When families are looking for a babysitter, they usually run down a list of criteria. They want someone responsible and patient with knowledge of child care and safety. Sitters interviewing for the job often make an effort to show the parents that they have these desired qualities. But, what if we stop and consider what kids might want in a sitter?
We’re not talking about the “dream sitter,” who just gives them candy all day, of course. Rather, it’s important to consider kids’ preferences. After all, the children are the ones who will be spending the most time with the babysitter. If parents ask their kids’ opinions, it helps them feel part of the process and gets them excited about the new caregiver. And when sitters consider the children’s desires, as well as the parents’, they’ll find it easier to create a connection with the kids they care for.
Here are nine things children might want in a babysitter:
It’s important for children to get along with their sitter. Kathleen Lynch, a lawyer from Cary, North Carolina, has found that her twin boys always got along best with sitters who were also boys and who would play the games they liked to play — especially hide-and-seek and pillow fights. Any game that involved a lot of movement was a winner with her kids, so she made sure she found very active and energetic sitters.
“Kids want their babysitters to be creative and talkative extroverts who will relate to their level of play and do fun activities,” says Robert Nickell, an entrepreneur and father of seven. Having a sitter who just sits and texts on their phone should get a quick thumbs down from kids — and parents.
It’s no secret that kids love to play. So a sitter who is willing to play how your kids want to play is a must. Kids like people who aren’t afraid to be silly. “Without a doubt my son loves it when the babysitter plays with him, is relaxed and willing to do most any task (even goofy ones),” says Kelli Bhattacharjee, owner of Freebie Finding Mom.
4. Establishes boundaries
Kids also like routine. Even if they don’t realize it, they thrive in a predictable environment. Kids “want a babysitter who isn’t afraid to set boundaries and work within the routine already developed within a household,” says Nickell.
Kids have a lot of energy. To keep them entertained, a babysitter needs to be really creative. “Being able to think of new and innovative ideas is especially imperative for toddlers with short attention spans,” says Bhattacharjee. “Keeping them engaged on one task can be nearly impossible at times, so having a sitter that can think on her feet is a must.” Children will look forward to seeing someone who always brings new ideas for activities and games.
“Of course, kids want to feel like the person who is taking care of them actually likes them and is happy to spend the day with them,” says Nickell. This one should be a no-brainer because parents obviously want someone who is kind to their kids, too.
Whether they admit it or not, kids like to be challenged. And they also like to be able to ask an adult a question and actually receive an answer. “Babysitters should be educated and able to keep up with your child’s questions and curious nature,” says Nickell. It makes for more lively discussions and more engagement for the child.
“All children, regardless of age, want a babysitter who makes them feel safe,” says Dr. Patricia Keener, pediatrician, neonatologist and founder of Safe Sitter. This is absolutely essential. They need to feel like they can trust the sitter and their judgment.
Being a “quick thinker” is an essential quality a babysitter should have, adds Nickell. “Kids want to feel safe, whether at home or at the park, so a babysitter should be confident and focused.”
Last, but certainly not least, kids want a babysitter who is fun! The best babysitters “have kids smiling ear to ear while they’re doing something productive yet fun,” says Nickell, “and that’s exactly what kids want.” And he’s quick to add, “as a parent, I want that for my kids, too!”
Luckily, there’s a lot of overlap in what parents and kids look for in a babysitter. And where there are differences, it’s all about finding a happy medium. A good sitter is someone who not only meets parents’ criteria but also matches what the kids want in a caregiver.