BANANA Bites: Tips for Teen Babysitters

Welcome to another edition of BANANA Bites where we answer your parenting and early learning questions every week! Here at BANANAS, we are excited when teenagers express interest in learning more about caring for little ones. Today we’re sharing some key tips for teens who are looking to achieve “babysitting greatness.”

Dear BANANA Bites,

I am a child care provider and also a parent. My 14-year-old son is considering becoming a babysitter for some friends of ours who have a toddler. Can you give him some ideas on how to prepare for this all-important job?

-Caregiver and Supportive Parent

Dear CaSP,

We love this question! It’s great that your son wants to get into babysitting and we have a whole “bunch” of information to pass along. Here are our Top Ten Teen Babysitting Tips:

1. Write down all important phone numbers, including cell phones for parents, guardians, and nearby family members. Also be sure that you have all emergency numbers (poison control, 911, etc.) as well as numbers for trusted neighbors who will be home while the parents are away. It is also important that you have the address and phone number (if they have a landline) of the house where you will be babysitting; make sure your family has this information as well.

2. Follow the parents’ directions about discipline. You may have certain ideas about how children should be handled but you should follow (to the best of your ability) the rules laid down by the parents. Never discipline children by hitting, spanking, threatening, and humiliating. Set clear limits, and stick to them.

3. Refrain from agreeing to do extra chores in addition to child care such as laundry, vacuuming, etc., unless you think you will have time and you really want to. Remember that these chores come second to taking care of the children. However, you still want to be sure to clean up after yourself and the children in your care.

4. Be prepared to tell parents how eating, playing, and bedtime went. Parents want information on how their children behaved in their absence; they’ll appreciate your input.

5. Keep personal calls, texts, and general cell phone use to a minimum; children can get into trouble when you are occupied on the phone.

6. Be on time! If you are unable to show up because of sickness or another circumstance, notify the parents as soon as possible. If you know another responsible sitter who will be willing to take your place, the parents may welcome this information.

7. Be clear about your rates and your transportation. Set the rate with the parent before you begin caring for a child. If you charge more or less after a certain time or for more than one child, be sure parents know ahead of time. Also make sure that you have figured out how you will get to and from the house where you’ll be babysitting.

8. Do not invite any visitors over unless you’ve been given permission to do so. If you have permission, never delegate your responsibility to that person. And, as always, don’t let any strangers into the house! 

9. Don’t take children out of the house unless you have discussed it with the parents beforehand. If you do have permission, be sure to return at the time you said you would and be sure the parents can contact you via your cell phone or the number where you’ll be while you’re away from the house.

10. Set a good example for the children by the use of appropriate language and behavior. You are an important role model for the children you care for and children learn many things, good and bad, by example.


For more in-depth discussion of topics such as diapering, playing, feeding, naps and bedtime, whether you should answer the parents’ landline (if they have one), rules about using the TV or computer, safety and first aid (super important!), saying good-bye, tantrums, and more, see our handout: Guide for Teen Babysitters.

And, this summer we’ll be holding a special Teen CPR & First Aid Training on June 18 from 10am-4pm. Click on the link for details. If you have a question for the Bunch, send an email to

BANANA Bites: What Toys Are the Best for Young Children?

It’s Tuesday again and that means we’re here to answer your parenting and early learning questions! Today we’re talking all about toy shopping and how to choose toys that will stimulate a child’s development and last for longer than a few months. Happy reading!

Dear BANANA Bites, 
My niece’s birthday is coming up and I want to get her something really special. Can you offer some tips on what to choose?
-Aunt Buying Presents

Dear ABP,
When buying a new toy, there are some important factors to consider: safety, durability, price, fun factor, and developmental purpose.

