Babysitting for preschoolers (children 3 to 5 years old) can be really fun! Preschoolers are finally able to get where they want to go and do what they want to do on their own. They are still learning to speak clearly and enjoy talking. Preschoolers are very curious and ask a lot of questions.
You need to take a babysitting safety course such as Safe Sitter® in order to be prepared to care for a preschooler. When you are offered a babysitting job for a preschooler, you should understand the care required; this will help you decide if you should accept the job.
There are eight things you must know about preschoolers to help you decide if you are ready for the responsibility of babysitting a preschooler.
- Preschoolers are on the move. Preschoolers are more coordinated than toddlers and can walk, run, and go up and down stairs. They are so active that they may find it easier to substitute movement for a word. For example, instead of talking about flying, preschoolers may run around the room with their arms spread out to indicate flying.
- Preschoolers require constant watching. Preschoolers usually follow the rules but may not always recognize danger. It is important to always watch preschoolers carefully and remind the child of the consequences for breaking rules.
- Preschoolers are learning language and enjoy talking and asking questions. Preschoolers learn grammar by listening and talking. They start to understand rules, like adding an “s” to a word makes it plural. Do not tease or laugh at a preschooler for grammar errors such as saying “mouses” instead of “mice.”
- Preschoolers have active imaginations. Preschoolers love to play imaginative games like school, store, or spaceships. They have a hard time understanding the difference between fantasy and reality. They may have imaginary friends or see imaginary monsters at bedtime. If the child has a nightmare, turn on the light and have the child go to the bathroom, take a drink of water, or distract the child with a happy bedtime story.
- Preschoolers may need help with toileting. Most preschoolers are potty trained, but they may need help going to the bathroom. You need to remind them to stop playing and use the bathroom. You’ll also need to remind them to wash their hands when they are finished.
- Preschoolers usually cooperate at bedtime. You need to give preschoolers a 5-minute warning before bedtime. Be firm and consistent with bedtime rules established by the parent because most preschoolers need 10-12 hours of sleep to prevent behavior issues the next day. For more help, check out How to Get Kids to Bed When Babysitting.
- Preschoolers are able to use a spoon and cup when eating. Even though preschoolers can eat on their own, you need to make sure the foods they eat are not choking hazards. Preschoolers should not have any hard candy or gum. Dice up raw smooth, round foods like grapes and hot dogs into small pieces. Never let children run, walk, play, or lie down with food in their mouth.
- Preschoolers have longer attention spans and enjoy active and quiet play. Pretend play can keep a preschooler happy for 30 minutes to an hour. Active games are an ideal change of pace when a child becomes bored. Find ideas on entertaining preschoolers.
Preschoolers are very active. They are able to do most things on their own and find most activities fun and exciting. When babysitting for a preschooler for the first time, schedule 30 minutes with the employer to discuss what you need to know to take care of the child and learn the rules of the house.