How to Get Kids to Bed When Babysitting
Learn these 8 simple tricks to nail a successful bedtime every night! It's surprising how many of these sleeping tips are not commonly known.
Babysitting can be an intimidating job. There are a lot of ways for things to go sideways, and the last thing you want is for the parents to think that you can’t keep things under control.
So, what should you bring to a babysitting job? To be well-prepared for a babysitting job, you need to bring things to (1) engage the children (2) keep them safe in case of emergency and (3) be prepared for unexpected surprises.
The best way to bring your A-game is to be prepared for everything. Well, almost everything. In this article, I’ll help you pack the ultimate babysitting pack. You’ll be more prepared than Mary Poppins.
Babysitting packs should be full of everything needed to handle emergencies and unruly kids. There are a lot of situations that you need to be ready for!
Being well prepared will be a huge way to help the parents be totally confident in your ability as a childcare provider. If you show up empty-handed and aren’t sure what do to, the parents might be nervous. But if you can ask them questions about things they didn’t even think of, they’ll be flat out impressed.
In this list I’ll go over not only what to pack, but how to tailor your bag to all the common situations that you need to be ready for.
Let's start with planning Items.
No parents like it when a babysitter is constantly calling with random questions. If they’re out on a date, they want to be able to spend time together, not being stuck on the phone or worrying if their kids are going to survive.
These are the things that will help you stay organized. You’ll be able to handle any special requests and have all the information you need to follow the parent’s instructions.
An old-school notebook seriously works better than a memo in your phone! Don’t rely on your memory if the parents have a mile-long list of instructions for you. This is also a great way to come across as being super prepared for the job.
Here’s a list of things to ask the parents and record in the notebook.
One way to make sure that you won’t forget to ask anything is to have the questions already written out in your notebook, along with room to write the answers. Some parents might give you a one-word answer, some might give you several paragraphs!
Print out some copies of our parent details form, it's perfect for capturing this information.
There’s also a lot of medical questions to ask, but I’ll get into that later so we can cover it in more detail.
Ok, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll forget this one, but it helps to be prepared! Here are a few ideas to help you to use your phone in a practical way:
Do you need to put the kids to bed? Set an alarm not only for when it’s time to get ready but 5 minutes before you need to start the bedtime routine.
Young kids especially need a little bit of notice before it’s time to turn in. If they’re having fun doing something, you’re guaranteed to push them into a meltdown by telling them that they need to stop right now.
Set your alarms for 5 minutes before the bedtime routine starts. When you tell the kids that they have 5 more minutes, they’ll have time to mentally prepare themselves for the fact that all good things must come to an end. You’ll be surprised at how well this one little trick works in improving the behaviour of little kids.
There might be a lot of things that you don’t know the answer to. For example, if the parents told you about an allergy, and you’re not sure if a food is ok, Google it!
A cell phone is a great way to do quick research or to find inspiration on the fly for any topic.
Running out of ideas for games for kids with low attention spans? Look up “games for __-year-olds” and you’re back in business! Or better yet, check out our 200+ entertainment ideas for kids and you're sure to find something for every age group.
If you want to really impress parents while babysitting then bring one of our recommended kids books and try out the follow-on games that are perfect to keep kids entertained.
This can be a great backup, and it’s something that I’ve used with my own kids.
Let’s say that you’re at the park and one of the kids gets hurt. Screaming ensues, and you’re having a hard time calming the kid down. Play a video of babies laughing on your phone. It’s impossible to feel miserable when babies are laughing. This will totally distract them from their discomfort.
Or maybe you had to take them somewhere and there was a delay. If you have some educational or drawing games downloaded, you can keep these kids engaged and happy in a pinch.
Or maybe the power goes out. Having a show downloaded on Netflix can be an absolute lifesaver. Build a giant fort out of chairs, cushions and blankets and use it like your own movie theatre. The kids won’t be scared of the dark and they’ll have the time of their lives.
See our recommended entertainment apps for kids for more ideas.
Hopefully, nothing will happen on your watch, but if it does, you need to be ready! This is what will help you to handle these high-stress situations professionally.
