Taking care of children is a fun and rewarding job, but it isn't always a walk in the park. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance, and imagination.
Before you embark on your childcare journey, there are a few things you should know and do.
1. Be Creative
What works with one kid won't necessarily work for another. There are some kids that will listen when you say "pick up your toys, please." With other kids, you have to say things like, "let's see who can pick up all the toys the fastest."
2. Learn Proper CPR And First Aid
Being able to properly administer first aid and CPR is an important part of taking care of a child because it could mean the difference between life and death.
Before you start babysitting, take a CPR and first aid class so that you at least know the basics. Many recreation centers and fire departments hold CPR certification classes.
You don't have to have Red Cross CPR certification either. I got mine through The American Heart Association and it's just as good.
3. Know The Kids' Normal Routines
Ask the parents about the kids' routines. What do they typically do in a day? Is there anything that calms them down when they're upset? Do they need a set schedule where everything happens at the same time every day or can they handle small changes in the daily schedule?
Once you know their routines, you can help keep them on those routines as much as possible.
4. Get On The Floor And Interact With Them
Childcare is a lot more than just making sure the kids stay out of trouble. Your job is to interact with them, play with them, and teach them.
Get involved in what they are doing. Playing Legos? Help them build a super secret base.
Playing on the swingset outside? Offer to push them to the moon. If they are doing chores, help them out. Show them how to properly clean and organize.
Not only does this show them that you care, but you are also teaching them basic social and emotional skills.
5. Make Sure You Know What The Parents Expect From You
Every parent has different expectations for a babysitter. Make sure that those expectations are clearly outlined and if you can't meet them, discuss that with the parents.
Some parents just want someone who plays with the kids for a couple of hours while they take a break. Others want a babysitter who functions more like a nanny.
I've done both and I've enjoyed both. You might find that you prefer occasional babysitting over nanny-oriented jobs or vice versa, so make sure you voice that.
6. Plan Fun Activities For You And The Kids
One of my favorite parts of babysitting is doing fun activities with the kids. If you're planning on doing an activity with the kids you're taking care of, look on Pinterest and find ideas that are appropriate for the ages of the kids.
Some of my favorites that I've done with the kids in my care are: magazine collages, painting rocks, and buried treasure bottles ( like an I spy bottle.)
7. Learn How To Change A Diaper
One of the most important, albeit unpleasant parts of being a babysitter is changing diapers. Depending on how old the children you take care of are, you will probably have to change a diaper at some point. This is why it's important to know how to properly change one.
Ask family members who have children in diapers to show you how to do it correctly.
8. Remember Every Age Is Different
Depending on the child's age, they will have different needs that you, as the babysitter, should try to meet. A baby or toddler will need more help than a seven-year-old. Your job is to recognize those needs and meet them. This means attention, food, bathroom help, etc.
Needs are also different for every child. Not every six-year-old girl acts the same nor does every baby respond to things the same.
9. Everything Is A Learning Opportunity
Children are like sponges. They absorb almost everything they see and hear, even when you don't want them to. This is why it's important to model good behavior and show them how to act properly.
When a child does something wrong, discuss with them in language they understand and talk about what they can do differently next time.
For example, I once had an almost-four-year-old who was angry because his friends didn't want to play the same game as him. His way to get his anger out was to break toys.
So I sat down with him and I said "Sweetheart, I know you're angry that your friends don't want to play the same game as you, but you can't break toys. Those toys belong to Maggie (not her real name). When you break other people's toys, it makes them sad. When we make someone sad or break their things, we must tell them we are sorry and we'll do better next time."
And he did say he was sorry. Then we came up with games that his friends wanted to play too.
Another time, I had a set of siblings that were name-calling. Since they decided to use unkind words, they had to tell their sibling five things they liked about her/him.
If you do have an instance like the ones above, make sure that you let the parents know when they return.
10. Go The Extra Mile
Parents love it when you do little extra things to help out, like doing a load of laundry or running the dishwasher. Most parents are incredibly thankful when you do things like this, one because it helps out, and two, it shows responsibility. (And it's a great way to get more babysitting jobs too.)
Bonus: Learn To Laugh
Little kids are inherently funny, even when they're not trying to be. Sometimes they will do or say things they are definitely not supposed to. Sometimes they will just blurt out completely honest, unfiltered observations.
Other times, they will do something outrageous and you'll think "what did I get myself into?"
This is why it's important to laugh. Probably not in front of the kids, but definitely later on.
I absolutely love taking care of kids and I hope you will too. It's not an easy job, but it is so worth it.