Be the best babysitter on the block: babysitting isn't for babes! Think you have what it takes to join the club? Here's how to be a superstar sitter!
Dirty diapers, Hours of playing make-believe. Hyperactive kids. And, at the end of the night, a sweet stash of cash. Cha-ching! We've got the scoop on how to be the best--and busiest--sitter on the block.
It takes a certain gal to get this job done (if the thought of screaming children and late hours has you running for the hills, reconsider). Babysitting isn't just work--it's a relationship. As one super sitter puts it, "I love to watch the babies grow up. I've seen a set of twins learn to sit up, crawl, stand, walk and eat real food. It's an amazing experience!" But before you decide to embark on this journey, here are things to think about.
Test the waters. Babysitting is a big deal! You're not only responsible for the rugrats' health and safety, but also their happiness. If you have a younger bro or sis, you're ahead of the game. But for those who've never sat for sibs, ease your way in by being a mother's helper. It's less pressure because an adult is home, but you still learn how to care for precious cargo. Bonus: You'll gain a possible future client or a reference.
Get certified. Families want the best of the best. Get an official certification--there's no better way to establish yourself as a pro. We recommend the American Red Cross Babysitter's Training Course, an interactive class that gives you tips on everything from the interview to first aid. It'll cost you up to $65, but c'mon. That's chump change considering your qualifications are bound to earn a higher rate and greater clientele. To find a chapter near you, log on to redcross.org.
GET THE GIG, GIRL FRIEND
You're ready. Now what? You need customers! Word-of-mouth is a good bet. Let relatives, neighbors, church members, even teachers know you're open for business. Next, throw together a brief resume with your background. Since you don't have a mile-long list of past jobs, focus on any experience that prepares you for babysitting ("As the older sister of triplets, I can handle a small load of little ones"), accomplishments that showcase responsibility ("I headed up '! the fifth-grade can drive") and any interests you have that might make you seem like someone the kids would have fun with ("I'm an expert at making friendship bracelets"). Finally, list three trustworthy references to back you up.
Deal or no deal. You've put yourself out there and got the call. Congrats! But before you agree to anything, know what you're getting into. Have a chat with the fam to get the basics--how many kids, their ages, when they need you. Oh, and just how much moolah should you charge? Babysitting is a business, so be reasonable--without selling yourself short. On average, GL readers charge from $5 to $7 an hour. But that rate can vary depending on how many kids and what is expected of you. In fact, 49 percent of GL girlies don't charge the same for every family and every job. Many even add an extra buck or two an hour for each additional kid or extra household chores. Ask around to get a consensus for what the going rate is, then take it from there.
MEET THE SMITHS
Before a first gig, arrive about 15 minutes early. Rest assured, the folks will spell out the essentials, but be prepped with a list of questions or concerns. Have a pen and pad to jot down the necessary contact numbers--both cells, their destinations, a backup person (like a grandparent or friendly neighbor). Ask for detailed info about the children's allergies or special needs. And last but not least, be sure you know where emergency stuff is stored (flashlights, fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, etc.).
House rules. Every family is different, so what works for the Joneses might be the complete opposite at the Smiths. Have a clear understanding of rules and routines for nap time, snacks and TV. Keep in mind you, too, have rules. The family is welcoming you into their home, so this is not a place to put your feet up or treat their fridge like an all-you-can-eat buffet. If the parents feel you were discourteous, you run the risk of losing your job, so what's the point?
Win over the kids in 60 secs or less. Get a house tour from your toughest customers--the kids. Have them point out everything from their bedrooms to their lave hiding spots. Take it from one GL reader, "It's a great way to learn about the kids and the house at the same time. You can find out where they are most comfortable, where their toys are and where they aren't allowed to be."
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
The parents just pulled away. You're in charge! Remain confident, knowing you're gonna rock it. No matter what, always keep an eye on the kids. This reader learned the hard way: "One time, a boy I was babysitting got hurt so I went to get him some ice. I was gone for two minutes, and the other child fell down the stairs when I left the room. It may not seem like anything could happen in that time, but it can." So true!
