Babysitting Tips: How to Cultivate a Positive Reputation


I’ve been babysitting and nannying for longer than I can remember.  At last count, I’ve babysat for more than 70 families. I have watched or taught more than 300 kids. Am I sick of it yet? Nope. Here’s why…

I love kids. I love the innocence. I love the addictive enthusiasm that beams from them. I love the crazy, compelling knowledge one child can exhibit. It’s a surprise every time– almost like cracking open a fortune cookie.  Yet instead of a cheesy message, it’s an unforgettable memory.

When dealing with kids, my one goal is to make sure I’m having nothing but a positive impact on their lives. I want to make sure they clearly remember me years down the road, and it all starts with a smile.

The way to get a job is all about how you present yourself. A smile says it all. Parents are trusting you with their most precious bundle in the world: their children. Talk to the parents, look them in the eye, shake their hand firmly, and remember their names!

I started getting jobs by ringing doorbells when I was 11 years old. I crafted hand-made little cards that had all of my information on it (of course glitter glue was involved). I would give a huge smile and shake the homeowner’s hand. I did anything so people would remember me.  And if they wanted to meet my Dad as well, to check up on me further, no problem. Once one family hired me, it was like a chain reaction. Parents are always looking for someone to watch their kids, and my name and reputation spread easily by word of mouth; after all, most young mothers have young mothers as friends, and they have friends, etc., etc.. If I was at a community pool, I would spark conversation with anyone around me. If I brought kids to a park, I would introduce myself and distribute my card.

“Opportunity,” said Thomas Edison, “is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” So yes, marketing yourself does take some work, but not a lot of work when it comes to babysitting, and if you keep your eyes open, there are opportunities aplenty all around you.

I’ve had a steady summer and school-year source of income since middle school. I didn’t have a car then and I still don’t now. I have legs, and I eventually got a bike…lol. And fortunately I have a dad who will drop me off at my jobs, and most parents you babysit for will drive you home at the end of the night. Not having a car is VERY RARELY an excuse for not having a job.  The saying is trite but true: if there’s a will, there’s a way.

For the record, here’s some tips I’ve learned about babysitting:

  • Try to give kids options, so they feel empowered and some ownership over the decisions they make and activities they do.
  • Learn immediately from the parents the rules of the house concerning toys, naps, time-outs, etc.
  • Then go over the rules with the kids at the very beginning of your shift, and be firm with following through with them–if the child walks all over you, then there is no mutual respect on their end, and you’re destined for trouble and a very long night!
  • Try to play games that don’t use toys or electronics.  I’ve found that this builds a stronger relationship with the child. Barbies and Legos are great for this, but making the kids into a human burrito or spinning them around till they have a laughing attack is 100% better.  (Be careful with the spins!)
  • Drawing a chalk town in the driveway is always a winner (and yes, invest in a cheap set of giant, colorful chalk). Make a road big enough for them to drive their electric car, scooter, or tricycle on. Draw different places and houses. Don’t forget the parking spots!
  • Make crafts, finger painting is fun, and even baking cookies, muffins, or brownies can be a blast; the latter also allows you the opportunity to teach them about stove safety, cleaning up, as well as some basic math and measurement skills; kids love to count and pour out cups of ingredients. (Of course clear cooking with the parents ahead of time.)
  • Turn meal time into a game. Pretend you’re at a restaurant and make up a little menu for the kids to choose from. They love to have the power of choice.
  • Turn bedtime into a special time, a time to calm down, read a calming book, and then hit the sack.  Above all, don’t rough-house with the kids right before bedtime, or you’re once again spelling trouble for yourself.  But give the kids the choice of book to read, or if you’re really creative, make up a story for them, in which they play a role.

So carpe diem!   Seize the day and the job opportunities all around you, and enjoy the special chance you have to play a positive role in the life of a child.

–Cecilia Jean



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