Babysitting Basics

Child Health Advocacy and Kids' Safety

Babysitting Basics

Related Resources

Babysitter's Checklist (pdf)

teenagersWhen you become a babysitter, you take on a lot of responsibility - the child's parents are placing their child in your care for a short amount of time, entrusting you with the task of keeping their little one safe.
In some ways, you have already proven yourself to be trustworthy by simply being chosen by the parents to care for their child. Now it is up to you to learn all the important information you need to know and ask questions when you're unsure, in order to be up to the task.
If you prepare yourself ahead of time, all you need to do is relax, have fun and be confident in your own ability to be a good babysitter!
Protect Your Own Safety
Before you take any babysitting job, start by taking care of the basics. Don't take a job from someone unless you know and trust the family, or you were referred by a trustworthy source.
A good way to get babysitting jobs is by talking to families in your neighborhood, or asking your friends to share your name when they can't take a job from a family for whom they regularly babysit.
When you first talk to a family about a particular babysitting job, make sure to clear it with your parents before you accept. Know how you'll get there and back safely, as well as how many hours you will be working. On the day of the job, tell your parents where you'll be, how to contact you and when you will be home.
While you're babysitting, there are some general rules to follow to keep yourself and the kids safe:
  • If the doorbell rings, check who it is before answering the door
  • Don't open the door for anyone you don't know, including delivery people - and if they try to insist or force their way in, call 911
  • If a stranger calls while you are in charge, don't tell them that you are a babysitter. All you need to say is, "Mr. X is busy right now, can I give him a message?"
  • One more useful number to keep by the phone is the Poison Control Center. If you suspect that one of the children has ingested medicine, cleaning products or anything that could be poisonous, call the Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Be Prepared

Even though emergencies are fortunately pretty rare while you're babysitting, it's good common sense to prepare yourself for every possible scenario while you are in charge of the kids. If you do encounter an emergency, you will thank yourself later for taking the time to think ahead about how to handle it.

First, make sure that you get all the right information from parents before they leave the house. This includes where they will be and how they can be reached.

"I always tell sitters to call in case of emergencies or if the kids are doing something that makes the babysitter nervous," says Katy Culver, a mother of three who has employed babysitters for her children throughout nine years of parenting.

In addition, parents should write down their home address and put it near the phone - if you call 911 for help you will need to give your location. If the family lives in an area that does not have 911 access, put the local emergency number near the phone.

Other necessary information includes:

  • The name and number of the family doctor
  • Medical information about the kids, such as allergies and medical conditions

Download and complete the Babysitter's Checklist (pdf) to ensure you have all of the information you need on hand.

If you are going to be doing a lot of babysitting, you might consider taking a safety class, such as the American Red Cross Babysitter's Training Course.

"I like to know that babysitters have been through a course, just to give themselves confidence and peace of mind," says Culver. "Both the sitter and the kids have more fun together when everyone feels confident and calm."

Accidents and First Aid

In the event that someone does get hurt, stay calm. If you're lucky, most of the First Aid encounters you will have with the kids you babysit for will be nothing that a hug and a Band-Aid can't fix.

"Most cuts and scrapes need only to be washed thoroughly with soap and water then covered with an antibiotic ointment and bandage," says Kristen Lindgren, MD, a family physician at UW Health Fox Valley Family Practice. "If a wound is more serious, apply pressure to any bleeding while figuring out if further medical attention is needed."

If the wound is more serious and you think it might need stitches, get help immediately by calling 911.

Another safety concern while babysitting is choking.

"Babysitters need to remember that children, especially young ones, put absolutely everything in their mouths," says Dr. Lindgren. "A good way to determine what is not safe is any object that can fit through a toilet paper tube is too small and is a choking hazard that should be kept away from children.

Babysitters should also avoid giving children under four years old foods that are likely to cause choking, such as peanut butter, popcorn, raw carrots, nuts, grapes and hot dogs.

Have Fun!

One of the best ways to prevent accidents is to keep a close eye on the kids and know what they are doing at all times. Busy kids have less time to go looking for trouble, so come prepared with fun activities to keep the kids occupied.

Take the kids outside, ride bikes (don't forget your helmets!), play board games and hide-and-seek. Have fun!