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Tales from the Crib: Babysitting 411 with Don’t Sit on the Baby by Halley Bondy (TPIB)

Raise your hand if your first job was babysitting. (Karen raises hand.) Raise your hand if you had any clue what you were doing. (Karen puts hand down.)  In this post we talk about this great babysitting guide and I will share with you a step-by-step program to help give your teens the information they need to be great babyistters.  Read on.

Beginning sometime around the 6th or 7th grade, I began my illustrious career of babysitting.  I remember the first time I babysat for this one family, their “daughter” (I put daughter in quotes because she may have been a demon, I’m not really sure) locked the TV remote control in the bathroom.  When he parents came home the dad had to take the door off of the hinges if they ever wanted to change the channel again – or, you know, pee.  Surprisingly, it was the beginning of a beautiful babysitting relationship and every Thursday night the parents would go bowling and I would sit in their kitchen, talk on the phone and watch Twin Peaks and eat all of their food while their children slept.  Don’t worry, before they slept I would do real babysitting stuff.

Speaking of real babysitting stuff, what exactly is that?  Don’t Sit on the Baby: The Ultimate guide to Sane, Skilled and Safe Babysitting by Halley Bondy can help you with that part.  This is basically, and quite literally, the ABCs of babysitting.  Part A is the “babysitting breakdown”, Part B covers essential skills, and Part C covers the business side of babysitting.  I love that this book has a  part c and includes things like making a resume and deciding how much to charge.  Having been on the other side of babysitting now, I hate when you ask how much they charge and they are all, “whatevs”.  Not helpful.

When you do babysitting right, you become a part of the family.  Although we started out by hiring our teen babysitter Val, we ended up adopting her.  I feel that Val, our babysitter, is not only a blessing because I get to watch an adult movie occasionally, but because she loves my girls and is no longer freaked out by the fact that the 3-yr-old with GI issues is prone to exploding.  She deals.  She nurtures. She loves.  And although this book is a handy guide, you are really lucky when you go from the business of babysitting to the art of loving and mentoring.  It doesn’t always happen, but when it does – magic happens.  Don’t Sit on the Baby can help make that magic happen.

But back to the business of babysitting . . . I have in the past done several babysitting workshops and this book is a great basis for doing the same in your library with your teens.

To begin with, if you can, get a grant (ask your friends group or a local organization).  Why?  Because if at all possible you really need to make sure every teen who attends your program walks out of this program with this book in your Mary Poppins “Bag of Tricks” (we’re getting to that part).  If you can’t afford to give this book to your teens in attendance, be sure to have copies available in the library and include it on a bibliography to keep in their MPBOT (which is what we shall call the Mary Poppins “Bag of Tricks” from this point forward).  Please note: I do recommend setting a size limit of around 20 teens for these hands on workshops.

The Mary Poppins “Bag of Tricks”

Okay, so remember when Mary Poppins comes flying in on the wind and opens her bag and inside it is every thing she needs to be Nanny of the Year?  This is the objective of our babysitting workshop.  If you can, contact your local American Red Cross and work in conjunction with them because they will cover the CPR certification and other practical aspects of your babysitting workshop (this is also another way in which a grant would come in handy).

After the  American Red Cross does their practical bits, should you include that, we want to really help teens put together their MPBOT with some of these items:

Making the bag: First, you can purchase plain canvas tote bags from Oriental Trading (or at local craft stores) and allow teens to decorate them with fabric markers.  The alternative is that you can purchase canvas totes (or drawstring bags) with your library’s logo on them (many libraries use these and will have them on hand).  This will be the basis for the MPBOT.

1) Age appropriate booklists (say 5 must reads per age category), because we want to make sure we talk about reading aloud to children (we are librarians after all).  Get your children’s librarian to help you with this part and do a demonstration on doing a short storytime with kids.

2) A handy 2-sided sheet of some finger plays and nursery songs to share (again, ask your children’s librarian for help with this if you would like.)

3) A puppet – Teens can use a puppet to help approach shy kids, gets kids to share their feelings, or even just to act out the stories and songs in numbers 1 and 2 above.  This is a hands on craft to do as part of your program (outlined below).  While teens are making the puppet you can talk a little bit about choosing books for kids and show them how to use their puppets in storytimes with their kids.

4) Bean bags and a list of 3 to 5 always handy bean bag games that teens can bust out while babysitting.  You can do something simple like get out colored construction paper and set up a grid and ask kids to throw the bean bag on the color square that you name.  You can also use hula hoops, bowls from the kitchen, or make a target outside using sidewalk chalk.  Bean bags can be hand sewn using fat squares purchases at a local craft store and filled with either uncooked beans or rice.

5) A safety tube – A really important part of working with smaller children is understanding the importance of choking hazards.  Smaller objects can present dangers to children.  They make and sell tubes that can you help babysitters (and parents) make sure that kids aren’t around small objects, but you can also make one using a used toilet paper roll.  Teens can decorate the tubes and then you do a “game” where you determine whether or not various toys or safe or not safe.

