Most of us hire a babysitter and expect that he or she will keep our children safe, entertain them, feed and bathe them and put them to bed. If that's where your expectation of a sitter ends, you may be missing out on reaping the benefits of your savvy sitter's abilities and creativity, as well as a rewarding experience for your child. Here are five things you may not have realized your sitter can do with your child:
Imagine covering childcare and teaching your child the rewards of giving back all at the same time. Ask your babysitter to spend time volunteering with your child. She may already have an organization or cause that she'd be happy to introduce to your child -- maybe it's something that's near and dear to her heart or an area that she knows would interest your child. Otherwise, check out services like Volunteer Match to find a service opportunity that is suitable for your child and his sitter to tackle. You'll find many opportunities to help, including collecting art supplies for children in need, visiting the elderly, organizing book drives, supporting the environment and tons of other activities that can be done in your own neighborhood or even virtually. Parents Magazine publishes a handy, thorough guide to volunteering resources that also makes it incredibly simple to find an opportunity that allows your child to truly make a difference. You or your sitter should contact the organization ahead of time to make sure they allow children to participate.
Your child may be feeling a little "been there, done that" about the neighborhood park he and his sitter regularly visit. Why not expand his horizons by suggesting his sitter take him on a safe and simple hike? Hiking is not only great physical exercise, it's also good for the mind and spirit. It's an excellent opportunity to pull kids away from the screen and give them fresh air and a chance to experience and enjoy the outdoors. Regardless of where you live, there are family-friendly trails to explore -- even in all five boroughs of NYC. Each borough is home to parks and greenways with wooded trails that are easily accessible to even young children. For resources, tips on hiking with kids and gear recommendations, check out the American Hiking Society's website.
3. "Mommy" and Me classes.
Mommy/Daddy and Me classes aren't just for parents and their children. Allow your babysitter to fill in for you if you can't make the class or if it's simply not your thing. The classes are not only good for your child's physical development and education, they are also great for socialization and building new friendships. If your child is often at home with you or a sitter, classes offer a prime opportunity to expand his horizons and interactions. There are numerous types of class offerings, including dance, tumbling, yoga, cooking, art and music. Many are offered as part of a semester program or package, but there are drop-in options out there, too.
It's unlikely your child would turn down a chance for some pool time, regardless of the season. This time of year, water play at a local, indoor pool is an ideal activity for getting some exercise and having fun. If your babysitter is on board and responsible enough to take your child in the water, ask her to bring a swimsuit and leave her the info for a local pool and its Open Swim hours. You'll first want to talk with her about water safety, reminding her to keep her eyes on your child at all times and to never allow him to be in the water alone. Check to see if she has current child/infant CPR certification, and if not, consider offering to pay for her training. Also, make sure she is aware of your child's comfort level in the water, as well as his swimming ability. You may even want to take advantage of swimming lessons that may be offered while they are at the pool, truly knocking out several birds at once!
5. Party helper.
Your sitter may not be a party planner, but she may be willing and even excited to help chaperone your child's birthday party, Valentine's Day class gathering or any other kiddie celebration at your home or school. It's amazing how much easier it is to host a party when you have an extra set of hands. Having someone to keep the party rolling smoothly frees you up so that you can better enjoy the festivities, too. Your child will likely be thrilled to have the special guest at his party, and happy to introduce his friends to his favorite babysitter.
There are many fun, creative activities and learning experiences your child can enjoy with his sitter that go well beyond typical playtime. The next time you hire a babysitter, give her a few suggestions for new ways she can spend time with your child. She'll likely appreciate the ideas as much as your child will.