How to Babysit a Toddler

Babysitting Basics

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    Don’t leave them alone. Be alert. Keep an eye on them all the time; you never know what one may try to do, open up, dig out,… fall off or pull down. Don’t even leave the room for a second. You would be surprised what kind of mess a toddler can make in the time that you take to use the bathroom. If you are going to get something then take the toddler with you. Keep anything dangerous away form his/her reach.
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    Give them snacks in between meals. Toddlers need to eat more often than adults, so give them a snack if they need it. Talk to the parents about what they want the child to snack on. You might give them a drink of juice, water, or milk. Some kids might eat animal crackers or fruit snacks. Watch them when they eat. Learn how to get things out of little children’s mouths if they are choking.

    • Do not feed the child anything they are allergic to. Their parents should tell you before hand if they are allergic to anything. Make sure that the snacks are not too big that it could choke on. Neither too small that it could swallow without chopping it down.
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    Check their diaper regularly: Change it promptly, if it needs it. The smell is usually a strong indicator. If the child is recently toilet trained, ask regularly whether he or she needs to use the bathroom and watch for signs of needing to go. If you wait until the child tells you they have to use the bathroom, it might be too late, and then you have a mess to clean up.
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    Bring first-aid supplies. Get your own first aid kit, and cover it with stickers and supply it with fun colorful band-aids. If you can’t get those, offer to color on the band-aids when a kid gets hurt. Make sure you have all the important stuff. Call this box the Boo-boo Box. Don’t make a big deal about an injury, just say, “Uh-oh! Let’s get you a band aid!” This way, they will laugh and be happy.
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    Prepare for emergencies. Keep important numbers like the child’s doctor, the poison control center, and the parents’ cell phones by the home phone. These are vital in an emergency. Only call the parents if necessary or in an emergency, though. You don’t want to cause them stress or bother them if they’re doing something important.
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    Consider getting training. Take a babysitting class with the Red Cross, a local community center, or local community college. They will teach you CPR and useful information if something bad happens. They can also teach you a lot about how to deal with kids effectively and play with them well. These classes are usually cheap, and will look impressive to any parents looking to hire a babysitter.
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    Go over the ground rules with the parents. Try to learn as much as you can about the rules the parents have set both for the child and for you. Don’t break any rules the parents have, such as bed times and whether or not they can have junk food before bed. Not only is this bad for the kid, but you might even get caught if the child knows how to talk at all. If the child say “Mommy or Daddy always let me _________” don’t believe them. Children like to test limits to see if they can get their way.
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    Discipline according to the parents rules. If the child needs to be disciplined, make sure you’ve worked out with the parents ahead of time how that discipline should be handled. Different parents have different rules. Even if you think it’s okay to spank, for example, the parents might not believe that and you should respect their wishes.
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    Be polite and respectful of the home. Don’t go digging in the fridge. It’s their food that they buy. They invited you over to watch their child, not for dinner. You should also be respectful of the rest of their home, and not go digging in drawers, cabinets, or closets. You never know when a family has a nanny-cam too, so be careful!

Entertaining the Child

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    Make a list of activities: Keep them occupied. Kids love to play. Make sure you have loads of toys, building blocks, bring crafts it depends on age, rattles, books, and even spoons. Be creative! Sometimes bringing over some of your old toys will keep them happy. The toys may be old to you, but the toddler will be excited to have toys that are new to them.

    • Be prepared to change games multiple times. Kids at that age have a very short attention span.
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    Go on a walk or get some exercise. Take them for a walk, in a stroller. Point out different things on the sidewalk or the road. Make a game out of crossing the street safely remember to say to the toddler, “Look left and right. No cars, we can cross!” Eventually, you’ll have the toddler saying it with you! You can hold hands and go for a walk too, if they’re able to walk, but this should not be for much more than to the end of the street and back.

