Skip to main content

Babysitting: 10 Basic Tips for Grandparents and Others

John is a father of four and grandfather of 13, so he has many year of babysitting experience.

My wife and I have been asked on occasions to babysit various numbers of our grandchildren. Most recently this required looking after four boys for a ten day period. I hope this guide may help others.

My wife and I have been asked on occasions to babysit various numbers of our grandchildren. Most recently this required looking after four boys for a ten day period. I hope this guide may help others.

For the Love of Grandchildren

We all love our kids, and when we are fortunate to become grandparents, we simply adore our grandchildren. It's only natural, right? Of course, it is!

So when we are given trust and the privilege of being asked to babysit them for a night or two, we feel both humbled and excited. But what about ten days? Especially when it involves four boys ranging from 10 years, 9 years, 3 years, and then 18 months. That certainly feels more like a challenge, especially if your youngest son is now 28 years and moved out of home ten years ago.

Anyway, not being ones to shirk our responsibilities as caring grandparents, my wife Kathy and I recently took on just such a task while our son and daughter-in-law went to Fiji to attend a relative's wedding. Well, this certainly was a challenge but the tenth day is up tomorrow, and we have gotten through it (touch wood) virtually unscathed.

Here are some tips we have learned along the way. I hope they are helpful to other less experienced grandparents and babysitters.

Son Jared, and grandsons Dylan, Jordan, Timothy and Ashton

Son Jared, and grandsons Dylan, Jordan, Timothy and Ashton

Babysitting: 10 Basic Tips for Grandparents and Others

1. Count the number of kids you will be looking after. Memorize their names if need be. There is nothing worse than misplacing one. Most returning parents are not impressed to learn Tommy went missing while they were away.

2. Make sure the refrigerator and pantry cupboard are stacked with foods the kids like to eat. Be sure that you ask the parents to buy the food or give you a list because what the kids say they like and what they are actually allowed to eat are often two different things.

3. Obtain recipes or instructions on how to prepare their favourite meals. I know grandma knows best in regard to cooking, but if they have become used to food being prepared a certain way you will soon get sick of hearing, "That's not how mommy makes it," or "That's yucky."

4. Ensure you are left with a detailed list of instructions: daily chores, routines i.e. bed and bath time, coming events, sports days, etc. The last thing you want is to be accused of having disrupted the family routine.

In regard to daily chores. If you aren't provided with a detailed list, for Heaven's sake, don't ask each child what tasks they are personally required to do each day. Ask their brother or sister (if they are old enough) for a fairer guide, or you'll be told the bare minimum. They hate to think their sibling may be getting out of work and they aren't. Believe me, I am speaking from the experience of babysitting 10 and 9-year-old brothers.

When you first arrive to do the babysitting all the children will try to test you out and see how far they can push the boundaries. This is where the detailed list provided by their parents comes into its own.

5. Make sure there is a sufficient supply of children's Panadol, cough mixture, Bandaids, etc., as there always seems to be at least one child in the family with a cold or falling over and getting a scrape. If there are babies and toddlers you also need a stockpile of nappies (diapers). Believe me, you can't have too many.

Children love food..some food

Children love food..some food

I don't want to go to daycare.

— Jordan - 3-years-old

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Wehavekids

6. Leave the TV turned on most of the day on a dedicated children's channel, or have lots of kid's DVDs, or Internet programs. The few cents extra in electricity costs are worth it as it acts as another babysitter when you can't be entertaining all the kids at once.

7. Bath time is interesting. Small children and toddlers seem to love baths and will eagerly line up for the chance for some water-play and splashing. Bigger children and teenagers always have something else more important to do first. Expect it to take at least an hour from the time they are first asked to take a shower until they actually achieve it.

8. Bedtime! Probably the most difficult thing to police, especially with young children. With the one and three-year-olds it largely depends on how big a day they had, if they managed an afternoon nap, and basically how tired (or over-tired) they are, come to the allotted bedtime. Bigger children require constant prompting, but blackmail often works. 8.a. In fact, blackmail works in many different situations. "If you eat your vegetables, or finish your dinner, you will get ice cream for dessert. If not, forget it!'"If you don't get out of bed and get ready for school, I will take you in your pajamas." etc.

