Safety tips for beginning babysitters

Conversations parents need to have with their children before they babysit.

Growing up, I logged many hours as a babysitter and while nothing out of the ordinary ever happened, I never had a conversation with any adult about staying safe or keeping the kids safe while I was watching them. The world has changed in many ways since I was a babysitter; it’s not as safe as it used to be. If your children want to begin babysitting, sit down and start a conversation about safety. This article provides talking points, not to scare your children, but to give them skills to handle situations that may or may not come their way.

Parents need to know who their child is sitting for; make it a rule that the sitter must always have permission before a babysitting job is accepted.

Meet with the family before you or your child babysits and get the following information: For a form that families can fill out log on to BabysittingbasicsKidshealth.org/teen/babysitting

  • Parents’ names
  • Children’s names and ages
  • Address of the house
  • Nearest intersections/directions to the house (in case it is necessary to give directions to emergency services)
  • Phone numbers at the house
  • Emergency services number (usually 911)
  • Nationwide poison control hotline: 1-800-222-1222
  • Location of exits
  • Location of first aid supplies
  • Location of fire extinguisher, flashlights
  • Cell phone or pager number for parents
  • Name and phone numbers for close neighbors
  • Special medical information, such as asthma or food allergies
  • Where parent will be; name, address and phone number
  • Time parent will be home
  • Children’s bedtimes and bedtime routine
  • Any food or drink to be given to the children
  • Medications for children if needed and when it is to be given

General safety reminders for sitters:

  • Turn on outside lights in the evening
  • Keep doors and windows locked; lock the door after the parent leaves
  • If the kids are asleep, check on them every 15 minutes
  • Don’t leave the house with the kids unless you have permission
  • Keep doors locked while you are outside
  • Don’t let anyone in the house unless you personally know him or her AND the parents said it is okay.
  • If someone comes to the door and you are suspicious, or if you suspect a prowler, stay inside and call the police at 911
  • Never identify yourself as the sitter on the phone, instead, say the parent can’t come to the phone and take a message
  • Don’t tie up the phone, in case the parents are trying to call
  • Don’t have friends over while you are working

Potentially dangerous items or situations in the home:

  • Small children in bathtubs - never leave a child alone in the bathtub, not even for a second.
  • In case of a fire know all the ways out of the house. Get kids out immediately, stay close to the floor, and do not open a door if it is hot. Only when you are out of the house, call for help from a neighbor’s, and do not go back in for any reason.
  • Make sure your child has a safe escort home. Have a plan in place to pick your child up if the parents arrive home drunk. Teach your kids to trust their instincts when it comes to feeling safe.

You may have already had conversations with your children about safety, but if they are just starting to babysit, it’s a good idea to reinforce some of these points and to find out if your child is really ready to take on this huge responsibility. Enroll your child in a babysitting class; Michigan State University Extension may offer classes, along with the Red Cross, local hospital or your child’s school.

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