1. it's ok to steal ideas
like the way their cabinets are organized? see a great use for a piece that you have as well? um, why not? i've even asked questions of "hey, how did you..."
think of it as a living pinterest ;-)
2. there are ranch dressing people and (*gasp*) non-ranch dressing people.
or, always check available condiments before fixing a particular meal
3. a little clean-up is always appreciated
i go in with the motto of "leave the house a little better than i found it". whether that means wiping down the counters, or picking up the toys scattered all over the couch...doing something that takes me 10 minutes means that they get 10 minutes of free(er) time when they get home
4. always bring your own caffeine (or other vice)
because...they won't always have your drink of choice. and sometimes...you just NEED another coffee. trust me.
(uh...it goes without saying, hopefully, that if your vice is an actual vice you should leave it at home. you don't need a glass of wine* or a cigarette or...whatever to get through a few hours with kids. if you do, you shouldn't be there)
5. if you want to eat your food of choice, bring it
most of my clients are amazing at literally opening up their fridge, freezer or pantry to me. but i always have something in my computer bag that i can fix and be happy about if their choices for me don't sound good!
6. be early, if possible
in nashville traffic with my tight schedule this is nearly impossible for me...but i find that if i PLAN to be early i'm rarely late. and on time is good :-)
7. know the area
if there's construction, crazy traffic, or an accident on your normal path, you don't want to have to rely on a gps to get to a place you've been several times. know alternate ways in and out, just in case
8. don't believe everything the children say, no matter how cute and sweet they seem. also, enforce the rules you ARE sure about.
most likely they AREN'T allowed to watch 3 hours of tv, jump on the couch, or stay up reading for an hour after bedtime. i always err on the side of strictness...because one night of not getting to do something that seems abnormal to you isn't going to hurt anything, whereas if you let them get away with something it may (a) cause problems for the parents or (b) cause you not to get a call back.
9. actually PLAY with the kids
they'll love it (and you!). there are always those kids who'd rather you not play with them (because they're too busy), but they still like attention, so find other ways to interact. asking them about a particular toy, suggesting play-doh, making a necklace with plastic beads...something to engage them. you're not there to be their constant companion (unless the parents are delusional) but you ARE there to be the adult presence. and since you likely don't have a huge list of household chores to get done (unless, again, the parents are delusional OR are paying you extra) you may as well kick back and enjoy the children :-)
10. enjoy the conversations
i LOVE talking with children, particularly those under 5. you'll be completely entertained if you just listen and interact for awhile! i have all sorts of gems written down...that's a thursday's ten list all it's own.
*it should be noted that i often babysit for friends or people i know well who say "hey, feel free to have a glass of wine when the kids are in bed!". i DO sometimes take them up on that, but that's a complete trust issue (they trust me to not be drunk or drink when the kids are up). i never bring my OWN alcohol, or drink theirs without explicitly being told to help myself.