9. "I don't want to go to Day Care," followed by a sudden cough, "I'm sick," is something we experienced from the 3-year-old. You just have to be strong and take them anyway (unless they show genuine signs of sickness). When you try to drop them off at the Day Care centre they will probably scream and cry, "I want my mommy and daddy" or some such chant, but the carer/teacher said this stopped as soon as we were out of sight.

10. Encourage and reward manners and good behaviour. A smile, a hug, and positive affirmation promote those desirable traits. This ultimately makes it easier for you the next time you babysit the same children.

11. Above all, try to stay calm even in the most stressful situations. Do not lose your cool! Kids often think any attention is good attention, or that upsetting you is a win for them (a notch on their gun so to speak). This may be easier said than done - but try your best.

Spitting image of Dylan from behind

Spitting image of Dylan from behind

if you want something done successfully, ask a busy person

— author unknown

Soccer player

Soccer player

One Day to Go

Here we are, just one day to go to complete our babysitting duties. The finish line is in sight! Don't get me wrong, it was challenging but fun to spend quality time with the grandchildren.They really are good kids. Tomorrow we get to attend the final soccer game of the year for the biggest two boys, so that should be fun.

When their parents come home we have to return to our "Cackleberry Farm" and see how our dogs, cats, and chickens are coping. Our pet sitters also had a testing time with our dog Coco taking ill. I was prepared for a rushed trip home but her condition had improved dramatically the next day. We will only be home one night, then off to Toowoomba for Kathy to have an MRI scan on her knee. She apparently has damaged her ACL ligament and it isn't healing as quickly as the doctor would have liked.

Then it will be straight from Toowoomba Hospital to Brisbane to visit a dear friend who is now in palliative care. August was incredibly busy, but September is shaping to be even more "full on." I am surprised I even had a chance to write this, but I'm glad I did. They say, "If you want something done successfully, ask a busy person." Maybe there is something in that statement.

I read this book and then handed it on to my daughter

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How would I know a grandchild likes a certain food?

Answer: Well, you should always ask the parents if the child has any food allergies. If not, you can introduce the grandchild to certain foods so they can taste them and see if they like them.

© 2016 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 02, 2016:

Haha, that could be good advice too, Lawrence :) Glad you enjoyed this read.

Lawrence Hebb on October 02, 2016:


I'd add 'padlock the pantry door ' oh sorry, thats for kids not necessarily Grandkids!

Loved this read.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 25, 2016:

Thank you for that Deb, I have been through this so many times and never picked up that repetition. Much appreciated.

Deb Hirt on September 25, 2016:

resending--Great advice! However, check your last two paragraphs. Several sentences somehow ended up being repetitive.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on September 12, 2016:

Wonderful tips!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 11, 2016:

Thanks for the kind remarks, Savvy. I'll tell my son you think he and his boys are handsome...he'll be chuffed.

Your aunt's dinner time tip is a good one...however the youngest would just toss his plate on the floor if he didn't like it, rather than eat. Cheers.

savvydating on September 11, 2016:

Ten days is a lot of days when we're talking about four boys! But you did it. Yay! By the way, your son and grandsons' are very handsome.

I don't have grandchildren, but if I ever get any I'll know which hub I can refer back to. Or maybe I'll do like one of my aunts. When it comes to dinner time and grandchildren, she keeps it simple. "Here's what we're having for dinner, kids. Take it or leave it." Ha. I think she saves time that way, if nothing else.

Fun Hub, Jodah. I really enjoyed it.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 10, 2016:

It certainly was hectic, Vellur. They say having kids around keeps you young, so if that's true it's all good. Thanks for reading and wishing Kathy well.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on September 10, 2016:

It must have been hectic but enjoyable looking after your grandsons. The TV is a life saver if you are tired. Getting them to bathe is even more of a difficult task. I hope Kathy gets better soon. Great pics!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 09, 2016:

Hey, Mike. I'm not perfect but I do my best :) yes, it is a good bonding experience. Thanks for the kind comment.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 09, 2016:

Hello John. I am out of breath just thinking about taking care of a house full of children. So, high five, on your success with this. It must be a great bonding experience. You set the bar high. (And I don't mean out of reach of the children.)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 08, 2016:

Hi,Al. Thanks for reading this and the generous comment. I should know a bit about babysitting, I have been doing it for more years than I can remember.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 08, 2016:

Hey, Surabhi, good to see you here. Yes, you do have quite a road to travel before you become a grandmother...but at least you already get to babysit your nephews. They sound like great kids and I agree with the "life is like an icecream.." quote. So true. Have a restful sleep, and I will talk soon.

word55 on September 07, 2016:

Hey John, these were top ten greats. You must be some kind of baby sitting expert, lol. Keep up the good work.

