We all know her. She is the “it girl” in a sea of sameness. There isn’t a conversation on the playground that doesn’t include the phrases, “you’ll never believe what Rebecca did at our house,” and “the twins just love her and they’ve never loved anyone before.” And then there’s the ubiquitous, “I was at my wits end until we nabbed Rebecca.”
While the subject of conversation is a few short years older than your youngest prepping for 11th grade, she carries the gravitas of a rock star and the believability of a treasured novel. She is of course, the “Rebecca the Rock Star Babysitter.”
Such lofty titles don’t happen over night. The reason why Rebecca rose to such heights is because she carries the twin talents of understanding the desires of the parent while at the same time appreciating the needs of the kids in her charge. She’s also not a ‘one size fits all’ girl either. She knows how to handle twin five-year-old boys as successfully as an only child with food allergies having a picky-eater-friend along for a sleep over because her goals are loftier than simple entertainment. She knows instinctively that rapport is built through respect and fun is the result of imagination.
While every situation is unique, she has shared a few of her general secrets with us guaranteed to turn bedtime from bedlam to bliss.
Rebecca’s 7 secrets to being a rock star babysitter.
1. Send an invitation a few days in advance of your arrival. Set the tone for something wild with the intended visit from a stranger. Be sure to invite each child separately with their own envelope. Ask the parents to deliver the invitations either in the morning or at bedtime whenever their kids tend to be a little more focused.
2. Crazy mixed up backwards day. Start in Pajamas and read a story backwards, continuing the backwards theme throughout the evening until it’s time for bed and they are in their school clothes. Every time anyone says anything they have to begin with the phrase “Yesterday, I…” Everyone brings a book to the dinner table and reads it backwards. Everyone starts in one chair but keeps rotating backwards throughout the meal. Use utensils with the opposite hand you usually do. Sometimes burping is encouraged.
3. Bring enough cardboard boxes, tape, markers and pre-cut out construction paper extras to make a car that each kid can sit in. Decorate the outside of the car with headlights, windows, bumpers and designs. Fill the car with pillows, blankets and pop some popcorn. Welcome to your very own drive in theater. Or each kid can “drive up” to the kitchen and order take out. Kids can also learn the “rules of the road” as you navigate the hallway. What is a stop sign? Why do we go on green? What is a pedestrian? That’s a funny word.
4. Imaginative Play. Nothing builds rapport with kids more then sitting down and building stuff with them. Choose an item like Creativity Can®, either especially selected for each child’s interests or the big activity. This kind of activity can develop imagination, problem solving and critical thinking skills but it can also deeply absorb kids for hours. It can be especially effective for kids with special needs. Bring a large box decorated on the front and painted in black on the inside, with a hole at the back and perform a puppet show with the creations.
5. Set the tone. Darkness and dim lighting can encourage freedom of thought, which leads to a more prolific generation of ideas, according to a recent paper in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Specifically, dim lighting downplays a room’s distractions, promoting focus on internal reflection and the work at hand. It also sets the stage for bed time with an environment more suited for settling down than working under bright kitchen lights.
6. Don’t forget the interview! Before taking the assignment, ask the parents what their goals and expectations are for your time with the kids. Be sure to fully understand the parameters and clear any craft projects with them ahead of time. Also, talk to the kids and ask them questions about what they like to do, what kinds of books they like and other things about themselves. Even rambunctious kids can reveal something about themselves that’s useful. Everyone likes to be heard and this is the biggest way to build rapport.
7. Record a thank you video. The next day, after the babysitting assignment, record a thank you video to the parents and the kids and text it to Mom and Dad and ask them to share it with the kids. It will keep you in their mind and parents will remember the extra effort.
Want to know the difference between popularity and celebrity? Publicity! Be the kind of babysitter that parents talk about and harness those entrepreneurial skills that will serve you well throughout your life. A few small touches like these are fun and memorable and chances are, when these kids are your age they’ll still remember you fondly.
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