Having one of the parent’s cell numbers is not enough. What happens if you can’t get a hold of them? Their battery could die, the phone could get lost or stolen, or they might leave it on silent.
If there’s an emergency, you need to be able to contact people to help.
Try to get at least one backup number, but the more the better. Maybe numbers like the neighbour, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or a close friend of the family that can be on the scene quickly.
There are a lot of situations where you might need to use this. Maybe one of the kids has an allergic reaction and you need someone to take you or meet you at the hospital. Maybe there’s an earthquake, fire or hurricane. Maybe a breaker blows in the house, the lights go out, and you don’t know how to fix it.
Having a list of people that you can contact will go a long way in making sure that everyone’s safe.
This is very often overlooked. Is there any medication that the kids take? Does one of them have something like asthma? An EpiPen? How is the medication administered?
Don’t accept the answer that the kid knows how to take it. Make sure you understand too. What if the kid isn’t able to take it, or isn’t conscious? Do you know where the medication is if you need it?
For allergies, be thorough. Get a list of allergies to medication as well as food allergies. For any food allergies, be specific. If a kid needs to go to the hospital, you’re going to be asked this.
For example, let’s say the parents tell you that one of the kids has a nut allergy. What kinds of nuts? How severe is it? Can the child have anything that was prepared in a factory that contained nuts, or do you just need to make sure that nuts aren’t on the ingredient list? Are there nuts in the home?
There might already be a first aid kit in the home. If so, have the parents shown you where it is and made sure that you’re familiar with its contents. Is it stocked? Are there band-aids? Disinfectant?
If there isn’t a kit in the home, you may want to consider investing in one yourself. You can often pick up a basic kit for under $20 and they’ll last a long time. Here are some important items that should be in it.
Beyond having everything accessible, make sure you know how to use this stuff! It won’t be worth anything if you use it incorrectly.
If you took a first aid or babysitting course, you probably reviewed these items and what they’re for. If not, spend some time on YouTube and Google so that you can train yourself.
Read our article on how to be a safe babysitter for other essential safety tips that you should know.
This might not be happening if you’re watching kids late at night while the parents go on a date. But if you’re watching them during the day, the kids are going to need some fresh air.
There’s hardly anything more upsetting for kids than when you have to go back early because something was forgotten. Use this list to keep the kids happy at the park for as long as possible!
Believe it or not, kids get filthy. Whether they’re stuffing dirt in their mouths, blowing snot bubbles, or rolling through the grass and dog poop, you can expect that they won’t return in the same condition as when they left.
Tissues and wet wipes are great for tidying them up quickly. You can usually pick up small packs at the dollar store that will last you a while. These are handy to have, not just for babies, but even for bigger kids. Just remember not to flush wet wipes unless they specifically say that they’re flushable; otherwise, there’s a major risk of a nasty clog.
It’s really practical to have at least $5 in change. Maybe the kids are crying so you decide to take a bus back from the park instead of walking. Or maybe you drive them to the park but there’s paid parking. Or you need to bribe some rug rats with ice cream.
You get the idea. Bring some change.
UV is really dangerous for kids! Aside from just the risk of sunburn, UV rays can lead to more serious long-term health problems.
While the kids will likely have hats and light jackets, these can be hard to keep on them. Another thing to consider is that you can get a lot of UV radiation even on a cloudy day!
Bring some strong sunscreen so you can always keep their skin protected.
Little kids especially don’t always recognize that they’re hungry. Usually, their behaviour will gradually become harder and harder to keep in check.
You can be proactive by bringing snacks. This can be something simple like a granola bar or an apple, but it’ll make a huge difference.
This is probably something that you won’t want to pay out of pocket for. Ask the parents in advance to make sure that something’s available, and keep your bag well stocked.
Once again, kids often don’t recognize the signals that their bodies are sending them. Actually, a lot of people are saying that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Bring water with you whenever you go out, and remember to remind the kids to drink. If they don’t, they could develop headaches and other symptoms that will be uncomfortable, and they’ll get really miserable.
No surprises here, but kids touch dirty things. Before offering them something to eat, give them a shot of hand sanitizer to disinfect those grubby digits.
