Babysitter Basics: Leaving Your Child in Good Hands

Choosing a trusted caregiver for your child is important. Whether it's a friend, neighbor, relative or a babysitting service, take the time to make sure your kids will be happy and safe when you're not around.

Babysitter with baby

Where to find a babysitter

Someone perfect might be in your own neighborhood. Ask your friends, daycare centers or places of worship if they can recommend good people to babysit. Take notice of responsible, mature young people in your community and talk to their parents.

How to pick a babysitter

  • Interview people with your questions prepared beforehand. You are looking for someone responsible, experienced, mature, friendly and honest, who likes kids. Important questions to ask include: have you taken a babysitting or CPR course? Can you change a diaper? How do you deal with crying babies? How would you handle an emergency like fire or a break in? How do you discipline kids? Can you prepare a bottle or healthy lunch for kids?
  • Teenage sitters should be at least 13 years old and mature enough to manage children.
  • Invite the sitter over a few times to help out while you're at home so you can see how comfortable your child is with the sitter. If child has special needs, be sure to explain.
  • Find out how much your babysitter charges beforehand.
  • Talk to others who have hired this babysitter, or if the babysitter is a teenager, the parents.

What to give the babysitter

  • Print out this emergency contact number sheet, fill it out completely and keep it where the babysitter will remember it.
  • Write down and go over the child's routine: bedtime, bath-time, homework time, when and what to eat, phone time and TV.
  • Discuss your rules about visitors, leaving the house, smoking and drinking.
  • Show the babysitter any emergency exits, extra keys, fire extinguishers and first aid kits.

When you leave and return

  • Say goodbye to your kids instead of sneaking out. Call once and check on everything.
  • Make sure you return exactly when you say you will. If you are going to be late, call and let the babysitter know.
  • Ask your babysitter and/or the kids afterward how things went: when did everyone eat? Did you all have fun together?

For More Information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these reminders for having a babysitter at home. Also available in Spanish. [go now]