Hiring a babysitter is an enigmatic problem. It is both one of the easiest and most difficult tasks a parent faces.
Babysitters are readily available for children, but finding a good one is not so simple. Even more challenging is knowing what it takes to find a good babysitter.
Finding a babysitter requires knowing your expectations and asking the right questions during the interview. Some parents prefer babysitters who are referred by family and friends. Babysitting services are good options as well.
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The materials required for a babysitter are not incredibly different than the ones you might already have on hand.
Make sure they know where to find important items like toys, snacks, and a first aid kit. It’s very important you have a first aid kit. If you don’t have one check out this one.
Give them access to a car seat that is easy to install or, if your child is still an infant, install an extra infant seat base in their vehicle if they will be driving.
Other materials that are helpful for babysitters include:
- Magnetic list of emergency numbers
- Babysitter note pad
- Busy box for kids
- Baby monitor with remote camera
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You will also want to make sure you have plenty of healthy, age-appropriate snacks on hand for the babysitter and your child. Don’t forget to leave a spare key behind as well.
Better yet, install a keyless deadbolt so your sitter never has to worry about being locked out.
How to Hire a Babysitter
Hiring a babysitter is similar to finding any childcare (nanny, daycare, au pair, etc.). It all starts with a plan.
Know what you need, what you should expect and where to find the right babysitter. Soon enough, you will find the right fit for you and your children.
Step 1. Make a Thoughtful List of Needs
The first thing you need to do is figure out exactly what you need. Make a list of must-have attributes for any babysitter. Consider these your deal-breaker items. Some of your needs might include:
- Previous babysitting experience
- CPR certification
- Driver’s license and car
- Availability during specific hours
Your needs may not be the same as someone else’s. If you find yourself talking to a friend who insists all babysitters be fluent in Spanish, don’t feel you need the same if your family isn’t bilingual.
Related: 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter
Step 2. Make a List of Wants
It is very important not to confuse the attributes your child’s babysitter must have with those that you desire.
For instance, you might want a babysitter who can help with homework, but that is unlikely to be on your list of must-haves.
Any extras, like a sitter with more flexibility or a willingness to help with animals might fall on your list of wants.
Step 3. Budgeting for a Babysitter
Babysitters are not free. You will need to budget for the babysitter just as you would for any other service. Think about how much you’re able to pay and how much is too much.
In general, you can expect to pay no less than $11 per hour and no more than $22. However, you should also budget for food and tips.
Related: 10 Tips for Reducing Childcare Costs
Step 4. Finding a Sitter
There are two standard ways parents find sitters: through referrals (a friend or family member) and through services.
Most parents have friends or family members who have some experience with babysitters in the area.
They can generally recommend a good sitter. Co-workers and other parents are also good places to turn to get referrals.
An increasingly popular way to find a babysitter is through a service like Care.com. These portals provide access to local sitters, their profiles and their contact information.
In other words, it’s a way to post babysitter jobs or be connected with a prospective sitter. Many offer apps that allow you to connect directly with sitters so you can immediately begin the interview process.
Some even pre-screen babysitters so you can see criminal background checks before you make contact.
As a side note Care is not just for finding a babysitting service. If you’re looking for a potential nanny, a daycare, or any other childcare services.
Platforms such as Care are a good way to be connected to a caregiver. Go here to start looking today.
Step 5. Interview Questions
Hiring a babysitter is the same as hiring for any other type of job. You will need to interview the sitter to learn if they are a good fit.
Make a list of interview questions that you can have prepared so you are not flying blindly when talking with the prospective sitter. Following are some standard questions to get you started.
1. How long have you been babysitting?
Not all babysitters have lengthy experience. Many start when they are young teenagers. Others might find babysitting as a way to earn extra cash well into adulthood, though they may not have any hands-on experience with children. If babysitting experience is important to you, you should ask this question.
2. What hours are you available?
This is an important question to ask if you are looking for a babysitter with flexibility. Those with very short, rigid hours might not always be a good fit.
3. What activities do you plan while babysitting?
Ask this as an open-ended question so you can learn if your potential babysitter has thought through how to interact with children. It will also tell you if they understand which activities are age-appropriate.
4. Have you ever encountered an emergency situation and what did you do?
Watching children means being prepared for anything. Find out if your would-be sitter has any experience in this arena. If not, ask them to describe any situation in which they had to act quickly.
