Are you considering babysitting for the first time? If so, you’re probably wondering what the job is like and what duties you’ll have. Every babysitting job is different but there are some things that parents will expect of you almost every time.
Here are the most common responsibilities of a babysitter:
- Ensuring child safety
- Preparing meals and snacks
- Helping with homework
- Playing games and having fun!
- Changing diapers
- Getting children to bed on time
- Laundry and light housework
- Bathing and dressing young children
- Transporting children
- Preparing and cleaning baby bottles
In this article, I’ll cover a more complete list of common responsibilities that parents expect of their babysitters and how your duties may change depending on the job requirements.
Let's get started.
1. Ensuring Child Safety
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. Parents 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 (how this is done, of course, depends upon their age), 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 safety guides:
2. Meeting the Children Beforehand
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 at the beginning. 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. When you arrive, be friendly and approachable, and don’t be afraid to ask a few questions, so the parents will 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, bedtime, etc.
Want to know how to make a great first impression? Read our guide to meeting children for the first time.
3. Have Your Vaccinations Up to Date
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, H. flu (HiB), pneumococcus, Hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps, chickenpox, and influenza (each season) (source). This precaution is necessary because babies have an underdeveloped 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. Let them know you are babysitting young children.
4. Bathing and Dressing Young Children
Bath time can be fun for both the child and the babysitter but always follow common safety practices.
Always check the temperature of the deepest part of the bath water with the sensitive skin of your inner forearm or toes before putting a child in the tub.
Infants and young children can easily get burned when the water is too hot. You may begin running the water for a bath, and then not realize it has become quite a bit warmer by the time it is finished running. Never put a little one in without checking the deepest part of the water (not just the surface) with your forearm or toes first.
Never leave a child unattended in or near a bathtub!
Get all of the toys, towels, soap, and anything else you might need before running the bath. No matter what the circumstance, you must always be present in the bathroom right next to the tub as long as there is water in it. Allow the phone to ring out, and the doorbell to go unanswered. Nothing is more important than ensuring the protection of a child in and around water.
Read our guide: 25 Kids Water Safety Tips for Babysitters for a more comprehensive list of safety instructions.
5. Changing DiapersWhen babies and toddlers have soiled diapers, it’s never a treat, but it’s necessary to change them as soon as possible.
If a changing table is unavailable, change the baby on the floor. 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 go get it once you start!
6. Preparing and Cleaning Bottles for Babies
This is often a necessary duty for babysitters taking care of an infant.
Bottles must always be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. You may wash them in hot, soapy water, or use a dishwasher with a heat-drying cycle, which should be sufficient in places where the water is clean. Sanitation, if needed, usually involves placing bottles, teats, caps, etc. in boiling water for 5 minutes to kill any bacteria that washing may have missed (source & source).
This process is called sterilization, and it’s normally only done until the child is 3 months old, after which 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. Turn the handles of all pots on the stove inward, so a toddler cannot reach up and grab them. This duty is best done after the little ones are in bed.
Check out our beginner’s guide to babysitting a baby for more essential tricks and techniques for babysitting infants.
7. Preparing Meals and Snacks
This responsibility is often expected of babysitters and can present its own challenges.
If the child has food allergies, make sure the parents outline them carefully so you can make all efforts to avoid a potentially dangerous reaction. Parents should keep a list of the foods to avoid on the refrigerator.
Also, if you are going to be cooking during your sit, find out what foods are acceptable to the parents and kid-friendly. Learn how to make fun, healthy versions of child favorites like pizza, spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers, cookies, and muffins.
If you're preparing food for kids then read this first: food safety guide for babysitters.
8. Administering Medications
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 or 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. These should always be in the written form, so don’t rely on your memory for this.
Do exactly what parents request and, for any doubts, contact them to clarify. If you are unable to give a scheduled medication for any reason, you must contact the parent right away.
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.
9. Disciplining Children
This can be a tricky one!
Discipline is primarily the responsibility of the parent but will fall upon the shoulders of the babysitter when parents are away. Learn the family’s preferred discipline strategy and follow it as closely as you can 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 time (usually 1 to 10 minutes, 1 minute for each year of age) in order to discourage inappropriate behavior.
