Find the Perfect Babysitter: Follow this Checklist

Allie Dunbar, President and CEO of Toronto’s boutique babysitting agency, The Summerhill Club, shares her secrets for hiring the perfect babysitter.

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We interview for a new job—sometimes multiple times—before compatibility can be determined, so why should the procedure be any different for the most important job of all: the care of our kids? The answer usually has something to do with the time-starved parent, who especially when needing a sitter on the fly, doesn’t always have the bandwidth to take the proper precautions when choosing their babysitters. If this sounds familiar, there’s no need to panic. By following this simple checklist, you’ll find a superstar sitter in no time.

The Meeting

A resume is great, but connecting in real life is essential. Whether you meet your potential sitter for coffee or invite them for a meet-and-greet with the whole clan, speaking in person is the only way you can identify whether they’re a fit for your family. Though connecting is easy, the tricky part is knowing what to look for in a sitter.

The Checklist

To make sure you cover all your bases, you and your sitter should align on the following:

Experience:

While it’s true that everyone starts somewhere, babysitting is not an area where you should ignore a sitter’s level of experience. Qualification could come from time spent as a swimming instructor, camp counselor or in other fields where working with kids is mandatory. If your potential sitter doesn’t have this kind of experience, feel empowered to continue your search.

Confidence:

Confidence influences how we react to new situations. If the sitter is nervous to meet with you, doesn’t make eye contact or seems generally uncomfortable, they may find it difficult to be assertive and self-assured when making decisions with your kids.

Common Sense:

Though this seems obvious, it can be easily overlooked if you don’t ask the right questions. When interviewing your sitter make sure to put them in a few “what if” scenarios, so you can identify how they respond to problems. For example: “what would you do if one of the kids had a fever?”.

Appearance:

While appearance is subjective, it can also be telling. The main things to pay attention to are that they are put together, clean and appropriately dressed. Consider it a red flag if the sitter doesn’t have these attributes. With that said, sitters often dress casually so they can be mobile with your kids – failing to show up in business attire should be no cause for concern.

Energy:

This can mean two things. Paying attention to the sitter’s level of enthusiasm is a great indicator of how hands-on and active they’ll be with your kids. This is especially important if your children have grown out of their infant stage when they require more stimulation. Energy can also refer to the vibe that a person gives off. If the sitter is preoccupied or stressed during your conversation, this might affect their ability to tend to your kids.

References:

If they’ve passed the above checklist so far, it’s time to get their references. Request both a professional (ideally a childcare-related job) and personal reference, as the latter will confirm details of the individual’s character. Ask questions about how they handle conflict or how strong their problem-solving skills are. If these references provide negative feedback, it’s likely best for you to continue your search.

Gut Check:

At the end of the day, your gut will usually give you the answer. If your sitter hits the mark on paper and in person but something still feels off, it’s always best to trust that parental intuition.

Expectations:

Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve found a keeper. The next step is to have a conversation about household expectations. Is it important that they tidy the kitchen? Are they expected to have certain cooking skills to accommodate a dietary restriction? Will they need to help with homework? The more open you are about expectations, the easier it is to develop an ongoing relationship where everyone is happy.

So there you have it!

While the criteria are simple, carefully selecting your child’s babysitter is necessary to your family’s safety. As mentioned before, sometimes having the time to meet with a sitter and vet them with this checklist isn’t realistic, especially in those last-minute moments where you need coverage in a blink of an eye. In these situations, consider doing a bit of research and using a babysitting service; having a network of professionals at their disposal means you can rely on the availability of a sitter who has already passed a similar test with flying colours. Once you know your children are in good hands, it’s time to make the most of your time away!

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