Babysitting Guidelines

Maryland Babysitting Guidelines

Minimum Babysitting Age

According to Maryland State law, a person must be 13 years old or older to babysit a child, although a child as young as eight years old can be left at home alone. Parents that leave their child with a babysitter younger than 13 can be charged with child neglect. Even if they are over the legal age, parents are advised to consider the maturity and sensibilities of the babysitter with whom they are leaving their child.

Child Protective Services

Maryland law states that Child Protective Services can get involved if it suspects a babysitter is unfit to properly care for a child. Also, any parent, educator, health practitioner, police officer or human service worker who suspects that a child has been neglected or abused by a babysitter should contact the Department of Social Services at 410-853-3000.

Babysitter Training

Maryland does not regulate the professional qualification of babysitters, so parents are advised to do this themselves. One way is to check that a potential babysitter has completed a babysitting course. The American Red Cross of Central Maryland offers babysitting certification which includes training in children's health and safety, as well as basic First Aid and CPR.

Background Checks

To further help parents self-regulate their potential babysitters, Maryland makes background checks readily available by request. You can get a background check through the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which offers a service to check "child care volunteers" for $33.25, as of publication. On top of the criminal background check, parents should also request at least one reference from a family for whom the potential babysitter has worked.

Fun Games to Play While Babysitting

Memory

Memory is game that can be played by most kids. Plus, they love playing it, and it is educational. You can buy Memory for relatively little money, or you can just use a standard deck of cards ad match numbers and titles.

Mother May I

When babysitting, it is always good to have some outdoor games to play. Mother May I is a great game. It keeps all of the kids in one place where you can see them, and it isn't rough or raucous. To play, one person stands in front of the rest with at least 10 feet between them. That person is "mother." Then, on each person's turn, she asks mother how many steps she can take to reach her. "Mother" approves or denies the request. The first person to reach "mother" takes of the job.

Freeze Dance

For indoor fun that will help burn off some unused energy, let the kids dance to music in an open space. When the music stops, they all have to sit down and freeze. The last one down is out. Keep going until one kid is left.

What Is the Appropriate Age for a Teenager to Babysit?

Recommended Minimum Age

The recommended minimum age for teens to begin babysitting varies slightly. The Fairfax County, Virginia, website recommends age 13 as the minimum age for babysitting. The University of Michigan recommends age 12 as the minimum babysitting age. While the recommended minimum age is an important guideline, it is not the only factor to consider for deciding whether a teen is old enough to babysit children.

Emotional Maturity

A teen’s emotional maturity is also an important factor. Any babysitter must have strong judgment and the ability to make effective decisions. If a teen lacks emotional maturity, this may hamper the ability to analyze and assess situations and then to proceed correctly. Because babysitting involves hands-on childcare, interacting and disciplining children, a babysitter must be able to set a positive example, maintain order and act quickly, if an emergency occurs.

Training and Education

A teenager who is preparing to begin babysitting other children can learn important skills and information by taking classes and by participating in special training. Learning CPR and basic first aid is especially important for anyone who will be caring for other people. In addition, the American Red Cross offers babysitting classes for teens, according to the University of Michigan. Once a teen acquires these skills and learns this information, she can tell parents about her special training to communicate her education and skills.

Special Considerations

Some situations exist that may make it necessary for teens to have greater maturity and skills to babysit. Children with special needs will present extra challenges for a caregiver. If the age of the children and/or the number of the children creates a challenging situation, a teenager may need additional maturity to handle the job. For example, watching twin infants for an entire day would probably require an older teen with more experience and maturity. Babysitting for a family with several small children will require more skills and maturity than babysitting for one child also. Provide a teenager with direct access to an available adult who can provide support and assistance also.

How to Write a Babysitting Contract

Start with the basics; state your name and address as well as the name and address of the babysitter and the names of the children for which she will be responsible.

State the rate of pay, including whether the rate is paid by the hour, per day or any other agreed upon arrangement. Detail how frequently the babysitter will be paid, such as daily, weekly or bi-weekly. If your babysitter has a valid driver's license, include information about mileage remuneration, if you will be expecting her to shuttle your child to extracurricular activities, friends' houses and any other event.

Provide a detailed list of all of the duties that will be expected of the babysitter, such as diaper changes, bottle-feeding, snack preparation, baths and bedtime stories. You can include log sheets in the contract to have your babysitter record each task, particularly if she will be responsible for administering any type of medication. This way, you have a record of each dose.

Spell out any additional duties you expect of your babysitter, such as cooking or heating up your child's meals, washing dishes or loading the dishwasher after dinner and cleaning up after him around the house.

Make a list of any activities that are prohibited, such as smoking in the house or having visitors to the home.

Explain the term of the contract, including whether it is a full-time, part-time or an as-needed job, and whether it is an on-going or temporary position. If you expect your babysitter to be at your home on particular days or times, include this in the term information.

Sign the contract and have your babysitter sign it, as well. Make a second copy for each of you to sign and have her keep one copy, as well.

Warning

If you're hiring a babysitter under 18 years of age, check your state’s laws to find out if you can enter into a contract with a minor and whether the contract is a legally enforceable agreement, or if you need to get an adult co-signer.