Browsing articles in "Tween Life"
Apr 1, 2009

Is Your Preteen Ready to Babysit?

Is your preteen interested in babysitting? A responsibility and a privilege, babysitting requires preparation, while offering tweens the opportunity to learn patience, assertiveness and self-reliance. Most preteens start babysitting around 12 years old. Although, some states, like Maryland, actually prohibit anyone under the age of 13 from babysitting. Labor laws aside, how do you know that your preteen is prepared for the challenge?

Signs of Readiness

  • They express an interest and take the initiative to prepare themselves for babysitting.
  • They have demonstrated an interest in children.
  • They have successfully cared for a pet.
  • They have successfully spent time home alone.
  • They have independently cared for younger family members.
  • They have been first-aid trained, or participated in a babysitting preparation course. Check with your local schools, pediatrician, YMCA or red cross for course listings. CPR is usually offered separately, but should also be considered.
  • They are familiar with childcare basics – changing and feeding an infant, Heimlich maneuver, and wound care.
  • They are self-sufficient. (Meaning they can prepare meals and clean up after themselves.)

First Jobs

A first-time babysitting experience shouldn’t be daunting. It is important for your preteen to stay in their comfort zone and gain confidence through success. Before deciding on the first job, help your preteen figure out their comfort level. Do they feel confident changing diapers? Does your preteen know how to hold and bottle-feed an infant? Are they used to keeping a constant eye on a toddler? Watching a young elementary school child during playtime is a simple first job, usually only requiring snack preparation and some enthusiasm. An added benefit, school-age kids are less likely to be anxious about their parent’s departure.

Suggest that your preteen babysit for a family they are well acquainted with. This will insure both your comfort levels. Knowing the kids will help your preteen figure out how to entertain them and assert herself or himself when necessary. Although your kid may know the family well, it is still a good idea to encourage your tween to ask the parents all pertinent information, such as house rules and emergency numbers.

Let your preteen know that you’re available by phone. They’ll feel better knowing you are there in case any questions come up. A successful first job can result in the confidence to continue babysitting and acquire new, more marketable experience.

Getting More Jobs

Once your preteen feels comfortable babysitting children they know well, they may want to market themselves to other families. Together, make a list of acquaintances that you think may need a sitter. Suggest that your preteen make a flier to mail to these families. The flier should include qualifications such as types of babysitting experience, ages of kids they have taken care of, chores they have been responsible for, and any training they received. Your preteen can also include references from their earlier jobs. Next comes the interview. Before meeting the parents, talk to your tween about any schedule restrictions (such as late night or school night babysitting) and hourly rates. During the interview, your tween should take responsibility for asking about pay, emergency numbers, house rules, and suitable activities for the kids. Showing their potential employer that they are prepared highlights that your preteen is responsible and self-reliant. After speaking with the parents, your tween may want to come up with a plan of activities they think the kids might like. Even if they don’t end up doing any of them, being proactive instantly gives an air of authority.


Babysitting will require your tween to exhibit a certain amount of business etiquette, such as following up with phone calls and emails, punctuality and presenting themselves as professionals. The first babysitting jobs challenge preteens to navigate between professionalism with parents and playfulness with children while maintaining authority. Being in charge means keeping the kids safe and happy, but the art of babysitting comes when your preteen realizes that babysitting is about more than just keeping children safe for a few hours. Gaining the trust of parents requires the creation of an orderly and clean (ideally cleaner than when they left!) environment. Putting dishes in the dishwasher and helping the children pick up their toys are essential attributes of a great babysitter. Also, preteens should feel an obligation to work while they are getting paid. Texting, emailing, and making phone calls to friends will undermine your tween’s appearance of responsibility. Remind your preteen that checking on the children while they sleep is necessary and doing homework is a laudable activity to pass time until the parents return. When they do return, your tween should be ready with a report of the children’s behavior and activities.

A Great Babysitter is Hard to Find

Becoming a successful babysitter is a life skill. Along with gaining a sense of pride and self-confidence, babysitting has many practical implications. Invariably, it promotes a sense responsibility and work ethic. Often, tweens must choose between maintaining a work relationship by helping out on a Saturday night, or going to the movies with friends. Satisfied parents are references, resources and contacts, generally willing to promote a babysitter’s interests and freely give praise to other parents and potential employers. However, even an unsuccessful babysitting experience may lead to a positive outcome. After watching someone else’s kids, yours may appreciate you more!