The Ultimate Guide to babysitting a 3 year old

The Ulitimate Guide to Babysitting a 3 year old

Being a babysitter is an awesome job. The times are flexible, it is fun, and you get to eat free pizza. What more could you want? Well, how about making lasting relationships with beautiful, fun and energetic children? Bright and fun loving 3 year olds really are the ones who make your job so amazing. There is never a dull moment. You could be pretending to be an astronaut, baking cookies and helping them get over their fear of the dark all in the same night. What could be more fun?

I am a parent and I wanted to make this guide to help out all the people who babysit my children. As a parent, leaving your child with another person makes me nervous. It’s only natural. But I shouldn’t be, there are so many loving and caring people out there just like you who want to spend time with my children.

This guide is the inside look on what a parent like me looks for in the perfect babysitter. If you follow this advice, I’m sure that you will be the most in demand babysitter in your area! You will be able to pick and choose your favorite families and what nights you would like to work. You will be everyone’s first choice.


Being a parent is busy. Busier than I ever imagined. You start to wonder what you did with all the free time you had before your little angels came along. It is the kind of busy that you can’t imagine before having kids. The kind of busy that makes eating a sandwich in one go or taking a shower look impossible.

That’s why we need your help. The help of the super babysitter! We need you because both me and my wife need to spend some time together as a couple again. Maybe we want to relax, or take care of someone else in need, to play the sport we love or do our favorite hobby. You are our superhero and you are giving us back precious time to recharge and relax. So we can come back and hug our children and pay you well for the great job you’ve done. Parents all over the world need you.


According to the latest national childcare survey by UrbanSitter:

The average national hourly rate for babysitting is:

  • 1 Child: $16.43
  • 2 Children: $18.86
  • 3 Children: $20.56


55% of parents tip their babysitter on top of the hourly wage they are paid. If you put into practice the information in this guide it will go a long way to helping you earn that big tip!

The most common amounts to tip are:

  • Round up the money.
  • $5
  • 10%

Although, some generous parents tipped 20% of the final total. With my help, we are going to convince parents see that you are worth at least that.


UrbanSitter found that 83% of parents provided extra perks to their sitters. That is a healthy amount. So what were the most common extra little perks that sitters had?

  • Entertainment: Movies, WiFi
  • Food: From the home or delivery and takeout.
  • Transportation: Paying your travelling costs.
  • Museum, shows, amusement park passes.


Using the data from UrbanSitter, I have put together a map of average hourly pay rates for one child for major cities across the country. This should give you a great idea about what to charge. (Most people add on another 20% fee for every extra child they mind).

Average pay for a babysitter per hour in major US cities.


“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin.

An enjoyable and stress free night of babysitting starts with a good plan. If you take a little time to think about what information you need from the parents and what you will do with the children. It will save you a lot of worry and headaches. If you will plan ahead, you will enjoy your night.


Before you leave home you need to make sure you bring the following items:

  • Your phone.
  • Some money.
  • Any games / toys / activities for the children.
  • Any parent approved snacks for the children.

First time babysitters

If this is your first time babysitting, try and go along with another babysitter first so you can get some experience and guidance from them. If you don’t know anyone who will let you tag along then simply go to your first job early while the parents are still around. This will help the kids warm up to you lightning quick.

When you first arrive at the house is the perfect time to run through the babysitting checklist with the parents. I have put together a FREE printable checklist for you to take along. It will make sure you don’t forget any important information or questions about the children. Once you have it filled in you can relax and enjoy your night with the kids knowing that you have all the important information written down.


I have compiled this checklist into a FREE printable document for you to download here.

I will run through the important questions on the checklist that you need to ask the parents before they leave. If they are short on time then you could get them to give you the details over the phone or by Email before you babysit. Some of the questions are very important for their child’s safety and some will make your life easier in getting to know what they like and dislike.

