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How to Take Care of Other People’s Kids

Whether you’re a parent who frequently has other kids around for playdates, a teen making some pocket-money from babysitting occasionally, or someone with responsibility for kids in a community group, taking care of other people’s kids can be a tricky thing to get right.

I spent many Friday and Saturday evenings in my teens babysitting (yes, I didn’t have much social life) and currently work eight hours a week as a childminder. I’ve also taken care of kids on summer camps, at Church and in other situations. Here are a few general guidelines on how to take care of other kids, making sure that you, they, and their parents are kept safe and happy.

  1. Get References
    If you’re taking care of other people’s kids, whether in a professional or a voluntary capacity, you should get references. For my work on the summer camps, and for my childminding work, I had to provide contact details for two people who could vouch that I was capable of looking after kids safely.

I’ve also had to go through a Criminal Records Check whenever I’ve taken on sole charge of kids – this is a procedure carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau in the UK to make sure that anyone taking charge of kids has never had a child-related criminal conviction in the past. Check your own nation’s policy on this, and get vetted if necessary.

This is important for parents’ peace of mind, and it’s often a legal requirement (depending on where you live).

Ask about sanctions for inappropriate behavior. In a group or club situation, this might involve removing a child from an activity, or even temporarily or permanently suspending them from the group/club. If you’re taking care of kids in their own home or in yours, a “time out” is often an appropriate sanction.

Never, ever smack or spank someone else’s child. Even if parents have said that it’s okay to, the legal risks are simply not worth it.

When a child is crying, most of us instinctively want to give them a hug. Never do this without the child’s invitation: ask “Would you like me to hug you?” and make sure they’re okay with it. This isn’t just important because it protects you from accidentally putting yourself at legal risk, it’s also very important for the child. If a child has been abused, a hug which you intend as a comforting gesture could be very frightening for them.

When feeding kids who aren’t your own, accept that their parents might have very different rules to yours. Don’t be strict about table manners, or about finishing vegetables before dessert. It’s far better that the children under your care are happy and eat something rather than they eat the most nutritionally-balanced meal on the planet.

Alcohol impairs your judgement and your reaction times – both of which are crucial in an emergency. Second-hand smoke is dangerous to children, and smoking where they can see you also sends a bad message.

If you look after someone else’s kids, whether on an informal basis like occasional babysitting, or as a paid childminder or a volunteer, how do you make sure you do a great job?

Written on 7/11/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ( or check out her website at Aliventures. Photo Credit: cowboytrix
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