So of course I’m a big babysitter. I thought I’d post some of the thoughts/tips I was thinking about as I was babysitting tonight.
1) Start young. I’ve been babysitting for 6 years, and was a mothers helper even before that. Start getting to know people young!
2) Know your limits. Know what is too much/hard for you. I know I find boys more of a challenge. I can watch 8 girls, no problem. If I had 8 boys, that might be too much.
3) Set limits. Families you’re sitting for need to know your “rules.” They need to know what is okay with you and what isn’t. If you charge for driving more than 30 minutes to their house, let them know. If you don’t like the dogs in the house while you’re watching the kids, tell them. If you let people know these things up front, they’re almost always willing to work with you. If you need to be home at a certain time, tell them that too.
4) Remember that it’s you and a kid or a bunch of kids. There’s no one watching you. Who cares if you pretend like you’re a dog chasing your tail or if you talk in a baby voice or if you act like you’re a ballerina. The kids are the only one who are watching you, so don’t hold back when you’re playing with the kids.
5) Have set rates. Know your rates for 1, 2, 4+ kids, if they have guests over, if two families go out, if you’re driving the kids, etc. Also, be consistent. Don’t change rates depending on the family, generally speaking. If you charge $10/hr for 1 child, do that across the board generally speaking. There are exceptions to the rules.
6) Remember that you’re gonna be a babysitter for the kids. You’re not there to be in place of the parents for a few hours. Many babysitters take this approach. You’re like a responsible play date. The kids look forward to you showing up (and if they don’t, that’s a problem). You are supposed to play with the kids, feed them, bath them, clean up from them, etc. So yes, you do have some of the parental roles. But parents are not usually entertaining the kids 24/7 and down on the floor playing with them all day every day, etc. THese are a few hours you can have fun playing with them. Kids think it’s so fun that a “big person” wants to play with them.
7) Smile always. You might be annoyed with the kids or not understand a word they’re saying, but make sure you’re always smiling at them. They’ll think you’re interested and that you know what they’re saying and think they’re funny.
8: Remember that you get to give the kids back. When you’re frustrated with the kids, tired, bored, whatever– remember that it’s just a matter of time til you give the kids back to their parents and you go home.
9) Make sure you have a list of questions to ask the parents for the first time. What are the kids ages/birthdays? are they allergic to anything? What is their bed time? are they allowed to sleep with the door open/light on, etc. Are they allowed to read in bed? What is the rule about eating all of the meal before them? Are they allowed to drink juice/water/milk/soda and if so, are there time limits on those things? Can they play outside? If so, in the front yard or back only? Can they ride their bikes? Do you have them wear their helmets? All these things are really important. Kids lie to you all the time because they know you’re not their parents and don’t know the rules. Don’t be fooled.
10) Write down comments/questions for for the parents as the day/night of babysitting goes along. If the child was really good/bad or you were not sure of something or confused about something they told you, make sure you ask. Parents also really appreciate when you tell them cute/funny things the child says.
11) Parents care the most about their children being taken care of. Secondly, they care that their kids had fun. They dont want to have to worry about their kids being safe or bored. Make sure those two things are not even a little bit of a concern
12) Be on time. Always
13) ALWAYS make sure you have a way to contact the parents. Also, they usually don’t mind if you send them a cute picture of their kid(s) while they’re out. It reassures them.
14) Bring something new. Kids love anything that isn’t theirs. If you have a puzzle or anything, bring it. Also, check the dollar store or dollar section at Target for things like that.
15) Have a somewhat basic plan for the day. If you’re gonna be there the whole week, all day–have a plan for each day and preferably a schedule to keep consistency. If it’s just a few hours, try to plan dinner/bed/snack/games/craft/baking or whatever so you make sure you all have a good balance of fun 🙂
16) Be appreciative. The families are in essence employing you, make sure you’re grateful for that!
17) If you’re allowed to drive the kids, take them out every once in a while
18) Chat with the parents. Get to know them. They and you will appreciate it.
19) Don’t hesitate to call the parents about anything–especially at first. Unless they specifically ask you not to call (they’re at a wedding or something), then call if something seems wrong. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll feel more at ease.
20) HAVE FUN. It’ll make your time and the kids time more enjoyable if you try to have fun yourself too.
21) Be firm. The kids are not your masters. They need to use manners. You have to work with the parents to make sure the kids are well trained. The parents need to tell the children what is expected of them while they’re gone. They are to listen and obey you. Make sure you know the rules and set rules for the kids. They will say “But _____ lets me.” Make sure they know that you are not ____ and that they know your rules and the consequences. And check with the parents to make sure that’s okay (they may prefer a time-out to sending them to their room, etc). Your relationship with the child will be a lot better if you both know what is expected of you. The parents will probably be surprised the kids listened so well to you. It just takes work.
22) Make sure you know where all cups/plates/utensils/etc are in the house! You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had to ask the kids or ask the parents when they return where so many things are in the house!
23) Make sure you get the parents permission before posting any pictures/videos of the kids anywhere. Most of the time they don’t care, but check with them first.
I’m sure I’ll think of more things as time goes on. I’ll add to the list if I think of it. Those are just a few thoughts I had as I was playing with some kids tonight.