When is a child old enough to babysit?

People can be prosecuted for neglect if they leave children on their own and something goes wrong. This is a highly contentious issue and one that becomes even more complicated when contemplating when a child is old enough to be left in charge of other children and babysit.

Rospa and the NSPCC both have published guidance as to when a child is considered ready to babysit, their advice can be found here: http://www.firstaidforlife.org.uk/rospa-advice-on-when-a-child-is-old-enough-to-babysit/

When is a child old enough to babysit?

How old should a child be before they can babysit?

When asking an older sibling or friendly teenager to babysit, it is vitally important to consider how competent they would be in an emergency;

  • How mature and responsible are they?
  • Are they familiar with your home and any risks within it?
  • How well do they know your children and do your children know and feel safe with them?

Remind your babysitter to be particularly careful of hazards; including hot drinks, pets, tiredness and anything else that could cause a danger. You should explicitly point out these things as potential dangers so they understand that this is a responsible job.

Would an older sibling be a better option?

Interesting research published in 2010 in Injury Prevention, a BMA journal; revealed when older siblings supervise younger children that there is an increased risk of injury: Mothers tend to spot and remove dangers, whereas older siblings are often drawn to hazards eg. they make a hot drink and leave it accessible. Older children may resent being asked to look after siblings and so everything should be handled sensitively. Children also took more risks when supervised by siblings; copying what they were doing and failing to listen when being told off. This led to an increase in accidents and injuries.

A babysitter is entrusted with someone else’s life in their hands and that is a tremendous responsibility.

The following preparation when you are arranging babysitting will lead to a safer arrangement:

  • Ensure your babysitter is First Aid trained.
  • Fully brief them, introduce them to your children and familiarise them with your home.
  • Remind them they are there to supervise your children safely and adhere to your rules.
  • Have a local back-up adult available.
  • Make arrangements in advance for the sitter’s safe return home.

Complete an emergency check list – copies are available free from www.firstaidforlife.org.uk

  • Your children’s names;
  • Dates of birth,
  • Allergies or medication,
  • Your mobiles and work telephone numbers,
  • GP contact details,
  • Emergency telephone numbers – 999/112,
  • Reliable neighbours’ numbers and addresses.
  • Location of electricity and water mains…

Parents need time away and most babysitters are wonderful and the children remain safe and happy; however it does no harm to think carefully and plan before leaving them and everyone will be that much safer as a result.

First Aid for Life run specific First Aid courses for teenagers to help keep themselves and others safe and know how to help in an emergency.

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