Olivia, 18, has been babysitting for more than 4 years. She works for seven different families in her neighborhood, caring for kids who range in age from 1 to 12.
Olivia chose to focus on babysitting instead of taking a job in a store or restaurant like most of her peers. She's worked hard to perfect her skills over the years, and she's learned a lot in the process.
Here are Olivia's tips for being a great babysitter:
- Be positive. Try to give directions, instructions, or criticism using positive language. It's more encouraging for kids to hear what they're supposed to do than what they're not supposed to do.
- Give high-fives. Encourage good behavior with positive reinforcement, like a pat on the back or verbal praise. Acknowledging kids' success empowers them to continue it.
- Be honest. When the parents come home, give them an honest report. Though it may feel embarrassing to admit if kids were difficult, it is vital that parents know the truth so they can respond in a way that fits in with their child-raising beliefs.
- Work it. When you're babysitting, you are a role model. So be the best you that you can be. Be kind, gentle, and patient. Smile, laugh, and listen. Children are very impressionable, so lead by example.
- Stay focused. Remember why you are babysitting: Your role is caretaker, so try to limit your distractions and keep your eyes on the kids at all times. Avoid texting or calling people so you can stay committed to your main duty, since kids can get into trouble quickly.
- Play house. As the babysitter, you assume the parents' responsibilities. Just like when you played house as a kid, you become the "parent," and you need to take care of the house and everyone in it. You make sure that the house is tidy and clean and, more important, that everyone is safe and happy.
- Plan ahead. Before you begin your job, consider the age and gender of the kids you are babysitting. Try to think of activities that will appeal to everyone. Even if you're sitting for just one child, try to plan something fun ahead of time to avoid default activities like TV or video games.
- Jump around. Get moving! Dance, race, play tag or Simon Says. Physical activities foster friendship among kids and between you and the kids. Also, they drain energy, which can sometimes make bedtime a little easier.
- Get out. The best playground is all natural: the great outdoors. You don't need a swing set or a jungle gym to have fun outside. Try simple activities like tag or sidewalk chalk to make the best of the sunshine. In the winter, make snowmen or go sledding. But be extra careful to keep an eye on everyone at all times and set definite boundaries for a playing area.
- Take notes. Make sure you know the details for each child. Make a ring of index cards, one for each family you babysit. On each card, write the basic information: the parents' cell numbers, children's allergies and medical information, preferred activities or interests, etc. Then take these with you to each job.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: July 2010
American Red Cross Babysitter's Training Course
Designed for 11- to 15-year-olds, the babysitter's training course can help you care for children and infants, make good decisions, solve problems, be a good leader, and more.
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