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Choosing the Right Babysitter

Updated on April 28, 2015

Tips on how to find a babysitter that's right for you.

Finding a babysitter you trust and the kids love can be a challenge. Whether we have to be away from home for work or play, we want to make sure our children are safe and cared for while we're gone.

So what should you look for in a babysitter?

Below are a few tips to consider when choosing a babysitter.

Where do you find a babysitter?

Ask your friends. Other parents are a wonderful source of information about babysitting. Talk with them about their experiences with the sitter.

Check with Schools or Community Centers. Check with your local community center. Many offer babysitting preparation classes, and may keep a list of the kids who finish the course and are looking for baby sitting jobs. Colleges that specialize in early childhood education are a particularly good place to find students genuinely interested in children. As a special bonus they may have some background in child development.

Church The head of a youth group may personally know congregants who are interested in babysitting.

Advertising in a community newspaper I feel this should be the last resort, after checking with neighbors, friends, family, and other trusted sources. The advantage of this is that you will reach a wide pool of people. The disadvantage is that you will have no control over the number and range of people applying for the job. Certainly if you advertise in a newspaper, or through a notice on a bulletin board, it is essential to meet a babysitter and carefully check all references before you hire them.

How old should a babysitter be?

Most parents find that 6th, 7th and 8th graders make ideal babysitters. They have the maturity to be responsible and do not have the same social distractions as kids in their later teens. Girls are often slightly more mature than boys at this age, however.

Many babysitting courses set the minimum age at 11.

The age of your own children also plays a factor. If you have an infant, a babysitter in their later teens may be a better choice. They are more likely to have more patience, problem solving skills and the strength needed to hold and carry the infant.

You may not want to choose a child close in age to your own children (e.g. a 12 year old to watch your 10 year old). Your child may see the babysitter more as a peer instead of an authority figure.

What questions should you ask when interviewing a babysitter?

Here are some sample questions to ask when interviewing a potential babysitter:

Have you babysat previously? If so, please describe your experience.Have you received any specialized training for child care (such as first aid/CPR, attended a babysitter course, or taken related school courses)?Do you have any health restrictions that could affect your ability to babysit? (for example an allergy to pets you may have in the house)Why do you enjoy working with children?What do you like to do with them to keep them amused? What fun activities do you enjoying doing with kids?What age children do you most enjoy? Least enjoy? Why? Which age group are you most comfortable/experienced with?Will you drive yourself to our home, or do you need to be picked up or dropped off?What will you do if the kids aren't getting along?Do you know how to prepare a simple meal?What was your worst babysitting experience, and why? (See how the candidate worked through the problem.)Do you have a list of references? (If you have not already spoken with someone about the babysitter beforehand, be sure you call and talk with references before entrusting a person to care for your child.)What can I do as a parent to help make your babysitting experience with my kids a success?

If you have an infant make sure to ask the following questions:

How do you soothe a crying infantWhat's the best way to put a baby down to sleep? (Make sure that the sitter knows to place an infant on her back to sleep, never on her stomach or side.)Do you know how to change a diaper...and are you comfortable with changing even the really messy kinds?

Questions to ask references:

How well do you know her?How often did/does she babysit for you?What are her strengths?What are her weaknesses?How did your kids like her?Was she willing to clean up after herself on the job?What areas could she improve in?Is there anything else you would like to add?

Determining How Much to Pay Your Babysitter

Hourly ranges of pay for babysitters run anywhere from $3.00 to $15.00. The best way to determine the going rate in your neighborhood is to ask around. Talk to other parents in your community about what they have paid. Babysitters often set their own rates and will communicate this to you when you talk to them about a potential job.

Babysitting rates-usually paid by the hour-depend on a variety of factors, from where you live, to the ages and temperaments of your children. The type of sitter you hire also can be an important aspect in determining the amount you should pay. Adolescents who are just starting out will probably receive less than older, more experienced teens or adults. Babysitters with special qualifications or training might also receive higher rates. Some babysitters charge an extra dollar or two per hour for each child, over and above their base rate for one child.

Trial Run

So you've found a babysitter - what now?

If using a new babysitter for the first time it is a good idea to invite them over for a short period of time when you are present to interact with your child. Pay them the normal hourly rate and explain that it is a "get-to-know-you" session so that your child will be more at ease the first time he/she is left alone with the sitter. If this is not possible, ask the sitter to arrive thirty minutes early the first time they are to watch your child so that there is time to get acquainted before you leave.

Make sure you are clear on your rules about TV watching and phone usage. If you would prefer your babysitter leaves his/her cell phone and music devices at home, express that ahead of time. Texting and listening to music can distract them from watching your children properly.

Set out a game time boredom buster box filled with games and other activities you think your children would like to do, just in case the babysitter runs out of ideas.

Information to leave your babysitter

Contact information for you and your partner Home phone, work phone, and cell phone numbers (and pager number if you have one), as well as the number at the place you'll be (restaurant, friends' house, etc.). Tell your sitter not to open the door to anyone she's not expecting, and warn her if anyone will be stopping by or calling.

Emergency contact information This includes fire, police, doctor, and hospital numbers. If your children have specific medical insurance numbers, provide those as well. It's also smart to designate one or two neighbors, friends, or relatives as local contacts. Leave their names, numbers, and addresses. That way your sitter has someone to turn to in case of miscellaneous mishaps, such as a pet that gets loose or a power outage. Also, leave clear written directions to your house so she can give them out to fire, police, or medical personnel in an emergency.

A mapped escape route In case of fire or some other crisis that requires hasty evacuation, your sitter should be aware of all the possible exits from your house. Also make sure she knows where to find the fire extinguisher, the first-aid kit, the circuit breaker, the water shutoff, and a flashlight.

Medical information about your baby If your child has any allergies or other medical conditions, or needs to take medication, tell your sitter about it in advance. Also inform her of any additional health problems - such as a bad case of diaper rash or a tendency to spit up food.

Food and drink list Don't leave this to chance. Your sitter may not be aware of foods that pose choking hazards. Leave specific instructions outlining what your children can and can't eat and drink. And if the sitter will be preparing formula or giving your baby expressed breast milk, make sure she knows how to do it. Putting out some appropriate kids snack baskets will keep them from picking the wrong things.

Activity schedule Your children feel more comfortable sticking to their usual routine, so let your sitter know what time meals are, when bedtime is, and how the bedtime routine works. (If you usually read baby's favorite book for example, let her know that.) For babies, you may want to print out a daily baby activity sheet for your sitter to fill out -- that way you'll be able to see what and how much your baby ate while you were out, when he had a wet or dirty diaper, and so on. Finally, it's wise to let your sitter know about any special words for favorite toys or security objects like baby blankets.

What tips do you have for finding a babysitter?

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    • profile image

      joebirrell 3 years ago

      A great babysitter is awesome!

    • profile image

      dessertlover 6 years ago

      Great lens, and very helpful tips!

    • squid-janices7 profile image

      squid-janices7 6 years ago

      What an informative and useful lens for any parent looking for a great babysitter! Wow - rates have really gone up since I was a sitter....I was lucky to make a $1 an hour....guess that means I'm old :)

    • profile image

      stefalex 6 years ago

      Use coupons such as sittercity promo code to save on your membership.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Blessed by a squid angel and featured at: Angel Blessings 2010. Best wishes

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Great information! Blessed by a squid angel and featured at: Angel Blessings 2010. Best wishes

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lens - great topic! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lens - great topic! :)

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      This is great! Excellent topic choice.