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In the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, babysitting was a good way to make some extra spending money. Especially when you weren’t old enough to get a job at the mall.
At today’s rates, babysitting can be even more lucrative. And it isn’t just babysitting rates that have changed! There have been a lot of big improvements since you last babysat.
Babysitting: Then vs Now
Here are some of the ways babysitting has changed over the years. First up – how much you should be paying a teenager (or preteen) for babysitting your kids.
THEN: $10 to $20 a night
NOW: $15+ an hour
Back in the day, parents could hand a babysitter $10 for a night of babysitting. Over the years, inflation may have turned that $10 bill to $20, but that’s nothing compared to today’s babysitting rates.
With the student minimum wage set at $14.20, most teens can expect babysitting rates starting at $15 an hour. If the babysitter has a lot of experience and good reviews they may be able to ask for more. A higher rate per hour can also be expected if:
- The babysitter has taken a babysitting course that includes first aid training
- There are multiple children
- The babysitter is expected to do chores and/or help with homework
- The babysitter is also watching pets
This may sound hefty, but paying the going rate can help parents maintain a long-term relationship with a babysitter. And that’s a big deal once parents find a sitter that’s committed to caring for their kids and keeping them safe.
Don’t let your teen shy away from asking for at least $15. If they do a good job, they’re worth the going rate.
Age Of Babysitters
THEN: 8+ years old
NOW: 12+ years old
When you and your parents were kids, it wasn’t uncommon for an 8 to 10 year old to be left home alone with their siblings. Sometimes they were even responsible for neighbourhood kids. But social norms have changed.
Ontario doesn’t have laws that specify an age when children can be left alone or babysit other kids. That being said, many child welfare and family organizations recommend that kids be at least 10 to be home alone and 12 to babysit. That recommendation stays the same, even if your child is watching their own siblings.
Of course, these ages should only be used as a baseline. Your child’s maturity level and ability to handle the responsibility should also be considered. If you don’t feel like they’re ready to meet the challenge, that’s okay – all kids have different strengths. But you should air on the side of caution and wait until they are ready.
THEN: Kool Aid and Twinkies
NOW: Bottled water and fresh fruits or veggies
Our younger selves may have loved Kool Aid, Twinkies and Pizza Pockets, but they aren’t nearly as common these days.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, it’s safe to say that snacks tend to be healthier. This has to do with access to information, improved labeling, improved food regulations and more.
And sure, the type of snack doesn’t really affect the amount of effort a babysitter has to put in at snacktime. Whether it was opening a pudding in the 90s or opening string cheese today … it’s all pretty easy. But it does mean the kids being babysat will spend less time bouncing off walls. That means easier babysitting, less accidents and happier parents.
THEN: Babysitter did it all
NOW: Parents have it all planned
It wasn’t uncommon for babysitters of the past to be responsible for planning activities, cooking meals, bathing kids and getting them to bed.
Now, babysitters may still have to put kids to bed, but their parents usually have everything else covered. Often times, they also have the kids bathed, activities planned and approved movies chosen. Many times, they also have prepaid delivery or easy to prepare meals lined up.
That’s not to say a babysitter shouldn’t be prepared with entertainment. Coming up with unique activities can be a great way to go the extra mile. Your teen babysitter may even want to bring a box of activities to do with the kids, including arts and crafts, puzzles or other toys.
THEN: Home phones, playsets and colouring books
NOW: Cellphones, streaming and video games
As any parent reading this knows, babysitters used to have way less access to technology. That meant a lot of time was spent outside, doing arts and crafts or rewatching the same movie every time you babysat.
Today, babysitters have access to hundreds of age-appropriate shows and movies to watch via streaming services like Netflix and Disney+.
Cell phones are also a game changer – with location tracking apps, texting, photo sharing, and instant communication, parents are much more connected to the babysitter and kids!
With technology comes responsibility – parents should make it clear to babysitters whether they want photos of their kids posted to social media – a teen may not think much of snapping a pic and posting to their account.
Safer Rides Home
THEN: Driving while tipsy wasn’t uncommon
NOW: Parents are responsible for their own kids
Talk to a babysitter from the 80s and you’ll likely hear stories of babysitters getting rides home from an adult after a night of drinking, sometimes leaving their own young children home alone to sleep.
As times have changed, there’s more awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. This means that babysitters are better equipped to know when to decline a ride home. If your child was originally planning to get a ride home from the parents they worked for, they can quickly call or text you to make new arrangements.
In many situations, you may even be expected to arrange drop off and pick up when your child babysits.
Older babysitters also have alternative transit options such as buses, taxis and trackable ride sharing businesses, like Uber.
What Never Changes In Babysitting
Even with everything that has changed in the world of babysitting, some things have stayed the same. The most important being that babysitters should always have the life and safety skills needed to keep themselves and the kids they’re watching safe.
It’s true, the list of skills and knowledge has changed with the times. But safety is always a priority.
Important skills your kids should know if they want to babysit or be left home alone include:
- General safety
- How to react in an emergency situation (fire, power outage, etc.)
- Who to call in an emergency and where to find contact and emergency numbers
- Where emergency supplies are and how to use (flashlight, first aid, etc)
- How to use and answer the phone and door and are aware of possible dangers
- How to use house key responsibly
- How to set limits with friends
- Where to play, with who and how long
- That their responsibility is taking care of the kids, not entertaining friends, playing on phone or listening to music
If you’re confident your child checks all these boxes, then they may want to consider a babysitting job. Afterall … it sure does pay well.