A babysitter is someone who temporarily cares for children on behalf of the children’s parents or guardians. A babysitter may also be referred to as a “sitter,” and they generally take care of children of all ages who are in need of supervision
“Sitters are generally responsible for planning activities for your children (e.g., games, sports, arts and crafts, etc. ) or supervising play dates. However, some sitters may be willing to take on additional responsibilities (e.g., cooking, light housekeeping, driving children to and from scheduled activities, and helping with homework) for extra money.
Above all else, though, a babysitter is responsible for the safety and well-being of your children while they’re in her care.”
Have a Business Plan
“Planning starts before you get a babysitting job. To get clients, you need to know the best way to find them. If you’re new to babysitting, you might want to spread the word only to family, friends, and neighbors until you get more experience.
Babysitting is about your safety and comfort level as well as the kids’. Find out if a job is right for you by asking careful questions about what the family expects. Plan how you’ll get to and from jobs safely and know how you’ll stay in control in an unfamiliar house.
Think ahead about the kids you’d like to care for. If you’re not comfortable looking after newborns or kids with special needs, don’t take that job. Wait for the next opportunity to come along. It will!”
“Do you know how to change a diaper? How to bathe a child? Find out before you show up for your first day of work.
Your first priority in babysitting is to keep kids safe. Being a good babysitter means knowing how to handle everything from a splinter to a real emergency.
The best time to prepare for an event is before it happens. Yes, it’s very unlikely the child you’re looking after will eat something poisonous. But knowing where to find the poison control number gives you enormous peace of mind.”
“Even when it comes to something as simple as fixing lunch, a little advance planning saves you time and worry. Does the child have any food allergies? Which foods are choking hazards for toddlers? How will you ensure young kids or babies stay safe and out of trouble while you prepare a meal?
Young children demand your time and attention every second. They also need structure, such as regular meal and nap times. Organize your day, including what time the kids will eat, what you’ll feed them, when they nap, and when they go to bed.”
“The best way to prepare for all kinds of babysitting possibilities is to take a babysitting training or safety course. Your local community center or hospital might offer one. It also helps to talk to experienced babysitters to see how they do things.”
Be an Entertainer . . .
“Parents love babysitters who help kids have fun and learn — while still reinforcing rules. Ask kids what they like to do and to show you their favorite toys. Find out from parents and other babysitters what games kids of different ages like to play.
Get the kids outdoors if you can. Play outside or take them to a playground, if the parents say it’s OK. Simple games like tag and hide and seek get kids active. Running around outside also tires kids out so they nap and sleep well, which parents will probably appreciate!”
“If you can’t walk to a park or play in a yard, ask parents about other options in the neighborhood. Urban areas may have skating rinks, libraries, or community centers within walking distance — just be sure to ask parents if it’s OK to take the kids there. If outdoors doesn’t work out, get creative indoors. Dancing with the kids is great exercise, too.
TVs and computers have become the go-to entertainment for many kids these days, but that’s not always a good thing. Many parents have set time limits on electronics. Find out what the house rules are.”
. . . But Not a Best Friend
“Speaking of rules, it’s tempting to be the “cool” babysitter who lets kids get away with things parents never allow. But you can’t be a child’s friend all the time. Know when to say no and when it’s OK to let something small go — like letting kids stay up 15 minutes past bedtime on occasion.”
“Kids will challenge you. Pushing boundaries to see how much they can get away with is a normal way kids learn and figure out where they stand. But even though kids try to fight rules, they actually need and thrive best on structure and limits. So check in with parents to find out what the rules are, then follow them — even if you don’t agree with them! Not only will this help keep things consistent for the kids, you’ll gain their respect and trust.”
A few tips to become the best babysitter:
1. KNOW YOUR COMFORT ZONE
“Before you agree to babysit, know your limitations. Ask parents specific and careful questions about their expectations and what they want from a babysitter. This will help you understand better if you can or cannot meet those needs. It will help you decide if you’re the right fit for the family. Always ask specifically how many children you will be watching, and their ages.”
