Babysitting is a great way to get experience working with small children — not to mention a fun way to make some extra cash! But remember, when parents trust you with their growing family, it’s serious business. Before you accept your first babysitting job, check out these key safety tips and go into your first gig with confidence.
Required Reading for Child Safety and Babysitting
There are many online tools that you can access to prepare for your first babysitting job. Take a look at these go-to resources for new babysitters:
The American Red Cross Babysitter’s Training Handbook. This 200+ page encyclopedia of babysitting (Opens in a new tab) is the gold standard for those looking to learn everything about babysitting best practices. Read it front to back.
Virginia Tech’s Babysitting Basics, V2. Built with the help of 4H teams and university child development specialists, this informative guide (Opens in a new tab) to babysitting provides great insight.
What Do You Need to Know Before Babysitting?
In addition to having the energy to keep up with active kids, babysitters need to get smart about a variety of babysitting basics:
- Set up time to stop by a day or two before the job to meet the family and play with the kids. This way the kids will already be familiar with who you are and it’ll be easier when the parents leave.
- Learn CPR, first aid and food safety guidelines. Taking the American Red Cross babysitter class (Opens in a new tab) is a great start!
- Add the number for the poison control hotline to your phone (1-800-222-1222) in case a child gets into something they shouldn’t.
- Get the parent’s expectations — time, dates, pay, special instructions, etc.
- Write down all the emergency contact information you need before the parents leave.
- Learn about and understand the kid’s food restrictions and drug allergies.
- Greet the family pets and learn how they interact with the kids you’re watching.
- Lock the doors and windows after the parents leave.
- Turn on outside lights at night.
- Always put babies to sleep on their backs — never on their sides or tummies.
- Check on the kids every 30 minutes after they’ve been put to bed.
- Turn on any monitors for babies so you’ll hear if they wake up.
- Know where all exits are in case of fire.
- If you need a question answered or are concerned about anything, remember to call the parents and ask — they’ll be happy you turned to them.
- Call 911 if someone unwelcome enters the house or if you feel unsafe in any way.
Know the Pitfalls of Watching Young Kids
A large part of babysitting is knowing what not to do. Because kids are kids, they’ll do their best to get into the candy jar or tell you it’s OK to have ice cream for dinner. Odds are you’ll know better. But here are other important babysitting pitfalls to avoid:
- Remember not to give children food or medicine without the parent’s instructions.
- Don’t leave the house with the kids unless given permission.
- Never drive children without safely buckling them into a properly-installed and age-appropriate child seat.
- Don’t have friends over while you’re working.
- Never shake a baby or young child.
- If someone calls, don’t identify yourself as the babysitter. Simply say the parent can’t come to the phone and take a message.
- Don’t leave a child alone in the bathtub for any amount of time.
There’s a lot to keep in mind when taking on the responsibility of babysitting. But by following this list, you’ll be confident in your abilities and ready for the challenge.