All parents will agree: When it comes to their children, safety matters. Knowing basic safety rules-such as keeping small, swallowable objects away from young ones and handling toddlers in a busy parking lot-is a must. And all babysitters should have training in First Aid and CPR. But if you really want to impress potential clients, you need to brush up on these babysitting basics:
- How to make good decisions and solve problems. While babysitting, there may be disagreements between the children you are watching. You want to make sure you can make good decisions when unexpected situations arise. Kids will argue about games and toys and whose turn it is. Be an unbiased judge and help the children learn the fine art of negotiation. Use logic and teach them the basic rules of sharing (i.e., "If you want the truck that's in his hands, maybe you can find another truck and ask him to trade.").
- How to be a good leader and role model for children. Monkey see, monkey do? Kids emulate everything peers and adults do. A parent needs their babysitter to be a good role model. While babysitting, you should use appropriate language, engage in their activities (put the Smartphones away!), and teach children how to manage conflict respectfully. Help the children with their homework and explain its importance. If you use yourself as an example (saying that despite hating math homework, doing the problems really prepared you for the test, and you got a 100 percent), a child may be more apt to follow suit.
- How to properly care for children and infants. Babies must be put to sleep on their backs; toddlers put everything in their mouths; no child should be left in the bathtub alone. Educate yourself on the safety precautions that must be adhered to for certain age groups. When in doubt, ask the parents to share with you some "Dos and Donts" for caring for their children. You will feel more confident (and the parents will too).
- How to keep the children (and you) safe. Phone rings? Doorbell buzzes? Babysitter (not the child) answers. Never tell anyone you are home alone with the children. If you are preparing food, put the knives away and out of reach. Make sure cleaning solutions are on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet. If a child has a playdate at a friend's house, escort him there, make sure the parents are home, and ask for their phone number so you can stay in touch. Never leave children unattended when near or around water (pools, ponds, even baths). For many other possible safety scenarios, refer to this comprehensive list from the University of Illinois Extension School: Safety First When Babysitting.
- How to handle emergencies. A babysitter needs to be able to assist in any emergency. Every babysitter should have First Aid and CPR certifications. More importantly, make sure you have a list of phone numbers (including work and cell phones) for both parents and other trusted adults who could step in and help. Also keep numbers for the Poison Control Helpline and the children's doctors accessible.
- Know the facts. Keep a list of allergies and medications, including the amount each child takes. And before you babysit for the family, prepare an emergency plan in case one of the children is injured or sick. This plan may include details like who to call first or which hospital to go to. Discuss all details with the family.
There are often events at local YMCAs, American Red Cross locations, and even after-school classes where you can learn babysitting basics. Sign up today so you can be a better babysitter tomorrow.
>>Have more babysitting questions? Return to the main Babysitting FAQs.
Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter @tiffanyiswrite.