What's the Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter?

There’s a difference between a nanny and a babysitter but it isn’t easily defined.

Basically, a babysitter provides custodial care, keeping a child safe and entertained. A nanny provides care for the whole child, nurturing the child’s emotional, social, cognitive and physical development. Imagine a continuum with a babysitter on one end and a nanny on the other end. The babysitter represents a custodial approach, the nanny represents a whole child approach. The difference between the two can be seen in the way each handles the same situation.

For example, a babysitter sees two preschoolers arguing over a toy. She takes the toy away with a friendly smile and ends the argument. A nanny sees two preschoolers arguing over a toy. She recognizes the argument as a teachable moment and uses age appropriate question prompts, role playing and brainstorming to build problem solving skills and develop empathy.

Another example, a babysitter reads a favorite book to a toddler. A nanny reads a favorite book to a toddler, incorporating imaginary and reading games into the activity to make it an interactive and creative experience for the child.

No caregiver provides custodial care or whole child care one hundred percent of the time. Individuals fall along the continuum at different points, depending upon their overall approach and the situation.

Also, people aren't "born nannies." They spend time learning and improving their nanny skills over years, and/or obtaining early education accreditation. This is the reason why Kensington Nanny requires a minimum of three years of professional experience. We know the difference between someone that has babysitting experience versus professional nanny experience.


FOR APPLICANTS: If you're not sure which category you're in, then call us and we'd be happy to consult with you. However, caring for children every Friday & Saturday, or watching them after-school each day may not be considered professional nanny work. Even if this work is performed regularly/consistently each week.