When you're babysitting young children, you're in charge of every aspect of their life. That includes when they go to bed, helping them use the bathroom, and even what they eat. But are you expected to provide food for them while you're babysitting?
Do babysitters provide food? Babysitters are not usually expected to provide food for the children they're tending to. You might be expected to cook or re-heat leftovers for the children you're in charge of, but it's unlikely that you'll need to bring your own food to give them.
In this article, you'll learn if babysitters need to provide food, what kind of food preparation you might be asked to do, whether you need to bring snacks for yourself, and more.
Do Babysitters Provide Food?
Being required to provide food as a babysitter definitely isn't the norm.
From a practical standpoint, it doesn't make much sense. You would have to lug around a cooler or shopping bags full of food to each babysitting job you went to!
Most parents don't expect babysitters to provide food, and already have a fully stocked kitchen of their own for you to draw from.
The one exception could be if you're babysitting out of your own home instead of at a family's home, more like a daycare. In that case, you may need to provide food for the children you're sitting. But then I would either expect parents to pay for any food-related expenses or somehow work it into your hourly rate.
Read my Guide to babysitting from home for more details about providing food at your place, plus other things you should know.
But when babysitting at a family’s house, bringing some snacks once and a while could be a great way to really win some extra points with the children you're watching. Just always check with parents first so that you're sure exactly what they can and can't eat. Lots of children either have dietary restrictions or allergies that you'll need to take into account.
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Some parents may even feel insulted by you providing food while you babysit. To them, it may feel like an attack on their ability to provide food for their own children. So it's worth asking in advance to avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings.
What Food-Related Responsibilities Might A Babysitter Have?
Just because you don't have to bring food to each babysitting job doesn't mean that you don't have any food-related duties.
Young children need to eat smaller meals more regularly, in some cases, every couple of hours. So if you're watching a toddler or infant, expect that you'll need to do some feeding. Even during shorter babysitting jobs of only 4 to 6 hours.
Watching infants comes with its own special challenges besides just what they eat. Read my beginner's guide to babysitting a baby to learn more.
So what kind of things might parents ask you to do when it comes to food?
At the most basic level, all you might need to do to help feed kids you're babysitting is to open a package. It can be something as simple as getting a box of animal crackers out of the cupboard and giving a child an appropriate amount.
Young children can't reach the top shelf of the fridge or pour heavy containers of liquid themselves. If they want some fruit juice, milk, or water you'll need to help get it for them. For younger kids, you'll want to use a sippy cup to avoid spills and messes.
Cut Up Food
Younger children need their food cut up for them so that they don't choke.
You might need to cut up some food for them to eat. This could be cutting fruits like apples and bananas into more bite-sized pieces. As well as vegetables like peppers and carrots. Some kids might get things like cheese and other foods that also need to be cut up.
For older children, you may need to take leftovers out of the refrigerator or freezer and microwave them for dinner.
Older babies will need baby food warmed up and usually spoon-fed to them.
For infants, you will need to heat up milk or make formula and feed them (See our complete guide to making formula here).
In any case, it's important to feel the food before giving it to the child. You want to make sure it's cooked properly and isn't cold. And most importantly, you don't want to give a child anything that's scalding hot to eat either.
Now we get to something a bit more complicated.
Some parents might leave you some ingredients to actually cook. They'll never expect you to prepare a three-course meal for their children. Usually, it's something as basic as hot dogs or macaroni and cheese.
Be sure to discuss with parents in advance so they know what you're comfortable cooking and what you're not. If you're young and not ready for cooking yet, it's perfectly reasonable to let parents know that. Parents would rather you were honest, rather than try cooking for the first time and risk starting a fire in the kitchen!
If you don't feel like you're ready to use a stovetop or oven yet, stick to microwavable dinners instead. Or even think about alternatives like sandwiches that don't require any cooking at all.
Preparing food is just one responsibility that parents may expect from babysitters. Read my article with 23 potential duties parents might expect of you to learn more!
If parents are going out for a romantic dinner, they might feel a bit guilty leaving their kids at home and decide to treat them to some restaurant-prepared food as well.
Families may leave you with some money to order pizza or sushi, or to walk down the road for some fish and chips.
Normally if you're ordering food for their kids, it's a courtesy for the family to let you order something to eat for dinner as well. Many families with small children are on a budget though, so see it as a treat, and not something that you should expect every time you babysit.
Should Babysitters Provide Their Own Snacks?
Some families will provide you with snacks to eat. But it's important not to go raiding a family's cupboards or refrigerator unless you're explicitly given permission. Those leftovers in the fridge that you want to eat might be someone's favorite meal or their lunch for tomorrow! So ask families that you babysit for exactly what you are and aren't allowed to eat.
The family you're babysitting for doesn't have any obligation to provide you with food, although they often will. Sometimes they'll set aside snacks for you. Other times they may even leave dinner for you as well if they know you're coming straight from school or another job and don't have time to eat in between.
Still, it's good not to expect anything and to simply bring some snacks of your own, just in case, particularly if it's the first time you're babysitting for a family and you're not sure what is normal for them yet.
Anything portable that you can toss in your bag to bring without worrying about spills or messes will work. Good options include a bag of cut-up fruit or vegetables, granola bars, pudding cups, juice boxes, sandwiches, cookies, or a bag of microwavable popcorn.
If you're just having a snack for yourself, try to do it when kids are asleep or not around, or else they might want some of what you're having and get upset when they can't have any!
(Curious what other things should you bring to a babysitting job? Here's my list of 18 essential items to pack.)
What kind of foods can children eat?
It depends on their age. Infants aren't old enough to eat solid food yet, and there are specific foods like honey that you should never give them. Toddlers and younger children need their food cut up into small pieces to prevent a choking hazard, and they should be carefully monitored while they eat.
See our complete guide to food safety for babysitters.
For more on the special needs of toddlers, be sure to read my article: How to Babysit a Toddler.
Can I give junk food like candy, soda, and chips to children I'm babysitting?
Check with the parents first before giving their children any unhealthy foods. Some may have restrictions on how much sugary food their children can eat if they're allowed to have it at all. Other parents may specifically not allow those foods within a certain number of hours before bedtime, to prevent kids from getting hyper beforehand.
Babysitters aren't expected to provide food when they're working in another family's home. If you babysit out of your own house, then there may be more of an expectation for you to provide food for the kids.
Even if you don't have to provide the food yourself, there may still be some food-related tasks involved with babysitting. You might be asked to cut up food, reheat leftovers, order takeout, or even cook a basic meal for the children. For infants, you may need to warm up milk or formula or feed them, and older babies may need to be fed baby food.
Sometimes families will even provide you with your own snacks if you're lucky!
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