University of Illinois Extension
a guide to the business of babysitting
 

Sleeping

Ask parents about the child's bedtime routine, no matter what age the child is. What does the child do before going to sleep at naps and at night time? Follow the usual sleeping routine so that the child feels more secure and can sleep easier.

Infants

Younger infants generally sleep when they are tired. Some infants have difficulty relaxing and settling to sleep. Some infants get "over-tired" and then have trouble sleeping. It is really important to get to know the infant by asking a lot of questions and watching carefully to see what helps the infant calm down.

Older infants usually have a "routine" – something that the parent does each time the child is put to sleep. Ask the parent first, and then try other calming techniques to help the infant go to sleep:

  • Play soft, calm music.
  • Gently pat on the back and hum.
  • If the child cries a little bit, but remains laying on the bed, try being quiet in the room or leave quietly. Do not let the child cry for more than just a few minutes before you go in and help. If the child stands up or cries a lot, help the child relax and settle down to sleep.

It is not always easy to put an infant to sleep. Do not be surprised if it takes a great deal of time.

Toddlers

  • Ask the parent what the "routine" is – how the parent puts the child to sleep.
  • Toddlers usually like to play more than they like to sleep. Make sure you help the child calm down first by reading books or laying down and telling a story.
  • Generally toddlers do not need to "cry" before they sleep, so make sure you help the child calm down and relax enough to sleep.

Preschoolers

  • Ask the parent what the child likes to do before he or she goes to sleep.
  • Keep activities calm before naptime or going to bed. For safety reasons, make sure you are available when the child is settling to sleep. Preschool children can get up and may get into unsafe situations.
  • Read books, relax and play imagery games to help the preschooler close his or her eyes. Imagine sitting by the river or watching clouds in the sky.

School-Age Children

  • Make sure you know the parent's request for the time the child is to be in bed, and what time the parent would like the child to be asleep.
  • Older children often like to read before they go to sleep, sometimes they like to be read to and sometimes they like to read by themselves. This helps them relax.
  • If the child has had a very active day it might be difficult to calm down enough to sleep. You might need to do calming activities like listening to calm music or playing laying down games using their imagination. For instance, imagine soaring above the clouds – what would it feel like?
  • Some children might be too excited because you are there. You might assure them that when they wake up, their parents will be home.