How to Babysit a Toddler
Learn the important things to keep in mind when you're babysitting a toddler, as well as 28 tips to make your job a bit easier.
Are you considering babysitting for the first time? If so, you’re probably wondering what the job is like and what duties you’ll need to do.
In this article, I’ll cover the most common responsibilities that parents expect of their babysitters and how your duties may change depending on the job requirements.
You’ll quickly learn that every babysitting job is slightly different. The work you do will depend on the age and number of children under your care, the time of day and week, the specific needs of each child, and the duties the family has entrusted to you. Child safety and fun activities are always part of the job!
Let’s run through the 23 duties in detail.
We probably have a few you’ve never thought of before.
This is the most important responsibility and it’s always required. That’s why it’s number one!
Make sure children are safe at home and while ‘out and about’, it’s vital. Parent’s expect that children will be under the watchful eye of the sitter at all times.
If you need to step away from the child to make lunch or prepare a bath, make sure the child is in safe surroundings and check on them regularly. You can also use a baby monitor if the family has one available.
Read our complete guide: How to be a safe babysitter for essential child safety tips.
It’s really important that you get along with the kids you’re caring for and the only way to find out is to meet them.
Parents will often expect a new babysitter to come for a short visit or even do a paid trial run to see how things feel first. This is a perfect opportunity for you to create a good first impression with the kids and the parents.
Make sure to dress appropriately for working with kids, be friendly and approachable, and ask lots of questions so the parents know you’re genuinely interested in their child and want to provide the best care possible.
This is also a good time to learn the child’s routine, discuss their habits and agree on a list of job responsibilities, such as food preparation, bathing, laundry, etc.
This one is often forgotten.
It’s highly recommended that anyone caring for a young child, especially an infant or newborn, be in good health.
Babysitters should be vaccinated for common illnesses that are dangerous to babies, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, chickenpox, rotavirus and influenza . This precaution is necessary because babies have an undeveloped immune system due to a lack of exposure to common contagions.
Check with your healthcare professional and be sure your shots are up-to-date.
Bath time can be fun for both the child and the babysitter but always follow common safety practices.
Never leave a child unattended in a bathtub!
No matter what the circumstance, a sitter must always be present. Allow the phone to ring out and the doorbell to go unanswered. Nothing is more important than ensuring the protection of a bathing child.
Read our guide: 26 Kids Water Safety Tips for Babysitters for a more comprehensive list of safety instructions.
When babies and toddlers have soiled diapers it’s never a treat but it’s absolutely necessary to change them immediately.
Change a baby on the floor if a changing table is unavailable. Never turn away from a baby on a changing table because they can roll off in an instant! And make sure you get everything ready beforehand including the diaper, baby powder, wet wipes, and clothing because you can’t get it once you start!
This is often a necessary duty for babysitters taking care of an infant.
Bottles must always be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Sanitation usually involves placing bottles, teats, caps, etc. in boiling water for 15 to 30 minutes to kill any bacteria that washing may have missed.
This process is called sterilization and it’s normally done until the child is 6 months old, after that, washing alone should suffice.
Be very careful with boiling water! Make sure that no children are nearby while performing this task. Hot water can burn a child’s skin in an instant! Never leave the boiling pot on the stove unattended. This duty is best done after the kids are in bed.
Check out our beginners guide to babysitting a baby for more essential tricks and techniques for babysitting infants.
This responsibility is often expected of babysitters and can represent its own challenges.
If the child has food allergies make sure the parents outline them carefully and you make all efforts to avoid a potentially dangerous reaction. Parents should keep a list of the foods to avoid on the refrigerator.
Also, find out what foods are acceptable and kid-friendly and learn how to make fun, healthy versions of child favorites like pizza, spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers, cookies, and muffins.
This is an important responsibility for any babysitter. Like all medications, drugs must be administered exactly as specified. Instructions for dosage are usually clearly outlined on the packaging or provided in a pamphlet by the doctor/pharmacist.
Never give medicine without parent approval first!
If a child requires medicine, make sure the parents provide detailed instructions so you know what to do. Do exactly what they request, for any doubts, contact them to clarify.
It’s the responsibility of the parent to ensure that you are both aware of and comfortable with administering any required medication.
If the child is unwell make sure you read our guide: How to babysit a sick child for some helpful strategies.
This can be a tricky one!
Discipline is primarily the responsibility of the parent but will fall upon the shoulders of the babysitter when the parents are away. Learn the family’s preferred discipline strategy and follow along to maintain consistency for the child.
For example, the family may use ‘time outs’. This is where the child is removed from an activity for a short period of time (usually five to fifteen minutes) in order to discourage inappropriate behavior.
The child is usually put in a quiet, safe space, alone, and can return once they are willing to behave. It’s not acceptable to berate or yell at a misbehaving child and never ever should a babysitter physically strike a child.
Always seek to resolve conflict in a safe, calm and kind manner.
If in doubt, always discuss with the parents.
Read our child discipline guide for more tips: How to babysit a difficult child.
This may apply to school-aged children and could be part of a mutual agreement between you and the parents.
