What's the Difference Between a Babysitter and a Nanny?

Choosing the best child care option for your family may be difficult, especially when the options may not be as clear as you would like. A few of the most commonly asked questions from parents choosing between a babysitter and a nanny are:  What exactly is a nanny? What exactly is a babysitter? What are the differences between them? Most importantly, which is better for my family?

In this article, we are answering these questions to clear up any confusion regarding these two essential roles to help you make the best choices for your child care needs.

What's A Babysitter?

Simply put, a babysitter, or “sitter,” is someone who cares for your children while you are away. Their main responsibility is to ensure your children's well-being and safety and they are trained to keep an eye on children and youngsters of various ages. You might consider hiring a babysitter on an “as required” basis to care for your children whenever the need may arise.

Babysitters mostly work part-time and are paid by the hour. However, many babysitters operate on a set schedule. For instance, from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, you may hire a babysitter to pick your kids up from school and supervise them until you come home. You might even ask them to babysit for you every Friday night.

Sitters are also often in charge of organizing and coordinating enriching and entertaining activities for your children. This includes activities such as arts & crafts, games, and sports.

Some babysitters will also drive children to their activities, assist with homework, cook, or conduct minor housework. However, a greater compensation is typically anticipated for these sorts of activities, and they are not considered standard babysitting chores. Any expectations you may have for a sitter that go above and beyond their basic duties should be discussed and agreed upon beforehand.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Babysitter

Babysitters are generally employed to care for and engage children, and they usually do not often take on other responsibilities like cooking or housekeeping that would fall within the jurisdiction of a full-time nanny.

Typical babysitting responsibilities include:

  • Playing with kids
  • Preparing a basic dinner or snack and cleaning up the dishes
  • Keeping play spaces clean
  • Diaper changing
  • Assisting with toilet training
  • Getting the children ready for bed

Qualifications and Experience of Babysitters

Babysitters have varying levels of expertise and talents. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Excellent rapport with children
  • Transportation that is dependable
  • CPR and first-aid training
  • References
  • Skills and expertise in child care

A reliable babysitter is a true treasure for both families and children. Find someone you like, trust, and who gets along well with your children. This will give you a sense of security while you’re out and you will be able to let your hair down without constantly worrying about the well-being of your children.

What's A Nanny?

While a babysitter simply looks after your kid for a portion of time, a nanny is far more engaged in your child's long-term growth and well-being.

When parents are working, nannies and “mannies” (a sometimes used term for male nannies) care for their children full-time. They are responsible for much more than a babysitter, and often partner with parents in making daily routines and schedules and even setting expectations around behavior and discipline. They represent a significant part of your child's psychological, physical, and mental development and well-being.

You may also hire a live-in nanny who would have a bedroom in your home or an apartment connected to your house. In this situation, room and board are provided as part of the nanny’s compensation, in addition to a wage.

Before employing a nanny, always do a background check and verify references. Moreover, you should verify your nanny's driving records if your children will be traveling with them.

Duties and Responsibilities of A Nanny

Childcare is the primary responsibility of a traditional nanny. While the parents are gone or are otherwise occupied, a nanny serves as the main authority figure; this typically implies that the nanny is in control of everything related to the children's care. A nanny may be required to execute the following things on a daily basis:

  • Providing a secure and exciting environment for children
  • Bathing and dressing your children
  • Changing diapers and toilet training, as suitable for the child's age
  • Laundry for children
  • Meal prepping, food preparation
  • Making plans for playdates and outings
  • Playing both indoors and outside
  • Crafts and educational programs
  • Carpooling or transporting the children to and from school, activities, or sleepovers
  • Reading to the kids
  • Assisting with schoolwork and organizing bedrooms/toys
  • If required, administer medication with parental approval
  • Keeping logs for the parents
  • Light housework

Qualifications and Experience of A Nanny

A good nanny should:

  • be able to design and organize safe, enjoyable learning experiences
  • understand how to plan and prepare nutritious meals and snacks
  • have first aid training and, if necessary, driving experience
  • show good organizational skills
  • have a good influence on children by exhibiting a confident, positive, and responsible personality

A Quick Note on Au Pairs

An au pair is an individual from another country who stays with a family in return for assisting with childcare and housekeeping. An au pair may be paid a monetary allowance, but they are not normally paid a complete wage, unlike a nanny.

An au pair may have additional responsibilities in addition to their host family and may only provide part-time childcare and housekeeping. For instance, they may be pursuing school or college full-time and assisting with household obligations in between courses or in the evenings.

Based on your position and demands, an au pair might be a nice compromise here between a babysitter and a nanny.

Using Apps and Websites to Find a Babysitter or a Nanny

Whether you’re looking for a babysitter or a nanny, there are many technology resources available to help you find qualified candidates (including Nanno!).

When selecting a babysitting app or website to use for your search, make sure to understand what the platform is doing to pre-screen candidates. Many babysitting apps and nanny websites now require a basic background check for all new candidates on their sites, but often those basic checks are incomplete -- make sure you understand exactly what is being checked. (For more about understanding what is and isn’t included in a background check, see our separate post on How to Background Check Your Babysitter). The best babysitting apps and services do more to qualify sitters than just a thorough background check. To learn more about what Nanno does to background check babysitters, check out our post on How Nanno’s Babysitter Vetting Process Works.

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Nanno is the first app to let parents book high-quality, fully vetted sitters and nannies on demand. Founded in 2016, Nanno has over 25,000 sitters nationwide, in every major U.S. metropolitan area.