Babysitting, Babysitters and your Child’s Safety

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Babysitting is not defined early childhood education, but many parents want to know about this option and some of the basic rules around who can be a babysitter and how to ensure children’s safety.

A sleep-over at the house of family relatives or grandparents is a popular and no-cost option for many families, but also consider and watch for any risks.

Finding a babysitter through a babysitting agency can be a good idea if the agency does reference and police checks.

A babysitter must be 14 years of age or older. A child/person under 14 years must not be left home alone.

A young child can find it stressful to be left with a complete stranger and be asked to trust that person.

An absence of a previous criminal history should not be regarded as a guarantee that the babysitter is a safe person to be with your child. 

Safe babysitting arrangements

Here are five tips:

  1. Check with your child before leaving if they are pleased to be with the babysitter, family friend or relative. Trust your child’s instincts. Never force your child to stay with someone he/she does not like.
  2. Reduce opportunities for abuse. For example, have your child already bathed and changed in pyjamas before dropping off to a friend’s house for a sleep-over or before the babysitter arrives. Tell the babysitter not to put your child to bed but to let your child stay up and snooze on the couch (or bassinet if a baby, or on a made-up bed on the floor if your child could roll off the couch) until you arrive home. Also instruct the babysitter not to discipline your child but to phone you if there is any problem.
  3. Discuss with your babysitter what to do if you do not arrive home as planned and give emergency contact numbers.
  4. Check if the babysitter will be inviting anyone else to your home when you are not there, and set rules around not doing this.
  5. Inform the babysitter of your child’s dietary and care needs, and demonstrate for example, how to warm milk for your baby and check the temperature before feeding.

Before leaving your child with a babysitter invite the babysitter to visit so that your child and the sitter can get to know each other.  Put some children’s books and toys out and give them space to interact and play together. Watch and see how well they get along. Note if the babysitter has good supervision skills and (at least basic) childcare skills. 

* Author Dr Sarah Alexander, article published by My ECE

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