If you’re new to the area and don’t know how to go about finding a sitter, ask your neighbors or co-workers for recommendations, inquire at your place of worship, or ask staff in your pediatrician’s office for suggestions.
If your child is already enrolled in a daycare or latchkey program, staff members who are already familiar with your child may be willing to babysit or provide sitter recommendations.
Interviewing sitters and checking their references will help you narrow down your choices.
Prepare a list of questions to ask ahead of time. Ask about a sitter’s experience caring for kids and whether she’s certified in infant and child CPR or has taken a babysitter course.
Akron Children’s Hospital offers a Safe Sitter program for children ages 11 to 13. You can also check with your local YMCA or American Red Cross chapter.
Consider inviting a sitter over for a dry run while you’re at home to familiarize her with your household and observe the interactions with your child.
- Go over your child’s usual routine (homework, bedtime, mealtimes) and your general house rules, including any limits on TV, computer use, video games, playing outside, etc.
- Make sure the sitter knows where you will be and how to reach you at all times, and under what circumstances to call 911 before contacting you.
- Point out where the sitter can find the number for the poison control center, which is 1-800-222-1222 (it should be posted in a prominent location).
- Make sure the sitter knows whom to contact in an emergency. Provide an emergency phone list that includes neighbors, friends, relatives and your doctor. Write your own number and address on the list, so in case of an emergency, the sitter can give that information to the 911 operator.
- Show the sitter where emergency exits, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are located. Demonstrate how to enable and disable security systems and alarms if you have them.
- Show the sitter where you keep the inside door keys in case a child locks himself inside a room.
- Let the sitter know of any special problems your child may have, such as an allergy to bee stings, certain foods, or household products, or the need for medication at a specific time (explain and write down the directions).
- Review your first-aid kit with the sitter.
- Teach kids the meaning of 911 and how to call for help, so that if something happens to your sitter, they know what to do.
Let your sitter know your expectations before you leave. If you’d prefer that she doesn’t leave the house with your child, make that clear. If the sitter is a driver, let him know the rules about driving your kids. If the phone and visitors are off limits, discuss those restrictions.
Make sure the sitter knows these safety rules:
- Don’t give your child any medicine without your specific instruction.
- Don’t leave kids alone in the house or yard, even for a minute.
- Don’t leave kids unattended near water. Infants and small children can drown in only a few inches of water, even in a bucket or toilet.
- Don’t feed kids under 4 years old popcorn, nuts, hard candy, raw carrots or any hard, smooth foods that can block the windpipe and cause choking. Foods such as hot dogs or grapes should never be served whole and should be chopped into very small pieces (skin should also be removed from hot dogs).
- Don’t let kids play with plastic bags, latex balloons, coins or other small objects they could choke on.
- Don’t let kids play near stairs, windows, stoves or electrical outlets.
After you return, ask your kids if they enjoyed the sitter’s visit. When you find a reliable sitter they like, you’ll have a more relaxing and enjoyable time away from home.
© 2012. Article adapted from The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth®. Used under license.