A Babysitter for Toddlers

by Mark Moore, MD

What is the youngest age babysitter that can watch our toddler?

If the question is "Can I leave my toddler with our twelve-year-old daughter?" the answer is No! Babysitting has not received the attention it truly deserves. Remember, you are entrusting your child's life with this person.

Newborns: Their special needs require an older more experienced caretaker, a minimum of 21 years old. Personal experience as a mother is a plus.

Babies under 1-year-old: Young babies also need mature experienced adult supervision.

Toddlers: Children ages one through four years need an intelligent experienced and energetic young adult sitter that can anticipate hazards, is not easily distracted, can keep up with the tykes and can deal with emergencies should they arise. Certification or at least familiarity with BLS/CPR (basic life support/cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is highly recommended.

Five years and older: On an individual basis, these children may be ok with younger sitters. How young a sitter can you use? We would only have a 16-year-old if they had experience, although if the sitter's parents live next door, there is more flexibility.

Now that your sitter has been arranged, here are a few additional suggestions. Consider bathing and feeding the children before you leave. It's a lot of work, but accidents such as drowning and choking are a major cause of death and disability in infants and children. Save the candy and treats for when you're present. Keep the children out of cars and swimming pools when you are not around. Of course, the first time they baby-sit for you, have them fill out a "Data sheet" for your records. This includes their basic contact information, addresses, phones, social security number -- similar to a job application form. An internet background search is not a bad idea if you live in a big city and aren't able to get known references.

Mark Moore, MD is a pediatric and obstetric anesthesiologist in Tallahassee, Florida. He is the author of Baby Girl or Baby Boy.

Copyright © Mark Moore. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.