Leaving your kids at home for date night with your partner, or even for a girls’ night out, should be a fun and stress-free event. It can be, if your children are left with a quality babysitter you trust. Not sure how to pick a babysitter?
Choosing a babysitter can be a daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be. By following a few simple tips, you can learn how to pick a babysitter, and what the going rate for a good babysitter is. Also read about how to prepare your babysitter for your day or night out.
Handing your childcare duties off to a babysitter can give you that much-needed break you deserve. But you want to know your kids are being left in good hands—and your kids want to have fun in the process, too.
Read on for 5 tips for how to pick a babysitter for your kids.
1) It’s personal: Get recommendations from trusted friends and sources
You likely turn to your circle of friends when you need a recommendation for a good plumber or cleaning service. Or you’ve got trusted online resources you tap into for the low down.
When choosing a babysitter, turn to the people and websites you usually go to for advice. You’ve probably gotten good referrals this way in the past, so trust your network again. You’ll likely come across some babysitting candidates who you can then vet to see if they’re a good fit for your family.
If you live in a neighborhood, ask around to find teenagers or college students who babysit. You never know, you could find a qualified babysitting candidate just a few doors or a few streets away.
2) Check it out: Ask for references and qualifications
It’s up to you to decide what kind of experience, qualifications, and training you want your babysitter to have. You’ll likely run into a range of babysitting candidates with an even wider range of experience.
No matter if a potential sitter is a middle school student in your neighborhood, or a graduate student from the nearby college, ask for references and a list of qualifications.
Some babysitters may have:
- Completed an infant and child CPR class
- Taken a babysitter course
- Have first aid training
Those things might not be important to you, but it’s worth asking what a potential babysitter has done to prepare him- or her to take care of children. Experience alone may be enough, or you might prefer someone with certificates and completed courses.
Additionally, ask babysitting candidates for references. They should be able to provide you with a few names of families they’ve sat for in the past. Don’t just accept their list as evidence, follow through and call each family. You might learn some interesting things that turn you on or off from a babysitter candidate.
3) Play telephone: Arrange a phone interview
A great place to start when looking for a babysitter is on the phone. Arrange a phone interview with a potential candidate. Doing so allows you to get to know a person and their qualifications without a major time commitment.
You don’t want to waste anyone’s time—yours or theirs—and a phone interview is a great way to weed out the candidates you don’t think are a good match.
4) Try before you buy: Do a test run
Once you’ve found a potential babysitter who you had a good phone interview with and whose references check out, invite him or her over for a test run while you’re home.
Show the babysitter what your household routines are, and what your expectations are for how the sitter should handle entertainment, meals, bedtime routines, and any other rules, during the times you’re not there. Keep the test run short, and consider paying the babysitter for their time.
Most importantly, see how the babysitter interacts with your children. Is he or she kind and thoughtful toward the kids? Does she carry herself with confidence and maturity? Does he engage your child?
5) All ears: Trust your children and your gut instinct
Your children should have some say in who babysits for them—after all, they are the ones who will be spending a lot of time with the sitter you choose.
After you’ve done a test run with a babysitter, ask your kids what they think. Did they like the person? Did they have fun playing with him or her? Would they feel comfortable spending time with the person without mom or dad around?
Listen to your kids, and also trust your instincts.
Prepping the sitter
Once you’ve settled on a babysitter, remember that each time he or she comes over you’ll want to go over a few points with them.
Before leaving home, let the sitter know:
- The house rules for games, safety, television, etc.
- Your children’s routines, including any bedtime rituals
- Food they can help themselves to
- If they are allowed to take the kids outside the house, and if so, where they’re allowed to go
- Where your emergency contact list is
Also, prepare your children for your time away by teaching them what to do in case of an emergency. Show them 5 lifesaving safety skills your child should know.
Paying the sitter
The magic question everyone wants to know is: what’s the going rate for a good sitter? The answer isn’t so simple, and depends on your babysitter’s age, experience, and qualifications, plus your geographic location and personal finances.
A general guide is $10 to $15 an hour. Discuss with friends and neighbors what they pay, and have a range in mind of what you’d like to pay. When you find a sitter you’d like to hire, have a frank and honest conversation about pay, and you should be able to arrive at a rate you’ll both be pleased with.
Good luck in your search for a great babysitter!