They probably won’t even remember all the nasty stuff that they’ve been in contact with, and keeping their hands clean will go a long way in keeping them healthy.
Obviously, babies poop. If you’re going to go out with a baby or toddler in diapers, make sure you bring a few extras, along with other things like wipes, baby powder (if the parents use powder), and a changing mat.
Even if the kids are out of diapers, it might be a good idea to pack an extra pair of underwear and pants. Accidents happen.
Sometimes kids get bored with the stuff they have. Bringing something new can keep them engaged and interested for a while, so it can get you out of a situation. Plus, they’ll think you’re the coolest babysitter on earth.
Bring something age-appropriate. For toddlers, this might be some cards with shapes and colours, some building blocks, or matching games.
For 5 to 8-year-olds, maybe some board games like Candy Land, Connect 4 or Jenga would be more engaging.
For 9+ try games like Monopoly, Guess Who? or Pictionary.
Whatever you choose for games, make sure they’re suitable for the age of the children. It’s also better if you can play games that allow everyone to play at once, so nobody is waiting for their turn.
Even if the family has games at home, sometimes it’s more fun to bring some new ones. The kids will be excited about learning a new game and will likely talk their parent’s ears off about how much fun they had.
See our list of fun kids games for inspiration.
Kids have great imaginations, and sometimes all they need is something to focus their attention on. Depending on the age, try packing things like toy cars, dolls, some Lego, or stuffed animals.
Sometimes you can just hand it to the kids and they’ll be happy to play by themselves. They’ll have even more fun, though, if you play with them.
These are super fun! Crafts can be really simple and keep the kids thoroughly engaged for hours.
Homemade playdough is an absolute blast, especially if you make it with the kids. Or bring some popsicle sticks and glue to make a castle. Construction paper can be used for nearly everything, and crayons are the perfect quiet activity.
Download and print out the Kidsit Colouring Book and bring it along with some coloured pencils.
Or explore our 30+ awesome craft ideas, for some creative inspiration. You can try a different idea each week and the kids will never get bored.
Babies and toddlers love books. Bring a few of your childhood favourites and they’ll love story time. If you don’t have any, swing by the library and pick a few up. Here are some popular ones:
Sometimes kids are more open to the idea of bedtime if you tell them that you have a new book to read to them. Make sure that the book doesn’t have anything that might frighten them before bed, or they’ll probably wake up from bad dreams. It can be surprising at times what alarms little kids.
It’s a good idea to coordinate this with parents beforehand. Find out what books the kids already have, and if there’s anything in particular that will give them nightmares.
Read our comprehensive list of the best books for babysitters and try our engaging follow-on games to learn why books are one of the best babysitting activities. I can't recommend them enough!
Aside from extra clothes for the kids when you go on outings, bring some extra clothes for you!
I can’t tell you how often I’ve been peed on, puked on, and spilled on. If you bring a change of clothes then you’ll be significantly more comfortable after a kid decides he doesn’t want his cookies any more.
See our handy article on What to wear on a babysitting job too see examples of clothes that are perfect to pack in your bag.
These are super handy!! If you keep these in your bag, then you’ll always have a place to put stuff.
If you wipe the boogers of a kids face with a wet wipe and don’t see a trash bin around, you’re covered. If you need to quickly pack some snacks before you head out to the park, you don’t have to rip apart the kitchen looking for some Tupperware. Or if you have to change a diaper... You get it.
The large freezer bags are especially tough. This can prevent all kinds of weird stuff, wet stuff, and smelly stuff from spreading. The last thing you want is for your fun bag to turn into a funky bag.
Obviously, this is a lot of information to remember. You can Download the Kidsit babysitting kit, print it out, and keep a copy in your babysitting bag so you can always make sure that you have everything in stock.
Babysitting responsibilities will generally depend on what the parents expect of you, but here are some common ones:
Ultimately, you need to communicate well with the children’s parents to understand what duties they’d like you to perform.
A babysitter information binder is a package of information that contains everything you could possibly need to know when babysitting. This is often provided by the parents to simplify the instructions for taking care of their kids.
Here are some common things contained in a babysitter information binder:
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