6) The Clipboard – Making sure that you have essential contact information and any special instructions – such as food allergies – is a very important part of being an informed babysitter.  Make a basic template for your teens of an emergency contact/information sheet and provide them with about 10 copies each.  Write “MASTER” in yellow sharpie on one copy for each teen so that they have a master to make copies from.  You can purchases plain clipboards for about $1.00 each from local craft stores (and probably Oriental Trading) and allow teens to decorate them.  This is a very important part of the MPBOT.

If you can, have a follow up workshop with your teens where you help them make resumes and promotional materials for their babysitting business; this will highlight some career and technology skills.

Back to the Book

Confession time: When I became a mom I brought this little bundle of cuteness (and sometimes filth) home and I had NO IDEA WHAT TO DO.  None.  How do you play with a baby?  How do you change a diaper?  They probably need to eat something, right? I actually checked books out from the library about all of this.  Don’t Sit on the Baby is an easy, light, transportable book to keep with you when you find yourself at some one’s house and their before you is your first every 5-year-old.  I mean, what do 5-year-olds do?  Don’t Sit on the Baby has a brief checklist for ages 0 to 10 of normal behaviors).  They also cover essential skills and have some basic safety information.

Don’t Sit on the Baby is a great overview of babysitting basics to put in your teen areas, and this is a great way to let teens know about ways to use some other books in your collection that may provide an in depth look at things like First Aid, baby games and even some basic baby/toddler cookbooks.  In fact, if you can, put together a little mini-bib and paste it into the back of your library book so teens that check out this book will also know other places they can look.  Or you could, of course, put together a babysitting bibliography (and display).

Outside of the very great information in this book, there are also some fun, anecdotal stories under the heading “Tales from the Crib”.  When you have your babysitting workshop, be sure to read some of these out loud and to ask teens to share their own Tales from the Crib.  I know I have plenty to share.

As a wrap up to your workshop, if you have the movie performance rights, you should show the movie Adventures in Babysitting.  Still a classic.  You can pick and choose elements from above for to make a shorter workshop, or do a multi-part workshop (especially if you are including the American Red Cross certification portions).  I have done this workshop with and without the American Red Cross.  And because of budget issues, I have at times had the teens pay in advance to attend the workshop to pay for the American Red Cross portion (they choose a per person fee).  The big issue that came up was when a teen who had pre-paid wanted their money back and even though all of our publicity said you must prepay and the money was absolutely nonrefundable, it was still sometimes an issue.  This is the reason that I recommend a grant if at all possible.  Or maybe you are just lucky and have a great programming budget.

Craft Instructions

How to Make a Wooden Spoon Puppet
Sock Puppets
Six Simple Puppets
Hand Puppets (We used this pattern.  We pre-sewed the puppets and provided items for teens to make their own creative puppets.

Bean Bags
How to Make a Bean Bag (pre-sewing can help cut down on the time)
Make a Bean Bag out of Jean Pockets

Decorate Clipboards
How to Alter a Clipboard
How to Make Decorated Clipboards

Babysitter Information Template
A Ton of Babysitter Emergency Contact Forms
Every Child Ready to Read Booklists
Preschool Fingerplays, Action Rhymes, Songs and More
Storytimes in a Box (a great resource of fingerplays and songs)

If doing a multi-session workshop I recommend the following:
Session 1: Babysitting Certification with the American Red Cross
Session 2: Doing Storytimes, Fingerplays and Games while Babysitting
Session 3: Get Organized (where you make your MPBOT)
Session 4: The Business of Babysitting (making resumes and flyers)

For a fun twist, have a one day Babysitting in the Zombie Apocalypse training class.  You never know, we may need the information.

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  1. I wish I had this back when I was babysitting!

  2. One time when I was babysitting two of my boys left to go to the bathroom and said they would be right back. Upon checking on them I discovered a little creative hair design had been going on 🙂 The recipient of the new hairdo was scheduled for pictures the next day 🙂

  3. I babysat for a family from freshman year of high school (their grandmother was my english teacher) through college. I just saw the oldest get married and the youngest just emailed me for advice about becoming a librarian. I didn't have this book, but my YMCA at the time had a great babysitting basics class.

  4. I babysat all through high scool and college. Now, my daughters are so excited to start babysitting and will be taking a class earning a girl scout badge to prepare (which I never did!). I'm definitely going to look for this book to share with them

  5. My favorite babysitting story – I was a fairly new babysitter. I heard that there was a criminal who had escaped from a local(ish) prison. (I swear, I'm not making this up!). The noises in the basement were oh so creepy that night. I called another adult I knew who lived nearby to come and check out the basement to be sure we were safe.

  6. My sister (who was 6 years older) was babysitting for me and heard a noise downstairs. She made me go downstairs ALONE — with her hovering on the stairs — to check it out 🙂

  7. this is a fantastic idea – another great one that i will definitely use 🙂

  8. I babysat my neighbors after school, and sometimes I really miss that job! They're so big now!

  9. This sounds like an awesome program! I think I'll look into having this at my library.

  10. Baby sitting during the Zombie Apocalypse?
    Make sure your charges can run? HA!

    Love these ideas, I and we do babysitting classes already, but we can definitely breathe some new life into them. Thanks for the awesome post!

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