When my son was born, the idea with leaving him with someone else was unfathomable. Sure, I would have loved a night out with my husband, or even a few hours to myself
during the day -- but to turn his care over to a sitter even for a little while just wasn't something I was ready for. Now with years of parenting experience under my belt, I understand the importance of having a good babysitter at the ready. Whether I need to go to the doctor, do some shopping sans children or even try to catch Hollywood's newest offering, knowing that I have someone I trust to watch my kids is comforting. Here's how to find your own.
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If you've started a sitter search, chances are someone you know has already done the same thing. Ask moms
and dads whose judgement you trust who they use -- in some cases they might not want to give up a name (they want their sitter to watch their kids!) but it's likely they will be happy to share. Talk to parents who attend the same library programs, preschool, day care and other kid-oriented programs. Even ask at church or at work. The more sources you explore, the more choices you'll have to select from.
Go Back to SchoolLocal high schools and colleges offer a wealth of qualified candidates. Call the guidance or employment office of the school and ask if they have students who are majoring in child development or education. Community education programs -- often done through the library, YMCA, local church or temple, Red Cross or school district -- are also a good starting point -- they often offer babysitter training or first aid courses and may have lists of students or graduates who are looking for work.
Age is More Than A NumberOnce you have a list of candidates, it's time to start reviewing their various qualifications. It's likely your list will have a few tweens and teens on it. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babysitters be at least 13 years old, kids as young as 11 or 12 can make a great sitter, particularly if they have experience with younger children in the form of siblings or nieces and nephews. In fact, the American Red Cross offers a babysitter training course and accepts children as young as 11. If they are well-qualified and you think she'd do a good job, then go ahead and interview her. If you have a younger child or more than two, you might want to consider an older teen. It all depends on your comfort level.
Ask Lots of QuestionsNext step is to interview your candidates. You can do this over the phone or in person, whatever is agreeable to both of you, although at some point you should have her to your home to see how she interacts with your child. Ask about her prior experience, whether it has come from babysitting another child or siblings and her life at home. Has she ever watched a child that is the same age as yours? What type of first-aid training has she had? You are looking for someone who is enthusiastic and professional -- someone who enjoys being around children but realizes she also has an important job to do.
Meet and Greet with the KidsIt's a good idea to see how any potential sitter interacts with your child. So have her over (or after you've interviewed her) have her come over -- she can follow you around, getting an idea of where everything is in your home and most importantly, spend time with your child. It will let you see how she relates to your child but it will also let your little one have the opportunity to get to know her. Point out items important to safety like door locks, any security system, telephones, smoke alarms and other things she'll need when she's at your house -- where appropriate foods are located, bathrooms, approved toys, etc. You may want to offer to pay her for her time as well.
Qualifications, PleaseObviously you want a sitter who loves kids and gets on with them well, but they also need to be qualified. Talk about her training and don't be afraid to give her some test situations -- "What would you do if my child was choking?" "How would you handle an emergency situation?" Ask if she knows basic first aid and CPR. If she doesn't, ask if she'd be willing to take a class.
Check ReferencesOnce the interview is over, ask for non-family references, preferably for families that she has babysat for before. If this is her first sitting job, ask if you could speak to a teacher or family friend who can give you some honest insight about her personality and responsibility level.
Find Out FeesAsk your babysitter what she charges. If it's reasonable, then agree to it. You can also ask other parents what they pay. In general, depending upon age and experience, the going rate varies from about $5 to $10 an hour. If you have more than one child, this could go up. If you want the sitter to do extra work, such as preparing dinner, folding laundry or light cleaning, you should pay her extra. In any case, make sure her fee is negotiated before she comes to watch your child.