Safety: Toys should be chosen with care, especially for the very young. Safety considerations don’t end with the purchase of a toy; proper maintenance and safe storage are equally important. Always discard plastic wrappings immediately and protect outdoor toys for rust. Avoid toy boxes with heavy lids and those with no ventilation holes. Be a label-reader, particularly on toys that are labeled “not recommended for children under three, due to small parts.” Some key toys to avoid are: those small enough to be swallowed, those with detachable parts, those that can be easily broken into small pieces or pieces with jagged edges, and toys that have parts that can pinch fingers or toes, or catch hair.

Durability: You can expect some toys, such as wooden blocks, an easel, or sturdy wheel toys, will last for years with the potential of being passed to another child. These have the durability to survive your child’s play over a long span of time. When you opt for a toy with longevity, you know you are making a good investment.

Price: We all want to get the most value for our money, and when it comes to choosing toys, the same holds true. Consider purchasing items that are well made and be sure to check if they come with a manufacturer’s guarantee or if the store has a return policy. As children get older, they might begin to tell you exactly what toys they want. Items such as video games and electronics can be significantly more expensive. It’s ok to be honest and tell a child if a specific toy or game is out of the question financially. (In fact, this can serve as a great way to encourage kids to start a piggy bank or add to an existing one. There’s no better incentive for learning to save money that having a desired toy in mind!)

Fun Factor: You’ll definitely want to ensure that your child has fun with their new toy, so consider what types of play your child enjoys. Some children enjoy playing alone for hours with a set of tiny plastic people. Others prefer a to share a toy with playmates. Think about what toys have been popular with your child in the past and consider choosing a new toy that will stretch this interest further. Also, many toy manufacturers classify toys by age, but these are broad generalizations, so look beyond the label.

Developmental Purpose: Play is often called children’s work, so you can think of a toy as a tool that stimulates imagination and helps a child actively learn about the world. Children enjoy imitating tasks they see adults performing, so you can consider helping to grow this process by taking a stroll through an art supply store, sporting goods store, or hardware store and looking for items that kids can play with as a way of learning about the world. Some possibilities could be: kitchen timers, mixing bowls, whisks, clothes for dress-up, envelopes and tape, stamps and stamp pads, boxes and empty food cartons, or aprons. And, don’t forget books! They are affordable and they give children knowledge, comfort, art appreciation, humor, and joy.

For additional details on choosing age-appropriate toys, see our handout: Some Thoughts on Toy Buying. You will find more information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

BANANA Bites: Talking to Kids About Molestation

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so it calls attention to this extremely important subject. In this week’s edition of BANANA Bites we bring this tough conversation to the table and discuss ways to help keep children safe.

 Dear BANANA Bites, 

We would like to talk to our children about child abuse, and especially the dangers of molestation, without causing them extra fear. What are some ways we can help them protect themselves?

Parents Addressing Child Abuse Prevention

“Dear PACAP,

This is a subject that all parents worry about and yet it’s a topic that can be very difficult to address. We always want to protect our little ones from danger without destroying their basic trust of people or upsetting their view that this is a good world. We may shy away from the topic because we don’t think it’s possible to discuss the negative aspects of sexuality, such as adult exploitation of children, without giving disapproving messages about healthy physical affection or sex in general. However, children are exposed to media events and news stories about murders, burglaries, kidnappings, rapes, and molestations and we need to help interpret these events for children and put them into perspective.

Some facts to keep in mind are: Child molestation can occur in any neighborhood. The offender can be of any age, race, or economic level. In most cases, the offender is not a stranger, but a relative or acquaintance of the family. The victim can be either a male or female. Molestations very seldom take place in a child care program. They occur much more frequently in a home or neighborhood setting.

Six steps you can follow to help children protect themselves: 

1. Teach children their full names, addresses, and phone numbers. Also teach them your workplace number and the number for 9-1-1.

2. Talk to children about their bodies, including vagina, penis, and breasts. Teach them that these parts are private.

3. Tell your child(ren) that if anyone tries to touch or look at his/her private parts, shows them pictures of privates parts, or tries to photograph their private parts, then the child needs to tell you, a teacher, guardian, or caregiver as soon as they can.