An active babysitter is an awesome babysitter. Hello, you're not getting paid to lounge around. These kids want you to be fun! Be imaginative and creative, and let your inner child crawl out. One babysitting pro says, "Make the kids want you to come back. Just because the parents aren't there to see doesn't mean you shouldn't put your best foot forward. Kids aren't stupid and won't hesitate to tell their parents if you're a slacker."
Mary Poppins has nothin' on you. Show up with a bag of tricks to prevent the dreaded "I'm bored!" cry (see hints to the left). Have a stash of coloring books and crayons, or build a blanket fort. For older kids, bring a board game from back in the day (Mouse Trap, anyone?).
JUST SAY "NO"
Sure, you want the kids to like you, but there will come a point in every babysitter's career where she will have to say that dreaded two-letter word: "No." Face it--since you're not their parent, some kids are going to try to pull a fast one on you. You've been prepped and know the rules, so stick to them! The kids might cry or flash puppy-dog eyes, but firmly hold your ground. Look at it this way, if you're a pushover, they'll keep trying, but if you stay firm and calm, you'll get the point across that this chica means business. It'll earn their respect.
The kids are still misbehavin'? Try the gold-star system. For every time a kid listens or does something good, give him a sticker and let him know he gets a surprise if he scores three of 'em. It could be a small toy you brought, a piece of candy or even an extra bedtime story. Bribery? Maybe. But it works.
BEAT THE BEDTIME BLUES
At least an hour before bedtime, avoid activities, like hide-and-seek, that might get the little ones all wound up. Watching more than one kid? Turn it into a game, advises GL reader Zoey: "I tell the older one to set a good example and get ready for bed. Then I tell his sis to show him how good she listens. It works every time." And don't forget to have them brush their teeth.
What to do when the kids are snoozing and the 'rents aren't due for a few? Time for a little bonus work. Straighten up the living room, load the dishwasher, and put toys away. When everything is tidied up, whip out your algebra workbook or catch up on a good read. And as comfy as that couch may be, don't drift off. Stay alert. Just because the kids are sleeping doesn't mean you can take a trip to la-la land.
When the folks roll in, give a full report. Talk about the fun stuff you did, praise good behavior, and express enthusiasm to sit again. Happy parents equal satisfied customers. A job well done!
YOUR MOST BLUSH-WORTHY BABYSITTING BLUNDERS
"One night, the little girl and boy I was watching wouldn't go to sleep. I was singing some songs, and it seemed to work. So I started singing "Good Morning Baltimore" from Hairspray. I felt like someone was behind me, so I turned around, and it was the mom! She was giggling under her breath."
"I was walking across the street to my house after babysitting. The toddler likes to sit on his front step and watch me when I leave. When I got to my door, I waved and made a silly face. I then realized my crush and his best friend (my other neighbor) were standing on the sidewalk watching and laughing so hard."
"I had been babysitting for this family for about a year, and their cat always came right up to me purring. One night, I was making the girls dinner, and the cat jumped on my back and was hissing and clawing at me! I had to have the 5-year-old put her in the laundry room."
"I was watching my cousin, and we were playing pirates. He hit my sword out of my hand, so I bent down to pick it up. Suddenly, my pants ripped from my butt to my knee! The worst part was that my aunt and uncle weren't home, so I had to go the rest of the night like that."
"My sister and I were babysitting, and we took the kids outside to look at the moon before putting them to bed. When we tried to go back into the house, the door was locked so we couldn't open it! We had to walk a few streets over in the dark to a neighbor's house, and we called the parents from there. The 'rents came home early only to find, much to our dismay, that the door wasn't locked after all ... it was just jammed!"
Babysitting Survival Secrets
Want awesome advice from real babysitters just like you? We asked girls to spill their top 10 tips to make your night a little easier--and a whole lot more fun!
