Top 7 Things You Need to Ask a Potential Babysitter

Katie Mae Butler

It’s summertime! The kids are out of school, the days are longer...and you are ready to take some time away from those kids.

We all need a break sometimes. 

Whether you are dating, in a committed relationship, or single and just wanting to do occasional adult things on your own, the hardest part of getting a night away isn’t finding the desirable event. It’s finding a trustworthy sitter! We don’t all have the luxury of relying on family members such as grandparents, and the task of locating an individual whom you can trust to watch your kids is daunting to say the least. It’s a task one should see as worthwhile, though...and a good sitter is worth their weight in gold. 

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For the sake of this article, let’s assume you’ve located a person to care for your kids on occasional nights out. Referrals from friends or community members you know and trust are a great way to start, but I never recommend taking these at face value. A phone interview before the night out works in a pinch, but when possible, invite them into your home for face time. While you’re observing them interact with your kids (yes, let those kiddos in and set them loose) here’s some questions you should ask.

1. How many families have you worked for?

The more, the better. Do you know these families? Can you contact them for more details on their experience? Are they people whom you trust in selecting sitters? In the days before the internet, I was referred by word of mouth and my mom’s status as a local librarian. Do you know a family with reliable teenagers looking for summer work? 

2. What’s your experience in childcare? What’s your age range?

Does this coincide with the ages of your own child or children? Will this be a good match? If they’ve never worked with children your age, then…

3. What are some games you play with kids you’ve worked with? How do you pass the time?

For some families, it’s okay if they just watch a movie and binge on junk food. But for many kids, they need something more. Does the activity level of this sitter match your child’s needs? And speaking of activity…

4. What would you consider an emergency? 

Are they going to try to sweep injury under the rug with a bandage, or are they a “call Mom/Dad at the drop of a hat” kind of person? Is there no call if there’s no blood? Which do you, as a parent, prefer? Is this caregiver a good match to your hopes? While you’re talking about blood…


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5. Are you first aid and CPR certified? Have you taken any babysitter classes? What is your experience with crisis?

This is huge. Obviously don’t pepper the poor (probably young) person with all of the above questions at once, but they in any combination are important. I was 13 years old, sitting for a neighbor with two young girls, when I had to give my first Heimlich maneuver to the choking toddler. I found out afterwards (cell phones weren’t really a thing yet) that even their own mother did not know that maneuver! Children are quick, and even a temporary caregiver should feel comfortable handling these situations when they arise. 

6. Have you had to discipline children in the past jobs? How did you do it?

Kids love to test boundaries. Typically if this sitter will only be working for you for a brief time, it’s not time enough for children to feel confident enough to test them. But as I said before, a good sitter is worth keeping and the testing will come. So this is a good time to chat about how they might handle acting out, and more importantly, how you would like them to handle misbehavior in your own children. Finally…

7. What have families paid you for past babysitting jobs? What is your preferred rate? 

It’s okay to negotiate. You want to be fair to this person for their time, but you also need to be able to afford them. Be tactful and polite, regardless of their age. You want them to come back, and even as a teenager I appreciated engaging in these conversations as an adult. 

Outside of these basic child care necessities, get to know this person you’re putting in charge of your kids. What are their interests, hobbies, goals in life? They aren’t your daycare, and I’ll have more on that topic soon...but they still matter. I remember every child I cared for as a teenager, and I still count many of their parents as friends. We formed bonds, a bond over these children we shared custody of on an occasional basis. And it lasts! Any person who will have regular interactions with your children will have an impact on their young lives, and hopefully they are worth knowing. Take the time to find out, and your investment will pay off when you can go out knowing your kids are in capable hands. 

Are there any questions that you recommend asking? Comment below and let us know what has worked for you!

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