4. Teach children that they should tell you if an adult asks them to keep secrets and emphasize that these kind of secrets are never allowed.

5. Let children know that people who want to do ‘secret touching’ might try tricks to get children to do what they want, such as offering candy or gifts or threatening them with punishment. Tell children that this is wrong and that people who do this will get in trouble for their behavior.

6. Give children specific ideas of what behaviors to watch out for and give them permission to say NO and to leave a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.

For some examples of how to have these conversations, additional tips for keeping kids safe, and resources for children and adults, please read our handout How to Talk to Your Child About Molestation.”

Please share this information and visit the resources listed in the handout, including the Megans Law website and the Center for Child Protection.

BANANA Bites: Fire Safety

Whether you are a parent or a child care provider, when you are taking care of little ones, it is absolutely, 100 percent important to know and teach fire safety. So today we’re very happy to be sharing top tips for staying safe and practicing emergency procedures with kids. Please pass on the info!

Dear BANANA Bites,

I want to talk to my kids about fire safety and I’m wondering if you can give me some clear, simple tips. I want to make sure my youngest child (she’s three) understands what to do. Thanks!

-Safety First Dad

Dear SFD,

What an important question! We appreciate you bringing it up so we can address it for all the families we serve. There are a number of important steps you can take to protect young children from a fire, and there are a few very key lessons you can ensure they know.

1. Teach everyone in your household the California fire and medical emergency number: 911. This way they will always have a go-to resource for calling in additional help services.

2. Create an emergency plan and hold routine drills to practice at least two ways that family members can escape in the event of a fire.

3. Designate an outside location to meet so everyone will know exactly where to find one another. And, repeat the importance that ONCE OUT, everyone should STAY OUT.

4. In the possible instance that a member of the family does come into contact with fire, and clothing becomes ignited, the absolute most important thing to know is to STOP, DROP, and ROLL.

5. Make a point to review ideas for detailed fire safety in BANANAS’ Stop, Drop, and Roll Handout, which includes additional information on installing smoke alarms, keeping doors closed at night, steps for creating a practice family fire drill, tips for talking to 911 operators in the event of an emergency, and more.

For more info on fire safety, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website.

– BANANA Bites

If you have a question about parenting, early education, becoming a licensed provider, or running a child care, send an email to! Remember, don’t go BANANAS, just call the Bunch!

BANANA Bites: What is a Transitional Kindergarten?

Good morning! If you have a child who is approaching their fifth birthday, you may have heard about transitional kindergartens. And like many other parents, such as today’s BANANA Bites mom, you may still have some questions. Today we’re offering all the details.

Dear BANANA Bites, 

I keep hearing other parents talk about transitional kindergartens and I want to know more about them. Can you explain what exactly a TK is?” 

-Curious Mom

Dear CM,

We get this question a lot and we’re happy to provide some clarity. Originally, transitional kindergartens were created for children whose fifth birthdays fell after the cutoff dates for public kindergarten  (September 2 to December 2). Since these kids were too young to enroll in traditional kindergartens, the California Department of Education created transitional kindergartens to support their development before they entered traditional schooling. The CDE defines TK as “the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.” Here in the Bay Area, the Oakland Unified School District defines TK in more detail. Their website explains, “Taught by a credentialed teacher with early childhood expertise, TK uses a unique, specialized curriculum that is based on the Common Core Kindergarten standards but is designed explicitly to support the social, emotional, physical, and academic needs of young five-year-olds. The TK environment includes many opportunities for social-emotional development, fine- and gross-motor activities, and oral language development for all kinds of learners, including those with special needs. OUSD’s TK program prioritizes purposeful, structured play, small-group instruction, and intentional teaching using hands-on, experiential activities. TK truly provides our youngest kindergarteners with the gift of time, enabling all students to begin traditional kindergarten ready to thrive.”

