Babysitting is a common first job for many teenagers and pre-teens. Especially for individuals with younger siblings, babysitting skills come naturally to many. Skills necessary for successful babysitting are practical as well as creative. Before you tackle your first real babysitting job, ask friends if you can practice babysitting a few toddlers with at least one of their parents present a few times. Use these times to gain familiarity with feeding, playtime and bedtime routines.
Medical and Safety Skills
The American Red Cross offers babysitting training as well as CPR and first aid certification courses at its local chapters across the nation. The babysitting class is designed for 11-to-15-year-olds and helps sitters gain confidence caring for infants and children. It trains sitters to handle emergencies as well as to keep themselves and the children they watch safe. An interview and resume component helps sitters develop basic job skills too. The babysitting course has a child and infant first aid and CPR component to it that teaches sitters how to handle emergencies like bee stings, and how to provide rescue breathing and stop external bleeding.
This category of skills involves more work that you, the sitter, complete before you take your first paid job. Decide what age of children you are comfortable sitting. If you are interested in watching infants, you will need to develop diaper changing and bottle-feeding skills. Infants can be a simple joy to watch as they sleep much of the time, but as a sitter, you must be comfortable holding a baby, supporting its head, preparing and feeding bottles and changing a diaper as needed. You must also practice changing baby outfits and familiarize yourself with SIDS-safe practices, such as laying infants down to sleep on their backs, to prevent SIDS from occurring. Obtaining CPR and first aid certifications for children and infants will help you in case a health emergency occurs with the infant while his parents are out. You should also decide what the maximum age you are comfortable sitting is. If you are 12 or 13 years old, you may not want to watch children over age 8 or 9 as you may not feel you have enough age difference to maintain authority over them.
Managing and controlling the children you babysit is another critical skill to keeping yourself and the children you watch safe and happy until their parents return home. Arrive at your babysitting assignment 15 minutes early. Verify regular as well as emergency contact information from parents. Find out where medicine and hazardous materials are so that you can keep small children out of them. Verify where police and poison-control numbers are posted. Ask the parents what they want you to feed their children and for them to explain any special needs a child might have (such as potty training or allergies). Ask parents to review bedtime and feeding routines with you so that you can maintain as much consistency as possible.
If sitting for younger children, bring a few games and coloring materials with you, although parents should supply the toys for their children. Bringing a special coloring book or sticker book may be a fun and special activity that you can share with the younger children you watch. Ask parents what rooms or areas of the house are off-limits and enforce whatever rules parents ask you to, to the best of your ability. Bring your cell phone with you but do not use it to socialize with friends until after the children you are watching are sound asleep. Consistent application of the above principles will communicate professionalism and provide an ever-growing network of babysitting jobs from which to choose.