When it comes to childcare, babysitters can be a helpful part of your support system. Planning ahead with a trusted babysitter can ensure a more positive experience for everyone.
Babysitters can be lifesavers for parents – and children like them too! Whether it’s for a short break or a longer period of time, having a babysitter is a great resource, but one that requires some planning and preparation.
Establishing clear parameters with your babysitter in advance is critical. Before selecting a babysitter, talk with your child about what the babysitting will look like. If your child is old enough, include her in the research and selection of the babysitter. If it’s the first time your child is with a babysitter, you’ll want to take extra time to talk through the experience with your child. Talk about what to expect, when you’ll be back, and what kinds of activities they may do together.
When looking for a babysitter, ask friends and family for referrals or recommended, trusted people. Or turn to reputable online listing resources. You should always plan to meet with a potential babysitter ahead of time for an “interview” to determine if they’re a match for your child and your needs. Ask for and check references to confirm the babysitter’s experience and skills.
Not sure what to ask? Here are some general questions you can ask a potential babysitter:
Have you babysat children who are my child’s age?
Why do you want to babysit?
How much do you charge per hour?
Do you have any additional training or certificates (CPR training, early childhood classes, etc.)?
What do you plan to do with my child while you are babysitting?
Once you have selected a babysitter, have your child meet the babysitter before you leave. If possible, invite the babysitter over when you are there so that you, your child, and the babysitter can play and interact together. It is important for your child to see you with the babysitter to know that the babysitter is a safe, trusted person to be with.
Before leaving your babysitter with your child, be sure to cover these five things together first:
Food. Discuss what types of foods – and how much – your child eats. Offering favorite snacks and dishes can help your child feel more comfortable with the babysitter.
Sleep. Talk about when and how long your child sleeps so that the same sleep schedule can be followed. Letting your babysitter know what to look for when your child is getting sleepy (rubbing eyes, asking for milk, etc.) is also helpful.
Discipline. Talking about and showing your babysitter how you handle your child’s behavior is very important to help shape your child’s behavior and help your child develop positive skills with anyone they are with. Consistency is important.
Routines. If you have a particular way you put your child to sleep (reading a book, singing a goodnight song, etc.), teach the babysitter your routine so she can do the same with your child. The familiarity of your routine will be both comforting and helpful.
Activities. Plan ahead to make sure your child will engage in fun activities that you approve of while under the babysitter’s care. For example, bring along your child’s favorite books or toys and talk about your child’s favorite things to do. These simple steps will not only help your babysitter know what to do with your child, but will also build a positive association between the two of them.
Parent tip: Once the babysitter leaves, talk with your child about their time together. Encourage your child to share the activities they did while you were gone, and ask if your child wants to see the babysitter again. Your child’s buy-in to the babysitter is just as important as your search for the right one.