Mar 29, 2012
Whether your ten year old is smart, brave, quick to react, it is just plain foolish to go out shopping and leaving a pre-teen in charge of things. Anything can happen. Your toddler can swallow something he should not, he could hurt himself, he can reach into dangerous things, he might fall from his crib; anything. It will first of all be a traumatic experience for your child should something happen to him or the baby and your ten year old is not equipped if a stranger should knock on the door and he is faced with a possible intruder. A child that age can dial 911, but he should not be placed in such a position – and can he react when there’s an intruder in the house? And should he be given that responsibility? He is not old enough to be a baby sitter and should not be placed in a situation where he is responsible for a toddler for two or three hours while you go out. And what is the legal age for a baby sitter? The answer is that there is not a lot of information about it; some states have a legal age of thirteen, and some states do not.
Having said that an appropriate age does not mean that the babysitter is necessarily equipped and in fact there might be younger teens who are quite responsible and who have helped with siblings in the past. Here are some good ways to judge whether a teen is the right person to look after your children while you are out.
• Is your teen responsible and has she looked after siblings or other people’s children before?
• Can she apply CPR if there is an emergency situation and she cannot wait for the ambulance if a child is choking?
• Does she stay glued to the television or play computer games while she is supposed to look after the children?
• Does she know how to care for a toddler? Some ten year olds are very responsible and can help, but are you using good judgment? What if something happens? Looking after the house is a big responsibility for a child. Someone might play with matches and cause a fire, or the baby can fall into the bath.
• Does she know never to shake a baby who is crying no matter how angry or tired she may be?
• Does she have your names, the address of the house and the telephone numbers?
• Has she helped out before? It is up in the air whether a child under twelve should babysit unless they have helped parents who need help with the kids when they are home.
A good way to get a sitter is if you have a trusted friend with children and you can have the kids take turns doing a babysitting job – provided these kids have babysat before and shown good judgment. Test your children with the babysitter. See how they react when she is around.
My daughter who lives in New Jersey has two little girls; Ameera, three years and two year old Zara. She is friends with moms her own age with little ones and always tries for something innovative and fun for the kids. The group of moms discusses parenting and always come up with surprises. In the previous two years when Ameera and Zara were still learning to walk, they would invite the moms with their toddlers to a party held at MacDonalds where the kids could jump around on the props and the parents could watch. This year she wanted a more intimate party at the house and wanted both fun for the kids and economy. She came up with a great idea.
It was interesting for me to compare the American way of doing things and the South African. In South Africa a birthday party is a big affair. Entire families come over for lunch and at four in the afternoon bring out the truffles, puddings, trifles, cakes, and of course the special birthday cake which has a number on it. The family all bring gifts and the kids run around the house and play. Kids learn to have fun together and more importantly, can keep themselves occupied. There are no organized games and it is not all about the birthday boy or the birthday girl. It is a celebration for everyone. The party lasts from lunch time to way beyond supper and everyone reports that they have had a good time and the children are worn out from all the fun and that night go easily to bed.
In America, my daughter, married to Dirty DJ Harry came up with a great party idea for the kids. She invited ten moms with their little ones to the party, and in addition to all the traditional party hats and games she bought ten baking kits with rolling pins, cookie pans and utensils for children, and gave each of them dough to cut out cookies and to bake whatever they wanted. The kids loved it. There was mayhem in the kitchen as they worked happily at the table getting flour on their hands and face and seeing the end result of the experience as moms monitored the oven to bake everything. The kids had great fun, as well as learning something new. The moms too had fun as they watched how the kids enjoyed themselves. When the party was over everyone got a little loop bag to take home their cakes and sweets.