Whether you’re hiring a sitter for your own children, or helping your tween or teen prepare for caring for another family’s kids, there are several key things that are important to know. Here are some essential things every sitter needs to keep kids safe and happy.
1. Contact Information. A babysitter needs quick access to parents or another designated adult for questions and emergencies. A list of cell phone numbers, emergency numbers and back-up contacts should be available in an easy-to-see location, like the front of the fridge. Our Babysitter Checklist is a great template for filling in these basics.
2. Safety Dos and Don’ts. A sitter needs to understand the safety concerns in every household like hot appliances, poisonous substances, and water. It’s best for a new sitter to participate in a babysitting course to learn how to keep kids safe from these potential threats. One good program is the SafeSitter course, which is taught in locations nationwide. Consider the safety issues particular to the home where the sitter will be working, as well. Extra concerns such as swimming pools, busy streets and outdoor play equipment should be addressed.
3. Regular Routines. Most children—especially small children—are happiest and most compliant if they maintain a routine with regard to mealtimes, naps and bedtimes. A sitter should know these schedules and how Mom typically transitions from one to the other. (For instance: reading a book before bed to settle in, or which snacks are favorites.)
4. Rules for “Down Time.” A sitter who cares for younger children may have extended periods of free time while the children sleep. Avoid conflict by setting out rules and expectations for him or her during that time. Are they free to use your computer? Chat on the phone? Address these questions beforehand to head off trouble, and make sure your teenage sitter knows that having guests over is never an option.
5. How to Stay Cool in a Crisis. Perhaps the greatest skill any caregiver needs is the ability to handle stressful situations. Whether it’s a crying baby who can’t be soothed or a medical emergency, no young person is ready to babysit until they can stay calm and respond responsibly to the needs of the children in her care.
Related Resource: Babysitting: 17 questions to ask your childcare provider