I’ve been babysitting kids for over six years now and I’ve learned a thing or two about how to be a great babysitter. I’ve watched kids as old as eleven, as young as three weeks old, and practically every age in between. My speciality is with little children though because all it takes is love, trust, and a little pixie dust to win over their hearts. As much as I wish that last statement were true, it isn’t as simple as combining those three ingredients; so, here are my tips on how to be a great babysitter.
1. Come down to Their Level
When watching a four year old, the height difference is more than apparent. I always make conscious efforts to bring myself down to his or her level when talking and make eye-contact. When you’re standing and talking down to the child, they are less likely to listen and take what you have to say into account. But by putting yourself on the same level, it allows them to pay attention to what you have to say, open up and respect you, rather than torment you. Doing this shows the child that you are not above them, though you still hold the control, and acknowledge them as a person, scoring brownie points on how to be a great babysitter.
2. Listen and Repeat
When children first learn to talk, they may be blabbering on all day without saying anything understandable. Making strong efforts to listen to their voices when they say things such as "Me and Bea goed to park,»"shows them that you care. I always try to repeat what I heard them say, such as "Oh, you and Bea went to the park?," that way they can correct me if I am wrong or smile contently that I heard what they said. They will listen to you when they know you are listening to them.
3. Think outside the Box
Putting the kids in front of their favorite television program until their parents get home is not the way to go. Brainstorm game ideas that they will enjoy. Some may want to play with blocks or dress-up; others may decide to go to the park. Don’t force them to do anything they don’t want. If they have to do some homework before you play, then make a game plan that they are included in. For example, suggest they do twenty-five minutes of concentrated school work or chores and then let them play for the same amount of time until the work is completed.
4. Make Believe
It always amazes me how little kids have the biggest imaginations. Go with it! If they say you are a princess flying away on the back of a whale, then you are. Arguing with children about logic, for example that whales cannot fly, will make them less likely to ask for you the next time around. Instead, why not throw out some suggestions? More often than not my fingers turn into spiders that can’t wait to tickle you.
5. Remember Who's in Charge
In the midst of games and laughter, it may be easy for the child to think that they are in control of the situation and start to get out of hand. If he or she does begin to act up, stop the game, even if they protest. Sit for a few minutes to calm down and then ask him or her if they know why they needed that break. Simple check-ins like this help keep things in order so that their mom’s favorite vase doesn’t end up broken.
6. Neighborhood Friends
Older children may have neighborhood friends that they can’t wait to play with after school. If the parents already gave the okay, suggest they invite a few over to play outside with the understanding that if they get too riled up, their friends have to go home. From my experience, the neighborhood kids give you a brief break while releasing some of their pent-up energy. Another way to tackle the neighborhood friends is to invite them over for a finite stretch of time, for example one hour. That way the kids can still see their friends but they don’t badger you to set up a lemonade stand.
7. Be Creative
Arts and crafts are good at any age, that is if you steer clear of the overused ones. Make animal masks out of paper plates and then put on a show. Draw a line on a piece of paper and have each child add one more line until you have a picture. Take toilet paper holders and cover the ends with cupcake holders and rubber-bands, making sure to put beans or rice inside to create your own maracas. The possibilities are endless!
Being a babysitter may seem like more work than you first thought, but with these tips on how to be a great babysitter you’ll be loved in no time. In fact, I’ve found them more useful than pixie dust at times. What adventures have you gone on with the kids?