As your tween approaches their teenage years, they will likely desire more independence and responsibility. With limited job opportunities available until they are older, many tweens and younger teens turn to babysitting as a way to gain experience.
Is 12 too young to babysit? No, 12 is not too young to start babysitting. Recent research points to 12 as the earliest a child should be left to look after another child. This research also recommends time limits and guidelines for 12-year-olds because they are new to this experience and still relatively young.
When you’re ready to let your tween babysit, know how to prepare them so they will be able to take care of another child safely. Creating guidelines and offering support can make a difference in the overall experience for everyone involved.
Can a 12-Year-Old Babysit? 9 Considerations
Technically, a 12-year-old can babysit, but that doesn’t mean they should. Each child is different, so it’s important to know your child and what they are ready to do.
1. Maturity Level & Patience
If you know more than one 12-year-old, then you know that maturity level has nothing to do with age.
Some 12-year-olds are mature enough to care for someone else and follow directions, and some are not. You need to assess how mature your child is before allowing them to babysit.
Even a mature 12-year-old may struggle with patience, and it takes a lot of patience to babysit. If your child is easily stressed or set off, babysitting at this age isn’t a good idea.
2. Consistently Makes Responsible Decisions
When a child babysits alone, they have to make the right decisions for the problems they encounter. A child who is not regularly making responsible decisions at home isn’t ready to babysit.
3. Ability To Deal With Stress
Babysitting is not a low-stress job. If your child has issues managing stressful situations, discourage them from babysitting until they develop better coping techniques.
4. Knows What To Do in Emergencies / Took Babysitting Course
Your child should take a babysitting course that covers what to do in case of emergencies. Before babysitting, your child should know how to perform CPR and the Heimlich maneuver as well as who to call if there is an emergency.
5. Number and Age of Children Requiring Care
Your 12-year-old probably does not need to be taking care of a newborn. You want to make sure the child your 12-year-old is babysitting is at an age where your child is comfortable interacting with them.
It’s also important to make sure the number of kids your child is babysitting is reasonable. Taking care of two kids is different than taking care of one, and more than two children can be extremely stressful and exhausting.
6. Will Babysit Siblings or Other Children?
From the start, make it clear whom you are comfortable letting your child babysit. If you only want them to babysit their siblings, assess the relationship they have with them to make sure this is a good fit.
If they will be allowed to babysit other children, set guidelines for what the ages should be and how many kids they can babysit at a time.
7. Follows Instructions Well
Good babysitters follow instructions left by parents. If your child has problems following instructions, they aren’t ready to babysit. Errors due to ignoring instructions can be dangerous for the child your 12-year-old is babysitting.
8. Knows How To Entertain Children
Only kids who know how to entertain children and want to be around them should consider babysitting.
Your child needs to know what games and interactions are appropriate for children at different ages so they can make sure to keep the child happy.
9. Knows Their Own Limits
Your 12-year-old needs to be self-aware enough to know their own limits before they say yes to babysitting. They need to be comfortable asking for help or saying no when asked to take on more than they are ready for to keep everyone safe.
What Age Is Appropriate for Babysitting?
Your child can start babysitting at the age of 12 if they are mature enough. However, not every child is ready, so you may want to wait until your child is older before they start looking after others.
Babysitting Course Online
Your child needs to take a babysitting course, and there are some great options available online. These courses allow kids to learn about safety and good practices through videos, modules, and exams.
Many of them let kids work at their own pace so that they don’t have to move on before they are comfortable.
Some of the best online courses available include:
- American Red Cross Babysitting Basics
- Safe Sitter
- Babysitting Certification Institute
- Kidproof Babysitter Training Program
Appropriate Time Frame for a 12-Year-Old Babysitting
The overall view is that the younger a child is, the less time they should be left alone by themselves or with other children. A 12-year-old probably doesn’t need to babysit without another adult present for more than four hours at a time.
Start with letting your child babysit for short spurts and see how they do. You can increase the time you leave them alone as they demonstrate comfort and competence.
You should start by letting your kids babysit siblings at their own home if they want so they are in a familiar environment. You can then allow them to stay at someone else’s house to babysit, but don’t let them stay for a prolonged period of time.
Safety Tips for New Babysitters
- Keep your eyes on the children you are babysitting and avoid distractions.
- Sit with children while they eat to ensure they don’t choke.
- Follow safe sleeping guidelines when putting a child to bed.
- Have all emergency numbers ready to use.
- Don’t leave a child alone near water.
What Information Should You Leave for a Babysitter?
Even in the age of cell phones, you still need to leave certain information for a babysitter. Besides emergency contact numbers, your babysitter should know if your child has any allergies or issues that could impact them.
Also, be sure that the sitter knows when to expect you home and any specific instructions that you’d like them to follow.
Should You Pay Your Child To Babysit Their Siblings?
Whether or not you choose to pay your child when he babysits his own siblings is a personal choice.
If your 12-year-old is getting paid by other sitters, then he may see any time he is babysitting as work hours and want compensation. If you don’t agree with that, make sure he knows from the beginning.
Babysitting is a great first job for tweens and teens. Just make sure your child is fully prepared before you allow them to look after others.
Kristy is the mother of four, including identical twins. With a background in education and research, she is constantly learning more about parenting and raising multiples. When she has spare time, she enjoys hiking into the woods with a great book to take a break.