should never undermine the authority of their employers.
  23. A great caregiver naturally connects with kids. Nannies and babysitters must naturally connect with kids. It’s essential that nannies and babysitters are able to make good connections with the children in their care.
  24. A great caregiver puts the kid’s needs first.  A great caregiver understands that the child’s needs come before her own. She’s willing to make sacrifices in the name of providing high-quality care.
  25. A great caregiver has an attitude of service.  At its core, babysitters and nannies provide personal service. Great caregivers take pride in their work, strive for excellence, and do whatever is required to ensure the children receive the highest quality of care.