Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
Whether you're brand new to babysitting, or you're an experienced babysitter just looking to improve, you can use these tips to be a better sitter.
How can you be a good babysitter? A good babysitter is one who is responsible and always shows up on time. You should be an excellent communicator who can take feedback. You should also be someone that kids consider fun and interactive, and most importantly, be vigilant at supervising and keeping kids safe.
In this article, you'll learn what makes a good babysitter, and different things you can do to make a good impression on both parents and kids alike.
Not really. When it comes to babysitting, there isn't a one-size-fits-all babysitter that everyone would love. The characteristics that one family considers important in a babysitter might be totally different from what another family wants. Parents can vary a lot in terms of what they expect in terms of engagement, discipline, and other factors from babysitters that they hire.
However, I think there are some key qualities that most parents would say contribute to someone being a great babysitter. I'm going to share these qualities with you in this article.
As a parent with three kids myself, I've had plenty of experience working with a number of babysitters. Some were awesome. Some were just okay. And some left a lot to be desired. Combining my own experiences with information I've heard from other parents, here are some ways to really set yourself apart as a good (or great!) babysitter.
You need to start showing parents that you're a good babysitter before you even start working for them. The interview is a good place to start scoring major points with your future employer.
During the interview, you might just meet the parents, or you may get introduced to their kids or the entire family. Either way, you should come to the interview with questions for both the parents as well as a couple for the kids. Asking a few well-thought-out questions like whether their kids have any allergies, what activities they love, and details about their daily routine will go a long way to show that you're a good babysitter.
Make sure to have a few rehearsed things to say about yourself. Like if you have any interests or hobbies the kids will love, what you are studying in school, or if you speak a second language.
A good babysitter also knows that how they dress says a lot about them too, so I'd recommend wearing something a little more formal than just ripped jeans and a t-shirt. Just because you aren't interviewing to work in a big company doesn't mean that you don't want to make yourself seem professional. But you don't need to go overboard and wear a suit or formal dress to the interview either. A nice button-up shirt or polo and a clean pair of jeans without any rips or staining is usually the right balance.
Remember that you're interviewing to work in someone's house with their children and some of their most valuable possessions. So it's important to make parents confident that you're a trustworthy and responsible babysitter.
Never had a babysitting interview before? Check out my article What to Expect at a Babysitting Interview (By Phone, Video Chat or In-Person) to know what you're getting into!
If you're a more inexperienced babysitter, taking some courses related to childcare can give you the extra knowledge that you need to be a great babysitter. Plus it also looks great on your resume when you're applying for jobs.
When I'm hiring babysitters, I try to get sitters with a bare minimum of having completed a babysitting class, as well as CPR and First Aid training if at all possible. I will always choose a babysitter who is trained in First Aid and CPR over one who isn't, and I'd even pay a higher rate for it.
And babysitters that bring their own portable first aid kit are also seen favorably (here's the first aid kit we recommend).
Every babysitter should know what to do if a medical emergency arises. Like if a child starts choking, breaks their leg, or goes unconscious. It won't just give you peace of mind knowing that you can handle whatever comes at you, but it can help to set a parent's mind at ease too.
Babysitting courses will teach you stuff that isn't as vital as CPR, but still really good to know. Like how to deal with an unruly kid and meal management.
Taking on extra training really shows parents that you're a babysitter with initiative who’s passionate about their job.
Are classes mandatory for babysitting? Read my article Can You Babysit Without Qualifications? to find out.
A good babysitter is able to communicate with parents confidently. Good communication is essential for both parties. You should feel comfortable asking questions if you have any issues or if there's anything you're unsure of or can't figure out on your own. And parents should clearly communicate what they expect of you.
Good communication shows parents that you want their child to be healthy and safe, and is the main way of building trust with parents.
Keep the contact information for parents in your phone so that you can easily contact them if you need to.
Ask parents what kind of communication they're comfortable with and expect. For example, more anxious parents might appreciate getting a picture or two from you while you're babysitting so they can see what their kids are up to, and see that they're having fun. You can also text them updates throughout the night or call to check in if that's what they ask for.
