It may seem like only yesterday that you scrambled, searching for a responsible young person to watch your toddler. Without a babysitter, your date night was a no-go. Wasn’t it a relief when you knew you’d found a reliable kid to look after your little one?
Now the shoe is on the other foot. You have neighbors reaching out, asking if your tween can watch their spunky 3-year-old for a few hours. Your child is probably excited about the opportunity to earn a few bucks, but you might be nervous. Are they ready to supervise a munchkin that could eat glue or climb a bookshelf without warning?
Before you freak out and envision all sorts of mishaps, take a deep breath. There are several ways to figure out if your tween is babysitter material. If you can scratch things off this checklist, tell your neighbors your tween is available, and greenlight their date night.
1. They’re Legally Old Enough
Your child might be the most mature 10-year-old in the city, but are they legally allowed to babysit? Most states don’t specify a legal babysitting age, but yours may be the exception, so check your state laws first. Some states do specify age guidelines for leaving your child at home alone. So if you’re in one of these states and your kid hasn’t reached that age yet, babysitting isn’t an option.
There are reasons to consider your child’s age before allowing them to watch other children. Babysitters should stay focused on little kids. They must remain engaged, feed them, and think of new ways to keep small ones entertained. For younger children, that’s usually a tall order. If you’re curious, though, check with your state laws.
2. They Answer Calls
We all miss calls or text messages every now and then. But overall, is your tween good about staying in touch with you when you’re apart? Give them a chance to prove they’ll communicate any time you reach out. It’s a good habit to have if an emergency ever pops up.
You can help train them with a smartphone or smartwatch for kids. It’s a device in their pocket or on their wrist that’s directly linked to you. If they answer when you call or respond to your texts, you know they’re being responsible and paying attention. Plus, it gives you peace of mind that they’ll reach out if any babysitting problems occur.
3. They’re Focused
No, this doesn’t mean your child needs a laser attention span all of the time. They’re still a kid themselves, after all. Daydreaming is expected — and encouraged. Just not when they’re in charge of someone who thinks running with a fork is fun.
So before you give your babysitting approval, make sure they can concentrate and follow a list of directions. Give them a list of tasks and see how they do. Do they complete them in order and get them done on time? If so, they’re ready to follow instructions from the parents who hire them.
4. They’ve Practiced
Before you set your child free to watch a younger kid without supervision, ensure they’ve had a little practice. Fortunately, you can successfully do this without leaving them home alone. Ask them to watch a younger sibling while you cook dinner or mow the lawn. It’s a great way to judge — in short bursts — whether they’re interested in and prepared for babysitting.
If they do well, you can take it to the next level. Try leaving your child in charge while you make a quick grocery store run. Be sure to call and check in while you’re out to see how things are going. You’ll know they’re ready for Prime-Time Babysitting when they keep everything under control.
5. They’ve Taken a Babysitting Class
Depending on how frequently your child has cared for siblings, a class might not be necessary. Taking one, however, can double down on their readiness and put some parents’ minds at ease. So consider enrolling your child in a babysitting class. They’ll learn about how to care for little ones of all ages.
The most important thing, though, is that they’ll receive basic first aid and CPR instruction. Even under the best of circumstances and watchful eyes, accidents happen with small children. Your child must be prepared if something goes wrong. Getting extra training can help them feel more confident in their babysitting skills.
6. They’re Comfortable Providing Care
First aid and CPR are vital parts of safe babysitting, but your child may never have to use them. What they will need, though, is some knowledge about routine childcare. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but can they change a diaper? Do they know how to feed a younger child — especially one that still gets food via “choo-choo?”
Quiz your child on who to call during an emergency and how to handle a minor skinned knee. See how they might calm a child who gets scared. The point is to make sure your kid has thought about many different scenarios. It’s OK if they don’t know how to handle everything. Now is your time to offer a little coaching.
If your child is interested, getting their first babysitting job can be an exciting experience. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with watching a small, squirmy person full of giggles and wails, though. Before you agree to let your child watch a little one, run through this checklist. It will give you — and the other parents — reassurance that your tween is ready to be in charge.