5 Tips for Choosing a Babysitter

Pick the perfect sitter for your family with this advice.

babysitter playing with boy

When it comes time to interview a babysitter, (aka the person you'll trust with your life's blood), narrowing down candidates and finding the right fit can be, well, daunting. After you've determined the basic qualifications - and interviewed accordingly - pare down your favorites with a simple checklist. From the additional duties to the qualifications that are a little harder to come by, your caregiver should be exactly what you need.

  1. Consider the References
    Checking references and performing background checks are a must during any babysitting hiring process, but when narrowing down the top picks for your caregiver, consider the conversations you had with the families she listed as references. Are the families the sitter has cared for in the past similar to your family? Are the kids the same ages? Did she have duties and responsibilities similar (baths, cooking dinner, homework help) to what you'd like your babysitter to do for your kids? As with any job, background is key, so if your prospective babysitter has had experience handling responsibilities that are similar to what she'll be doing with your family, it's likely to be an easy transition for all involved.

    Get questions to ask references here. »

  2. Go Over the Interview Questions
    Consider the answers you liked best to the questions that matter most to you and your family. We all have standard interviewing questions (availability, experience, age, etc.), but every individual family has its own, unique set of needs, so what are yours? Is it imperative your kids have a ride to and from after-school activities? Go back to the answers your candidates gave you about driving history, punctuality and familiarity with car safety belts. Do you need someone to cook meals in your absence? Go over what your top choices said about being comfortable in the kitchen. While it's great if a babysitter gave a good interview, the one who stands out among the rest will be the caregiver who really shined when speaking to you about something near and dear to your heart. You know the one--you just love her story about how having the kids help her bake her famous chocolate chip cookies is a sure fire way to cheer the little ones up when they're having separation anxiety, or how she absolutely loved spending the afternoons playing soccer with the children she sat for last.

    Get good interview questions here. »

  3. Evaluate Your Kids' Strengths and Struggles
    If you know your child needs more swim time, don't be afraid to ask lifeguard-sitter to practice with him a couple of days a week. Science class posing a bit of a problem this year? Hire a chem major to tutor-sit -- she can create science-based games while babysitting to get your child on the path to scientific success. Choosing a candidate with an academic background (like a teacher in the summer or a tutor by trade), may be the perfect option for both you, your child and the babysitter.

  4. Do a Kid Test
    Watch her interact with your children. A good babysitter won't blink an eye at the request for a trial run. Do you like her style? How about her teaching skills; her playfulness? Are you comfortable with the way she disciplines? How do the kids connect with the candidate? After all, they're the ones who will be spending the most time with her, so seeing the child-sitter interaction first hand can be a big help when making your final decision.

  5. Trust Your Gut
    There might be a candidate who has a remarkable babysitter resume, fantastic references and perfect answers for all your interview questions -- but something just seems off. You might not be able to put a finger on it, but you don't need to explain it. Trust your instincts.

In the end, it doesn't hurt to have a number of great babysitters and backup sitters in your contact list. If you had three outstanding options, why not ask the two that just didn't make the cut if they're still interested in sitting for you every once in a while? No matter how reliable your new go-to babysitter is, Murphy's Law will ensure that she'll have to bail at the last minute at least a few times over the course of her time with you and your family. Maintaining relationships with sitters that you've already vetted and feel comfortable with can be priceless when you're in a pinch.

Michael Francis is a freelance writer in Atlanta, Ga. His work can be found here.

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