childcarer with toddler

What is the Difference Between a Babysitter & A Nanny?

By Lisa H

Last updated on 10 January 2024

When looking for childcare, it’s helpful to know the different types of caretakers that may be available. In this article, our childcare expert Giulia Baldisseri-Benko explains the difference between a nanny and a babysitter.

Giulia is a former nanny, who opened Extra Arms Nanny Agency in 2015 to help those working in her profession to find fair and sustainable work, and support the families who need help (all families need help!) to find exactly what they need and can themselves sustain.

Many families struggle in determining whether the carer they need should be a nanny or a babysitter. At Extra Arms we differentiate between the two roles in this way: 

What is a nanny?

A nanny is a carer who will work with a family for a long period of time (say over six months), and will care for the children within a structured and predictable schedule. 

This means that the nanny will, through the practice of working together regularly over a long period of time, develop a meaningful relationship with the children and parents, have a place in the family dynamic, sharing the childrearing with its struggles and joys, often day to day. 

At Extra Arms, the minimum requirements for a junior nanny are as follows: 

  • Minimum one year experience (15-20 hours a week or more) 

  • Pediatric first aid certification no older than two years

  • Ability to obtain a police check

  • Two childcare related references 

A junior nanny will generally work for a family with 1-2 kids over the age of one.

What is a babysitter?

A babysitter is someone who will care for the children of a family sporadically, on an ad hoc basis. They can of course become a regular great friend to the children and parent/s, but will generally remain external to the family dynamic and will not commit to being available to the family for any period of time or within any particular schedule: they may walk a considerable stretch of road alongside the family, but the type of care provided will not be as structurally relevant to the family’s life as that of a nanny.

Since they may take of many different kids for shorter periods of time, the minimum requirements at Extra Arms for a babysitter are actually higher than for a junior nanny: 

  • At least four years of childcare experience

  • Pediatric first aid certification no older than two years

  • Ability to obtain a police check

  • Two or more childcare related references 

  • They are qualified to provide one-off care, also for small (non-verbal) children that may have not had an external carer before

They can take care of children from 6 months or even younger and have considerable experience doing so. All of the Extra Arms babysitters have been or still are working as a nanny as well.

Let’s run through a few different scenarios and see if the family would want a babysitter or nanny to support them!

We are looking for someone to take care of our child 3 days a week for 5 hours each – what type of caretaker should we request?

The answer will depend on how long you envisage needing your carer’s services: a week while KiTa is closed? Then you are in need of a babysitter.

A year while you slowly emerge from parental leave and return to work? For as long as possible in order to have the children picked up from KiTa earlier than your workday allows, so they can spend some quality time on outings and getting through standard evening and bedtime procedures with a trusted, loved carer? You are looking for a nanny.

We are looking for someone to pick up our child from Kita 2 afternoons a week, plus occasional nights and weekends – what type of caretaker should we request?

This is a very common, excellent and tricky question. Again, if your need for care is prolonged in time, a nanny is the professional you are searching for. However, nannies will usually need a minimum of 10-20 weekly hours (and/or income) in order to sustain a long term commitment to a family. They may not be able to pledge “open” availability in advance, i.e. they may be available on two fixed afternoons per week, but not always for all you weekend/night cover. You may need to find both a nanny and one or more babysitters!

We are looking for someone who can spontaneously watch our child when we have commitments or want to do a date night – what type of caretaker should we request?

Definitely a babysitter. Often nannies and babysitters are the same people: if you are looking for occasional, ad hoc care, it should not mean you should necessarily compromise on carer experience and quality of care provided. Depending on your child’s age, their needs and character, you may be very happy with a babysitter who is more junior in their profession, or require a more senior carer able to cater to your needs. Nannies and babysitters come in both varieties!

We are looking for another family to share a regular nanny with – how would this work?

The specifics will depend on the hours of care each family needs, on your respective locations and on the age and number of children. Usually, a nanny share sees all children cared for at the same time, in one of the family homes (host family). The nanny can either work on a freelance basis (i.e. invoice both families separately for their share of the hourly rate) or be employed by each family separately for a portion of the total hours of care.

Finally, what is the difference between a babysitter/nanny and a Tagesmutter/Kita?

It is important to say that what makes a nanny or a babysitter different from a Tagesmutter/vater (professional childminder) or KiTa (daycare center) is the location in which the care takes place: Nannies and babysitters care for children in the home of their parent/s, or in a location provided by the parent/s (a studio, their office ..). Tagespflege and KiTas usually care for children in their own premises.

Good to know

On a similar note, only Kitas and Tagemütter/väter can accept the Kita voucher, nannies and babysitters cannot. So a family will need to pay their babysitter or nanny out of pocket. If you are being invoiced for the childcare services, you can claim 2/3 of the costs in your annual tax return (up to the amount of €4000 per child, per year).

Now that you know if you need a babysitter or nanny, check out Extra Arms to find one!

Thanks Giulia!

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