Hiring a babysitter for the first time, or when your regular sitter is unavailable, can be overwhelming. Breaking down the job into manageable steps helps.
First, identify your needs. What are the days and times you’ll need a sitter? What are your expectations around activities, bathing, and feeding? Consider your child’s age and the kind of care they need.
Next, consider your budget. An experienced adult will expect a higher rate than someone in high school. Also, a family member may do it for very little or even free. Once you ask for referrals, you can also ask about the local rates.
Start your search by asking for referrals from your extended family, neighbors, and coworkers. Your child care provider may have recommendations about quality child care at home, and some child care staff may even babysit outside their regular schedule.
Other possible resources include parents of other children at your child care provider, coworkers, and your place of worship. Your pediatrician’s office, local YMCA, American Red Cross chapter, or Girl Scouts leader can also be helpful. Some organizations offer a babysitting safety course and CPR certification. Online resources like care.com can also help you identify qualified babysitters in your area.
When considering a babysitter, set an initial interview by phone and have a list of questions ready. If you think someone is a match, ask them for a second interview at your house so you and your kids can meet them. It can also be helpful to have them babysit while you’re home to give you a break to do things around the house, and you’ll also see how they interact with your children.
Whether you interview candidates by phone or in person, questions can include the following:
- How much experience do you have babysitting?
- What ages have you worked with?
- What do you like most about babysitting?
- What is the hardest part of babysitting for you?
- How do you engage with children when you’re babysitting? Games? Books? Crafts?
- Are you confident in enforcing household rules?
- How would you handle a child misbehaving?
- Have you taken a babysitting or CPR course? Could you show me your certificates?
- Can I do a background check?
- Has there ever been an emergency when you were babysitting? How did you handle it?
- Do you drive? Is your driving history clean?
- Do you know how to install and secure an infant or child in a car seat? (Ask this in case of emergencies, even if you’re not planning to have the sitter drive the children anywhere.)
For a background check, you’ll want to confirm their identity, review their online presence and social media, verify their training and safety certificates, use an online service to look for any criminal history or a bad driving record, and be sure they are not on the National Sex Offender Registry.
Calling a stranger for a reference can be awkward, so have a list of questions like these ready to keep the call short.
- How did you meet the sitter? How long have you known them?
- Could you please describe them and share their best and worst qualities?
- Do they follow instructions and respond well to feedback?
- Do you still use this sitter? If not, why not?
- Do you recommend them and have any other information to add?
Once you’ve decided and hired a sitter, you’ll need to communicate guidelines, expectations, and house rules to create a safe experience that maintains schedules and essential parameters such as how much screen time, meal time, etc.
Selecting the right person to care for your children requires effort, yet the peace of mind gained knowing that your child is in good hands during an afternoon or evening out makes it worthwhile.