    • Another option is to run around and be crazy with them, but this should be done strategically. You have to spend hours doing this, if you’re going to do it before putting them down for bed. Doing just a little bit of crazy play before bed makes them more hyper. Doing a lot for an extended period of time will make them hyper very briefly before they just collapse from exhaustion.
    • Bring out your artistic side. Color with crayons. Ask the kid to draw a picture of their family, pet, or their favorite toy. They will enjoy telling you about the things that they like. You can also give the child building bricks or blocks. Help them learn to build different kinds of towers and knock them down, or he or she may act upset if it falls down, but just help them, a little, to build it again.
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    Read them a book. Small children, even the very active ones, usually love to read books. Sit on the floor or couch with a book, blanket and a stuffed animal, and read with them. Put the toddler on your lap to read the story. They love cuddles! Goodnight Moon, Green Eggs and Ham, and Are You My Mother? are good book choices for most toddlers.

    • Show pictures in a book that has pictures of farm or zoo animals. Say, “Do you see the doggy? I see the doggy! Where’s the horse? There’s the horse!” Kids love to show what they know, and will soon be pointing them out to you.
    • Describe an animal and ask what sound it makes. Examples could be cows, horses, and pigs. Start being a little bit silly. Make animal sounds or noises for any books with animals. Get the child to make the sounds too.
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    Sing a song. Sing a classic nursery rhyme, or something that they would know. Maybe they can even suggest one! Kids love songs, especially songs with lots of clapping and moving around. Old MacDonald, Hokey Pokey, Wheels on the Bus, Incy Wincy (or Itsy Bitsy) Spider, and anything from Raffi’s extensive collection of children’s songs are great for small children.
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    Play sorting games. If the child is a slightly older toddler, you can teach them how to sort toys by kind, size, color, or what it does. Sort again by a different rule.
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    Teach them colors. If there or solid color shapes or toys, when the child picks up one of them say the color excitedly like it’s a game: “Red!”,… “Blue!”,… “Green!” When they start to get it, say something like, “Can you put all the reds together? What toy is red? Show me.” so that they can practice identifying colors.

    • Call-out the color when you put one in a group and when the child puts one in, or takes one, or works with them or messes up a pile.
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    Play counting games. Count toys up to 5 or 6 if they seem interested in numbers. Encourage them to count even it it is mixed up. Don’t make a fuss about mistakes. Give them lots of examples of each number, by making several piles of two or three toys.
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    Don’t overload them with options. Present the toys one at a time, when playing with toys. This helps because if there are many toys to choose from at once, they’ll only play with the pile for a few moments and get bored and the house will be messy. Ask the toddler to help you clean up, and make a game out of it. Thank them for helping, this will make them feel good and want to help again.

    • If there is only one toy, they’ll stick with it until they get bored, and you can hand them another one, but later offer 2 or 3 related toys because sometimes they tend to play with more than one toy at a time.


Acting Correctly

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    Be kind. Don’t say harsh things or get angry. Don’t be sarcastic, because you will only confuse the child, if they are old enough to understand some words. It is okay to “pretend anger, playfully,” as if insulted or pretending amusement, etc. Be a clever actor, but not too silly, be kind of serious, and use the pretending to teach.

    • You can show hurt feelings from a child’s actions or words, however. Realize that though they may say anything, they usually don’t mean it, and they usually get over it very quickly. Just pretend shock, giggle and chuckle at their smarting off or their cute actions, they should cooperate (better than if you were to have a war of wills and serious words).
    • Happily explain what you really mean, in a gentle way, but don’t be surprised that they make a game of touching things and looking at you to see how you react, just say “no-no”. Try to give an alternative activity.
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    Be careful what you say! Never call the child a Brat, Bratface, Rugrat, Pest, bad words, Ankle Biter, etc. Toddlers are great at picking up words and you never know what they’ll repeat to their parents! Also, some families might believe some words are rude when you think they are not. For example, instead of ” Stupid”, try “Silly” instead.
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    Be comforting at bedtime. If the toddler wakes up and starts screaming or crying for their mom or dad, just sit with them and softly say “shhhh” and tell them “It’s okay; I’m here.” If they mention wanting mommy or daddy, tell them that when they wake up, their mommy will be there and give them lots of kisses. They need to know that everything will go back to normal soon.