Surabhi Kaura on September 07, 2016:

Wonderful hub, Jodah! Great tips here. I have a long road to travel yet (giggle). I can feel your love towards your children, as well as towards your grandchildren. What a joy to read this article. I was babysitting my nephews in Alberta. I played with them and did some art and colouring (as you have seen). I love kids. God resides in kids. They are so innocent... unaware of the burdens of life, and they enjoy every moment of life. One of my nephews read me a quote, "Life is like an ice-cream. Enjoy before it melts." So true, eh! I salute you and Kathleen for the wonderful upbringing. It's a very useful and informative article for the would-be grandparents :) Thank you... thank you.

P.S. I will read rest of the hubs tomorrow, my Sweet. I should sleep now. Yawning much... he he. Love you!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 07, 2016:

This is a great comment, Chitrangada. certainly, babysitting is an important job and no joke. Kids are very smart and will often try and prove they are smarter than you. I am glad you feel this article will be useful to others who are contemplating minding children.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 07, 2016:

This is so interesting, cute and so informative at the same time! You have provided so many tips for babysitting not only to grandparents but many others who may be doing this very important job.

Looking after kids is no joke, they can be smarter than what we may think. In spite of taking so many precautions they might do something that wouldn't have occurred in your mind at all. With kids around one has to be extra cautious , always vigilant and alert for their safety as well as comfort.

Congratulations for a job so well done by you and your wife! Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 06, 2016:

I am sure the time will come, Shauna. I was a grandfather by 40. So, Kathy and I have had plenty of practice but the babysitting doesn't get any easier as you get older. Thanks for reading.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 05, 2016:

I haven't had the honor of becoming a grandmother yet, but hope I'm as good at it as you and Kathy are, John. Yes, kids will test you. I'll have to keep that in mind when the time comes.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 05, 2016:

Ms Dora, thanks for the great comment. If I was babysitting in my home number 6 would not happen. They would be spending more time outside playing with animals and exploring, but at their own home that is the way things are done. They don't sit and watch it continuously but the TV is on when they want to. I think I am seen as a fun granddad. :)

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 05, 2016:

Really good tips, Jodah. When I visit my son I stay for weeks at a time and expect that babysitting will be part of the adventure. Respectfully, I have doubts about your number six, not because of the electricity, but because after they watch their favorite shows, I want the challenge of occupying them with other activities. Bet you're a fun grand-dad!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 05, 2016:

Thanks, Devika. I hope these tips do help others who may be new to babysitting.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 04, 2016:

A challenge indeed! Interesting and helpful.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 04, 2016:

Thank you, Linda. It was successful in that both us and the kids survived the ordeal :) not looking to do it again in a hurry however.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 04, 2016:

It certainly was a test Blossom. Kathy and I both said "never again".. Not for that amount of time. We are too old and cranky. We had a wonderful couple farm sitting, so all was good there. Great to be home, but we are off again tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 03, 2016:

You've shared some useful and amusing tips for babysitters, Jodah. Taking care of four boys for ten days sounds like a major job. I'm glad it was successful!

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on September 03, 2016:

Four boys for ten days! Now that really is an undertaking - not sure I would manage that these days. It must have taken some organising with your needing to abandon Cackleberry Farm, too! I dips me lid to you!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 03, 2016:

Hi Cynthia. Well you certainly know where I am coming from :) Happy future babysitting.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 03, 2016:

Wow, that is a long babysitting trip, Glenis. My wife has flown from Brisbane to Darwin to babysit for the same reason also quite a distance.mthanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 03, 2016:

And so it should Flourish, babysitting more than one is not for the faint hearted.

