4 questions to help you find a babysitter you love

Dec. 20, 2018

When you start searching for a babysitter, the first thing you might notice is that there are so many qualified babysitters out there who could be a potential fit for your family. So, how do you begin to narrow down your options?

Once you’ve crafted the perfect babysitter listing or gotten a few solid recommendations from people you trust, it’s time to trim the list to only the candidates you want to interview and meet in person. To do that, you should start by reviewing the information you have about their work history, previous experience and qualifications and eliminate anyone who doesn’t seem like a match on paper.

Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re looking for “the one.”

Does the babysitter have basic child care skills and qualifications?

Have your non-negotiable qualifications in mind when you review a sitter’s resume, so you can tell right away if the person is worth pursuing further.

“Finding a great babysitter should be like [reviewing] any job application,” says Dr. Jarret Patton, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Ideally, you would like a babysitter who has some basic life support certification, who will follow the established household rules, and who has a clean background check.”

Your most basic qualifiers might include:

  • Prior babysitting experience

  • Compatible availability

  • First aid and CPR certifications

  • Experience working with children who have special needs, if applicable

  • Experience with food allergies or other sensitivities, if applicable

  • Lives nearby and/or has reliable transportation

What other criteria do you want the babysitter to meet?

Besides meeting the basic qualifications, the babysitter should also be a fit for the specific

duties you need him or her to take on. This might include things like:

  • Basic meal prep

  • Helping with homework

  • Light housekeeping

  • Driving children to school or activities

  • Potty training

  • Infant care

What are the sitter’s personality traits?

Getting recommendations, looking at online resumes and doing interviews will help you get a feel for different sitters. But the babysitter relationship isn’t just about having the right qualifications or being available on the right days. It’s personal!

“The babysitter’s main responsibility is to care for a child’s needs and keep the child safe,” says Janae Halm, a CPR and first aid coordinator with the National Safety Council in Nebraska. “However, the ‘right’ babysitter will also be someone that fits well into your family. Besides adequate training, good babysitters should be mature, trustworthy, patient, responsible, safety conscious, punctual and fun loving.”

Consider key personality traits and qualities like:

Dependability: They have great referrals, show up on time to any scheduled interviews or trial days and approach babysitting with the same level of seriousness as any other job.

Enthusiasm: The candidate has a demonstrated interest in babysitting, as evidenced by their work history, and seems genuinely excited about caring for your children.

Caregiving style: How do they talk about their interactions with children? What do past clients say about how they functioned in their role? Even if you’re hiring someone recommended by a friend or whom you already know well, ask for a reference to help you get to know them better as a professional before you take the next step of hiring them.

Does this babysitter have the ‘it’ factor?

It’s a simple question but one that many people forget to ask when they are caught up in reviewing resumes and checking references: Do you like this person? And, perhaps more importantly, do your children like this person? That will be the most important factor in determining who is “right” for your family.

Sometimes, the sitter will click with your family right away, like one did for Megan Zander, a mom of twin boys from Danbury, Connecticut.

“I knew I found the right babysitter when she came in to the house and immediately ditched her phone and bag to get down on the floor and start playing with my kids,” Zander says. “Her total ease with them put me at ease, and I knew my kids would be safe with her.”

Other times, it might be that you’re undecided and it’s your children’s reactions to the babysitter that ultimately determine your choice.

"We tried out a sitter once whose personality drove me crazy personally, but my sons loved her because she loved to play and play hard,” says Sheri Reed, a mom of two from Sacramento, California. “She took them to play football. She ran with them around the park. She was just a kid at heart, I think. And we asked her back several times.”

The bottom line is, you will know you’ve found the right babysitter when:

  • You feel confident about their skills on every level

  • It’s clear that they make your children feel comfortable, safe, respected and happy

  • Your babysitter seems equally as enthusiastic about doing the job as you are about hiring them

Read next: Should your babysitter be your friend, too?

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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