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3 Things to remember when you’re babysitting other people’s kids


Keep these tips in mind when you’re caring for children who are not your own.

Are you watching any kids this summer? Maybe you’re doing a good deed for your brother and watching your niece and nephew a few times this month. Or maybe you’re being a great neighbor and helping out the family next door in a pinch. If it’s been a while since you’ve babysat kids, here are a few tips gleaned from my many hours watching other people’s children (as well as having many younger siblings and a now, a tiny child of my own).

Play with the small people in your care.

The difference between a fun babysitter and a lame one is how involved the babysitter is. And don’t rely on a screen to do the work for you. Kids want your attention, especially as you’re a new adult rather than “same old” mom or dad. Playing board games or reading books is usually a good route.

Children may ask you to play an imaginary game with them, and that might be intimidating at first. For example, they may say you’re supposed to be the king of the bears at the zoo and it’s time to hold a bear meeting, If you haven’t been a bear in a while, you may struggle with what to do. Don’t worry. Kids are pretty understanding when it comes to games, and you usually just need to follow their lead and the game will go on.

Bring something with you.

Even if it’s just a coloring book or an old board game or book from childhood, new toys are more exciting than current toys. And don’t pull out what you bring right away. Use it as a saving grace if you hit a patch of boredom or to help change the mood if it’s getting too crazy. Kids also like learning new games, and songs and skills.

Even if you don’t have any books or toys to bring, you can still conjure up all of your childhood memories and teach them something new from when you were a kid. My Irish dancing knowledge and ability to make up strange songs at the drop of a hat always come in handy. Simple magic tricks and riddles are good standbys too, depending on the ages of the kids.

Expect controlled chaos.

The most important part of your job is to keep the kids in your care safe. But just know that being a new, exciting person may make kids act a little crazier than they would normally. They’ll want to show off and impress you, or at the very least just get your attention. And that might involve escalating noise and excitement. When a game gets too crazy, suggest snack time or a water break or story break. Distraction is a tried-and-true technique in the art of chaos management for small children.

Another time kids get extra energetic is when they are overtired. If bedtime or naptime is part of your job description, check with the parent to see what the normal routine for bedtime is. That way you can at least know that the baseline of normal is when it comes time to winding down and starting the bedtime process.

All in all, babysitting kids (especially in the summertime) is a fun and exhausting endeavor. As long as you play with the kids in your charge and mix in a few preventative distraction techniques to manage games that get too rambunctious, you should all have an enjoyable and safe time. Good luck!

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