Babysitting is often a first job for many tweens and teens. To decide whether your child is ready to start babysitting, there are a lot of issues to address, including maturity and responsibility. Babysitting classes help prepare future sitters for that responsibility.
Determining When Your Child Is Ready to Babysit
Most babysitting classes start at age 11, but different considerations, including laws in your state, factor in to deciding if your tween is ready. While many states do not have an explicitly stated legal age, many offer recommendations on their websites. For example, the state of Washington Department of Social and Health Services says, "Most authorities agree that leaving a 12-year-old alone at home for an hour or two is acceptable, but someone this age should not be responsible for other children."
The PBS website offers good information and basics on babysitting in their It's My Life section here. I especially liked the "You Make the Call" section that presents common babysitting dilemmas and offers options for how a sitter would handle it. Going through that with your kids can give an indication as to whether your child is ready to babysit.
KidsHealth.org also offers a section on considerations before starting to babysit and include a section that helps potential sitters distinguish between caring about kids and caring for kids. It explains, "A good babysitter needs to have the patience for endless rounds of hide and seek, plus the willingness to mess up a pair of new jeans making mudpies. But babysitting is also about responsibility and good planning."
Once you're sure your tween or teen is babysitting material, some reparation is required because caring for a child is a major responsibility, as any parent can attest.
Before letting kids just dive in to the babysitting arena, it's a wise idea to take a class that helps prepare them both for how to handle the every day responsibilities like bedtime and arm them with the necessary information for handling an emergency. Hopefully the information will never be needed, but it's always best to be prepared. The classes can also give your child the confidence needed to be a good child care provider.
Here are some options for classes.
The Red Cross offers both in person classes and an online class. They cover safety, basic child care, safe play, first aid and critical emergency skills, care-giving skills and basics of running a business.
* The online class available through the Red Cross is designed for those age 11 and older and is approximately 4 hours. It costs $25. A test is given at the conclusion and a score of 80% is required to earn the printable diploma. The class covers basics like playing and feeding with children, emergency preparedness and also how to run a babysitting business, complete with a template for making a business card.
* The in-person class by the Red Cross covers the same material in the online class and include both hands-on skills and in-person course, which takes about 6 hours, teaches the same topics as the online babysitter training class, plus it offers hands-on skills practice and additional training in first aid. You can search for classes near you here.
You can also often find classes at your local YMCA and hospitals as well as other community organizations. For example, our local part district also offers a babysitting class.
Safe Sitter is a nonprofit organization that offers babysitting classes. Pediatrician Patricia A. Keener, M.D. founded the organization after a colleague's 18-month-old choked to death while under an adult sitter's care. Classes focus on injury prevention and choking rescue as well as child care essentials and safety for the sitter.
Click here to search for a Safe Sitter class near you. Options include a one day class, 6 30 minute classes or two day class that is a total of 12 hours. Those in our area were offered at a local hospital and nearby libraries.
In addition to basic babysitting classes, sitters should also know CPR, both infant and child CPR, as well as adult CPR. For information on where to find those classes through the Red Cross and American Heart Association, click here. Both the Red Cross and Safe Sitter also offer the babysitter training combined with CPR.
Kids Health offers wise advice for the first few babysitting jobs a tween or teen takes on after completing classes, "Keep your first job short (an hour or two). It's also ideal if you can babysit for a relative or a family in your neighborhood, so your mom or dad will be nearby in case you have any problems or an emergency."
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