A babysitter and a toddler have a pillow fight

Babysitting 101: How to Survive the Night

I’ve been babysitting for nearly a decade. When I was younger, I babysat as a part-time job, but now that I have a full-time job, I still babysit for extra cash. It’s a fun way to make some extra money, especially when you want cash-in-hand. I’ve always been a pretty good sitter, but through the years, there are definitely some tips and tricks I’ve picked up.

Start with kids you know.

If you’re a new sitter, start off watching children you know. This gives you experience without the stress of getting to know a new child’s routine, likes, and dislikes. And, let’s be honest, it takes some of the gamble out of babysitting. There’s nothing worse than agreeing to babysit from 6 pm to 12 am, only to find out you’re babysitting a brat.

Have a plan for dinner.

Or breakfast, or lunch. Most of the time when I babysit, the parents throw in a meal, which makes it that much harder when dinner isn’t included. One night, I was watching two kids at 6 pm, so I didn’t plan on eating beforehand. Wrong move—those kids ate at 5:30 pm sharp. From there on out, I started double checking and packing a granola bar.

Never forget the emergency numbers.

I’ve been babysitting a long time and I have yet to need an emergency number, but I still swear by the “better safe than sorry” rule.  You never know, tonight could be the night the kid you’re watching catches strep throat or the flu. I like to have at least the parents’ cell phone numbers, the number of a neighbor or friend who lives nearby, and their doctor’s number.

 Get your parents on board.

You can start babysitting before you’re old enough to drive if you have some parental backup. While some parents are willing to pick you up to watch their kids, most would rather hire someone with a car and not worry about it. If your parents are there to drop you off and pick you up, then you’ll be able to take more jobs.

Don’t let TV do your job for you.

Although most parents will let you slide with just letting the kids watch TV the whole time, that’s not how you get repeat business. If you can get the kids engaged in a game or craft, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Pinterest is a pal.

I didn’t have Pinterest when I first started babysitting, but I use it enough now to make up for it. After I accept a babysitting job, I always do a quick search for crafts or activities I can do with the kids. It’s especially helpful if you’re watching a kid who is a little older or younger than what you’re used to.

Try to do one extra thing.

This is another trick that helps you gain repeat business: when you’re babysitting, try to do one extra thing around the house. Do they have a dog? Then you could feed him or brush him when you have some downtime. Is the sink full? You could do a quick load of dishes after the kids go down for the night.

Kids don’t make the big bucks.

When I babysit now, I usually charge around $12 an hour, but when I started out, I charged maybe $5 or $6. I charged less for two reasons: One, I didn’t have much experience, and two, I had a curfew and no car. Age and experience are the two most important factors when deciding upon an amount to charge for your services. While it’s likely your pay rate will increase with time, don’t count on making a career out of babysitting unless you're very, very dedicated.

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