Parents may instruct you to ensure that all homework is done before the child is allowed to watch TV, play videogames, or whatever recreational activity they want to do.
This goes both ways. You should be able to reach the parents as required and the parents should, in turn, always be able to contact you.
Make sure you exchange cell phone numbers as well as provide emergency contact numbers. Contacts may include a parent, a friend or another trusted adult, and these should be provided to the family in advance.
This duty may be required if you are looking after multiple children or if a child is not well. Avoid the spread of germs or illness by keeping toys clean and play areas tidy.
It’s also helpful to encourage healthy practices among children such as frequent hand-washing, keeping toys and foreign objects out of their mouth, and returning all toys to their proper places once they are finished with them to avoid trip-and-falls.
If possible, bring some age-appropriate games or crafts to keep the child engaged and entertained. It’s recommended that you play with the child as much as possible. This will make your time together more enjoyable and it will also help you bond with the child.
Parents are likely to ask the child ‘how did it go’ so it’s good to have some stand-out fun that the kids can recall. If kids enjoy themselves then you’re more likely to get repeat work in the future!
Check out our huge list of over 200 babysitting games and activities if you’re stuck for ideas.
Most children do well in a controlled environment so structure and routine are necessary.
If you’re babysitting multiple children at different locations, keep a journal to save valuable information. It will help you track each child’s likes, behaviors, required medications, food allergies, emergency phone numbers, etc. It also eliminates the need to commit to memory each and every detail of a specific child.
See our checklist: What to bring on a babysitting job so you never forget anything important.
This may be a babysitter’s responsibility if the parents work and are unable to drop off or pick up their child.
If car transport is required, make sure you use the correctly sized child seat for their age and weight. Children 8 years and above are usually big enough to not require a booster seat, but double check in your city just to make sure.
Safety is the first priority so working seat belts and a reliable vehicle are also important.
This is probably one of the toughest responsibilities for a babysitter as children are not always cooperative when it comes time for bed.
It may be extra difficult for the babysitter as children often test their boundaries with someone new.
Make sure the usual routine is followed as closely to normal as possible (i.e. putting on pajamas, having a snack, brushing teeth, reading stories.) Ask the parents exactly how it should be done.
A firm, yet kind, approach to a child not willing to cooperate is often necessary. Just remember to stay calm and implement the routine.
For essential bedtime tactics check out our guide: How to get kids to bed when babysitting.
As a babysitter you may find yourself in situations where a child becomes agitated or distressed. When tempers flare or tears begin to fall, it’s important to know how to handle it.
Validate the child’s feelings so they know you understand and want to help them. In a soothing manner, approach the child and discuss ways to get past the hurt.
Try to distract them with a toy or play a video on your phone.
Suggest a fun activity to do together – something light that encourages laughter is often perfect.
Sometimes it can take a little time to stop the tears but if you carefully solve their problem you can build up trust and this will help you do a better job in the future.
Learn how to build meaningful relationships with the kids you babysit, refer to our guide: How babysitters can nurture children and bring out their best.
Conflicts between children often arise because kids don’t yet have the skills to solve problems on their own. As a babysitter, it’s your job to gently guide children so they can solve it themselves. This is how kids learn.
As a babysitter, you may be expected to do some daily chores, especially when observing infants or toddlers as they can be very messy!
Such duties may include doing laundry, keeping toys clean and in their ‘place’, tidying up the child’s bedroom, and vacuuming the play area.
For more details on what parents may expect regarding household duties, see our guide: Should babysitters clean?
Anyone considering a job in childcare should complete a first aid course and become certified in CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).
Babysitters can also earn more money and find more work by being CPR certified because most parents consider this training to be vital when caring for their beloved child.
Organizations like the Red Cross offer babysitting course certifications for CPR as well as First Aid and AED (Automated External Defibrillator).
Other courses you may consider taking include water safety, infant care, nutrition courses, fitness education, special needs care, and positive discipline training.
See our complete list of babysitting qualifications to see if any others may be right for you.
As a babysitter, you must always be responsible and accountable. Acknowledge the important role you play to the parent who hires you and the children you care for.
Show up on time (or a bit early) and honor commitments that you make.
Have a valid driver’s license (if transport is required), administering any and all medications properly (if necessary) and always put the best interests of the child first to create an environment where happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development flourish.
Being a good babysitter takes time and caring for children can take plenty of time!
Learning can’t be rushed.
While it might seem frustrating at times you’ll need to allow children to find their way, learn from their mistakes, and to take 15 minutes to tie their shoes!
You will quickly learn that planning ahead can also save time.
When things run smoothly babysitting can be the most fun.
You’ll get to invent crazy games, go on adventures, read amazing stories, tell funny jokes, make discoveries, and create beautiful art, sometimes all on the same day!
Try telling that to your buddies stuck in an office job.
Every babysitting job will be slightly different so there are many duties and responsibilities that parents may expect of you.
As you continue to get more experience you'll become more qualified for a wider range of situations. You may even consider taking courses to further your skills, find more jobs, and earn more money.
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