A big part of a babysitter's job is to stick to the schedule that parents set for you. Kids do best with a regular routine and lots of structure. If you start throwing off feeding and nap times, that's a recipe for one cranky child! It will make your job harder than it needs to be, and parents won't appreciate coming home to a miserable kid either.
It's good to get a regular schedule of how the day usually goes for each child you watch and keep a separate page in your babysitting binder for each one.
Important things to keep track of include play, meal, and nap times for any day that you'll be watching them. You should have a list of foods or meals you'll be feeding them each day. As well as knowing when and how long they should nap for.
Need help getting organized? My article The Ultimate Babysitting Binder (20 Documents & Fun Items to Include) is the resource you need!
Of course the kids you're babysitting probably have all of their own crafts, toys, and activities for you to use. But a good babysitter doesn't rely on that and brings enough stuff to keep kids occupied for their entire shift. You should be able to show up with your babysitter bag and be able to entertain kids in an empty room for a few hours.
Even if they do have their own toys, bringing along your own items will help keep things fresh for them. Stock up on games, books, arts and crafts, and other stuff that kids love. Once you have one bag of toys and activities set up, you can bring it along to every babysitting job. Then you'll always have some things to bring out if kids complain they're getting bored.
If I’m going somewhere important (like an anniversary date with my wife), the most stressful part of hiring a babysitter can seem to be wondering if they'd show up!
Once you have one babysitter forget they're working and not show up, it's something you tend to always worry about. I find myself looking toward the clock as the time starts to get closer to when I need to leave. Having to cancel your night out at the last minute and stay home to take care of your kids because the babysitter forgot or had other plans come up is a frustrating experience to say the least.
A good babysitter should consistently show up 10 or 15 minutes early. That way parents won't be stressing that they need to get going in a minute or two before you show up. Plus it will give you and the kids some time to settle in before their parents leave.
There are some emergencies that you can't avoid, and being sick is also a legitimate reason not to babysit. But most excuses babysitters give are exactly that... excuses! Things, like oversleeping, not having a ride, or running out of gas, aren't excuses at other jobs, and shouldn't be something parents hear from a responsible babysitter either!
If for some reason you aren't going to be able to make it, make sure to call parents and let them know as soon as possible, so they can start making other plans. Ideally, let them know enough in advance that they'll be able to find another babysitter.
Parents usually will tell you the age of their kids anyway, but be sure to ask in advance if they don't tell you themselves. It's particularly important to know the age of younger kids you're watching. Toddlers and babies require a lot more attention and different activities than school-aged children. So you really need to know the age of the kids you'll be working with to plan your night out.
Are you going to be babysitting a toddler for the first time? My article How to Babysit a Toddler (28 Tips: Care, Activities & Discipline) can help you out.
Parents usually have certain things that they like to be done in a very specific way. It can upset them or make them worry if it's not done how they want. So always listen to any feedback or criticism that parents give you, and be open to considering their concerns.
Even if parents don't go out of their way to offer feedback, it's good to ask them once and a while if there's anything you could do to improve. Particularly at the beginning of a new relationship with a family.
Good babysitters are always watchful. It's a lot harder for kids to get hurt or into trouble if you've always got an eye on them and you're ready to step in at a moment's notice.
The most important thing you have to do as a babysitter is providing supervision to make sure that kids stay safe and aren't doing anything they shouldn't.
Proper supervision is important both inside and outside the home. If you're out at the playground and not paying attention, a child could start jumping around or playing too rough and get really hurt. Or even get approached by a strange adult. In the home, it only takes a few seconds for kids to try to stick something into an electrical outlet or pull heavy items down off a shelf.
When you're babysitting, try never to take your eyes off the kids you're watching for more than a few seconds. Especially for younger children. That means you should put your cell phone away so you won't be distracted by texts, and never leave kids alone while you go into a different room.
The kids you're babysitting should see you as a friend as well as an authority figure. Good babysitters are kind and empathetic, even when they need to use discipline.
Remember that kids are still learning, so they might need to have their mistakes gently corrected sometimes. They'll also need someone to listen to them when they're upset. So be caring and let kids know that they can confide in you.
Keeping kids safe while you're babysitting means preparing for anything and everything that might happen. A lot of that comes down to good preparation ahead of time.
