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7 Signs Of A Great Babysitter

Danielle M. has been with the Care.com technology team for about three years. But on the weekends she babysits. Why? Because she loves it – and loves helping parents get a break. Here are the seven things she recommends parents ask or look for when they interview sitters.

I knew I wanted to babysit when I was 12.  My neighbor’s 2-year-old granddaughter came to visit and I spent the whole week teaching her games and taking her to a neighborhood farm. When she left, I started begging my mom to become a real neighborhood babysitter.

13 years later, I’m still taking care of kids. Only now, I have a full-time job too. I’ve probably been on over 20 family interviews and I can usually tell if parents just don’t know what to ask. Sometimes they just don’t know what they’re looking for -- or how to determine if I’m really a good fit for their family.  So if you’ve ever felt a little unsure of how to tell a good sitter from a not-so-good sitter, here is my quick cheat sheet on what to look for:

1. Comfort with certain challenges.  If you’re hiring a sitterwho you know will have to do specific (and difficult) things, make sure she has experience with them. And ask those questions. If it’s a summer sitter who might be taking kids to a pool ask her: "What is your experience swimming with kids who can’t swim? How do you handle two kids in the pool at once?" Or, if your sitter will be driving the kids in snowy weather ask "If you’re sliding on ice, what do you do?" These might seem crazy, but you want to see if your candidate squirms under pressure.

2. G-rated hobbies.
Yes, you should ask what she does in her free time and look for someone who loves to do what your kids love to do. And then you should Google her. If you find something that’s not "respectable" -- move on. Consider this a role model for your children.

3. On the spot creativity.
Ask her for a rainy day itinerary (as in what she would do the whole day).

4. Good answers to tough questions.
What would she do she locked herself out without a cell phone? What would she do if the baby fell and won’t stop crying? If she can’t give examples of emergencies she’s responded to before – pose new ones and see if you like the answers. Also see how she would handle difficult scenarios with other nannies or (even) you!

5. All references love her
. Make sure you understand the type of work she did for them and the ages of children she’s worked with. Infants and ‘tweens require very different skills. And remember that any past employer, teacher, coach and even a neighbor can be a character reference. These are the types of people who can paint a full picture of your candidate’s responsibility, timeliness, kindness and hard work. Call them or meet them in person. Plan to talk to at least 3.

6. Asks the important stuff.
Does your child have any allergies? Who should I contact in an emergency? How would you like me to handle discipline? These are the types of questions that shows she’s on top of things.

7. Kids connect with her.
  After proper screening and background checks, have her come to your house to hang out with your kids while you’re there. You can gauge their comfort with each other. Is she fun? Can she distract the kids if they are calling out for you? Make sure this is a good personality fit for all of you.

This is what I’ve learned from 13 years of babysitting. But here is a link to our hiring tips and resources. Please share any of the signs you’ve spotted in a great sitter below!

Sept. 4, 2015

I think that the first time mothers should have a written list of expectations. Personally I was watching a 3 month old and was highly conscientious about everything the mother told me but then things changed. Why did you give him a bath, why did you fold the clothes, you have to text me every time you go for a walk (20 steps to our neighbors)....even though I had previously walked him in the stroller at her request. Suddenly it felt as though she didn't trust me. Since it was such a hurtful situation I simply told her I couldn't watch him anymore. I was watching him for no payment. I was just trying to help the couple until they got a little ahead. Her reactions were insulting.

Aug. 21, 2013

These are all great questions and things to think about when looking for a potential mentor babysitter or nanny for your children although I know there are even more this covers a lot of safety and concern issues one might have. I disagree with one item that says her references I don't see why a male cannot be a great babysitter, tutor, and mentor just as much as a female can be. But to way their own if course it's always up to the parents.

Aug. 14, 2013

This is a great message to all parents who want quality care for their children. I feel confident in being able to answer all these questions! =) Thank you Danielle for helping parents find what they desire!

User in Lafayette, LA
July 30, 2013

I love this! I believe I have many of these qualities and am always working on being a better sitter! Thank you!!

July 23, 2013

Great questions to ask ourselves as well, assuming we all expect to be equal to the tasks.

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