6 Steps to 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 the top pieces of advice.

Finding a Sitter

  1. Ask friends, family, coworkers and neighbors for recommendations or how they found their sitter.
  2. 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.
  3. Contact area Red Cross and YMCA who may have babysitters via their certified babysitting classes.
  4. Check the phone book for babysitting services in your area.

WHN TIP – Advice from Experts: Listen to this podcast for information about the Red Cross babysitter classes!

Making a list of your needs

  1. What type of care would you like for your child?
  2. Hours: What days/how many hours do your children need a sitter?
  3. Driving:
    • Will the babysitter need to drive to and from your home?
    • Will the sitter need to pick up/drop off the children?
  4. Food and Cleaning: Will the sitter prepare meals or do light housework?
  5. Budget: What can you afford to spend on child care?
  6. Timing: Do you need care immediately or can you wait on a waiting list?
  7. Make a list of your ‘babysitter requirements.’ Here are examples:
    • Age range
    • Personality traits
    • Experience and training (babysitter certification, CPR, first aid), etc.
    • Transportation (can drive, has own car, good driving record, etc.)
    • Number of languages spoken
    • To focus your search, circle your top three or four requirements.

Conducting 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.

WHN TIP – Special Needs: If your child has special needs or health conditions, take that into account when interviewing the sitter. You might ask if the sitter has cared for a child with a similar issue.

  1. How old are you?
  2. How long have you been a babysitter?
  3. Why are you a babysitter?
  4. What do you like most about it?
  5. What do you like the least?
  6. Have you or do you still babysit other children? What were their ages?
  7. Can you provide references from other parents?
  8. Do you have any special training or certification such as first aid or infant/child CPR? (Ask to see the certificate.)
  9. What would you do in an emergency situation?
  10. Have you ever found yourself in a tough situation? How did you handle it?
  11. What activities will you do with my children?
  12. What are your other interests? Do you have any other jobs?
  13. Do you have a driver’s license and a car? A good driving record? (Ask to see their license and proof of insurance.  If they don’t have a driver’s license, ask if you’ll need to drive them to and from your home.)
  14. How much do you charge an hour?
  15. What days/hours are you available? When are you not available?
  16. What questions do you have for me?

WHN TIP – Get Their Info: You should have their home address, home phone, cell phone and at least one parent’s contact information.

Doing a Test Run

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 important information, such as

  1. What rooms or locations are “off-limits.” (This can be covered during the tour of your home.)
  2. How to use appliances/electronics (if needed).
  3. Location of emergency exits, smoke detectors, first aid supplies, flashlights and fire extinguishers.
  4. How to activate/deactivate security system.
  5. Where any necessary keys are kept.
  6. Where the emergency information forms are posted (should be near a phone).
  7. Review house rules, routines, homework and instructions about answering the door or phone while you’re out.
  8. Any extra tasks the sitter will have to do,
  9. Read through the Babysitter Info Chart (below) with the sitter.

Post-Sitter Review

After the sitter leaves, talk with your children about the experience. Ask what they did and what they liked or didn’t like.

WHN TIP – Multiple Sitters: 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.

  1. Where you will be/can be reached
    • Name, address, and phone number
    • The time you expect to return home
  2. Parents
    • First/last names
    • Home address
    • Home phone number
    • Each parent’s cell phone number
  3. Children
    • Names
    • Ages
    • 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: List food and drug, any special medical information for reactions.
  4. Help
    • 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)
  5. House Rules: List the most important house rules for the sitter and the children:
    • Examples include whether or not guests are allowed
    • Guidelines for telephone/computer/IM use
    • Snacks (what and when to give)
    • Approved TV shows/movies, etc.
    • Bedtime for each child and any routines such as a bedtime story, etc.
    • For the sitter: rules on guests, snacks, etc.