Make sure you've got a list of important contacts that you may need to phone if anything happens. That includes other family members of kids you're babysitting, as well as things like poison control that you might suddenly need to call.
Have a list of allergies for each kid, as well as how severe the allergy is, and what to do if they have an allergic reaction. Consider allergies including pets, different foods, seasonal allergies, and other possible allergens. If the child you're babysitting has an Epi-pen, know where it's located and how to use it.
Ask parents what kinds of foods and toys their kids are allowed to eat, to prevent choking hazards.
The more you can prepare for emergencies, the better prepared you'll be if something does happen. Then you'll be able to stay calm and work through it rationally instead of panicking.
The life of a parent can be hectic, and things don't always work out the way they planned, so in some cases, parents might need you to stay a bit later than you had planned, or even come over a bit earlier.
Of course, you don't want to let parents take advantage of you either. If you work more hours than you had planned, be sure that you are paid for that extra time. And if parents are constantly pushing the limits, you might need to talk to them.
But things happen. Service at dinner might end up being slower than expected, or they might get stuck in traffic on the way home. So if you're able to be a bit flexible and be okay with working a bit later every once and a while, it will show parents you're a dependable babysitter.
You should be discussing your rate and how much you expect to be paid at the interview stage of being hired for a babysitting job. It's just another part of having good communication between you and the parents you're babysitting for.
You don't want to end up being upset if they pay you less than you expected. And parents will be upset if you insist on a higher rate after the fact. So make sure that everybody agrees on how you'll be compensated before you start working.
Be sure to mention any specifics as well, like if you charge a higher rate if you need to stay after midnight.
Even if it's uncomfortable to talk about money with parents, it will make things a lot easier later on. If you just say you're happy with whatever they want to pay you, you'll almost always get offered the minimum amount they're willing to pay.
When parents finally get out for a nice relaxing evening, the last thing they want to worry about afterward is getting the babysitter home. If they plan to have a few glasses of wine and take a taxi themselves, it might not even be an option. Most parents won't be too happy if they need to pay an extra $20 for a taxi or Uber to get you home, on top of paying for your babysitting services.
Good babysitters will make arrangements to get home ahead of time. Whether you have your own car or need to get a family member to come to pick you up when you're done.
Kids love to push buttons and try to find out exactly what your limits are. It's just a part of growing up. They might try to guilt you into breaking rules, like letting them stay up later or eating snacks they aren't allowed to have before bed.
A good babysitter has to be able to put their foot down and enforce the rules that parents give you. You might be tempted to bend the rules a bit so that kids will see you as the cool babysitter. But this usually backfires and they'll lose respect for you, or just keep trying to push the rules further and further.
Kids need structure and to have boundaries for them. It will help them to learn self-control. So whatever the house rules are, stick to them, even if you don't necessarily agree with them.
Kids know when you're feeling anxious or unsure, so stay calm and remember that you're the adult, you make the rules.
A good babysitter knows where their limits are, and what's too much for them to handle. Be sure to ask lots of questions when talking to parents to find out the ages of their children, if they have any disabilities or any other complications that might make your job more challenging.
It's okay to pass on a babysitting job if you don't think you're the right fit, or you aren't sure if you'll be able to meet the family's needs. Having the ability to say no if you aren't ready to change diapers or watch three kids at once shows a definite level of maturity and responsibility.
If you ask kids what makes a good babysitter, their top answer will probably be that they want someone who is fun and stays engaged with them.
Don't take the easy way out and just let kids sit in front of the TV or on a tablet all night. Engage them with non-electronic activities to help build their social skills and help them explore the world around them.
Kids probably won't remember that specific evening when the babysitter just let them sit and play Candy Crush all night. But they'll definitely remember the fun and unique activities that you do with them, like making a pillow fort, or going outside and collecting bugs.
Different parents will want things like discipline handled in unique ways, but there are some things that I think parents would universally agree will make a good babysitter.
As a parent, I want a babysitter that's dependable and shows up on time. They should be good communicators who are open to feedback and know how to react if there's an emergency.
For kids, a good babysitter is someone who is fun and does their best to keep them engaged.
Written & Illustrated by:
Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
Published: 27 September 2019
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