If you would like to know more about TKs, including immunization requirements, curriculum standards, and details about how transitional kindergarten differs from preschool and traditional kindergarten, please check out these FAQs from the Oakland Unified School District and the California Department of Education.


If you have a question about parenting, child care, or early childhood education, we’d love to hear it! Send an email to

BANANA Bites: Staying Connected with Grandparents

Welcome to another edition of BANANA Bites! Today we’re focusing on ways to stay connected to grandparents and other family members who may live too far away for frequent visits. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to ensure that your little one is in touch with everyone in the family no matter where they live!

Dear BANANA Bites,

We recently moved to Oakland from the East Coast and our three-year-old daughter really misses seeing her grandma and grandpa. Do you have any tips for ways to help her stay connected to them even with all these miles in between?

-Mom Feeling Disconnected

Dear MFD,

We definitely understand how tough it is to be away from loved ones. In order to help kids maintain relationships with family members who are located on different parts of the map, we came up with some simple, fun ideas to stay connected. Here are our top five favorites:

1. Create an original story with your child and then send it to family members asking them to write the next chapter. This is a creative way to exchange ideas, encourage imagination, and inspire continued correspondence.

2. Have your child make a collage of what grandparents or other loved ones mean to them using magazines, cards, stickers, and other materials.

3. Plant a tree or flowering shrub in honor of a grandparent and take photos to show how tall it has grown. If possible, send along a cutting from your tree or shrub so grandparents can grow a “twin” where they live.

4. Ask grandparents to record themselves reading your child’s favorite story and play it while you turn the pages. Any opportunity to encourage kids to #TalkReadSingPlay is a great one!

5. Keep family traditions alive by asking grandparents for a treasured recipe. Make this special dish with your little one’s help while talking about your memories of eating it as a child.

For more ideas on how to stay close and connected, check out our handout on Bridging the Miles and the Years.


If you have a question on parenting, early education, or child care, send an email to

BANANA Bites: Help! My Child Has Lice!

We’re back with a new edition of our parenting and early learning column, where we answer YOUR questions! Today’s topic: the dreaded discovery of head lice. Answers below!

Dear BANANA Bites,

I recently discovered that my child’s day care has had an outbreak of lice and it looks like our son, who is 5, now has nits in his hair. I want to make sure we do everything possible to get rid of these pests. What is the best course of action?

– Really Bugged Dad

Dear RBD,

Great question! It can be truly upsetting to discover the signs of lice in our loved ones, but rest assured there are ways to wipe the bugs out.

Step One: There are two types of lice treatments currently on the market: nonprescription (RID, Triple X, Nix and A 200 Pyrinate) and prescription. Discuss their advantages and disadvantages with your pharmacist or physician. Most treatments will require a repeat application seven to ten days after the first application. Read and follow the directions carefully, especially when treating infants, pregnant or nursing women, or people with extensive scratches on their heads or necks. Use of mayonnaise, vaseline or kerosene is not recommended.

Step Two: After using the shampoo, cream, or lotion, the dead nits must be removed from the hair – a truly tedious job that will extend over several days. One effective method is using a metal nit comb available at pharmacies.

Step Three: After treating the people, you should treat the environment. Launder clothing, head gear and bed linens in hot water and dry in a dryer. Non-washable items can be placed in airtight plastic bags and stored for two weeks, which should kill any eggs. Consider how the infestation might be spread – a toy corner with dress-up hats and veils or a favorite storytime rug that everyone likes to lie on. See that these items are either vacuumed well or thrown in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. A treated child may return to school or child care within 24 hours if the nits have been removed. You will need to routinely reinspect the child’s head to make sure s/he has not been reinfested. A good schedule for inspecting your child’s head is to do it on Fridays after school or child care so you can treat the child on the weekend or do it on Monday morning before school or child care so you can keep your child home that day if lice are present.

