Like many 12 year olds, my daughter recently completed her “Babysitting Course”, which in theory will enable her to venture forth into the world of watching other people’s children with insight, knowledge, and experience. However, after having reviewed the course materials and grilling her on the information that was shared, I do believe that as a mother of four I should share some vital facts which seem to have been left out of the course content.
- Changing a diaper on a teddy bear, life sized baby doll or stuffed Elmo is nothing like changing the diaper on a real life, pooping baby. In order to replicate this activity without borrowing an actual baby, you could practice by stuffing an angry octopus into a small plastic bag. About 14 times. For one change. And if you think the squid ink is bad, well…
- Most children do not like going to bed. Most babysitting jobs span the exact timeline of getting children into bed. This is not an accident by the employing parents. They may have in fact secured your babysitting services entirely to avoid putting their own children to bed, for one night. A refusal to go to bed by the child, coupled with the 114th reading of GoodNight Moon will wear down even the most patient of parents. They’ve decided it’s your turn. Good luck. Wear protection.
- Parents will tell you that as long as the kids are safe, happy, and healthy (and put to bed on time, as per the last point), they aren’t fussed if you make a mess doing arts and crafts, feeding the kids, or playing games/building forts. This is a lie. We all hate coming home to a messy house and if you need to leave Junior in front of the television or video game for half an hour before we get home, it’s fine with most of us if it means all the couch cushions are back in their rightful spots.
- Parents who tell you outright that they try to limit their children to only half an hour of television per night are most likely to be the ones who let their kids watch television non-stop all week and are trying to lower their child’s average hours of viewing for that week, all in one night, courtesy of you. Good luck with that. Start building that fort.
- Use the “Well I’m just going to call your Mother and ask her” threats wisely. Kids catch on to this really quickly (just like the fake calls to Santa and the Easter Bunny). Practicing a fake one-way conversation with fake angry Mom is good practice for any babysitter. Do some role play with your friends.
- It’s not always a bad thing if the parents don’t have the money to pay you on the spot when they get home. Most of us feel so guilty that we made you wait for your money that we top up even more the next day when we drop it off. And never say “It’s too much.” We know what the real cost is of watching our own kids. It’s not too much. Reading GoodNight Moon one more time? Now that’s “too much”.
For parents and children alike, the transition from crib to bed is a big milestone. Your days of tucking your wee one to sleep and knowing they will stay in bed are gone. For them, this new-found independence can lead to troubles with settling and sleeping.
Tracey Ruiz (aka the Sleep Doula) has seven tips to help make the transition easier for everyone.
- Make it a big deal. Moving from a crib to a bed is an important step. Before making the transfer, talk to your child about how exciting it is that they are old enough to sleep in a ‘big kid’s bed’. Have them be a part of the adventure by taking them shopping and allowing them choose new bedding.
- Safety is a must. Now that your toddler has their freedom, be prepared that they will be looking to explore. Ensure their room is safe and minimize the areas they can explore. Anchor dressers and large furniture, limit access to drawers and closets, and ensure they can’t get into any creams or lotions. I always sit in the middle of room before we start the first night and try to think of any troubles a toddler can get into. Believe me, Vaseline is terrible to clean off walls and out of toddlers hair.
- Routine, routine, routine. Even though they are sleeping in a different bed, try to keep to a similar bedtime routine as they had in the crib. Just remember, be prepared they will try to modify things with their new independence.
- Be prepared for negotiations. It is important to try to anticipate your toddler’s needs before they even ask. This way you can show them where everything is there e.g. Sippy cup of water, pacifier, teddy, or even Kleenex. You should also be prepared that they may ask you to cuddle with them for just a few more minutes. If you do, try using a timer so there is no negotiating how long.
- Stay firm and be strong. The first few nights your child will try to test the limits of their newly acquired freedom by roaming the room. It is important you stick to your guns and walk them back to their new bed. Be stern that it is bedtime and time to sleep but be patient—this is an exciting time for them.
- Fill them with praise. We all love encouragement so make sure in the morning you praise them for sleeping in their bed, like ‘big kids do’. For toddlers who like rewards, have a chart and if they can sleep in their bed alone each night, they get a star. Five stars equal a special day with mom and dad or a special gift.
- Some helpful tools. Having a special night light, white noise machine, or a special stuffed ‘bed friend’ can all make the transition easier for your toddler. To help them understand when it’s time to come out of their bed, try using a digital clock with only the hour showing.
The kids are back in school. Why then is it so hard to get them into bed? If your bedtime routine went on summer vacation, now is the time to dig it out from under the winter coats and boots, shake it off and put it into action.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Children ages 2 to 6 need between 11 and 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. (Younger children may get a portion of that in a daytime nap). If we budget 11 hours of sleep at night then children need to be asleep at 8 pm if they are getting up at 7 am for school.
- Kids often get tired around 6:30–7:00 pm. If we push them past that sleepy period (because we are enjoying their company), adrenalin starts to kick in, and what was once a tired youngster becomes and intergalactic missile who cannot be stopped until the adrenalin runs out.
- Some families quit late bed times cold turkey. Others like to do it in stages. Choose a plan that works for you, even if that means starting the bedtime routine 5–10 minutes earlier each night. If your plan doesn’t fit you, you won’t stick to it.
- Be sure that the routine works for the child now (not the child of last year). Evaluate whether your little one still needs you to put her pyjamas on—maybe she can do it herself now.
- Take time to write the plan down (with words and pictures for non-readers) along with times beside it so that everyone knows the plan. Your child can then take responsibility for telling you what comes next instead of you having to nag every step of the way.
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