Your babysitter options
The best babysitter for you is one who fits your needs and your budget and who has a decent level of experience. You’ll also want someone who meshes with your personality and parenting style. To find the best sitter for the job, you might need to explore different types of babysitters who provide the services you want. But first, it helps to get really specific on what you’re looking for in a sitter.
Check out these five most common babysitter types to help you narrow your search down:
1. High school sitters
High school-aged sitters are a good option for families that need after school care or summer babysitting (assuming the teen is available when you need her). You can find someone who lives close or even attends school near your children for easy pick-ups.
Many parents worry that teen sitters don’t have a lot of experience, but that often comes with a lower hourly rate. To reduce your anxiety, you can try the first few babysitting sessions while you're at home so you can provide feedback and answer any questions.
2. College sitters
College babysitters are a good option for after school or summer care, as well. They are often slightly more mature and experienced, which is important to many parents. Just be sure to ask up front about their availability during the school year. Ask her to inform you of “blackout dates” where she’s not available, too, like exam periods or holidays. Also ask if she takes evening/weekend classes that interfere with your needs.
The best part about college babysitters is you can often find a few who are studying for a degree in Early Childhood Development or Education. This makes them a great asset to your family — and great tutors, too!
3. “Mature” sitters
Older babysitters could account for any adult babysitter, from professional child caregivers to older women who have grown children or grandchildren. Day care and elementary school teachers are often interested in extra babysitting, too, and come with great child care and child development experience.
If experience and skillset are most important to you, start looking for adult babysitters with more than a few years’ experience. They may charge more per hour but are often comparable to less-experienced sitters.
4. Family members or trustworthy neighbors
Family and neighbors are great resources for babysitting, especially if you need someone last minute or “free.” Given the familiarity factor, your kids will already be comfortable with them and they’ll be excited to step in for a few hours or an evening. Beggars can’t always be choosers, but make sure you trust the person you ask to babysit. Also be sure to set expectations and guidelines the same way you would with a hired sitter. It paves the way for managing the relationship should any issues arise.
NOTE: Even if you think they won’t charge, do not ask someone to watch your children without expecting to pay them for their time. If they want to babysit for free, consider having dinner ready (or cash on-hand for a food delivery order) or gift them a nice bottle of wine or bag of goodies. You can also offer to return the favor, asking when you can babysit their own children.
5. Mother's helpers
Mother's helpers are usually in middle school or junior high. Considered a "babysitter in training," a mother's helper does just that — helps you. They're babysitters who are generally considered too young to care for children on their own, but old enough to responsibly play with children while you're busy (yet present).
In many cases, they're known to the family (the parents may be family friends) and live in the neighborhood. It's a nice opportunity for a young person who wants to gain experience and then try their hand at babysitting once they're old enough. Mother's helpers can do a variety of tasks from playing with the kids while you make dinner and helping fold laundry to assisting at a birthday party and more.
By now, you hopefully you have a better idea of the type of babysitter that is best for your family. When you start your search, you can pick potential sitters based on their experience, rates, education, or even by their location. Now it’s time to find potential candidates and start interviewing them!
Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned parent and writer about parenting issues for Care.com. She is also the editor of BostonMamas.com.
Read next: How much does a babysitter cost?