2.HAVE A GOOD COMMUNICATION
“When you’re babysitting, don’t feel like you have to figure out everything on your own. Always reach out to the parents if you have any questions or face any issues. It could be as simple as, “I can’t find the extra wipes” or as complex as, “Your son is highly upset and I’m not sure how to calm him down. Nothing I’ve done works.”
You should also let them know about any concerns you have, like if their child is being picked on by a neighbor. By keeping an open line of communication, you’re building trust with the parents. It shows that you want to make sure their child is safe and healthy.”
3. GET YOURSELF PREPARED FOR EVERYTHING
“Your number one priority as a babysitter is to keep the child you’re watching safe. That means being prepared for any and every issue or emergency that could happen.
Keep a list of important phone numbers on hand at all times. You’ll want to include numbers for other family members and poison control so you know who to call in a crisis.
Ask for a list of the child’s allergies (food, seasonal, pet, and other types) and what you need to do in the event of an allergic reaction. Learn what types of toys and foods are choking hazards so you can avoid them. Being proactive will allow you to stay calm and levelheaded if an emergency arises.”
4. TRY TO GET A BABYSITTING TRAINING
Preparation isn’t limited to emergency numbers and allergy checks. Some hazards may fall under your radar when planning on your own. Talk to experienced babysitters and take a child safety or babysitter training course to get a handle on all types of babysitting possibilities.
5. HAVE A DAY PLANNER
“Kids do well with structure and routine. As the babysitter, it’s your job to uphold the schedule a parent has set. You might want to keep a separate day planner for each child you are watching.
The calendar should include regular meal, nap, and play times for each day you’re in charge. List the types of foods you’ll feed them for each day, and how long they should nap and play. Having a clear agenda for how a child’s day should go will help you limit the potential for chaos. Ask specifically if any friends are allowed over and if so, ask for their names ahead of time.”
6. HAVE FUN AND BE ACTIVE
“It may seem easy to entertain a kid by setting them in front of the TV or computer screen. A good babysitter, though, will engage the child in other activities. First, learn the parent’s house rules about playtime. Ask if their kid can go to a playground, what their favorite toys are, and which games and electronics are off-limits. Then plan out which activities are best to keep their child active and having fun.
Go outside and play archeologist. Stay inside and play pillow fort captain. And if the kid you’re watching has a disability, make sure you know how to engage them in activities so they’re not excluded.”
7. REINFORCE RULES AND LIMITS
“Kids will test you and push limits. Testing their limits is part of growing up. You may be tempted to allow them to break all their parent’s rules so they see you as the “cool” babysitter. You shouldn’t give in, though.
Children do best with structure and boundaries. They help teach kids self-discipline and self-control. Find out the rules of the house and stick to them, even if you disagree. But also know when it’s OK to “break” the rules, like eating an extra cookie or staying up 10 minutes past bedtime. You’ll earn the respect of the parent and the child if you’re responsible and trustworthy.”
8. BE WATCHFUL
“There are dangers in and outside of the home. It’s not enough to be prepared for emergencies. You also have to be watchful. Stay in close proximity to the child you’re watching. If you’re at the playground, put away your cell phone. Keep your eye on the kid, not the screen. If you’re sucked into texting or a phone call, you may miss the child trying a jump that could break a leg.”
9. BE READY FOR CRITICISM
“There’s a chance you may do something that upsets or worries a parent. Be open to their concerns. Ask how you can do a better job and reassure them that you won’t make those same mistakes.”
10. TRY TO BE GENTLE AND CARING
“A good babysitter is empathetic and kind to the child they’re watching, even when they have to be stern. Children are both resilient and fragile. They’re also stubborn and impressionable. Remember, they’re still learning and growing. Be understanding of their mistakes. Lend a sympathetic ear when they’re upset. Be caring and let the child know that you’re their confidante.”
11. BE FLEXIBLE
“Parents may run late or may need to leave earlier than expected. Try and be flexible. Show up early and stay late. Be clear about your limits, but be flexible. It will show parents that you’re dependable.”