12 babysitting kit essentials to pack for every gig
Imagine yourself as an ultra-prepared Mary Poppins-type sitter. You arrive at every job with a magical babysitting bag filled with everything you need to keep things running smoothly. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky-dream; you can make this level of preparedness a reality. Your bag might not exactly be bottomless, but if you stock it full of the right essentials, your babysitting kit will help you be the best babysitter you can be. Plus, you’ll likely impress your employer.
“[Having a kit] shows a lot of preparation and that this person takes their jobs seriously,” says Rachel Charlupski, founder of the Babysitting Company, who calls them “kid kits” and says every babysitter is encouraged to get one when they start working with her company.
The key to assembling a great babysitting kit is having items that will help you safely care for the children, and also fun items, says Sidra Ellison, an instructor supervisor for Red Cross babysitting and child care courses in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Here are our top 12 babysitting kit must-haves.
1. First-aid kit
“Have a good first-aid kit,” says Ellison.
Cuts and scrapes are to be expected, and you should be able to treat them, as well as be equipped to handle more major injuries — just in case.
2. Babysitter checklist
Have a list of all the important information you need to do your job. This includes parents’ contact info, emergency phone numbers, house rules, kids’ allergies and medications, expected schedule and suggested activities. Just the act of making this list — and asking the parents to help you fill in the blanks — can help you make sure you’re all on the same page about how the child should be cared for.
Always include the address of the home where you’re babysitting. It can be easily forgotten yet important to know if you’re calling 911 (or pizza delivery).
3. A favorite childhood book
Want to really break the ice with a kid you’re babysitting?
“Look at the age group of the child you’re working with,” says Ellison. “Think of your favorite book when you were that age, and bring it along. Maybe it’s something they haven’t come across.”
4. Age-specific toys
“A babysitting kit should have a range of age-appropriate items that can provide fun indoor and outdoor activities,” says Elizabeth Malson, president of Amslee Institute in Sarasota, Florida. “A medium plastic bin with a lid (think laundry basket size) is a great way to house a gym ball for games such as soccer, basketball or Four Square.”
“You can get a lot of things at the dollar store or the dollar section at Target,” says Charlupski.
5. Coloring pages
“It’s a good idea to call the parents ahead of time and find out some things their kids like,” says Charlupski. “It might be as simple as the kid likes dinosaurs, so you could print out coloring pages of dinosaurs.”
Free and affordable coloring pages can easily be found online and can be printed on a home computer printer. Don’t forget the crayons!
6. DIY ingredients
“Bring a recipe for play dough or Silly Putty, for example, and do a special project with them,” says Ellison.
Having a DIY project to work on together can be a bonding experience, can keep little hands busy and can be a lot of fun. Plus, at the end, there’s something new to play with together.
Hey, you never know when there could be a power outage or a blown fuse, and having a flashlight that’s more powerful than the one on your phone could really come in handy, says Ellison. You’ll save valuable time searching the home to try to figure out where the family keeps their flashlights, and you just might prevent a freak out from a kid who’s scared of the dark.
8. Baby/toddler report sheets
Watching a baby or toddler? Parents will want to know when the child ate, had diaper changes, slept and more. Imagine having a handy dandy report sheet, where you can simply fill in the blanks and hand it to the parents at the end of the babysitting gig. They’ll be super thankful to have all the details and so happy they hired you.
9. Board games
“Pack board games for various ages,” says Malson. “I recommend having Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Monopoly, as this covers a wide age range.”
Charlupski adds that Memory is usually a no-fail choice for different age groups.
“It’s fun, and everyone seems to like to play it,” she says.
10. Hand sanitizer and gloves
Kids touch everything, so you’re going to want to have some hand sanitizer on hand for yourself and possibly for them, especially if you’re going on outings to playgrounds, children’s museums or other public spaces. Wearing gloves is a good idea for cleaning cuts and scrapes and for changing diapers.
11. Craft and activity ideas
Bust boredom by having some age-appropriate items on hand that will inspire kids to get creative.
“For children who enjoy crafts, supplies can include colored paper, washable markers, glue sticks, stickers and other craft items,” says Malson. “For children interested in building and creating structures, some popsicle sticks and standard playing cards are a low-cost way to keep elementary-aged children engaged.”
12. ‘Dress-up’ supplies
Add a little pretend play to the options.
“A few gender-neutral costumes can be included in the kit which, combined with a blanket, can be used for dramatic play and storytelling,” says Malson.
What not to bring
While you might think “the more the better” when it comes to stocking your babysitting kit, there are some items you should really avoid. They include:
Balloons. They may seem like fun but are actually a choking hazard.
Makeup and/or nail polish. “Some parents are OK with them and some are not,” says Charlupski. It’s better to just skip them to avoid any controversy.
Scissors or other sharp objects. Stick to craft projects that are already cut out for ease and safety.
Items that can stain. These include non-washable markers, paints and some types of clay. The last thing you want is for the family’s carpet or walls to get stained while you’re on watch.
Anything against house rules. “Whatever you’re bringing into the home should fit into the culture of how the parents parent,” says Charlupski. So think ahead and ask if you’re unsure whether something might be a good idea to bring along.