How To Help Your Teen Be A Successful Babysitter


Now that my 13-year-old, Emmie, is a bona fide, certified, babysitter (she took a course at a local rec center in May), she’s been trying to build her business and get jobs (saving for an iPhone can be a powerful incentive…).  After she created a flier, gathered email addresses and sent out the flier, she has started to get calls. So I thought it was time to pass on to her what my childhood friend, Trisha, passed on to me and what I’d already passed on to Allison: the secret to successful babysitting. Trisha was a very successful babysitter; I took her advice and was booked solid almost every weekend evening (at least a Friday or Saturday night) during my junior high and early high school years , and in summer, some weekdays and evenings as well. 


So what’s the secret?  Bring your own “stuff”.  Yes, that’s it in a nutshell—bring a bag with toys, games and books that you used to play with. And if you have enough stuff, you can bring something different each time, for awhile.    It’s a wonderful thing, and the kids you are babysitting LOVE it. And so do the parents.  It sets you apart from other babysitters, especially the gum-smacking, I-really-don’t-want-to-do-this, I’d-rather-text-or- watch-TV bunch of babysitters.  ‘You care enough to pick out special books and toys from your own closet and bring them along?’ marvel the parents. ‘You’ll share your toys with me and I don’t have to play with the same old stuff?’ marvel the kids. The kids will rave about you to their parents and the parents will call you again.  It happened for me, it happened for Allison and it has already happened for Emmie.


Which is why we parents shouldn’t throw (or give) all of our kids’ childhood stuff away as they get older. Do you have a potential babysitter among your children? I was already saving a few of my kids’ toys for my great-nieces and nephew to play with when they come for a visit, so I saved a little bit extra just in case my kids were babysitters:  some toy cars and a plastic play mat emblazoned with a town and roads; classic board games like Chutes and Ladders; Colorforms; wooden puzzles; some dress-up clothes; lots of books; a tabletop puppet theatre…


There’s also a lot of kidstuff still in the house that I meant to get rid of but haven’t gotten around to purging, that has turned out to be great for babysitting…when Emmie got a job the other day as a mother’s helper and needed to accompany a parent and two kids to a doctor visit, she looked in our old “road trip” cabinet and hit the mother lode of all kinds of magnetic toys– Magnadoodles, magnetic “paper dolls”, and a game called Tickle Bee, to name a few. They were perfect for her to entertain the kids during the long car ride to the doctor’s as well as the waiting room…When she got a job watching a child at a baby pool (while the parent was nearby watching another child), I climbed a ladder in our garage just before she was to leave for the job and found a bag of our old tub toys on the shelf, which thankfully hadn’t been put in a recent garage sale.  Emmie picked out several things which the child (and every other kid in the pool) thoroughly enjoyed: a small inflatable fish, a “whale pitcher” with a “strainer hat”, an empty plastic “Mr. Bubble” bottle that doubles as a boat…


Though one might think that the novelty of “someone else’s toys” wears off, I don’t remember that ever happening, since the toys aren’t stored at the kids’ homes.  You just rotate them to keep things fresh.  Kids start requesting certain favorites. And, hopefully their positive feedback will inspire your teen to find even more creative ways to entertain kids, such as food art (like pepperoni pizza “faces” and cutting lunchmeat and cheese with fun-shaped cookie cutters for open-faced sandwiches), throwing a birthday party for a doll or pet, and photography.  One family still remembers the time I dressed up their kids in wigs and western wear and tried to snap a frowning “tintype” style of Old West photo… It didn’t look so great taken with a Kodak Pocket Instamatic, but it was the thought that counted…

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