Babysitting: Getting Started

Brianna loves children. She's the one playing chase with the kids at family get-togethers or making up games for her brothers and sisters. So when Brianna needed a job over the summer, her mom suggested she try babysitting.

After her first week, Brianna felt exhausted and overwhelmed. How could something she thought would be so much fun turn out to be such a challenge?

Caring About Kids vs. Caring for Kids

A good babysitter needs to have the patience for endless rounds of hide and seek, plus the willingness to mess up a pair of new jeans making mudpies. But babysitting is also about responsibility and good planning.

Knowing what you want to get out of your babysitting job can make the difference between success and frustration. Some of the things to consider when planning your babysitting career include:

  1. Do you enjoy spending time with children?
  2. Are you prepared to take care of kids?
  3. Do you have an awareness of young children's needs?
  4. Have you taken a babysitting course?
  5. Do you have experience taking care of younger siblings or relatives?
  6. What can you offer to the kids and their families?
  7. Do you want to babysit occasionally or find a regular babysitting position?
  8. If income is a concern, will the hours and payment meet your needs?

What Parents Want

Parents look for babysitters who are dependable and responsible, who have a special interest in young children, and who are safety conscious and mature.

How do you know if you're prepared to take care of kids? One way is to take a course in babysitting.

A babysitting course will provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to be a sought-after babysitter. You can learn more about babysitting courses by contacting your local hospital, American Red Cross office, YMCA, or other community organization. Or search online by entering "babysitting course" and the name of your town (or county) and state. Just be sure to pick courses from reputable organizations — ask a parent or school counselor if you're not sure!

How to Market Yourself

If you're new to babysitting, you'll need to let people know you're interested.

Word of mouth is often the easiest way to land a job. Talk to your neighbors, people from your church, or families at your school who have young kids. Ask friends who are babysitters if they know of any openings. If you have an older sibling who is moving on to another job, can you inherit his or her clients? It's always best to babysit for someone you know or someone you've heard about from a friend.

If word of mouth doesn't work, consider advertising in your neighborhood. You can put flyers in people's doors or send out an email if your neighborhood provides a list of residents. If you decide to advertise, check with your parents first. They need to know anytime you put out personal information.

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Put together a résumé outlining any specific skills and experience you can offer. For example, if you took a babysitting course, put it on your résumé. List any experience you have caring for kids — even if it's younger brothers, sisters, or cousins. Have you taken a first-aid course in school? Do you drive? These are all things to put on your résumé.

Before you start, you also need to know how often or how much you want to work and what you plan to charge.

Interviewing a New Family

Congratulations, you've found parents who are looking for babysitters! Now it's time to set up interviews so you can get to know the parents and their children. Just as you'll be finding out if the job sounds good, the parents will be looking to learn as much as possible about you. Tell them about yourself, your family, your school, and why you want to babysit.

Be prepared with a list of questions so you know what's expected of you. Write them down so you don't forget to ask anything. The answers you get to questions like these will help you decide if it's the right job for you:

  • How many kids will you be taking care of?
  • What are their ages? (babysitting a 2-month-old is quite different from babysitting a 10-year-old)
  • Do the kids have any special needs? Special diets?
  • Does the family have pets? A pool?
  • What are the hours you're expected to work?
  • What are you allowed to do in the home (e.g., use their computer, help yourself to food and snacks or bring your own)?

Know Your Comfort Zone

Before you go, know what you're comfortable with — and what you're not. For example, if you don't feel like you have the skills to look after a newborn, don't take the job. If you're allergic to animals, you may need to turn down a job if the family has pets. You need to feel in control. If you're unsure about a job, it's better to wait for the next one.

Your safety is as important as the safety of the kids you'll be watching. If this is a first babysitting job, make sure you feel comfortable about the family. Trust your instincts, and don't feel like you have to accept the job on the spot. Tell the family you need to talk it over with your parents before committing to the job.

When you know what you want and what to expect, babysitting is a better experience for both you and the kids.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2010

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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