The child is usually placed in a quiet, safe space, alone, and can return once they are willing to behave. It’s not acceptable to scold 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 this with the parents.
Read our child discipline guide for more tips: How to babysit a difficult child.
10. Helping with Homework
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 video games, or whatever recreational activity they want to do.
11. Provide Contact Information and Keep the Lines of Communication Open
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 in case they cannot get ahold of you for some reason. Contacts may include a parent, friend, or another trusted adult, and should be provided in advance.
12. Sanitizing Toys And Cleaning Up Play Areas
This duty may be required if you are looking after multiple children or if a child is not well. Avoid the spread of germs 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 after playtime to avoid trips and falls.
13. Being Prepared
If possible, bring some age-appropriate games or crafts to keep the child engaged and entertained. It’s recommended that you play along with the child as much as possible. This will make your time together more enjoyable, and 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.
14. Being Organized
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 about a specific child.
See our checklist: What to bring on a babysitting job, so you never forget anything important.
15. Transporting Children To School and Events
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 not to require a booster seat but double-check in your city just to make sure.
Safety is the priority, so working seat belts and a reliable vehicle are necessities. These, and all things regarding the safe transportation of their child, should be discussed in detail with the parents ahead of time.
16. Get Children to Bed on Time
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 more challenging for the babysitter than parents as children often test their boundaries with someone new.
Make sure the usual routine is followed as much as possible (e.g., putting on pajamas, having a snack, brushing teeth, reading stories). Ask the parents exactly how and when each step should be done.
A firm, yet kind, approach to a child that is unwilling 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.
17. Being Able to Calm Upset Children
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 essential 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. Read a story 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 enable you to do a better job in the future.
Need some help with an crying child? Read our 17 strategies for How to Calm an Upset Child.
Want to build meaningful relationships with the kids you babysit? Refer to our guide: How babysitters can nurture children and bring out their best.
18. Solving Conflict
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 them so they can come up with a solution themselves. This is how kids learn.
19. Doing Laundry And Light Household Duties
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?
20. Have the Required Qualifications
Anyone considering a job in childcare should complete a first aid course and become certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Babysitters can earn more money and find more work by being CPR certified because most parents consider this training to be vital when someone is caring for their beloved child.
Organizations like the Red Cross offer babysitting courses to obtain CPR, First Aid, and AED (automated external defibrillator) certifications.
Make sure to also bring a portable first aid kit to your babysitting jobs (here's the kit we recommend) having the right equipment in an emergency is so important!
Other courses you might consider taking include water safety, infant care, nutrition, 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.
21. Being Accountable
As a babysitter, you must always be responsible and accountable.
Understand and acknowledge the important role you have to the parent who hires you and the children you care for.
Show up on time (or a bit early) and honor all commitments that you make.
Have a valid driver’s license (if transport is required), administer any and all medications properly (if necessary), and always put the best interests of the child first to create an environment where happiness and safety are key players.
It should be your primary interest to foster the mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being of the children you babysit.
Learn how babysitting develops leadership skills.
22. Being Patient
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 even take 15 minutes to tie their shoes!
You will quickly learn that planning ahead can end up saving you time.
If you're a patient and understanding babysitter, you might want to try babysitting children with autism for an extra rewarding challenge.
23. Having Fun!
When things run smoothly, babysitting can be the most fun.
You’ll get to invent crazy games, go on adventures, read inspiring stories, tell funny jokes, make amazing discoveries, and create beautiful art, sometimes all in the same day!
Try telling that to your buddies stuck in an office job.
Every babysitting job will be slightly different, and there will be varying duties and responsibilities that parents expect of you, depending on the situation and the children you are caring for.
As you gain experience, you'll become more qualified for a wider range of situations. In order to find more jobs and earn more money, you may even consider taking some courses related to babysitting. These will give you confidence by improving your knowledge base and skills, so you can bring greater value to your babysitting jobs.
- Qualities all good babysitters should have
- 28 Skills you can Learn from Babysitting
- Babysitting qualifications
- How to add babysitting to your resume
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