  • Contact telephone numbers: Contact telephone numbers for BOTH parents and even the restaurant / venue of where they are going if needed. Also get them to include the number of another close family member or friend.
  • Expected time of return.
  • Health concerns: Does their child suffer from any health problems that you should know about? If so how can you help them if they become an issue.
  • Allergies: Is their child allergic to any food / materials.
  • Pay: How much will you be paid if the parents arrive back on time?
  • Food: What are the kids allowed to eat? What are their food likes / dislikes?
  • Discipline: How would they like you to handle their child if they are naughty?
  • Bedtime: What is their expected bedtime? Do they have favorite bedtime stories? Where should they be allowed to sleep?
  • Fears: Do their children have any fears? Particular likes / dislikes?
  • Toilet: Do they still use diapers? Or need any help using the toilet?
  • Visitors: Are they expecting any visitors while they are away?
  • Interests: What do the children like to do? Do they have favorite games?

First time babysitters

Work in your comfort level. If it is your first time babysitting, don’t agree to minding fussy triplets. Go for one child first. It will be much more manageable. As your skills and confidence grow, you can mind more children at once (and get paid more too!).

Babysitting a 3 year old
When a parent leaves a child it can initially be very stressful. It is up to you to help them deal with these emotions.


“Bye, have a great time and be good!” the parents shout to the kids as they walk through the front door. They are gone. Then you get the few moments of silence. The the child’s bottom lip starts to quiver and tears well up in their little eyes.

“WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” they scream. At that moment you know you are going to earn your pay tonight.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Many children suffer from what is known as “separation anxiety”. In plain terms this just means that they don’t like to be away from their parents.

“Frustrating as it may be, separation anxiety is actually an emotional milestone that generally begins at 8 to 9 months of age. Your child is starting to understand that there’s only one of you — and you still exist even when you aren’t in sight.”

Mayo Clinic.


  • It is normal: Don’t doubt yourself. You are doing a good job. It is very common for children to experience separation anxiety from their parents. It is not your job to stop them from feeling it, it is your job to help them through it. A 3 year old’s mood is changeable. Just remember, they can be crying their heart out one minute and laughing the next. It’s your task to help them shift their mood.
  • Determine why they are crying?: Are they crying because their parents just left? Or any they scared of something else? Has something happened before you got there to make them sad. Try to find out and then you can try and help them. Listen to them.
  • Distract them: If you know that a child you are babysitting has a problem with separation anxiety, plan ahead. Arrive early and before the parents leave, make sure to engage the child in something fun. This distraction might be just enough to let their parents slip away unnoticed.
  • Empathise: Make sure you understand the situation from the view of the child. Talk to them, reassure them that their parents are only going to be gone for a short while. Tell them about all the fun activities that you have planned. Ask them how they feel and listen to what they have to say.
  • Calls to mum and dad: Be consistent in the way you contact their parents. If you feel like their child is truly too upset for you to manage, then call. If they are really upset about something that has happened then it might be worth checking in with their parents. If they are just upset because they don’t want to go to bed then it’s probably not a great idea to start ringing mummy and daddy.
Babysitting toys


This is by far the best part of the job. If your kids are in the right mood it won’t feel like work at all. You can play games, watch a movie, go for a walk, play in the garden, bake, do crafts. There are so many ideas for fun with a 3 year old. I want to inspire you in this next section. I am going to give you all of my favorite things to keep 3 year old kids occupied and happy.

3 year olds are full of fun and excitement. They love to be active and on go the go most of the time. They have big imaginations and hearts to match. This is a list of all the things that my kids enjoy for you to try. Having a list of activity ideas before they get bored is ideal. That way you can get any items ready and you won’t be stuck for things to do when they are bored and crying.

If you want more ideas for games then read the article that I wrote on games that a 3 year old will love.


  • Read their favorite book.
  • Have a disco with their favorite music.
  • Play hospital with doctors and nurses with teddy bears as patients.
  • Play restaurant with chef and waiters.
  • Make a fort from chairs, cushions and sheets.
  • Make a simple treasure hunt with hidden paper clues and a prize at the end.
  • Jigsaw puzzle.
  • Play with toys in the bath: This is a great activity for just before bedtime as it relaxes children and helps them to fall asleep.
  • Sing songs: Twinkle twinkle, the wheels on the bus and old MacDonald.
  • Play Simon says. (Details in my games article).
  • Play the traffic lights game (Details in my games article).
  • Tea Party.
  • Cops and robbers.
  • The floor is Lava.
  • Choose a movie and have popcorn.
  • Storytelling: You can make a story up or tell them a famous one. Examples could be the boy who cried wolf, little red riding hood, robin hood etc.