1 Dirty diaper? "Rub Vick's VapoRub under your nose to block out the smell, then double-bag that stink bomb!"--Amelia, 14
2 Kid won't sleep 'cause "monsters are in the closet"? "Mix water with a little glitter in a spray bottle for Monster Spray. One spritz and monsters are gone."--Emi, 12
3 When grape juice spills, act quickly. "Mix equal parts vinegar, water and dish soap. Work into the spot with a cloth."--Maddy, 16
4 "Babies love dangly earrings. So unless you want them tugging at your ears, leave them home for the night."--Jen, 12
5 The dad who's supposed to drive you home comes back ... drunk. "I have a deal with my parents to call and say, 'Do you still need to pick up milk?' and that means to come and get me."--Madisyn, 17
6 "I love Happy Meals and save the toys to use as prizes for when the kids do something good."--Amanda, 17
7 Nightmare family? "This line never fails: 'I have several families I sit for and just don't have time. Thanks for thinking about me.' Then hang up fast!"--Maya, 15
8 Time-outs not working? "Sit the kids across from each other and make funny faces. They'll forget why they were fighting and be on the floor laughing!"--Lil, 15
9 "If a kid always battles bedtime, set the house clocks an hour earlier so you can get the tot down on time. Don't forget to change them back!" --Caitlin, 16
10"Not everything will go smoothly, but u if you have a good time, the kids will be begging to see you again!"--Maddy, 13
BUST THAT BOREDOM, BABE!
You've watched SpongeBob so many times you are starting to feel like you are living underwater? Try these games. It's a guaranteed great time for everyone!
PUPPET BABIES (ages 2 to 4) C'mon, who doesn't love puppets? Kids go crazy for them. Snag some old socks from your drawer, then decorate them with fabric markers and googly eyes. Ask the kids to help you put on a show.
CHALK FULL O' FUN (ages 4 to 6) Hopscotch is a total classic. Bring along some colorful sidewalk chalk, then head outside with the kids to hold your own tourney. The parents will love seeing the artwork when they return, and it washes away with rain or a hose.
DO-IT-YOURSELF (ages 4 to 6) Art class is a fave for many kids, so why not bring the crafts to them? Do simple stuff like Popsicle-stick frames, or help them make Mother's or Father's Day cards that will knock the parents over with glee. Older kids always dig this and can help little ones with glue and scissors.
HOUSE HUNTING (ages 7 to 10) Need a way to keep been-there/done-that kids out of trouble and away from the TV trance? Organize a scavenger hunt! Have the kids sit in the living room, while you scope out unique stuff in different rooms. Divide the kids into teams, and have them search for items using cryptic clues. Give them a time limit (about a half-hour should do it) to find the goods--and whoever discovers the most wins a prize!
Yikes! What to do when ...
si wars. A mysterious knock at the door. A family heirloom hits the floor. Put the jitters aside with the GL guide to sticky babysitting sitches.
Four-year-old twins Billy and Bobby were playing nice a minute ago, but now they're punching each other over who gets the Bob the Builder dump truck.
Separate the sibs so they can cool off. A good rule to follow is a minute of time-out for each year of the child's age. It doesn't matter who "started it." You're there to stop it. Tell them fighting is not OK and that Round Two lands them back in time-out.
All is quiet and the kids are great, but suddenly, there's a knock on the door. Mrs. Smith never said anything about someone showing up.
Do not open the door, even if there's a chain. It doesn't matter a lick if the stranger says he's coming to fix the plumbing/clean the carpets/deliver the million-dollar prize. Tell him to come back at a later date. Call the parents to give them a heads-up about the situation. And don't hesitate to dial your folks, a neighbor oral 911 if you feel threatened.
As the old saying goes, "It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt." Or in this case, a very expensive vase in the living room just smashed to the ground.
Honesty is definitely the best policy. Clean up any mess before the kiddies hurt themselves, then 'fess up to the parents, apologize, and offer to repay them. They'll probably let it slide, but clearing the sitch will showcase your maturity and integrity.
The kids are asleep, the house is clean, but it's now 3 a.m., and Mr. and Mrs. Brooks are nowhere to be seen.
It's entirely possible they lost track of time. Give their cell, or even the restaurant, a ring. If they don't answer, call your parents or another trusted adult to come to the house and wait with you until they return.
You and Annie are playing dolls when out of nowhere she asks you, "Where do babies come from?" What do you do when the kids ask you something difficult or embarrassing?
A blush-much moment! Kids are curious little creatures who ask a lot of questions. But you don't have to answer all of them--and probably shouldn't. It's best to leave it to the professionals (aka Mom and Dad). Simply reply, "That's a great question, but we should wait until Mommy and Daddy come home to help us figure that one out." Phew....
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|Author:||Thompson, L'Oreal; McNamara, patricia|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2008|
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