What is a Nanny?

Nanny playing patty-cake

A nanny is a professional who cares for children in the family's home. They may work part-time or full-time. Nannies usually have either extensive experience and / or a qualification in childcare or education. Many nannies have years of relevant skills from raising their own children. Some nannies specialize in certain areas of childcare, for example a night nanny or newborn care specialist.

What do nannies do?

The job description of a nanny is focused on caring for babies and children. It can vary significantly, based on the children and the family's needs. The nanny's job usually includes planning, organizing and doing daily activities related to the children. This covers tasks like

  • establishing or following routines throughout the day
  • children's snack and meal preparations and tidying up
  • sterilizing and preparing baby bottles
  • putting babies and toddlers down for naps
  • settling a crying baby
  • dressing babies and toddlers
  • diaper changing
  • toilet training
  • doing children's laundry
  • tidying toys and books
  • arranging age and developmentally-appropriate activities
  • playing with the children
  • going on outings - walking, by car, or by public transport
  • managing a child or children in a pram safely
  • taking children on playdates
  • attending a local playgroup
  • taking children to activities like music classes or swimming lessons
  • helping with homework
  • bathtime
  • bedtime
  • being fully responsible for child safety
  • managing medical issues, such as allergies
  • monitoring children's status/progress carefully and reporting back to parents

What makes a great nanny?

A great nanny will bring their own unique skills, knowledge and personality to the role of caring for children. Some of the key traits of a wonderful nanny are being:

  • Trustworthy
  • Kind
  • Optimistic
  • Caring
  • Honest
  • Curious
  • Patient
  • Calm
  • Empathetic
  • Energetic
  • Alert
  • Playful
  • Loving
  • Thoughtful
  • Respectful
  • Reliable
  • Punctual

What qualification does a nanny have?

There is no formal qualification for a nanny. Most nannies, however, have completed some type of certification. The most relevant qualification is in Early Childhood Education. Some nannies are graduates of other courses relating to children and education, for example teaching or health care. Other carers are making a career change and have backgrounds in areas like Arts, Psychology or Integration Aides. Some nannies don't hold formal qualifications, but have many years of experience from raising their own (or others!) children.

Who does nannying?

Nannies are usually carers drawn to the role because they love working with children. Nannies are usually 18 to 60 years of age. Nannies at different ages and stages of life bring a range of experience and skills to the role. Most nannies listed on The Best Babysitters are female, some are male. Many nannies are career nannies. Some are doing nannying part-time in addition to other studies or work. The majority of nannies have had wonderful experiences babysitting, teaching children, raising families or working with children in the past and really enjoyed it, so they are keen to work in the nanny industry. At The Best Babysitters we have a wonderful range of carers who have backgrounds working or studying in many areas of interest. This includes early childhood education, primary or secondary teaching, nursing, allied health, psychology, art, music, dance and many more specialities! These carers bring a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience to the job of a nanny.

What skills are needed for a nanny job?

These are some of the important skills required for a nanny job:

Relationship skills A nanny must be able to relate well to children and their parents. This is the basis for working successfully with families and caring for children. A nanny needs to be a skilled listener, observer and communicator. A nanny needs to be able to establish a respectful relationship with children, so they feel safe and supported.
Childcare skills Nannies need to have a range of practical childcare skills to manage different ages and stages. Specialized childcare skills are particularly important for working with babies and small children, given their needs.
Educational skills A great nanny will be able to provide an environment and activities that support the child's development. Activities will be child-centered and engaging, to enhance and extend children's learning and development.
Behaviour Management Skills A nanny needs to be able to follow the parents' guidelines about how to manage and support children's behavior.
Organizational skills Excellent organizational skills are helpful to be able to plan and manage the daily and weekly activities with children. This will also contribute to setting up a predictable and organized environment where the children will feel a sense of safety.
Time management skills Time management is a skill that will help a nanny manage the range of tasks and activities involved in caring for children throughout the day. Caring for children is a juggling act!
Observational skills Observational skills are critical when caring for children. By observing carefully nannies will be able to understand, anticipate and respond to children appropriately.
Problem-solving skills Nannies need to be skilled problem-solvers! Throughout the day a nanny needs to determine the underlying cause of a problem and come up with the right solution.
First aid skills First aid skills are crucial to handle any issues that occur from day to day, such as bee stings or knee scrapes. First aid skills can be particularly important if a nanny is caring for a child with medical issues, special needs or allergies. A First Aid qualification is recommended.
Responsibility A nanny must take full responsibility for the child or children in her care.
Safety skills The most important aspect of childcare is keeping the children safe and well. A nanny needs to be skilled in managing risk and keeping children safe in various settings.
Reliability A nanny needs to be reliable, arriving for work on time and completing all tasks as agreed.
Adaptability Nannies need to be adaptable to handle the unexpected! Often despite the best laid plans, things go astray! Great nannies are able to adapt, be flexible and creative to handle changes.

