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What to Put in Your Babysitting Bag of Tricks
February 5, 2014 | in Babysitting Jobs
Here are a few suggestions broken down by age on what to bring to your next gig:
Birth to One
Bubbles: There’s a reason a certain popular play center ends each session in a whirl of iridescent popping fun. Bubbles are always a hit, and new non-spill, mini-blower kazoos and baby-safe versions make this activity pop out as a clear winner.
Juggling Scarves: These lightweight, colorful swatches of fabric provide endless possibilities for games of peek-a-boo, reach and grab, where did the toy go, etc. and after you clock out you can pop them in the washer for your next client.
Two to Four
Take them to the (Pipe) Cleaners: Crafts and sculpting are loved by kids in this age group, but the thought of ground-in-the-carpet playdough makes offering three dimensional art opps a nightmare. Wrap a pipe cleaner around a finger and add the spiral as ‘hair’ to two dimensional portraits or pick up dry pinecones in the backyard as creature bodies to wrap with pipe cleaner “legs”. Office stores carry them at a few bucks per 100 giant furry, bendy straws (roll the tips to avoid pokey metal bits). Or, invest in the fat and fluffy commercial version if you’re confident everyone understands they are a temporary plaything.
Musical Instruments: While parents often coo in adoration at their baby’s first foray into the music world on pots and pans from the cupboard, by the preschool years, they’re likely over the joy of loud noise for the sake of noise. Score big points with little ones by arriving with an assortment of musical merriment and lead a parade. Add in a World Music cd as background and you’ve introduced a new culture, too.
Five to Seven
Salt Dough Clay: Forget the small, overpriced sets of modeling clay and relax with a flour-salt-water concoction you can whip up in advance (it keeps great when sealed in a Ziploc in the fridge). Add a few drops of food coloring while mixing or leave natural for more involved sculptures, with a potential to paint later. Parents will love that their kids got artsy in their absence and since it’s a food-based mixture, you can use kitchen utensils and rolling pins without pricy clay implements (and clean up’s a snap). For thin pieces (like rolled out ornaments, coasters or magnets), air drying for a couple of days does the trick. For thicker sculptures, beads to make jewelry, or mini-boxes, bake the items in the oven at 200 degrees until done (cover with loose foil and check to avoid browning). Offer to bake them at home and bring them back for next time to score a second visit.
Photog Session: Although they might be well acquainted with standing in front of the lens, invest in an inexpensive digital camera and put them in charge of the shoot. Perhaps it’s a fashion show of furry models (whether of the pet or stuffed animal variety), or maybe they want to shoot their favorite leaves and flowers in the yard. Bring a printed out version to caption next visit or forward their digital journal to their parents with an ‘I had so much fun!’ note to make a big impression.
Eight to Ten
Bouncy Balls: These little rubbery orbs are a fan favorite at this age – just make sure they’re not of swallowable size if there are toddlers around. If there’s a brick wall in the vicinity, ask the kids to show you the ropes in a game of playground-craze Wall Ball.
Paper Airplanes: It might sound retro, but pick up a paper airplane design set or book and you’ll be amazed at how hi-tech these flying recyclables have become. After the initial investment of the book or set, all you have to do is restock paper. Sciencey kids will enjoy how physics comes into play with the simple tweak of a tail or whir of a wing. Artsy kids might spend more time decorating than folding. Games-minded kids will enjoy a little friendly competition against their sitter or siblings, where kids of mixed ages have a slightly leveler playing field. Put hula hoops, laundry baskets or circular targets made of twine in the backyard and let the tournament begin. Up the ante and play marble-style, where the winner confiscates the loser’s jet to use for the next round.
Magazines: For rainy days or mellow kids who prefer lounging to doing, subscribe to a few kid’s magazines to keep stashed in your bag. National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids and Discovery Girl Magazine are a few quality publications with content geared toward this age.
Eleven and Up
Circus Arts: When parents return and ask you how it went, you can say “it was a circus in here” without killing your chances of a repeat gig. Look for a free workshop or checkout online videos to learn how to use small, portable circus art devices like the Diabolo Yoyo or a set of tasseled Devil Sticks. These fun and challenging skills are a little addictive, so in a work environment where an older child has a greater say in who keeps an eye on things you could set yourself up for an encore performance. (And mom and dad will be so happy they kept their hands off the video game controllers, you might even see some tip action.)
Signed Books: At this age, you’ll have sporty kids who just want to be outside, kids you’ll need to engage in outings to keep them from being glued to their PlayStation, and kids that just want to be left alone to read a good book. Make an impression, and develop a nice little lending library, by keeping an eye out for book fairs and author signings. These events are often free, and you can pick up a copy of a popular author’s book and have them sign it to ‘the best babysitter ever’ or similar. Connect with, impress and inspire new young bookworm friends with the tale of how you met so-and-so – and if you sense they are reliable, let them borrow the book (opt for the cheaper paperback versions just in case though!). This should result in at least being hired for a second visit – parents love literacy.← Coping With Your Child’s Separation Anxiety | Fun Things to Pack in Your Babysitting Bag →
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