Looking after other people’s children is a huge responsibility, even when it’s just for a couple hours. Anyone preparing to be a babysitter needs to understand exactly what that responsibility entails, what qualifications or certification they should have and, equally importantly, what parents expect from a babysitter.
How old babysitters should be varies from state to state, so checking up on your local laws is the first logical step. There is no point starting training or extensive research into job preparation if you don’t meet the age requirement. In some states, there is no minimum age requirement; others say babysitters shouldn’t be younger than 11 or 14.
The age restrictions are there to inform parents too, as these are the minimum ages when babysitters are considered mature enough to take on the responsibility of childcare.
Certification, Training and Experience
Organizations such as the YMCA, the American Red Cross or local community centers may run babysitting training with certification. Good courses include health and safety elements, such as CPR so you know what to do in a medical emergency. Having training and the certificate to prove competence is a great reassurance for parents and can help new babysitters land their first jobs before word of mouth starts to bring in new clients.
School coursework in childcare and babysitting also counts, demonstrating a strong and longstanding interest in caring for children. Babysitting may be a useful way to earn a few dollars, but most parents want to know you’re doing it for more than the money. They want to know a babysitter will put their children’s needs above everything else while under their supervision.
Experience counts, too. Children’s needs differ depending on age with babies being totally dependent and infants needing constant care and attention, while toddlers can quickly get into trouble or danger if they’re left alone for even a moment. You can’t rely on age alone to indicate needs since individuals develop at different rates, and what one child finds easy another will find extremely challenging. A babysitter’s individual experience may reassure parents, such as babysitting younger siblings of a particular age, or informal experience looking after the children of family friends.
Before You Take on a Babysitting Job
Your job is to care for the children, but in order to do that you also need to feel confident and comfortable. The only way to find out if the family and you are a good fit is to ask lots of questions before agreeing to babysit. Pertinent questions include:
- How many children? It may sound basic, but many a babysitter has been caught out with this one. You think you’re babysitting one child, only to find three or four when you arrive. Have it very clear how many children will be in your care, and what their ages are.
- What hours you’re needed. You want to know when to arrive, but also how long you’re needed and what happens if time runs over.
- What things you’ll need to do: Duties may include cooking meals or preparing snacks, bathing, entertaining, giving medicines and getting kids to bed. Find out the household rules and routines, such what the kids must and must not do, or what they are allowed to eat before bedtime. You can’t trust children on things like this, as they will often try to get away with behavior their parents don’t allow.
- How you will get home: Many babysitters are too young to drive or don’t have a car. Make sure you have arrangements in place to get home safely.
Tips for Happy Babysitting
- Emergency contact numbers. Make sure you have parents cell phone numbers, doctor’s numbers or emergency services. Find out from parents what they want you to do in an emergency, and have all the numbers to hand so you can make informed decisions if the need arises.
- Keep an eye on kids all the time: don’t get distracted by TV or your phone as it only takes a moment for trouble to start.
- Keep a positive attitude. You’ll get the best out of kids when they hear what they should do, rather than what they shouldn’t.
- Take activities along. Planning ahead means you can fill in gaps and provide unexpected entertainment when kids are bored, anxious or fractious.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Rather than a best outfit, wear something you don’t mind getting sticky, paint or food stained. You can’t enjoy yourself with children if you’re worried about getting dirty or spoiling your new clothes.
- Leave the house as you found it: Parents will love you for it when they arrive home to happy children and a clean house.
Babysitting can be a rewarding and challenging experience. Preparing ahead with training and certification gives new babysitters the confidence they need to make it a success.