Babysitting - How to Trust New Sitters?

Updated on March 10, 2010
J.S. asks from Saint Paul, MN
10 answers

We have 3 kids (aged 4 (almost 5), 3 and 16 months). My husband and I are in desperate need of some quality time without the kids :) We've always used his sister and his Mom for babysitting, but since selling our home, and moving in the past year, we feel like we've overused them (they were amazingly helpful during all the stress of moving) and we need to establish a new sitter so we can get out.

That said, how do you all go about finding someone trustworthy? Getting kids ready for bed includes diapering, and clothing changes... having someone I don't know do this for my kids is scary to me. Also, bedtime can be chaotic with 3 kids under 5... what is an appropriate age for someone to come and help us at bedtime? Would a highschool girl be ok? Or do I need to look for a college aged girl?

Your thoughts and experiences are appreciated!

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answers from Des Moines on

I have 4 children...all teenagers now...and admit I had a difficult time leaving my kids with a babysitter. Now I have three daughters who are babysitters. (They are 19,14 and 13) Honestly, whether they are in high school or college doesn't make a is more their personality and comfort with children. (My 14 year old would be the best babysitter out of my three girls and she is in 8th grade. Honestly, she could handle the three children much better than my 19 year old.)

I would definitely use word of mouth to find a babysitter. Start with neighbors, church, friends. If you are friends with any teacher...elementary, etc. you can ask them if there was any student they had that they would recommend. (Even if they teach 4th grade, the responsible students will stand out.)

Then, arrange to have the sitter to your house for a "trial visit." Yes, you would still pay her. But...don't have a specific plan or time you need to be somewhere. Have her come over and help with the children while you are "getting ready." You can tell a lot by watching her comfort level with the kids. Does she get down to their eye level and interact with them? Maybe you and your husband could go to a nearby restaurant for dessert. It might be the baby's bedtime but the other two could stay up until you get home. (Plan to make it an early night.)

Also, set the sitter up for success. Have all the emergency numbers (and your cell number) listed and easy to find. Write out any special instructions and make things as easy as possible. (Have the kids fed when she gets there or at least have the meal ready for her to feed them.) Save a special movie for them to watch while she is there. Show her how to lock the front door and give her a tour of your house so there aren't any surprises. When I used to babysit, I had one family who bought me a special treat...candy bar or something....and told me to take it and put it in my bag and I could eat it if I wanted. (It helped b/c I used to worry about whether I was allowed to eat their food.)

Your 5 year old is old enough to tell you a bit about his/her evening. Trust your instincts. You'll know once you find a great sitter!! and...once you find her...treat her like a princess so she'll want to babysit over and over. :)

good luck

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answers from Fresno on

Hi Jessica,
I know what you mean! It's hard to entrust your most precious loved ones to someone who is barely old enough to drive. =)

What I try to do is get a babysitter that one of my friends (or co-workers) uses and knows to be responsible and trustworthy. Our current babysitter is a freshman in college and has 3 younger siblings, so I felt pretty confident that she understands how to deal with little ones, and can deal with cooking, won't be freaked out by tantrums, etc. I found her because my scrapbooking lady uses her. If you go to church, you can ask around there - see if the youth pastor can recommend anyone. If your older child goes to preschool, ask the parents there (and also ask the teachers if they babysit in their spare time - the best babysitter we ever had was our older daughter's preschool teacher!).

I don't know if they have this where you are, but in our town there is an hourly daycare place called KidsPark. I know it's a franchise, so maybe there's one near you (or something similar). We love it because it's a drop-in place where you don't have to make reservations, and it is a licensed daycare center (so the staff are all background checked, plus parents are in and out all day long so you know there is nothing funny going on). It is fantastic if you just want a dinner out, or need an hour or two to run errands. They're open until midnight on the weekends. They really do keep the kids entertained! So maybe that is an option for you as well.

Good luck and I hope you get to have date night soon! =)

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answers from Miami on

Hi Jessica, I only have one toddler son, but I also have been a babysitter in the pre-internet i will offer only a bit of advice from both perspectives: i echo the below -- try to find someone that a friend of yours also uses. Our babysitter we inherited from a friend who we we breath easier. As far as the age, i am unsure.

But I would humbly add one more thing that I remember was helpful when I was a young babysitter for 2-3 kids in high school: can you do much of the pre-bedtime routine with a sitter before going out. This way, the children get used to her being there, and she learns from you how you manage things.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Do you have a church? With a bigger student population? I started using sitters from my church, mostly who are homeschooled or in local colleges, and then also use a few who do childcare in the gym we go to. I don't want to sound bias or discriminatory, but placing a bulletin board ad at one of the Christian colleges would get you some names. But I also like the few grandma types we have in our call list. And typically, they are the most available for spur of the moment engagements with child free friends.

