Friday, January 8, 2010

The Lowdown on Finding and Keeping a Good Babysitter

For a mom's night out, a date with the hubby, or just some much needed R & R, who are you going to call?  Why, a babysitter, of course.  You may have a relative, a neighbor, or a friend on speed dial for those times when you need someone to watch the kids.  Finding someone whom you trust to watch your most precious treasures can sometimes be a difficult process, especially if you have just moved or don't have any close friends or family around to rely on.  Here are some tips for finding a babysitter, keeping them, and the pertinent information all babysitters should have at their disposal.

Where to find sitters
This is a site where you can find sitters in your area.  You can look at the hours they are available, what ages they are willing to babysit, their references, and if they have any clearance checks.

Local colleges
Good choices are colleges that have education programs. Here is where you can find students who plan on entering the education field. Not only will they have a background in education but they will often already have clearance checks.

Teens and adults often volunteer in the nursery program and may be willing to babysit for you.

Babysitting Coops
These are becoming popular.  You can trade babysitting serivices with friends or moms in your area.  You earn points when you babysit other people's children that you can use to redeem for free babysitting for your family.  Smart Mom's Babysitting Coop has free information on how to organize a coop. The National Network for Childcare and  iVillage  all have useful information about how to form a coop.  If you want to try to find a coop near you, you can enter your zip code at BabysitterExchange to see a list of local coops.

Old Standbys include friends, friends' children, relatives, or neighbors

Questions to ask potential sitters
These are just possible questions you may want to ask based on how well you know the person who will be babysitting for you.

What experience do you have babysitting or working with children (do they have siblings and/or have they watched children that are not related)?
Do you still babysit for any of your former clients?
What hours or days are you available?  Are you available at the last minute?
What ages would you prefer to babysit?
Are you experienced in CPR and first aid?
Do you have references or clearance checks?
Have you had any training? (ie. American Red Cross Babysitting Course)
How are you doing in school?  Will babysitting interfere with homework?
Do you have transportation to and from my house?  Do your parents approve of you babysitting (question to ask if they are teens)?
How much do you charge?
Have you had any experiences handling emergencies or children with special needs?
What activities would you do with my children?
What are your hobbies or special interests?
Are you comfortable with pets?
How would you handle discipline issues (give examples)?
What would you do if there was an emergency?
Do you know how to make easy meals, prepare bottles, change diapers?
What do you like most about babysitting and what do you like least?
List three qualities that you possess that a good babysitter should have.
Is there anything I can do to make your babysitting my children easier or a better experience? (You may want to readdress this after they have babysat your child.)

How much should you pay? In all honesty, it will vary based on the number of children and other circumstances.  It should be an amount that both you and your sitter agree on.  Sittercity has a rate caluclator that I used to figure out how much babysitters in my area are getting paid.  The amount is about $10/hour regardless of experience or age.  Based on conversations with other moms though, they usually only pay about $5-$6/hour to their teen sitters or a little more for more than one child.  A lot of the time the kids they are babysitting are in bed for most of the time.  If the sitter is traveling with you for vacation, staying overnight, is a college student, is a nanny rather than an occasional babysitter, or there is more than one child, then the amount you pay may be different.  If you live in the city or the suburbs the going rate may be a little higher.

Paving the way for the sitter to stay with your children
Have the sitter come visit while you are home so that the children can meet the sitter and get to know them.  This will help make your children less anxious when you do leave.  It also lets you see how the babysitter interacts with your children.  You can guarantee that questions will arise on both your parts so this way there is a chance to address them upfront before the sitter "goes it alone".

What information should you give a babysitter?
Schedules (ie. when the kids eat, go to bed, and when should homework be done)
Special care instructions for pets
Household rules (ie. tv, computer, what foods children can and can't have, behavior, areas of the home that are off-limits, and bedtime)
Safety instructions (ie. answering the phone, alarm system instructions, answering the door bell, and where exits are located) 
Your address, home phone number, cell phone numbers to contact you or the number of your destination, and emergency numbers (ie. police, fire, doctors, and poison control center)
Medical Information (ie. a copy of medical insurance information, any allergies, or medications that the children take)
When you will be home
What situations warrant a call to you or 911
What to do in case of an emergency
Is there an adult nearby that they can have help in the case of an emergency (ie. a neighbor)
What your expectations are of them (ie. do you expect them to have the kids pick up their toys, have the dinner dishes put away, phone use, and whether they can have friends over)

Remember to also treat your babysitter like a guest of the childrens and remind your children to treat them with respect.  Hopefully this information helps finding and using a babysitter more hassle free and gives you a chance to enjoy your time away from your children.


Pat said...

Professional nanny agencies have professional child care providers available for temporary - (on call) baby sitting. A professional agency will have a complete application on the nanny, have verified her references, done a background check and be able to give parents peace of mind while they are away from home. This is a more secure route to take compared to internet sites and word of mouth.

Anonymous said...

Here are some tips we highly recommend families using when hiring a babysitter::
1. Do a background check on the babysitter that you hire. Definitely run a criminal background check. If the caregiver will be transporting the children or doing errands; you will also want to run a driving record.
2. Do your reference checks. When getting phone #'s on the references; highly recommend you can call land lines - since you can track the land lines on who the # belongs to.
3. Make sure you spell out and have a detailed conversation on the expectations for the caregiver. Have the caregiver ask numerous questions as well. Communication is the best tool for a successful relationship.
4. Not sure what questions to ask the babysitter? Take advantage of the sample list of questions we have for registered members at
5. If you do not see the babysitteroften; have a notepad where you can both make notes for a communication tool.

Post a Comment