– BANANA Bites

For more information on this pesky problem, check out our BANANAS handout: Head Lice and visit If YOU have a question about parenting, running a child care, or early education, please send it to

BANANA Bites: How Can I Protect My Kids from Measles?

Welcome back to this week’s edition of BANANA Bites, where we answer YOUR questions about parenting and early childhood education. Today we’re addressing the very important subject of measles and how to prevent it from spreading to children. This is a must-read for parents and child care providers!

Dear BANANA Bites, 

I run a family child care here in Oakland and I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to keep the kids in my program safe from the spread of measles. What are the best ways to do this and where can I find more information about this topic? Thanks in advance. 

– Provider Who Wants Measles Prevention


We absolutely agree about the importance of measles prevention and are so happy to address this topic. According to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF), childhood diseases like measles can cause children pain and discomfort. These diseases can lead to doctor visits, hospitalization, and even death. The ACF recognizes immunizations as the best way to protect young children from 14 serious diseases, including measles. A recent announcement in conjunction with the California Department of Education, Early Education Support Division, notes, “Measles can be dangerous—especially for babies and young children. Measles spreads very easily, so it is important to protect against infection. To prevent measles, eligible children should be vaccinated with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The measles vaccine has been used for years, and it is safe and effective. The ACF’s Office of Head Start and Office of Child Care consider it critical that children in programs are vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization recommendations.”

Recommendations from the CDC can be accessed here. This document includes guidance for child care programs to follow state and local immunization requirements and also discusses what to do if a case of measles occurs in your program.

One of the most important contributions child care programs can make is to reach out to parents. The CDC has also provided sample materials and articles to share with parents in newsletters, web pages, or other publications.

·       Immunization Protects Us All 

·       Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child 

·       Easy-to-read vaccination schedules in English and Spanish

Please share this information with friends and family members to help ensure all children are kept safe and healthy!


If you have a question for the Bunch, please email

BANANA Bites: How Do I Get My Kids to Clean Their Rooms?

Welcome to our inaugural edition of BANANA Bites! Each week we’ll feature a client question and an answer from a member of the BANANAS Bunch. This week we’ve got a question from a parent dealing with her child’s messy room. Whether you’re a child care provider or a parent yourself, you have no doubt dealt with this issue. Luckily, we’ve got some great strategies to help young ones keep things tidy.

Dear BANANA Bites,

My four-year-old daughter loves to create elaborate adventures for her stuffed animals, which often (or more like always) results in an enormous mess from one end of her bedroom to the other. Clothes, blankets, toys, books—you name it, it’s strewn all over the floor. I love that she plays with such enthusiasm and I want to encourage her creativity, but getting her to clean up afterward is nearly impossible. Even offering prizes (gold fish or peanut butter crackers) doesn’t do the trick. Do you have any tips for a mom who just wants the clean-up routine to be a breeze and not a battle?

– Mom with a Mess

Dear MWaM,

You are not alone! This is a common struggle for anyone who cares for young children. Here are five ideas that you can try.

  1. Always give a five-minute “warning” that a clean-up time is coming. Setting a timer works well with some children.
  2. Break down cleaning a room by tasks: “First pick up the toys on your bed, then the ones on the floor, then put the books back on the shelf…”
  3. Set the time for clean-up just before some favorite activity (i.e., a TV show or trip to the playground).
  4. Set a deadline. Allow your child’s room to be messy, but make clear that is needs to be cleaned by a certain time. Some older kids enjoy the freedom they get from being able to “choose” when to do the clean-up.
  5. Don’t expect a child’s clean-up job to be perfect and don’t forget to give lots of praise for a job reasonably well done.

– BANANA Bites

For more information on this subject, check out our BANANAS handout: The Uphill Struggle – Getting Young Children to Clean Up Their Rooms.

Parents and Child Care Providers, if you have other tips that work well for you, please leave a comment! If you have a child care question, we’d love to hear from you. You could be the next featured question on BANANA Bites. Please email And remember, don’t go bananas, just ask the Bunch!