Many young children and babies will have a preferred bedtime, many may already be in bed, and hopefully, asleep before you arrive at their home. If this is the case, it is the responsibility of the sitter to ensure that they continue to sleep. It is therefore advisable not to play loud music or TV. Children can be disoriented and even scared if they are suddenly awakened and do not have immediate access to one of their parents. It is also advisable not to use earphones; the sitter then won’t be able to hear the children! This does not mean that a babysitter must remain motionless and quiet the whole evening. TV at a low volume level or music while reading should be just fine.
For young children, play quiet games or read them stories, an activity that most young children enjoy. If the parents have given a set bedtime for their child it is advisable not to provide active games such as hide and seek - getting them to calm down and ready for bed may already be a big problem!
Children 4-7, with a later bedtime may like to play such games as shoots and ladders. They may also desire to play video games. Try to avoid video games especially before bedtime, because the can make the children lose track of time and imagine that they have more time to play even when bedtime has come and gone. Remember also that you have a job to do, and must not indulge your own desires to take over a video game. This can lead to late bedtimes, and disgruntled children who want to control the joystick for themselves.
This is where knowledge of child development can be advantageous and make the job of the sitter easier. Make sure activities are age appropriate to the child, for example playing Scrabble even with a 6 year old, who has barely learned to spell, would be inappropriate.
When the child is between 7 and 10 he or she may well want their own space. The child may not want the sitter to join their activities (though even at this stage children still enjoy the attention of an older person). Leaving children to engage in their own activities is fine as long as the sitter takes responsibility to ensure thy are safe and that the parents wishes are carried out at all times.
Be careful in allowing children to watch TV or surf the web, as these activities can often blunder into inappropriate content. As in video games, it is best to shy away from activities that cannot be easily controlled by the sitter.
Babysitting during the day allows tremendous scope for ideas and activities. The easiest thing to do is remember what you used to like doing when you were the child’s age. This may be dressing up, role play or painting. Construction toys are very useful distractions. Even very young children are intrigued to see the sitter build structures with blocks, legos or other building toys. It will often spur them to join in or start making their own model.
Puzzles and bead threading are also activities in which children can be in control, while you give encouragement and praise from the sidelines, stepping in to help only when necessary.
There are many babysitting ideas and activities to chose from, but these may be restricted to the toys the child has; so it is best to enquire and find out if you can bring any activities that you especially enjoy!