8 tips for hiring a summer nanny or sitter
Just when it seems like your family has settled into the school year routine, summer hits — and suddenly you’re scrambling to find affordable child care for the next three months. Camps can keep kids busy for a few weeks, but they rarely last the entire summer. For most families, finding a reliable summer nanny or sitter is the best way to keep everyone’s schedules on track until school starts again.
Of course, there’s a catch to making this happen: Finding summer child care can be more challenging than finding it at other times of the year. For one, it’s a temporary position, and some child care providers may not be interested in a job that will end in just a few months. Families also often need nannies with certain skill sets that will allow them to entertain kids throughout the long summer days.
“Typically, families in need of summer nannies are searching for nannies with different qualifications, such as experience with older school-aged children, as opposed to infants and toddlers,” says Manon Doll-McGhee, founder of Nannies of Kansas City. “Candidates are also short-term as opposed to long-term and tend to be college students or teachers who have summers off.”
Demand is also high in the summer. Remember, just about every other family with working parents and school-aged kids is facing the same dilemma as you. Add to that the simple fact that it’s summer, and everyone’s schedules are kind of all over the place, and you’ll understand why the task of finding a summer nanny or sitter can be challenging.
It’s good to know what you’re up against, but it’s even better to be prepared with a game plan. And that’s what we’re here for! Follow these tips, and you’ll have a solid chance of finding a nanny to keep your kids happy and safe until back-to-school season — and maybe even next summer, too!
1. Start looking early
The summer hiring data at Care.com shows us that most families don’t start searching for a nanny until June — and we probably don’t have to tell you that’s far too late if you want a great selection of candidates. By that point, many of the best nannies and sitters have already lined up work, and you may be left choosing from workers whose schedules, qualifications or overall vibes just don’t mesh with your family. Play it safe by searching in May — or even earlier.
2. Spread out your search
We’ve already discussed the high demand for summer caregivers, which is why you have to be aggressive. Search online child care sites like Care.com, check out college job boards and give yourself an excuse to scroll through social media.
Long Island, New York-based mom of two Olivia Howell uses local Facebook groups to find candidates, and she recommends word-of-mouth, as well.
“Check in with your local friends to see if they know of any girls who are home from college for the summer,” Howell says. “They're eager to make money and are around!”
3. Create a clear job description
Whether you’re posting an ad to find a potential nanny or babysitter or you’re just sharing information with candidates, creating an extremely clear and detailed job description will save you and any potential nannies precious time in the hiring process.
Catherine Pearlman, LCSW and founder of the Family Coach, recommends starting with a list of must-haves and preferred traits in the sitter and then sticking with it.
“It’s easy to get carried away in an interview or get swayed by a great personality,” Pearlman says. “That’s OK in some cases, but often parents lose out on some of what they were really looking for.”
Your job description should include details like:
Required days and hours
Certifications (like CPR training or lifeguard training)
Expected duties (like driving kids to camp or planning educational activities)
Education level, if it matters to you
Any special needs your child may have
Other expectations, such as housekeeping, transportation, meal prep or travel
4. Favor a summer skill set
Remember that your children’s daily activities likely look quite a bit different in the summer months than they do during the school year, so make sure you find a nanny who can fit those needs.
“A lot of summer nannies are involved in activities, transporting kids to/from summer camps or swim lessons,” Doll-McGhee says. “Parents want nannies who are comfortable taking their children to the park or the pool, museums or the zoo ... Find a candidate who is active, enjoys being outside, and, if possible, has previous summer camp or summer nanny experience.”
5. Don’t skimp on the interview
It may just be a temporary gig, but your summer nanny or sitter will still be taking responsibility for your kids, and getting to know them over an interview is well worth your time. Meet them at a local park or, if you’re comfortable, invite them into your home so you can watch them interact with your children in their element.
“Try not to ask closed-ended questions, such as those that can be answered with a yes or a no,” Pearlman says. “These questions prevent the conversation from expanding, and the parent doesn’t really get to know the applicant. Instead, use open-ended questions that open up the dialogue.”
A few starter interview questions Pearlman suggests include:
Can you tell me about the children in your last job?
Describe a typical day with the children? (Instead of asking: Did you do the wash or cooking?)
What kind of work environment are you looking for?
What do you love most about working with children?
Can you tell me about the most challenging day you ever had watching children?
6. Know what a nanny or sitter costs
The overall cost of hiring a nanny or babysitter has many variables. The cost will depend a lot on where you live, what the nanny or sitter is hired to do and how much experience she brings to the position. Before making an offer, make sure to familiarize with the average rates for nannies and babysitters, depending on location and number of children, with the Cost of Child Care Calculator.
7. Finalize your hire
Hopefully at this point you’ve been able to interview a couple of strong candidates and settle on a summer nanny or babysitter. Once you’ve offered the job and they’ve accepted, it’s time to finalize all of the little details.
Even for a temporary summertime position, a nanny contract or babysitter contract is a good idea. In it, you can include everything from job responsibilities and work schedule to compensation details and even your family’s social media policy. More than anything, it’s a powerful way to communicate that you view this as a serious working relationship, and you expect your summer caregiver to do the same.
8. Keep in touch
Summer will eventually end, but your relationship with your summer nanny or sitter doesn’t have to. While you may not need as many hours after school starts again, you and your kids have hopefully built a relationship with a trusted child care provider, and that’s something you don’t want to lose. Keep in touch when you need help throughout the year, and maybe next summer, your child care search will be as easy as giving this person a call.
Read next: Making summer child care work on a budget