When you hire a babysitter, you are paying for a service. It is important for the sitter to know exactly what is expected of them. If you've ever had a dissatisfying experience with a babysitter, think about why. Could it have been solved with better communication of expectations?
Sometimes babysitters come prepared with "Babysitting Kits" full of games and activities to do with children. Consider putting together your own with fun things you know you child enjoys and keep it put away except for when the sitter is over. Some things to include might be: new sticker or coloring books with new crayons, side walk chalk, special board games or movies, etc. You could even include activities (or instructions for activities) that your child enjoys but that you're not particularly found of. For example, my 3-year-old niece can play hide-and-seek for hours with an enthusiasm that quickly exhausts adults, I would include an activity like this for a young sitter who will find the activity less demanding (it helps to be getting paid). I would include instructions on how she likes to play (her favorite spots, places she likes to look, saying "woo-who" if she can't find you, etc), since hide-and-seek is a game that can be very open to interpretation. By doing this the game is played exactly how the child expects and is more likely to entertain.
Parenting.com suggests the following ideas in this article:
- Set out old magazines, glue, child-safe scissors, washable markers, construction paper, envelopes, and a list of upcoming relatives' or friends' birthdays. Ask them to make cards for everyone on the list.
- Pull out several blankets or sheets as well as pillows and any large cardboard boxes you might have lying around. The reason: to make clubhouses or forts!
- Before [the sitter] arrives, hide a dozen blocks around the house. As soon as you leave, [they] can start hunting for them together (which may make it easier for you to get out the door). Once the sleuthing twosome locates them all, they can take turns hiding and searching for them again.
2. Leave a schedule or instructions, including important phone numbers
If your child is the type who demands a strict schedule to stay happy, make sure the babysitter has a very clear idea of exactly what time things are supposed to get done. A schedule is also another way to make your expectations explicitly clear.
Also, keep in mind that what may seem like common sense might not be from person to person. Some sitters may not know how to properly gauge temperature for bottles. If your baby sitter will be heating anything, consider leaving them with a very specific, pre-calculated time (if you usually just go by how it feels, try using a set amount and figuring out the time so you can ensure it will not be too hot/cold/etc). By leaving specific instructions, this should run more smoothly. If the sitter will be using the television, consider writing down directions before hand. Some sitters may not be accustomed to your television settings and may not remember the quick tutorial you give before you leave. This is especially important if the television will be used to distract a sad child once you leave.
Probably the most important information for a babysitter to have is a list of important phone numbers. You can find the PDF version of the image below here where you can print it out, fill it out, and leave it with the sitter. It includes all the important information from emergency contact, to what foods the kids can have and what the sitter is welcome to, to typically bedtime-avoidance excuses.
3. Invest in your sitter
This can mean a lot of different things. It might mean spending a significant amount of time researching and getting to know your sitter. Care.com and Sittercity.com are two great resources for finding babysitters in your area.
It might also mean paying your sitter a wage that ensures they will be willing to come at short notice or give up their Friday night (this might be more of a premium for older sitters). If you're not sure what a good rate is ask your neighbors or family and friends that live close by what they pay their sitter. Or if you're comfortable, ask the sitter directly what they feel is an appropriate wage. It's important to remember that the going rate changes depending on where you live. Care.com shows the going rate for sitters listed and also gives an average for your area.
If you have a sitter you and your children like, consider sending them to a babysitting course where they can become CPR certified. The American Red Cross is a great resource for finding babysitting and CPR courses near you, they even have a Babysitting Bootcamp held throughout the year. Some others include:
There are also some videos that you can purchase that provide adult and infant CPR instructions. Obviously, these don't come with certification, but, if you can not afford to send your sitter to a class, this might be an option to consider:
You can also find free, printable resources online that you can leave with the sitter as a reminder. Here are a few from Timpanogos Regional Hospital:
Another idea is to create a baby sitting co-op with some friends. Here and here are some more information on co-ops.Other information and resources about baby sitters can be found here on Baby Center.