Almost 12-year-olds. In our neighborhood that means one thing. Almost old enough to land some real babysitting gigs and start rolling in the dough. Hey, babysitters get paid the big bucks around here (not really). Usually about $2 an hour per child. For some families that can mean a nice little chunk of change for a teenager. At the Hall house, it means following Cole around for $2 an hour. Hey, I try to throw in a few perks like unlimited access to the pantry and a couple extra bucks when I come home to find the toys picked up. They seem to like it. Cole is pretty easy and working for us means that there are not five children to wrestle to bed.
It’s a win-win and the list of great boy and girl sitters we have proves it. Yep, you read that correctly boy AND girl sitters. I LOVE hiring boys (like Gordon that you see in the above picture) to babysit Cole – the house might be a little bit messier than when the girls come over BUT I know that Cole has had a blast wrestling, running, playing ball and doing all the “boy stuff” that he loves so much. Both sitter and child are usually tired and happy, with grins spreading across their sweaty, red-cheeked faces from all the fun they have had.
But back to our activity. Given the fact that many of our 10-11 year-0ld Activity Day girls are getting excited to start babysitting outside of their own homes soon, we decided to start them on their own “Babysitting Kit” complete with lots of info on how to care for a child, how to show responsibility and activities to make them want you to come back again. I thought that a bomb could have gone off outside and the girls would not have turned their attention away from the lesson that my partner Jessica was teaching. Honestly, I had no idea they would be so into this idea and want to take preparing for babysitting so seriously. It was fabulously cute!
Now, I want to tell you that I have all kinds of downloads for you to print out and use at your next tween/teen activity but I can’t. You see, we borrowed this idea from the fabulous ladies who came before us in this job and simply copied the info that they had compiled. As a matter of fact, my partner Jess was in charge of this activity and I don’t even have a copy of the handouts myself because we needed to use them all for the girls that came that day.
What I am going to do is tell you what info Jessica went over, the resources included in their kits, and some activities that she helped them create to start their bag of tricks off on the right foot. The rest you will have to fill in but there are all kinds of resources online to help you.
First, this Notes on Babysitting pdf had a lot of the info that Jess went over. Our version looked cuter but this is a good place to start and you can take what you want from it to create your own handout. Also, find a printable here that can be filled out for each family that they babysit for. We gave each girl a large manilla envelope to keep forms, tips and activity idea sheets contained within their bag. In doing a quick search for resources I found lots of ideas out there – including some YouTube videos of teen babysitters showing us what they have put in their babysitting bags. You decide what works for you and the babysitters you are teaching without overwhelming them with too much info.
Here’s What Happened:
1. Lesson about how to be a responsible babysitter, ideas of how to care for different aged children (including dealing with a diaper), and simple activity and game ideas.
2. Question time for the girls to ask about any concerns they had. They were very thoughtful in their questions – you could tell it was important to them that they do a good job.
3. Assembling 2 activities for them to put into their bags and discussing a third activity.
About the Bags:
Jessica had 9 canvas bags that her mom had found at the Dollar Store (lucky!) so we didn’t have to fork over any cash for those. But with 12 girls, we needed a few more. We found these canvas bags at Wal-mart in packs of 3 for about $6 which made each bag $2. It was more than we wanted to spend but since we only needed a few, it was fine and they looked almost exactly like the free ones we had so we went with them. There are often totes for $1 at various dollar or discount stores if you keep an eye out. I noticed some at Old Navy that would have worked fine. They had something printed on them but that wouldn’t have been a big deal. When you’re on a budget, you take what you can get for the right price. Besides, these bags are to get the girls started – if they want to transfer their kits to a different or perhaps larger bag on their own then that is great!
We could have spent time decorating the bags but decided against it. The important part of the activity was to teach and prepare them to be better babysitters so we focused on that instead of decorating the bag. But you certainly could do this if you choose.
About the Activities:
Included in the list of songs and activities that the girls could do with the children were a couple of simple games that Jessica had ready for them to compile and place in their bags. Each took about five minutes to put together and were simple but fun things that make a babysitter great!
1. Cotton Ball Race
Use a piece of string (about 12″-18″ long) as a finish line. Flick or blow cotton balls across a table or floor to see who can cross the finish line the fastest. You could even set up an obstacle course using toys or household items that you must flick your cotton ball through to get to the finish line.
2. Sink or Float
Fill up a medium-sized bowl with water. Choose household items (waterproof!) and have the children predict if it will sink or float in the water. Then try it out to see who is right. Jessica gave each girl a stash of a few things to use but the babysitter and children could also use items found in the house as long as they are careful that nothing will be ruined with water. Then you can even predict how quickly different items will sink by holding a “Sink Off” between items, narrowing it down to the fastest sinker!
3. Hidden Object
This activity didn’t require any items other than what is found at a home. Use a sock (can even be your own!) and hide an object in it. Have the child touch and feel the shape of the object and try to guess what it is without looking. After they guess the object, let the child choose the next object to place in the sock for you or the other children to guess!
This activity was meant to teach about babysitting and get things started with a babysitting kit. It was not meant to be comprehensive. Our local hospital offers a babysitting class that fills up very quickly and teaches teens how to care for children – we encouraged them to sign up for that class before they started babysitting. We also discussed having their parents help them add to their kits with other activities, stickers, treats, and other appropriate items.
But the big idea is that we would like to revisit this activity in the future and add items to their kits. We couldn’t cover everything in one hour but multiple activities throughout the year would be a great way to build up their kits and their excitement for babysitting. For example, I think that the next thing that needs to be added is a first aid kit with a lesson from a nurse or health professional on basic first aid skills.
We also thought that other activities we hold could include something that could be added to their babysitting kit. Perhaps the whole activity isn’t focused on babysitting but they could make something that could become a part of their babysitting kit. I’ll let you know where we go from here on that idea.
What it all boils down to is that lots of tweens are excited to babysit. A lot of them like children and are eager to earn their own money. Getting them started on the right foot with information and resources to be successful gives them confidence and helps them become the responsible babysitter that parents are looking for.
Plus, I know that I’m training my own batch of sitters for Cole! Lucky us!