Why choose a nanny?

The main benefit of having a nanny is that they can provide care that is tailored to the child and to the family's needs. Their hours can be a little more flexible than a childcare center, so parents don't have to rush to collect children at exact times. A nanny can work hours to match the family's needs, whether that's an early start or a late finish. Parents have the convenience of having a nanny walk into the home to help with the children and all the child-related tasks. Parents have the peace of mind that children are being cared for in their own home. Children have the comfort of being in their own environment, with everything they need.

Where do nannies work?

Nannies usually work in the family's home. They often become an integral part of the family, helping with day to day activities related to the children.

What types of nannies are there?

Live-out nanny

A live-out nanny provides care in the children's home. She lives out and works either part-time or full-time hours.

College nanny

A college nanny is usually studying full-time or part-time and works as a nanny or sitter.

Summer nanny

A summer nanny is commonly a college student who is available to work part-time or full-time over the summer.

Nanny mom

A nanny mom is a career nanny who has a child of her own that she brings to work. There are pros and cons with this arrangement. Benefits include the social opportunity (a built in play date!) and the fact that the nanny mom has experience raising children. Possible drawbacks may be the social dynamic between the children, the extra supplies needed for an additional child and the need for more backup care if the nanny mom’s child is unwell.

Nanny share

This is an arrangement where two families engage a nanny to care for their children at the same time. has experience raising children. The benefit is that the children can play together and the parents can split the cost of the children. Possible drawbacks may include the social dynamic between the children and the location (which family home is used for the care - affecting any parents who are working from home in that location).

Live-in nanny or au pair

A live-in nanny or au pair is a carer who lives in the family home and provides care during planned hours. They are paid the same hourly rate as a live-out nanny, but an amount may be deducted for food and board. A separate bedroom and bathroom is required to accommodate the nanny. A live-in nanny is slightly different to an au pair. An au pair is usually an international visitor who is on a 12-month working holiday visa. In addition to childcare, there is also a focus on cultural exchange during her stay with a family.

Night nanny

A night nanny is a highly skilled professional who is employed to work overnight to help parents with a newborn baby. The role of a night nanny depends on what the family needs. Sometimes it is to take full responsibility and give the parents a rest. Many times it is to support the parents and teach them skills to care for their baby overnight. A night nanny will be skilled in implementing baby sleep and feeding routines. Often they are employed for a set period of time, for example the first 8-12 weeks of a newborn’s life.

Newborn care specialist

A newborn care specialist is a professional who is highly trained to help parents learn to care for their newborn baby. The role depends on what the parents need. It may be regular shifts throughout the week, or a period of live-in assistance. The newborn care specialist will teach parents skills relating to caring for a baby, bathing a baby, settling a baby, feeding and sleeping routines.

How many children can a nanny care for?

The number of children a nanny can care for depends on the nanny's experience and skills. Often it takes years of experience to build up the skills to care for several children at once. It is important to note that hourly rates do increase for larger numbers of children.

Can a nanny care for multiples?

A nanny can help parents care for twins, triplets and other multiples. Some nannies specialize in this area and offer the ideal support service to parents. If parents are employing a nanny without experience with multiples they may be required to offer more supervision and training to teach the carer all the tips and tricks!

Do nannies drive?

A nanny's job may involve driving children to and from activities. In this case the parents decide whether to provide an insured car with suitable child seats, or whether the carer uses her own safe car. The parents may need to pay a higher hourly rate if driving is included, to cover gas and car use.

What is the difference between a nanny and a babysitter?

A babysitter usually refers to a person who cares for children in a casual or short-time capacity. They are usually less experienced than a nanny. A babysitter might be studying or working in another field and does some babysitting as a part-time job. A nanny cares for children for a living, it is their professional career. A nanny usually works longer hours caring for children, mostly in a permanent part-time or full-time capacity.

What is the difference between a nanny and a household manager?

A nanny is a professional who is focused on caring for children. A household manager is responsible for running the household and all of the associated responsibilities. The job of a housekeeper will vary depending on what the family wants.

Do nannies do house cleaning?

Nannies usually do light cleaning that is child-related. This may include things like washing the children's dishes, wiping the dining table or high chair, folding the children's laundry and tidying the toys. Any ‘heavier' cleaning duties are not within the nanny's job description normally.

Does a nanny need a Background Check?

There is no law requiring this. As with any pre-employment process, however, we do recommend a Background Check. The sitter can order a Background Check independently and show this to parents during interviews. Parents might like to offer to pay for the check. The cost varies depending on the level of detail. We recommend choosing a Background Screening service that’s accredited through The Professional Background Screening Association.

We hope this summary helps explain what is involved in a nanny job. The Best Babysitters is a job and introduction site. Our site gives parents an affordable way to find the ideal nanny to help their families. Feel free to check out our babysitter profiles and post a job online to find your perfect nanny now!

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