5. Do you have CPR certification or other training?
CPR certification is standard among babysitters. It is easily found online or in-person through organizations like the American Red Cross.
If the sitter does not have this certification, encourage them to seek it out. You might even consider helping them with the associated costs if they seem like a good fit in all other ways.
In addition to CPR training, find out if the sitter has younger siblings or has taken child development courses in high school or college.
6. Can you drive? Do you have a car?
Not all sitters drive, and this is rarely an issue. However, it is good to know if a sitter has a car and if they are responsible drivers.
They may want to take your children out for ice cream or to spend some time at a park. Make sure you know they have a safe driving record and that they have appropriate child safety seats installed in the car they may choose to use.
7. How much do you charge?
You will need to know the payment expectations well in advance of hiring the sitter.
Some young sitters might not yet have experience talking about money and maybe nervous about approaching the subject. Therefore, you shouldn’t wait for them to tell you.
If you’re going to have the sitter wash dishes, do laundry or any other household chores now would also be a good time to solidify what the job description is going to be.
On top of that confirm how much extra they might want to be paid for doing extra tasks outside of watching your young children.
8. Do you have any allergies?
A question that is often forgotten is one that is vitally important. Allergies can be life-threatening, which puts the care provider and the children in danger.
Learn in advance if the babysitter is allergic to pets, if you have them, or certain nuts. Having allergies should not be a deal-breaker, but it will help you to prepare when the sitter is at your home.
Step 6. Have a Trial Run
Many parents like to introduce the babysitter to the children before they spend a significant amount of time together.
It’s a good idea to have a trial arrangement in which the sitter and the child(ren) are allowed to get to know one another. An hour is usually all it takes to learn if it is a good fit.
That one-hour trial can give you much-needed time to clean, run errands, or even take a nap.
Step 7. Preparing for the Babysitter
Once you have determined that the baby sitter is the right one for your family, you have a bit of preparation in your future.
Get everything ready in advance of the sitter’s arrival and your children should have a successful night.
Here are some things you should consider prepping in advance of the first time the babysitter is watching your kids.
1. Talk With Your Children
Older children will need to be given some ground rules for interacting with the babysitter. Let them know what is expected of them, how they should behave, and what is and isn’t appropriate.
Tell them that they will need to follow any bedtime routines and carry out any chores that would be required if you were home.
2. Make Meal Plans
Babies may need bottles ready-made before you leave. Older children might want meals or snacks. Have everything ready and labeled so the sitter has little difficulty.
3. Think About Activities
You may choose to set aside some fun activities for your kids to do with the sitter. Many moms and dads have busy boxes that are used only when sitters come around.
Others let their kids have more screen time than they normally would. You could leave this in the hands of your sitter, but you might have more peace of mind if you have a list of approved activities.
4. Secure Unsafe Items
Ideally, any items in your home that may not be safe should already be fully secured.
However, you should use the sitter’s arrival as an opportunity to double-check that all alcohol, medication or any firearms are safely stashed away in a location that is not reachable by children.
5. Provide Emergency Numbers
The babysitter may need to reach you in case of an emergency. Provide your cell phone, the number of the location(s) where you can be found and a specific time for your return home.
You should also leave numbers of neighbors or other people who will be available if you can’t be reached.
Step 8. What Not to Expect
Babysitters are hired to watch your little ones. Their job is to ensure the safety of your young ones while you are away.
Anything above and beyond this duty should not be expected unless you make arrangements with the sitter beforehand and plan to pay them extra.
Some of these duties include:
- Pet care
- House cleaning
- Yard work
- Running errands
There are sitters who are more than happy to earn extra money by taking on some of these additional duties. If you want or expect any of these surplus tasks, it should be brought up during the interview.
Babysitters should not be expected to watch additional children. If your children have friends over, your sitter will need to be paid for the extra child in the same way that they are paid for your own.
Discourage your children from inviting friends over when a sitter is present unless it has been discussed and okayed with both the sitter and that child’s parent.
Parents might expect a sitter to be able to drive children to and from their various activities after school. This is another item that should be discussed with the sitter in advance.
They will need to be compensated for the extra duty and the gas. You should never spring a sudden change in plans on a babysitter who is not prepared.
It may seem like a lengthy process, but it is worth taking the time to find the right babysitter.
Once you have, you will feel comfortable that your children are in the presence of a safe and responsible caregiver.