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on September 03, 2016:

I get this! I have 9 grandchildren with 1 more on the way. I can't tell you how many time I have babysat them.

Glen Rix from UK on September 03, 2016:

LOL. Top tips. I think I must be making the longest trip ever to babysit it February. UK to Singapore. Sitting one child only whilst Mummy is in hospital for caesarean.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 03, 2016:

I only have one child myself and am usually the fun aunt that all the kids want to be with, but truth be told more than one at a time makes me nervous!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 03, 2016:

Thanks for reading and recommending this to others, Peachpurple. Much appreciated.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 03, 2016:

great tips, I think caregiver, baby sitter and grandparents should be reading this hub, good advice not to get panic

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 03, 2016:

Thank you for the wonderful comment, Theresa. You are certainly blessed to have your grandchildren close by and I wish you well babysitting this weekend. Have a great Labor Day weekend.

manatita44 from london on September 03, 2016:

Yes, yes ... I sensed this. Also, this counting kids thing is a serious one. More useful for school trips one would think, but parents experience them all the time. Especially when shopping or walking the streets. They can even find their way to the police station. So true, Bro.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on September 02, 2016:

Haha ...these tips are great, John! Your grandsons are adorable, and your son looks just like you - handsome.

My son, who just turned 28 blessed me with four grandchildren, two granddaughters and now two grandsons - 8, 6, 4 and 9 months LOL. He started young. My daughter who is five years older than my son does not have any children yet. I am so blessed that they all live not too far down the Interstate from us ...about 40 minutes. I can stop in to see them on my way home from work in the city if I want. They usually all come up every couple of weeks, except Charlie.

However, this very night and for the entire weekend, we have both grandsons and this is the first time sweet Charlie has come to stay up at Nanny's and PawPaw's house. He is always a happy baby. They are both fast asleep now. They play hard.

All of them certainly fill my house and life with so much joy. There is just something "grand" about the grandchildren.

10 days is quite a challenge, especially with such an age range.

God bless you and your precious family.

Happy and safe travels! It is Labor Day weekend here ...long weekend and many are traveling.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Hi Jackie, we have normally only had to babysit two at a time if it is more than just overnight. This was the first extended period looking after four. It certainly has been a challenge, especially the last two days. I know what a sugar high is like too :)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Hi Sunshine. You are lucky to have your granddaughters and their parents living with you, though I don't think I could handle it full time. I was already going grey but that has progressed alarmingly over the last week :) they certainly do grow fast though.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Dianna, so glad you can identify with the scenarios I describe. They should be real to life as I wrote this while still babysitting.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Thanks for reading, Dana. You are lucky to have nieces and nephews at least and I am sure they they think you are the cool aunt.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Thanks, Manatita. The babysitting is almost over but, believe me, the last two days have taken forever. I wish we could take a break.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Thank you for sharing that Becky. My closest son and family live an hour away, and another within a day's drive. My other son and daughter live in opposite ends of the country and we have to fly to visit. Good for you cooking something that Hayden enjoys, when it's something he doesn't normally eat.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on September 02, 2016:

Wow, four at a time. I cannot even imagine. I miss babysitting the little ones though and now there is no plans for anymore it is a little sad.

My first grandchild was always on a sugar high with her mom and when we got her for a few days it was like day and night when we gave her no sweets. She stopped being mean and a smart aleck and turned into an angel by day two or three. She was always funny though, lots of good memories.

Have fun making yours!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on September 02, 2016:

Your grandsons are adorable!! My granddaughters live with me, along with their parents so I see them all the time. I am a carefree grandparent the type who spoils them and then gets reprimanded by their plan is for them to all move out. My plan isn't working! Enjoy those precious grandsons, they grow up just as fast as our children do.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Thank you, Linda. Glad I made you laugh, but sorry you don't think you'll ever have a grandchild. You never know.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Hi, Eric, good for you not waiting until your kids were ready to give you grandchildren...sometimes you can't wait for the light at the end of the tunnel.. You have to march down there and light the darn thing yourself. Funny to hear about your middle sister at the Grand Canyon too. Just proves my first tip has basis.

