Reynolds, Chris       Samantha is 12 years old and would be interested in babysitting.  She has experience babysitting her younger siblings as she is the oldest.  New neighbors just moved in across the street and have asked Samantha to babysit their 7-year-old daughter.  How should a child and her parents know if one his or her age is mature enough to babysit children outside of the family? 

             First, sitters should feel comfortable being home by oneself.   Try for 30 minute stretches to begin with, then parents should work with   the sitters being left alone up to several hours at a time.  The young sitter  should feel comfortable during the day and at night, as well.  

     Sitters should be knowledgeable regarding the following:

  • How to handle knocks on the front door, emergencies and accidents.
  • Phone for help to a parent or a neighbor if a problem arises.
  • Never open the front door to strangers.
  • If answering the phone, do not tell the person on the other line that he or she is home without a parent.
  • Only give foods and/or medicines that the parents instruct the sitter.
  • The primary job is to take care of the children.
  • Never leave the children alone in the house.
  • Poison control number is 1-800-222-1222
  • Emergency number is 911.

      It is also recommended that the parents of the child being babysat do some homework of their own.  These include the following:

  • Meet the sitter, check references and experience in advance.
  • Have the sitter spend time with children in advance so they can get to know each other.
  • Give the sitter important contact phone numbers and information, including destination places and phone numbers and a return timeframe.
  • Discuss food/medication allergies, if any.
  • Instruct on the usual routines of bathing, mealtime and bedtime.
  • Don’t forget the hourly wage for babysitting.

      Finally, it is helpful to know that local hospitals may offer babysitting courses for young teens to prepare for babysitting.  These classes teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid for choking, poison safety, and basic child development. Search for resources in the community on the internet or by asking friends.

       When the sitter and the parents are prepared by following these suggestions, babysitting can be a fun and rewarding experience for all involved.