Choosing a Babysitter
We researched the subject, interviewed babysitters, babysitting agencies, the American Red Cross and moms and dads about finding a good babysitter. Here are their top pieces of advice.
- Ask friends, family, coworkers and neighbors for recommendations or how they found their sitter.
- Place ads online (like craigslist) or at local places of worship, schools, local newspapers, and family/children publications. Look for networking agencies online as well.
- Your area American Red Cross and YMCA may have babysitters via their certified babysitting classes.
- Check the phone book for babysitting services in your area.
What Do You Need?
- What type of care would you like for your child?
Full-time? — Consider choosing a nanny
- Outside the home? — Consider finding child care
- What days/how many hours are needed?
- Will the babysitter need to drive to and from your home?
- Will the sitter have to pick up/drop off the children?
- What can you afford to spend on child care?
- Do you need care immediately or can you be placed on a waiting list?
What Are Your Preferences?
- Experience and training (babysitter certification, CPR, first aid), etc.
- Fluency in a specific language or other skill (sign language, for example)
- Specific age range
- Personality traits
- Willingness to do other tasks: prepare meals or do light housework
The Sitter Interview
While you can interview over the phone, it's smart to meet face-to-face to see how the sitter interacts with you and your children.
- Why are you a babysitter?
- What do you like most about it?
- What do you like the least?
- Have you or do you still babysit other children? What were their ages?
WHN Tip: Ask for references from other families for whom the sitter has provided childcare
- Do you have any special training or certification such as first aid or infant/child CPR?
- What would you do in an emergency situation?
- Have you ever found yourself in a tough situation? How did you handle it?
- What activities will you do with my children?
- What are your other interests? Do you have any other jobs?
- Do you have a driver's license and a car? Do you have a good driving record?
WHN Tip: Don't take their word for it.
Verify that the sitter has a good driving record, valid driver's license, car insurance, vehicle in good running order and with sufficient seatbelts.
If they don't have a driver's license, ask if you'll need to drive them to and from your home. Make sure you get their home address.
- How much do you charge an hour?
- What days/hours are you available? When are you not available?
- What questions do you have for me?
If you like the sitter, arrange for a "test run" – a chance for both you and the kids to get to know and evaluate the babysitter. For instance, have the sitter watch the kids for an hour or so while you run to the grocery store or do other errands. Then ask yourself and the kids what they thought.
WHN Tip: Before the Sitter Arrives
Remind your children about family safety instructions and appropriate/inappropriate behavior for the family and the babysitter.
Briefing the Babysitter
When your sitter arrives, go over the important information s/he needs while you're out. This might include:
A tour of your home
How to use appliances/electronics (if needed).
Location of emergency exits, smoke detectors, first aid supplies, flashlights and fire extinguishers.
How to activate/deactivate security system.
Where any necessary keys are kept.
Where the emergency information forms are posted (should be near a phone).
Review house rules, routines, homework and instructions about answering the door or phone while you're out.
Read through the Babysitter Info Chart (below) with the sitter.
WHN Tip: Before You Leave
Ask to see the sitter's driver's license (if they have one). Jot down all the pertinent information - name, home address, date of birth - just in case there's an emergency.
After the sitter leaves, talk with your children about the experience. Ask what they did and what they liked/didn't like.
WHN Tip: It's a good idea to have more than one sitter for your children in case your regular sitter is busy.
The Babysitter Info Chart
Before you leave, complete and post this chart in a prominent place; be sure the babysitter and your children know where it is and what's on it. It's long, and while it's certainly not limited to this, you can pick and choose what you'd like to include.
- Where you will be/can be reached
- Name, address, and phone number
- The time you expect to return home
- First/last names
- Home address
- Home phone number
- Each parent's cell phone number
About Your Children
- Birth dates
- Height, weight, hair and eye color (Why? In case children get lost)
- Children's cell phone numbers (if needed)
- Medication(s) the child takes, the name of the med, time last given, time next dose due, dosage to give
- Allergies: food, drug, other (such as cats), any special medical information for reactions.
In Case Of Emergency
- Emergency numbers: doctors, pediatrician, police and fire departments, poison control 1 (800) 222-1222.
- Nearest intersections/directions to the house (Why? In case it's necessary to give directions to emergency services)
- Neighbors: Name and phone number (in case of emergency)
List the most important house rules for the sitter and the children. For example:
- Whether guests/friends are allowed
- The guidelines for telephone/computer/IM use
- Approved TV shows, snacks, activities
- Bedtime routine for each child: night lights, bed time, before-bed customs
Child CareChoosing a Babysitter