teaches12345 on September 02, 2016:

Oh how well I know this scenario! I love your thoughts on grandparenting and how to deal with associated babysitting issues. This was enjoyable to read but so real to life.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on September 02, 2016:

I have not been blessed with kids so there will be no grand kids for me. I have many cousins and niece's and a nephew who thinks I am so cool. Unfortunately I do not have the attention span to babysit small kids for very long so they must be old enough to pretty much take care of themselves. This hub will be necessary for many grandparents especially grandparents who are new to the game.

manatita44 from london on September 02, 2016:

Charming! Sounds like you were busy; yet had some fun. A refreshing of the memory required, it seems, in dealing with kids. You appeared to cope well. Parents or otherwise, they will always push their luck. Nature of kids, I suppose.

A long stretch for you, yes, especially if you like writing and working on the farm. Still, selfless service is good for the Soul (chuckle)

Some very useful tips and a great read. Best wishes to all.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on September 02, 2016:

I thank God that I had a teenager at home still, when I have been asked to babysit my grandchildren. I have 5 of them from 1 son. I would never make it. When I was babysitting the oldest 2, I made chili. When my son and d-i-l arrived to pick them up, I had to give them the recipe. Apparently Hayden does not like chili, but he ate 3 helpings and asked for some more when lunchtime came around the next day. Apparently mom does not know how to cook, because they all wanted to come back and eat with me again. They liked what I fixed.

I lived close to them until 2 years ago and about 1500 miles from all but 1 of them now. I had the 4 older ones frequently before that. I also lived by a pool that they could swim in daily. We all went down and my daughter and her friends would play with them and I just had to be there to keep an eye on what the teens were doing with them. Teens have no boundaries when they are playing with kids under 6.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 02, 2016:

Oh John, you made me laugh (especially with the first instruction), but also a wistful sigh. I despair of ever having a grandchild to love (...or misplace?). Thanks for a good read.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 02, 2016:

My adult children have not graced me so. So what the heck I had another of my own ;-)

My mom having six children within 9 years, would pass out 6 treats after calling the name of all of us. One time at the Grand Canyon my middle sister was left behind and we only knew it because of the treats trick. All is well she just latched onto another big family until we got back.

Loved this hub, thanks.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Hi Carolyn, thanks for reading. I hope these tips do come in handy for you in the not too distant future. Thanks for confirming that statement too.

Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on September 02, 2016:

Our only son is 19, and has no prospects for marriage any time soon. Nevertheless, I will tuck this away for future reference. They sound like excellent tips. Also, just from the one son, I can confirm, "Kids often think any attention is good attention, or that upsetting you is a win for them." So true.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Hey, Bill. You better get in plenty of practice on those two grandkids, because when the others start having them they seem to come in a rush :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 02, 2016:

We only have two, John, both from one son....there are three other sons and one daughter who, thankfully, have not graced us with grandchildren yet. LOL I say thankfully because I need to practice on the first two and try to improve my skills before I move on to more. :)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Hey, thank you for reading this Kathleen and sharing your own grandparenting situation. My wife and I certainly know what it's like to be worn out after a week looking after four. This is the longest we have had to babysit for. We uestioned how we managed to bring up our own four kids....we were a lot younger and fitter then I guess.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on September 02, 2016:

Great hub for any grandparent who has had the joy of being on their own with their grandchildren when this is not a common practice. My two live two states away.

My mother used to say, send me the kids one at a time so I can get to know them. Because my grandchildren are shared custody kids, I don't get to do that. Vacation time is too rationed. But having them together but without either parent is a great getting to know them opportunity too. The problem is, I haven't parented full time in a long time, and I'm not used to little kids on a daily basis. I love them and I love having them with me, but I run short on stamina needed for two toddlers, then pre-schoolers, and now school aged children.

Great tips. I'll surely use them next visit!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2016:

Thank you for being the first to read this, Frank. Yeah, that first tip was a little tongue in cheek but there are some big families out there.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on September 02, 2016:

Count the number of kids I will be looking after hmmm?..LOl The tips are decent my friend.. I love the dummy photos.. and I bet after watching a whole herd of kids.. we all will end up looking like those photos.. thanks for the share :)

Related Articles