What Age Can a Child Babysit Their Siblings?

an older sibling watching younger sibling

Times have changed. It wasn’t long ago that pre-teens were the standard caregivers for young children.

Babysitting was a great earning opportunity for young people.

Today, parents are a bit more leery about leaving older children at home to watch their young siblings.

Quick Answer:

For the best outcome, you don’t want to leave a child at home who is under age 12 to babysit their siblings. However, age is not the only factor that goes into deciding whether or not a child is old enough to watch a sibling. Maturity, level-headedness, and preparation are important as well.

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What Age Can a Child Babysit a Sibling?

This is one of the most common questions asked by parents with multiple children. At some point, it is no longer feasible to hire a babysitter for an older child.

At the same time, the younger child or children may need someone to take care of them while you are away.

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Understanding State Laws

There is no nationwide consensus regarding the age in which a child can be left in charge of younger siblings. Some states do have laws about the minimum age of babysitters.

Some also have laws that dictate the age at which a child can be left alone without a babysitter. Make sure you know and understand your state law and any local ordinances.

Legal Minimum Age for Babysitting

Only 15 states have laws stating the youngest possible age for a child to babysit younger siblings.

The other 35 states have not yet determined the earliest appropriate age to be a sitter, but those laws are changing all of the time. It’s important to stay aware of these changing state laws to ensure you’re adhering to the most recent information.

14 and older: Illinois is the only state that requires babysitters to be no younger than 14.

Age 12: Twelve is the most common age to begin babysitting. Alaska, Arkansas, and Colorado agree that children younger than 12 should not babysit.

Age 10: Maryland, Nebraska, South Carolina and Vermont agree that older siblings can begin babysitting at age 10.

9 and under: There are a few states that allow babysitters under the age of 10. Delaware and New York allow children to legally watch siblings starting at age nine. Louisiana and New Mexico allow children ages eight and over to babysit. Missouri and North Dakota say age seven is okay. Indiana thinks a six-year-old can watch after their siblings.

Related: What Age Do Kids No Longer Need a Babysitter?

No Babysitter Legally Required

Similar to babysitting laws, few states dictate what age a child can be left at home alone. Those that do have laws regarding this matter have vastly different legal ages for unattended children.

For instance, Kansas allows a child as young as six to be left alone while in Illinois, the child cannot be younger than 14. You can read the entire list here.

Maturity Level vs. Age

You should start with state and local guidelines, but also use your best judgment. Some children are more mature at age 12 than others who are 16.

You should know your child well enough to know if they’re mature enough to handle babysitting.

If you have concerns about your child’s ability to watch their younger siblings, you should not take the risk. Wait until you know they can handle it.

Distance and Time

One way to find out if your older child can handle babysitting responsibilities is to give them a trial run. Ask your child to watch their siblings while you run to the supermarket or have coffee with a neighbor.

A short time away while you’re still close to home gives both you and your child the ability to learn how babysitting will work. You can keep this in mind for the evening out as well. If you’re not traveling far and plan to be home quickly, a less mature babysitter may suffice.

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If you’re looking for a babysitter this service can connect you to qualified babysitters who have been pre-vetted.

A Rule of Thumb

Most social workers agree that a child should not be left alone younger than age 12. This doesn’t mean that a child of 12 is necessarily equipped to be a babysitter. It means that children younger than 12 may not have the ability to behave with maturity during trying times.

Once you do decide to leave your older child with their siblings, make sure they have completed babysitting and CPR classes through the American Red Cross.

Final Thoughts

An older sibling often makes the perfect babysitter. Just make sure the older sibling is mature enough to handle this type of responsibility before leaving home for an extended period.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, as long as the 10-year-old is mature enough and no laws in your area set an age restriction.

A 14-year-old doesn’t need a babysitter if they’re mature enough and there are no legal restrictions in your area.

An 11-year-old and a 12-year-old can babysit a 5-year-old as long as they’re responsible enough and there are no legal restrictions in your area.

Yes, as long as the 12-year-old is mature enough and no laws in your area set an age restriction. Another thing to keep in mind is the length of time the 12-year-old and the 8-year-old will be left alone.