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Safety Tips for Baby-Sitters (Part 1): General Guidelines

Babysitting may be the perfect job for you. It can it teach you about having a job and managing money. It can also help you learn a lot about children, families, and safety. There are certain things that will be expected of you as a sitter, though. And there are also things that you should expect from parents. Before you begin watching children, you should be clear about safety guidelines.

Safety Guidelines

As a babysitter, you are responsible for keeping children safe. You need to:

Talk to Parents Before They Leave

  • Ask if there are any conditions that may require special treatment and how to provide them
  • Get important information, such as names and phone numbers. These include:
    • Where the parents will be
    • A friend, relative, or neighbor that lives close by
    • The children’s doctor
    • Fire department
    • Police department
    • Emergency medical help
    • Hospital
  • Ask the parents to show you through the house or apartment. You need to know where to find certain items you will need, such as children’s clothing and toys, so be sure to ask.
  • Locate emergency exits.
  • Ask parents if all potential poisons, such as medications, bleaches, and household cleaners, are securely locked up.

Look for Potential Hazards

To prevent accidents, keep children away from potential hazards such as:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Appliances
  • Medications, bleaches, and household cleaners
  • Heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves
  • Places where children could trip or slip
  • Glass doors and windows
  • Small items that could cause choking in infants and young children

Use Caution Around Stairs

Stairs can be dangerous for children. Here are some tips to prevent accidents on the stairs:

  • Do not allow a toddler to play on the stairs.
  • Remove all obstacles from the stairs so that no one can trip over them.
  • If there is a gate across the stairway, check and make sure it is latched at all times and don't let the children climb on them.
  • Do not leave babies unattended in carriages, walkers, or strollers, especially around stairs or ramps, indoors or outdoors.

Use Caution Around Doors and Windows

  • Talk to children about the dangers of glass doors or windows. A child riding on a tricycle or bike that gets too close to a window or door could go through the glass.
  • Keep toys, scatter rugs, and other articles that could cause slipping or tripping away from doors and windows.
  • If you are caring for an active child, place a large piece of furniture in front of the glass area to keep the child away from it.
  • Also, suggest to the parents that they put large, colorful decals at eye level on glass doors. This can make glass doors safer for both children and adults.
  • Keep doors and windows locked at all times.
  • Never open the door to strangers. If there is a question about someone at the door, call the parents and check with them.

Prevent Falls During Diaper Changes

  • Watch babies constantly. Babies can easily fall from changing tables or other high places.
  • Have items like diapers and wipes nearby. This way, you will not have to step away from the infant for even a second.

Avoid Bathing the Baby

Do not bathe the baby. In most cases, you can clean the baby’s skin with a clean facecloth in lukewarm water. Bathing a baby calls for extreme care and supervision. Aside from the risk of hot water scalds, there is always the danger of drowning. You may want to be of help to the parents, but bathing an infant is not advised.

Prevent Choking

Infants and young children can choke on any small items they put in their mouths. Here are some tips to prevent choking:

  • Make sure to keep the following objects out of the reach of an infant or young child:
    • Small pieces of food, including seeds
    • Coins
    • Pins
    • Small toys or parts of toys intended for older children
    • Any other small object that could cause choking
  • It is always a good idea to take a first aid course before you start babysitting. If the child is choking, use first aid to clear the child's airway. If you do not know first aid, contact your local Red Cross office or a community agency. Contact your local American Heart Association office to learn cardiopulmonary resusitation (CPR). CPR is done during an emergency to manually pump blood through the heart and maintain oxygen delivery to the body's organs until medical help arrives. Also, call for emergency medical services.

Check Clothing

Loose, baggy clothing can be dangerous if it gets caught on furniture, cribs, or playpens as children climb and play. Clothing can also be a problem if it becomes tightly wound around the baby. Be alert for hazards such as these and adjust clothing so that it cannot become tangled.

Get Help

If the child becomes ill or has an accident, do not try to be a doctor or nurse (except for minor cuts and bruises). You should do the following:

  • Call the parents for instructions.
  • If the parents cannot be reached, call your own parents or ask a neighbor for help.
  • If the sick or hurt child needs care right away, call for emergency medical services.

Other Articles in This Series

Safety tips for baby-sitters (part 2): keeping indoor play areas safe

Safety tips for baby-sitters (part 3): keeping outdoor play areas safe


Consumer Product Safety Commission

Safe Kids Worldwide


About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children

Canada Safety Council


3 things every responsible babysitter should know. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: Updated February 2013. Accessed March 9, 2016.

Baby safety tips. Safe Kids Worldwide website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2016.

Caring for children 2: Babysitting basics. Virginia Tech website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2016.

4/2/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Saki N, Nikakhlagh S, Rahim F, Abshirini H. Foreign body aspirations in infancy: a 20-year experience. Int J Med Sci. 2009;6(6):322-328.

Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 3/9/2016