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How to Be a Great Babysitter

Parents can’t watch their kids all the time, so that’s where babysitters come in. Parents love babysitters who help children have fun and learn — while still helping them follow rules. 

How can you be a great babysitter? Start by thinking carefully about which jobs you take. Then read the tips below on how to balance play with keeping order.

How Do I Choose a Babysitting Job?

If you're new to babysitting, ask family, friends, and neighbors about watching their children until you get more experience. If you do a good job, they might give your name to other people.

Figure out who you'd like to care for. If you're not comfortable looking after infants, more than one child at a time, or children with special needs, don't take that job.

Find out if a job is right for you by asking careful questions about what the family expects. For example, will you have to cook or give the child a bath? Do they expect help with homework?

How Can I Entertain Kids When Babysitting?

Ask kids what they like to do. Have them show you their favorite toys and games. Younger kids might like to build with blocks or play pretend with stuffed animals or dolls. Board games and card games or arts and crafts projects might be fun for older kids.

Check with parents and other babysitters. Ask what games and activities children of different ages like to play. You can also look online for ideas.

Head outdoors. Play with the kids outside or take them to a playground, if the parents say it's OK. Games like tag and hide-and-seek get children active. Running around outside also tires them out so they nap and sleep well, which parents should like. Bring some water and snacks so the kids stay hydrated and don't get too hungry.

Look locally. If you can't walk to a park or play in a yard, ask parents about other nearby options. Maybe there’s a library or community center within walking distance — but ask if you can take the kids there.

Get moving inside. When it’s not possible to play outside, have a dance party indoors. Moving to music is great exercise and kids usually love it. You can also set up a scavenger hunt to get kids walking around.

Slow things down. Sometimes you might want the kids to calm down, so try doing some yoga poses or breathing exercises with them. Kids often like to color or do art projects too. Quiet activities like reading a book together or doing a puzzle can be great choices, especially in the hour before a nap or bedtime.

You might be tempted to have the kids watch a show or play a video game, but know that many parents limit screen time. Find out what the house rules are.

Why Do Kids Need Rules When Babysitting?

It's tempting to be the cool babysitter who lets kids get away with things parents don’t 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 them stay up 15 minutes past bedtime once in a while if the parents approve.

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 (like regular mealtimes) and limits (like just one cookie).

Check in with parents to find out what the rules are, then follow them — even if you don't agree with them. Ask parents what they’re comfortable with in terms of consequences. For example, is a timeout OK if siblings begin fighting? Learn if there any problem behaviors you should know about. If there are, find out how the parents handle them. This helps keep things the same for the kids, and you'll gain their respect.

The best babysitters think of the job as a duty first, then as fun and a way to earn money. Few things are as rewarding as knowing you've earned a child's trust and affection.

What Should I Know About Babysitting Safety?

As a babysitter, it’s important to keep the kids and yourself safe. There’s a lot you can do to prepare, like finding out the children’s routines and having emergency numbers in your phone. Look for local or online babysitting courses you can take. Learning babysitting safety basics can help you feel confident on future jobs. 

Reviewed by: Marcos Di Pinto, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, Lisa M. Buckloh, PhD
Date Reviewed: Sep 1, 2023

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