  • Drawing with crayons or pencils.
  • Coloring in (You may have to bring a book if they don’t have one).
  • Make animals from play dough.
  • Use a cardboard box to make something. It could be a castle, a ship, spaceship or dolls house. Let their imaginations decide.
  • Use glue and pasta shapes to make a portrait to give to their parents.
  • Make paper aeroplanes.
  • Paint faces on paper plates.
  • Make bracelets: You will have to buy a cheap and simple bracelet making kit and some beads.
  • Make shakers: Get an empty bottle and fill it with rice or couscous to make a homemade musical instrument.
  • Stickers: Bring along a selection of stickers that they can use and draw around.
  • Make a simple crown from paper and let them decorate it.
  • Collages: Get old magazines and allow them to cut out their favorite pictures and make collages from them.


  • Bake cookies for mum and dad together.
  • Make fruit kebabs and dip them in melted chocolate.
  • Make pizzas and use the ingredients to make funny faces.
  • Bake cupcakes or a cake: You don’t have to be an expert chef. Just find the boxed cake ingredients and follow the recipe on the back. Make sure to involve them as much as possible, with safety in mind.
  • Make Jello.


  • Play with the sprinklers and hose if it is warm.
  • Write a letter to a family member and post it at the mailbox.
  • Soccer in the garden.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Use chalk and play hopscotch.
  • Have a water fight.
  • Go to the local park.
  • Draw with chalk on the driveway (Get parents permission first).
  • Blow bubbles: Either buy some bubbles or make up your own solution with dish soap.
Babysitting tools


Bedtime is one of the biggest struggles for a babysitter. 3 year old’s are not fond of going to bed. Kids always want to stay up later. Going to bed means missing out on fun. They might also miss their parents comforting them to sleep. It’s a difficult task. I’m going to try and give you my best tips on how to make their bedtime easy for both you and them.

Make sure that you asked where they are allowed to sleep (As I told you to do in the questions for parents section). This just makes sure you have the best chance at getting them to sleep and so they are safe.

My best tips for an easy bedtime:

  • Tire them out: Try to have some active games earlier in the evening so they feel tired enough to sleep.
  • Bath time: If you are allowed, try to bath them just before they go to sleep. Bathing is naturally relaxing and helps people fall asleep.
  • After the bath: Make sure you only do quiet and relaxing activities. Read them a book. This helps a 3 year old wind down naturally. You can encourage them to get ready and lay in bed if you promise to read them a story. It’s easy to get them to sleep then, as they start getting tired and they are already in bed.
  • Don’t let them fall asleep anywhere: If they are looking tired, don’t let them fall asleep on the couch. Encourage them to go to bed. If they fall asleep on the couch for example you will have to be extra quiet all night and if you move them they will wake up cranky.
  • Bed time: Make sure you know their bedtime and stick to it. Letting kids stay up longer seems like a great idea. But when a 3 year old is overtired they can struggle to get to sleep.
  • Naps: If you are minding their child for a longer period of time then ask about when their child has a nap. Children may need a nap in the afternoon to sleep well at night.
  • Toys: Make sure they have any special toys or blankets to help them fall asleep.
  • Sit with them: If the 3 year old wakes up and starts to cry, don’t bring them out of bed. Just stay with them and comfort them until they go back to sleep. It may take a while but they will eventually fall back to sleep.
  • Bedroom: Make sure their room is as dark and quiet as possible. If they have a night light then that is ok. Also make sure the temperature isn’t too warm or cold. People sleep better when it is slightly cooler. Aim for around 68–72°F (20–22.2°C).
  • Check on them: After they fall asleep you should check on them every 15 minutes to make sure they are ok.


After reading this article you should be confident in doing a great job as a babysitter for a 3 year old. The kids will be asking for you to come back. Just remember to plan ahead and most importantly make sure you get the parents contact details. You should also know all of the numbers for emergency services in your area.

I’m sure you will do a great job. You will make some lovely new relationships with parents and their children. You will also have the pleasure of being part of their lives and watching them grow up.

Remember not to take any criticism personally. Try and listen and see the parents point of view and if you feel like you can improve in any way then do it. If you listen to other people and take positive and fair criticism to heart. You will become the best babysitter in your area. Your phone will be constantly ringing with people trying to book you.

Make sure you head over to my article about games that 3 year olds will love for more ideas on keeping them busy and happy!