As far as routines, first have them come over for a 'get to know you' playdate, where you stay at home doing whatever, and they are responsible for the kids. See how they interact. Then maybe try an hour or two during non-bedtime hours (early Sat mornings) and run some errands. Morning dates can be a lot of fun! And maybe if you go out at night, do it for right up from naps, through dinner, just up until bedtime so that you're home in time to get them down. Good luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I've also really struggled with taking the step to non family member baby sitters and for me the trick is not to hire young girls. Hire an older woman who has had kids and seen it all. I am so much more comfortable with my forty something babysitter than my twenty something babysitter.
I've had excellent luck with Craigs list and I've also gone with references from local mom friends. On Craigs list I screened 20 individuals, interviewed 3 and the one I picked is the best ever! It also helps that I work part time from home so I get to see how she interacts with my child. That has really helped me feel better about her.
The highschool girl i use is cheap, but lets just say I call to check up all the time and don't feel at ease. high school and college girls are hard to pin down, they have social lives. My fourty something babysitter with her own teenage daughter can handle any situation and I know I have her for years to come while the young girls are gone to new schools, new schedules before you know it.



answers from Chicago on

I would interview people and i would do a background checks and even if you want to go ahead and do a police record and i would have the most qualified applicants and have a question sheet for them and go from there I wouldnt settle for just anyone because i am very protective of my son.but i hope that helpped you and your husband



answers from Boston on

Temperment and child care experience are more important than age.

I recommend to target a neighborhood high school girl whose family you know for a formal interview and sit her down and talk about safety, safety, safety. Show her where you keep the phone number list and review 911 procedures.

Then invite her to come for an evening that starts right before dinner, have her eat dinner with the whole family, then have her help you right through the whole bath and bedtime routine. Pay her for this, it's an investment.

Then, when she comes to the first time to stay alone with the kids, have her arrive when most of it is already done and stay with her for a small part (say, toothbrushing). Each time she comes, have her arrive earlier and you leave earlier. Pretty soon you will get to the point where you can trust her to do it all.

If you are only going out for dinner, you can always have them all done and in PJs when she gets there, all she's got left is books, peeing and bed. That anyone can do.



answers from Boise on

I feel your pain, but unfortunately, don't even have a sister or mom in town for backup. We have had 2 baby sitters so far, and only 3 nights out. The first was recommended by a friend. She was 20, in college, and regularly watched a couple sets of twins in her neighborhood. Maybe I expected too much from her, but I got the feeling that she just sat my son in front of the TV (after telling her that he doesn't watch TV). He went down pretty early, so it wasn't a very challenging job, but there were candy wrappers on the ground (with a crawling baby), and an entire pen leaked on our brand new couch (she never mentioned it).

Our next babysitter was from our son's daycare, also 20, and she was awesome!! She loved the fact that she got to sit and read and have some me time after he went to bed, and we really trusted her. Unfortunately, she has her own son, and went back to school, so we lost her. I am trying to get to know some others at my son's daycare, to fill in, but that is a long process for me.

I have been given some recommendations from a friend of some high school and college age baby sitters that she uses, but I am now hesitant to try out these people, as I have absolutely no connection to them. Last time, I was out of town, and my husband had to go to a meeting, so after our son was put down, he had my brother-in-law (no kid experience!!) come over and sit in on our couch watching TV. We have to go to something this Friday and will probably end up doing the same thing, or just take him with us, and hope he can sleep through it.

How about a daytime date? Then you don't have to worry about the night time routine? Maybe even if they are at daycare, take a day off and do something fun?

What I am saying is that age isn't necessarily a pro or con, I think it is the person. I don't think I would be comfortable with a high school girl until the kids are older, but that is me. My real preference would be someone my age, or my mom's age, but that is hard to find. Good luck, sorry I wasn't very helpful, but know that you aren't alone.


answers from Dallas on

Check your neighborhood and the surrounding schools.

We have no family around and not having a weekly date night was out of the question. In the beginning, when i was most uncomfortable, I used a service (AAA) and had a grandmotherly type woman assigned to me and she was wonderful. She came weekly until our daughter was about 2.

Around 2, I got recommendations from neighbors with older children and then I used a few high schoolers. Our HOA has a website with a secured babysitter listing as well.

To keep a good sitter, make sure you pay well in cash and don't tell everybody about the sitter or someone will steal her!!! We guaranteed $40 for the night, even if we cancelled, and then by the time we got home, our date nights were usually $60-$80 CASH.

This time with your hubby is SO important. Good for you!



answers from Nashville on

Do any of your children attend daycare or preschool? Most of the time, daycare teachers will babysit on weekends or evenings. Our babysitter was our son's teacher a couple years ago at his old daycare center. She's wonderful. And the best part about using a daycare/preschool teacher is that they are CPR certified and trained in child safety. Even if your kids don't attend daycare or preschool.........surely you have some friends who's kids do. If they love their center and love their kids teachers, maybe you could find a contact through them. =0)

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