What Is the Difference Between a Babysitter and a Nanny?

Learn the difference between babysitter and a nanny to best fit your care needs.

Part-time nanny, live-in nanny, mother’s helper. There are endless caregiver names posted all over caregiving websites (like!). It can be confusing for both families looking to hire a sitter and caregivers looking for jobs.

But no matter what name you choose, one thing remains the same — caregivers have the great responsibility of supervising children in a way that is healthy and safe. And hopefully everyone has fun in the process.

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Here’s a look at how we would define the roles:

What is a babysitter?

Generally, babysitters care for children of any age who are in need of supervision for a few short hours. Most sitters will work either by specific occasion or on a regular schedule (after-school babysitters, date night babysitters and weekend babysitters are common). Their main tasks are watching the kids, playing with them and maybe putting them to bed. Many babysitters are trained in basic skills like CPR and first aid. They usually work for hourly rates, but may be paid extra if they agree to handle additional services such as cooking, tutoring and light housekeeping. It’s important to discuss expectations for the job during the interview process.

What is a nanny?

A nanny is someone who is fully invested in a child’s development and well-being. Generally, a nanny will care for children full-time while both parents work. It’s a nanny’s responsibility to create daily schedules and engage in activities to ensure healthy mental, physical and emotional growth in the children they care for. Most nannies will be tasked with preparing meals, helping with household work (dishes, laundry, etc.), driving the children to and from activities and assisting with homework.

Many nannies have their own place of residence (and are called live-out nannies), but there are some nannies who live with the family (called live-in nannies or au pairs).

Typically, nannies have more responsibilities and duties than a babysitter does (and, because of that, a bigger salary). In addition to basic safety classes, they may have had advanced child care training or many years of nanny experience. Often, nannies earn a weekly salary (based on hourly expectations), have taxes deducted from their paychecks and work year-round for a family. It’s expected that nannies receive at least two weeks of paid vacation and earn holiday pay as well.

Because the job of a nanny is much like that of a parent, most families and nannies work together to create a nanny contract that lays out all terms and conditions of the job, including vacation time, sick days and much more. To learn more about what’s included in nanny contracts, read our Drafting a Nanny Contract article.

What is a part-time nanny?

Some families need a mix of babysitter and nanny. They need someone to care for their kids a few hours a week (maybe only Monday through Wednesday or only after school). But they want a caregiver who will be more involved than a typical babysitter. A part-time nanny is usually the answer. This option can provide the best of both worlds for families trying to juggle responsibilities.

Whatever type of care you choose, it’s important that you learn how to be a fair employer.

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