The 3 rules for babysitters

Whether you have been looking after children for years or whether you are about to start your first job in child care, it is important to remember that being a babysitter is all about responsibility. As long as you're on the job, you're in charge. Not only do you have to make sure the kids are happy, you have to make sure they're safe and their needs are taken care of.

So for new and old, check out the babysitting guide below for tips on how to be the best babysitter. We have called it:

Rule 1: Be Prepared

This is the rule for anyone who wants to know what to do in an emergency. Most of the time nothing ever goes wrong when you are babysitting, but if it does you want to be prepared. If you make sure you know the following you are well on your way to being able to handle anything.

Know where you are.

It sounds silly, but many people forget to make sure they know the correct address of the house they are in. If you need to ring emergency services you will need to know the number and street name.

Know the important phone numbers. Obviously 111 is there for emergencies but there are other numbers you will need to know. Check that the parents have left you these numbers:

  • Parent's cell phone or pager number.
  • Work phone number if appropriate.
  • Phone number of Restaurant or other venue if appropriate.
  • Phone number of a neighbour who can be contacted if needed.
  • Phone number for the children's Doctor.

Medical information.

Are the children taking any medicine? When and how should it be taken? For example 4 hourly with food. Do they have any allergies or other medical conditions such as asthma?

Do you have a First Aid Certificate? It's a great thing to have not only for babysitting but for life in general. If you don't have one it's worth checking out. Contact your local St John's for details on courses.

Rule 2: Know What To Expect

Every family you babysit for will be different. The house will be different as will be the parent's expectations and the children. Knowing what to expect will make your babysitting experience safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

Know what the parents expect of you. If you don't understand, ask them. The following is a guide.

Know the house and environment.

You will need to know where important things are in the house such as fire extinguishers, medicines and telephones, where things are in the kitchen and where the children's toys and clothes are kept. Familiarize yourself with hazards in and out of the house. For example, are there stairs or balconies the children could fall off, is there a swimming pool, or is the house close to a busy road?

Find out what is expected of you with regard to security,-locking doors and windows, not opening the door to strangers etc.

Know the children you will be babysitting.

If you know the children's routines and preferences such as their favourite toys and games, if they need to do homework, any foods they specifically dislike, what time they normally eat and get ready for bed you can be in control of the situation. Often if you don't know these things the children will tell you their own version, which may include staying up late and chocolate biscuits for dinner!

Know how long you are required and how you will get home.

Not only yourself but the children need to know when the parents will be home. If children become anxious and want Mum and Dad, being able to tell them when they will be home is important.

Once you have finished babysitting you will need to know how you are getting home if you don't have your own transport.

Rule 3: Stay Focused on the Children at All Times

The reason you are there as a babysitter is to look after the children,-all the time. You are responsible for their care and safety while the parents are away. Children can get into trouble very quickly, so don't be tempted to let the children do their own thing while you watch your favourite TV program. It doesn't mean you can't have fun, playing games and doing activities with them is a great way of making the children happy and keeping an eye on them at the same time. If the children are playing outside keep them in sight. A child can be out the gate and down the road in the space of time it takes you to make a cup of coffee.

This rule is very important if children are having a bath. Never, ever, leave young children on their own in the bath. Small children can drown in as little as an inch of water in a short space of time. If the phone rings ignore it. The answer phone will pick it up or they will phone back.

If the children are in bed make sure you can hear them if they become distressed. Sitting in the lounge with the door shut and the TV on may be relaxing but you won't hear a thing. Check them regularly until the parents arrive home.

So if you are prepared, know what to expect and stay focused on the children, you should have a safe, rewarding babysitting experience and very happy parents!

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