There’s so much truth in this old advertisement: Pizza: $20. Babysitter: $50. A night out without the kids: Priceless. But finding that great babysitter—the one your child can’t wait to play with and who makes it oh-so-easy for you to scoot out the door—isn’t always easy.
- Evaluate your sitter’s experience level. Most communities offer babysitting training or certifications for local teens. If not, ask your potential babysitters about their experiences with young children. What safety training has your sitter had? Review important issues together to ensure your sitter knows how to change a diaper, can handle a bedtime routine, will make sure your hot-wheeler wears a helmet and can deal with other tasks and challenges. Checking references is another opportunity to learn about a sitter’s strengths and skills.
- Find someone who “gets” your child. Even the best sitter will fall short if she doesn’t truly enjoy being with your child – or fully understand his personality and needs. Find someone who loves your toddler’s high activity level or who doesn’t mind reading the same story 20 times. When your child feels loved and special with his sitter, it’s much easier for you to leave for a night out.
- Prioritize play. Ask your sitter about her last babysitting job and what the evening was like. What activities did she do? Playing together, cuddling and sharing stories are powerful ways to build a connection with a young child. Be sure to let your sitter know about your child’s favorite toys or activities so she can suggest them during their time together.
- Review routines. Young children rely on their routines, so jot down any important details about mealtime or bedtime since these can be tough moments when parents are away. Share your own personal secrets for soothing your child, like cuddling with a favorite stuffed animal or singing a song together.
- Talk about technology. The temptation to be on a screen is hard to ignore. Talk to your sitter about your family’s rules on the use of technology while babysitting. For example, only allow screen time after your baby has fallen asleep.
- Say a good goodbye. Ask a new sitter to arrive 30 minutes early so your child has time to warm up to this new person and you can help the two of them get involved in a fun activity before you leave. Be sure to say goodbye to your child, even if it results in tears, because sneaking out can make young children feel unsafe and unsettled.
- Express gratitude. Good sitters are hard to find, so let yours know that you appreciate all those Saturday nights by saying thank you (and possibly giving a nice tip).