6 steps to becoming a rockstar summer sitter
There are quite a few perks to being a babysitter in the summertime.
“Every day can be a new adventure,” says Beth L., a former summer sitter in Pittsburgh. “I loved picnics, visiting museums and seeing wonder and amazement through a child's eyes.”
Sounds appealing, right? Even better, it’s possible to earn slightly more per hour in the summer than you do babysitting the rest of the year. Often, the demand for sitters is higher, which means pay rates can be better, too.
But before you start a summer sitting gig, there are a few steps you should take.
Step 1: Make sure it’s the right fit for you
Summer sitting jobs can be vastly different than those during the rest of the year. Before you dive in, make sure you’re interested in the unique qualities a June-through-August job can entail. Often, summer sitting gigs have:
Longer daytime hours: Working parents tend to need care during the day, so summer sitting may be an eight- to 10-hour-a-day gig. “Typically, when parents are looking for a summer babysitter, they're looking for someone who can watch their child for the entire day, not just for a few hours,” says Kealia R., a former sitter in Raleigh, North Carolina. “In this case, the expectation is that the sitter will give more of their time to the families they're sitting for [than they might at other times of year].”
More responsibilities: Long days mean sitters will probably have to do more than they would for an occasional date night or after-school gig. “Sitters should have additional skills in managing the children, so they stay active, while also adding snack or meal preparation responsibilities,” says Elizabeth Malson, president of Amslee Institute, an online technical school with a child care curriculum for nannies and sitters.
More mobility: Staying home with the kids might not be in the cards for a summertime job. “Sitters may take the children to the park or for bicycle rides versus just watching them at home,” points out Malson. The kids may need to be taken to camps, lessons or sports practices, as well.
A summer sitting gig can fit nicely into your schedule if you’re a student or a teacher, or if you’re a mom looking to care for other children in addition to your own. But if you don’t have regular daytime hours available, it might not be the right fit for you, depending on the gig.
Step 2: Get experience and certification
Because summer sitting can be so demanding, parents might be looking for more experienced and qualified sitters than they might on a date night or other short stints.
“All child care providers should have CPR and first aid training to manage emergency situations,” says Malson.
We recommend taking the American Red Cross Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED course if you’re not already certified.
In addition to babysitting experience, you might also take specialized training in babysitting, which can look good to employers and help you feel confident in your child care skills. Good news is, courses are available online at sites such as Red Cross and Amslee Institute.
Step 3: Market yourself
Rachel Charlupski, founder of the Babysitting Company says summer babysitting jobs may be easier to find in some cities than they are in others.
“For example, here in South Florida, a lot of people leave for the summer, so it can be challenging to find a family staying local for the summer,” Charlupski says.
It can help to know where to look. A few good places to cast your net:
Friends and family. It’s often best to start by asking people in your own network if they need a sitter over the summer or know someone who does. “Also ask the families you work with during the school year,” says Charlupski.
Other sitters. You might also ask other caregivers you know if they’re aware of any families looking for care. “A lot of my friends had sat for families before and couldn't in the summer, so they would pass along their contact information to me,” says Kealia. “That's how I got [many] of my summer babysitting jobs.”
Neighborhood network. Wouldn’t it be convenient to sit close to home? If you’re in a neighborhood where there’s a homeowner’s association, perhaps there’s a clubhouse where you can post a flyer about your services, or a neighborhood newsletter in which you can include an ad, says Malson.
Local social networks. “I found my most recent babysitting job through our neighborhood group on Facebook,” says Beth L.
Online babysitter listings. Many families post job listings for summer jobs on care-finder sites, and you might want to create a profile that touts your qualifications and availability. Kealia says in addition to her babysitter contacts, she found babysitting jobs through Care.com.
Step 4: Be clear on the job expectations
Throughout the interview process, you’ll not only want to discuss why you’re the best sitter for the job, but also understand exactly what the hiring family wants from a summer caregiver.
Think of it as an opportunity for both parties (you and the hiring family) to decide whether or not you have the same expectations. This can include:
Flexibility. Beth L. says she observed families who want flexibility in their sitters’ schedules. “Some weeks they are home on vacation; others they are working late,” she says.
Reliable transportation. “Most don't want to sacrifice their kids’ extracurricular activities, such as sports, camps and studies, in the summer,” Beth L. says. “They are looking for an adult who can provide a solid driving record, a reliable vehicle and insurance.”
Cooking skills and nutrition knowledge. “I used to provide a well balanced meal for the kids and ensure they had snacks in the late afternoon,” Beth L. says.
Water safety. It’s common to take kids on trips to the pool or beach in the summer, in which case safety precautions need to be taken. Even a backyard kiddie pool poses a drowning risk! Taking a water safety course can go a long way to making sure you’re aware of all the steps you should take to keep everyone safe in and around the water.
Step 5: Give kids structure
Summer days are long, and kids can get bored or moody or act up. An effective way to keep things positive and fun is to create a basic schedule for how the day will be structured.
“Kids like to know what’s coming next,” says Charlupski. “When they’re not as busy, or off schedule, their behavior and mood can reflect that.”
It’s a good idea to have naps, meals and snacks around the same times each day and also to plan general timeframes for structured activities — crafts, bubbles, games, trips to the park, etc. — as well as for free play and reading.
Ask your employer lots of questions about the kids’ day and how they recommend you spend it, then plan out the structure accordingly.
“A lot of parents give sitters a budget to get books and other supplies to help fill long days,” says Charlupski. “The parents will have some ideas, too.”
Step 6: Keep the lines of communication open with the parents
While on the job, situations may come up that you’re unsure how to handle or even that make you uncomfortable. It’s important to discuss these with your employer, so you can make and keep rules that help everyone stay safe and happy.
For example, says Charlupski, sometimes neighborhood kids may drop by, and you or your employer might not feel you should be also watching (or feeding!) those additional children. It’s not a good idea to have additional kids in the family’s swimming pool while you’re on watch either.
So keep those lines of communication open. It will help you stay on the same page and to work together to set limits that ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable summer.
And, of course, maintaining solid communication and a great working relationship with parents this summer might turn into more babysitting gigs and referrals throughout the year. Win-win!
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