10 Important Rules Every New Babysitter Should Know
Babysitter

10 Important Rules Every New Babysitter Should Know

by Martha Scully

Welcome to the world of babysitting! Whether you’re just starting out to earn some extra cash, or you’re thinking about making a full-time job of it, babysitting can be a very rewarding experience.

If you’re just starting out, don’t worry – it’s natural to be nervous! You’ll be a pro before long, but for now, here are some helpful rules to help ease you into your first few babysitting jobs.

1. Ensure You Have Parents Contact Information

This may seem basic, but having the contact information of the child’s parents is crucial. Emergencies can happen, but it’s also great to have contact information in case you need to ask a simple question like where Jimmy’s teddy bear is or if Janey can have ice-cream for dessert. You should have the following information on hand:

  • Parent(s) contact information – a cell phone number (or two) is perfect
  • Address and phone number of where the parents will be (restaurant, movie theatre) – in case of poor reception, dead cell phones, etc.
  • Emergency contact information – this could be a neighbor, friend, grandparent, etc.

For more what to include on an emergency contact list read: How to Prepare An Emergency Contact List for your Babysitter

2. Ask For a Tour of the Home

If you are sitting at the family’s home – especially one you haven’t been to before – you should ask for a tour of the home. Knowing the different rooms of the house and where things are kept will help you throughout your day/evening. This can come in handy if you are watching multiple children of different ages or who have different interests. It can also prove to be useful when you have to cook a meal or prepare a snack.

Find out if any rooms of the house are off limits to you or the kids.

During the tour ensure you find out where the fire extinguisher and first aid kit are kept so you are prepared for anything from minor cuts to serious emergencies.

3. Meet the Children Prior to the Job

Meeting the child you are going to be caring for prior to the day of can ease your nerves as well as theirs! Ask the parents for a suitable time you can drop by for 5 or 10 minutes a few days before you’re due to babysit their child. Simply taking the time to introduce yourself to the child can help to ensure things run smoothly the day of. You can also ask the child what they’d like to do that day/night to give them something to look forward to!

4. Are There Any Restrictions?

Be sure to ask the parent if there are any restrictions for their child(ren). This could be dietary restrictions like food allergies, no liquids after 8:00 p.m., no dessert unless dinner is finished, etc. The parents could also have activity restrictions in place that could be important to know.

Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • Is Olivia allowed to have a friend over to play in the house/backyard?
  • Is she allowed to visit that friend’s house/yard?
  • Is it a school night with a specific curfew?

5. Is There a Bedtime Routine?

If you are expected to put the children to bed, be sure to ask the parents what their child’s bedtime routine is – and follow it. Simply knowing that Ava goes to bed at 8:00 p.m. might not be enough information. For example, maybe the child needs a bedtime story or takes a bath before bed – these things take time.

Also, many children have a specific teddy bear or blanket that they cannot sleep without. This is a good thing to have on your radar as well, as favourite items often follow a child wherever they go and may not be in their bedroom.

6. Decide Pay Prior to Starting the Job

Negotiating pay can be awkward for both the caregiver and the parents, but it’s worse to be put on the spot (or put the parents on the spot!) at the end of the night. If your client doesn’t bring up the subject of pay, there’s nothing wrong with asking “what do you normally pay your sitters?”

Another thing to note is to know what your time is worth. Research the going rate for sitters in your area and ask friends and neighbors what they charge or what they would pay their sitters. Your price should be fair to the parents, but worth your while as well. If the client’s price is too low, it’s okay to turn down the job.

For information on how much babysitters get paid read: How To Determine What to Pay Your Babysitter?

7. Know When You Should Turn Down a Job

This one can be a little bit tricky. I mean, the whole point of starting out as a babysitter is to gain clients and get as much experience as possible, right? Yes, and no. While you may want to build up your clientele, it’s important to know when a job is out of your wheelhouse.

For example, you may not want one of your first jobs to be caring for an infant. This can get complicated, especially if you’re not a parent yourself. Infants can’t speak to tell you what they need – they simply cry. You may want to start with an older child – even 3 or 4 – it will make all the difference in the world. Special needs children are another factor to consider. Caring for a child with special needs takes extra attention and care.

It’s okay to say no to a job if you aren’t comfortable. Think about it this way – wouldn’t the parents of that child prefer for their sitter to feel comfortable and confident in their abilities? Of course, they would.

8. Visitors

Be sure to discuss the family’s views on you having visitors. Most families will discourage having friends, relatives, and significant others over while you caring for their children.

9. Tech Rules

Families will expect you to be watching their children not your smartphone or the TV. Don’t text or use social media while watching the children. You’ll also want to ask the parents about tech rules for the children. Make sure you know how much TV, iPad, smartphone, social media, texting and video game time is allowed, if at all.

10. Have fun!

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you begin your journey as a babysitter. For more tips, try asking friends, coworkers and neighbours for their sitting experiences – or maybe they have some stories from when they were babysat as a young child – these can prove to be just as helpful.

No matter how much research you do, nothing can prepare you like experience – so get out there are have fun!


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About the Author
Martha Scully
Martha is the founder of CanadianNanny.ca. Martha has been featured as a Child Care Expert in hundreds of publications across Canada including The Globe and Mail, CBC, Today's Parent and The National Post, She lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters.