- Be alert when a baby is sleeping in a crib, to make sure they do not wake up and try to get out. This is very important if the child can walk.
- Make a crib safe for children who can walk by removing objects like cushions, or large cuddly toys, that a child can use to climb out.
- Check the crib for small objects that can choke a child. Also, check the general area of the crib to make sure it is free of small objects a child could reach out and grab.
- Check the surrounding area of the crib to make sure it is not placed close to blinds or curtain cords, which could strangle a child.
- Finally, make sure the crib is not placed near heating vents, power outlets, or windows, where a child could be injured if he/she falls out.
- If you have to set up a playpen, always check the manufacturer's instructions and make sure the sides are securely locked. Poorly assembled playpens can suffocate or strangle a child.
- Do not use any additional pillows, cushions, or a mattress that did not come with the playpen, as a child could be trapped and suffocate.
- Keep the area surrounding the playpen free from small toys, curtain cords, and any other items -- like heaters or fans -- which could harm a child.
- When using a playpen, the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission recommends that children younger than the age of 1 year should always be put to sleep on their backs with no quilts, pillows, or comforters, in order to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or suffocation.
When taking care of a toddler, any small item can be a safety hazard. You should be especially cautious if the toddler has older siblings who can leave items like rocks, bottle caps, jewelry, Lego blocks, coins, or action figures lying around.
Here is a list of other toys that are unsafe for toddlers:
- Toy balloons that can cause choking when deflated
- Pens and pencils, or anything with a point or sharp edge, that could cut or blind a child
- Toys with parts that can be removed: beads, necklaces, and eyes or shoes from dolls -- in general, anything toddlers can put in their ears, nose, or mouth
- Erasers, Play-Doh, crayons, or any other item made of material that a toddler can chew off
- Metallic objects, like magnets, springs, and toy car wheels that a toddler can swallow or in which fingers or hair can get caught
- Toys with cords or ribbons long enough to strangle a toddler
- Household cleaners, paints, plants and cosmetics should be safely stored where children cannot get their hands on them. If childproof cabinets are not available, use duct tape to make sure these cabinets cannot be opened by children in your care. Or, you can invest in a couple of cabinet locks to carry in your bag, and put them on the cabinet when you arrive at the house. Just make sure you take them home with you when you leave.
- Medicines, including vitamins, should also be in childproof cabinets. If the medicine cabinet is not childproof make sure you secure the cabinet.
- Electrical sockets should be covered, and any extension cords should be removed.
- Gas fireplaces should not be accessible to children. The front of the fireplace should have a barrier, like a gate or screen.
- Other household hazards include hot plates, fans, matches, lighters, and coffee makers.
It seems that almost any modern appliance can be a hazard. If the parents have childproofed the house, then you are in luck. However, it is always good to do a check yourself.
If the house is not childproofed, then make sure you have a secure area where you can safely babysit.
It is especially easy to let your guard down when it comes to babysitting older children, since you may think they are more responsible than a toddler. Remember, because these children are free to move around the house, they can get into trouble much faster.
Stairs can be a major hazard for older children who run around.
In addition to the household hazards mentioned above, you should also check the house to make sure there are no items that can be used as weapons lying around -- knives, for example.
Also make sure that if there is a gun in the house, it is safely locked up.
Here is a quick review of things you need to check to ensure your safety:
- Check all of the doors and windows to make sure they are locked.
- Learn how to set and unset the alarm system.
- Know where the spare house key is, in case you are accidentally locked out of the house.
- Know if there are carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Because carbon monoxide is an odorless gas, the only way you can tell if there is a problem, is when the alarm goes off. Leave the house immediately, taking the children with you, and call 911 from your cell phone.
- Know if there are smoke detectors in the home. A smoke detector is your first indicator of smoke and fire, and you should have a plan to gather the kids and get out of the house right away. Use your cell phone to call 911 when you are outside.
- Find out if there is a safe room to go to in case of emergency. Safe rooms should have a phone and an exit to the outside. They are usually used in case of a break-in.
Visitors and Callers
- Never open the door to anyone except the parents while you are babysitting.
- Never open the door to anyone saying they are from the police or fire department. You can ask for a badge number, and then call 911 to verify.
- If visitors are expected, make sure the kids can identify them before you let them in. However, you can tell the parents you don't want anyone coming in while they are out.
- Never answer the phone and say you are the babysitter. It is better to let the phone go directly to voice mail while you are there. Anyone wanting to call you should be told to use your cell phone.
- Never invite your friends over when you are babysitting. Parents won't be pleased to find they have five babysitters instead of one, or a party on their lawn when they arrive home.
- It would be good to have the phone number of a trusted neighbor in case of an emergency.
- Never sleep while watching children, even while they are napping.
- Make a safety checklist of all the things you should do to ensure the safety of the kids and yourself. You can use the Client Interview Form as an example.
Here are some tips to prevent accidents with older and more active kids:
Whether it is your own back yard pool, or a water park, always be aware that a child can drown without proper supervision. Here are some tips that a babysitter should know about:
You should always be aware of pools, spas, ponds and any other bodies of water in the backyard that the children may have access to, where they could drown. Make sure you talk to parents about the following:
- Locking patio or other doors leading to the pool, spa or pond from the inside of the house.
- Locking fences or gates leading to the pool, and having a cover for an unused pool.
Make a safety checklist of all the things you should do to ensure the safety of the kids and yourself outdoors. You can use the Client Interview Form as an example.