- 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.
2. Make sure the stroller is correctly unfolded and locked into place to support the child, before you put the child in.
3. Keep children away from the stroller when folding or unfolding it, so they don't get trapped or hurt.
4. Be sure the child is strapped in at all times when riding in the stroller.
5. Do not put anything extra into the stroller, like pillows, cushions, mattresses, or quilts that could result in the child suffocating.
6. Most important, do not ever leave a child unattended in a stroller.
7. If you decide to sit down or rest for a while, make sure you lock the wheels of the stroller in place as an additional safety measure.
Here are some tips to prevent accidents with older and more active kids:
- Do encourage children to wear helmets when biking or roller blading.
- Do show them how to use the swings properly, by sitting in the middle of the seat and having someone responsible push them.
- Don't let them walk in front of, or behind, a swing, as they may get hit and badly hurt.
- Don't allow children to: stand on swings, push or shove other kids off, twist the swing around on its chains, overload or push an empty swing.
- Don't let them stand in front of a slide, as they can get hit by someone coming down the slide.
- Don't let them go up the wrong way, for the same reason.
- Don't let them overload a seesaw, or try to use it by themselves, as they could be thrown off and hurt..
- Don't let older children try to show off in front of the younger kids. Talk to them about safety, and how they could get hurt, or could hurt other kids by their actions. Ask them to help you out with the care of the younger ones.
- Don't let them approach animals, unless you know the animal and its owner well.
- Keep an eye on the children at all times. It only takes a fraction of a second for an accident to happen, or a child to go missing.
- Never let the kids talk to, or accept food or gifts from, strangers. The same should apply to you.
- Beware of strangers and anyone who does not fit into the pattern of a parent or caregiver, and seek help from another parent or caregiver if you feel you are in danger.
- Wear your marine whistle around your neck always, and don't be afraid to draw attention to yourself if you feel you are in danger.
- If you are in a group, make sure you have a buddy system; you can pair kids up and let one of them alert you if the other is misbehaving or wandering away. However, remember: Do not rely solely on the kids; you -- as the babysitter -- have the ultimate responsibility for their safety and well being.
- Do not invite friends to meet you at the playground or park, because you can easily be distracted.
- If a child goes missing, make sure you first check the pool, spa, or pond areas immediately.
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:
- Do make sure babies and toddlers always wear flotation devices when they are in a wading pool.
- Do always keep an eye on children while they are in the pool, and have a flotation device ready to throw to them in case they get into trouble.
- Don't let older children run close to the edge of a pool, shove each other, or jump or cannon ball into the pool, as they can easily knock their heads on the bottom.
- Do not let a second child jump into a pool to save a child in trouble.
- Do teach a child how to throw in a flotation device to a child in trouble.
- Do warn kids about the hazards of drowning, and tell them they should keep away from ponds, pools, or streams, which you find in many parks or recreation areas you may take them to.
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.