The Complete Parent’s Guide To Babysitting

Parents Guide to Babysitting

It’s easier to enjoy date night when you’ve found a great person to look after the kids. But finding a babysitter – the right babysitter – can be a challenge, and without one, your evening plans are dead in the water.

Fear not! We’re here to help you save your date night with our complete parent’s guide to babysitting, including:

How to choose a babysitter

The first challenge you’ll face is finding a quality babysitter. You’ll have a few different options, some of the most common being:

  • Family members. This is a great first port of call for date night babysitting. Grandparents, older cousins, aunts and uncles, older siblings – it takes a village to raise a child, and family members will know your children better than any paid babysitter you could hope to hire. However, availability isn’t always guaranteed, so you must have another option in your back pocket.
  • High school babysitters. Older children who can mostly keep out of trouble and  just need a watchful eye can be cared for by local teenage babysitters. They’re a good choice if you need someone to watch your kids after school, in the evening, at weekends, or for a short date night.
  • University babysitters. University-aged young adults can be great choices for a babysitter, especially if they’re enrolled in a relevant course like childhood education. They typically have more years of experience than a high school babysitter and are suited for a broad range of kids, including younger children. It may be tough to find them around exam periods, however, when they’ll be concentrating on their studies.
  • Professional babysitters. The cream of the crop when it comes to babysitting! These are people who have chosen to make babysitting their profession, so they’ll have the most experience out of all the choices presented here. If you go through a dedicated babysitting agency, you’ll have a good chance of securing a last-minute babysitter too, as they’ll have multiple babysitters available rather than relying on just one.

Any of these are great choices and your decision of which to go with will depend on availability, cost and the needs of your kids. Younger children or those with special needs may need a more experienced or more mature babysitter.

The right babysitter for you will also depend on your own needs. If you just need a one-off, occasional or casual babysitter, then someone with less experience can be a great (and affordable) fit. If you need someone more frequently, then a professional will likely have more structure around availability.

Where to find a babysitter

Your first stop after trying your family, neighbours or friends, would be to check with local Facebook groups and physical job boards. Local supermarkets, libraries and community centres often have a noticeboard where those looking for work can post their details. You can often post a “help wanted” or “babysitter needed” notice there too.

If you have no luck with family and friends, or local channels, try these 16 Apps & Websites to Find A Babysitter.

How to interview a babysitter

Interviewing a babysitter helps you and your potential hire discuss expectations, qualifications, abilities and availability. It’s also your opportunity to get a feel for the babysitter and whether or not they’ll be the right fit for you and your family.

Here are a few examples of questions you should ask:

  • How long have you been babysitting?
  • Are you ever available on short notice?
  • Do you have reliable transportation?
  • Do you have experience caring for children of [X] age?
  • What activities do you like to do with kids?
  • How comfortable are you enforcing household rules?
  • How do you typically deal with behaviour issues?
  • This is a screen-free/sugar-free/dairy-free/pet-friendly/non-smoking/etc home. Are you comfortable with that?
  • This job will require changing diapers. How comfortable are you with that?
  • Are you willing to prepare meals and snacks for my child?
  • Are you willing to assist with homework?
  • How often do you rely on screens when caring for kids?
  • Do you have experience caring for children with allergies (if applicable)?
  • Do you have experience caring for children with special needs (if applicable)?
  • What would a typical day/evening/afternoon caring for my children look like?
  • Do you have safety training in first aid or water safety? If so, can you provide your certification?
  • Are you aware of the current recommendations for safe sleep?
  • Are you familiar with the foods that cause choking and how those foods should be prepared?
  • Have you ever had to handle an emergency while on the job? What did you do?
  • How long have you been driving and do you have a clean driving record?
  • Are you comfortable using and installing car seats?

Click here to download your own copy of these Parent’s Guide To Babysitting – Interview Questions

You should also watch out for these red flags:

  • Forgetting about an interview.
  • Failing to return calls or emails to schedule the interview in a timely manner.
  • Showing up late.
  • Speaking negatively about past clients or children they’ve cared for.
  • Seeming unwilling to perform the basic functions of the job.
  • Seeming distracted or unenthusiastic.

How much should a babysitter cost

No parent’s guide to babysitting would be complete without a quick reference to pay rates. Here’s what you should expect to pay on average for a single child:

New Zealand ~NZD$20 per hour
United States~USD$21 per hour
Australia~AUD$22 per hour
Find city level costs for babysitters here.

How much your babysitter will cost will depend on:

  • Where you live
  • How urgently you need them
  • The hours of babysitting
  • How experienced the babysitter is 
  • Any special requests/duties or needs
  • The age of your child(ren)
  • How many children need babysitting

A professional babysitter with a degree in early childhood care living in the middle of a major metropolitan area will inevitably cost more than a high school student who you book in a week or two in advance.

Babysitters will usually charge by the hour, but not always. For example, a night nanny who helps out exclusively overnight may charge a flat fee, whereas a “˜standard’ babysitting evening service may charge hourly.

If you live far away from your chosen babysitter, they may ask for petrol money or mileage as well, and some babysitting agencies charge a small admin fee too, usually to the cost of a standard hour of babysitting.

There’s a lot of variation in how much a babysitter will cost. Your best bet to get a good idea is to check two or three options ahead of time to get a feel for how much you should expect to spend.

For a full break down of costs by city and state see our post on how much a babysitter costs.

How should I pay my babysitter?

Depending on the kind of babysitter you’ve hired, you may be asked to pay through a bank transfer, through PayPal, in cash or even potentially through a dedicated app.

It’s better to ask outright than to assume – otherwise you run into the risk of the awkward moment at the end of the evening where the babysitter is waiting for a cash payment and you’re expecting to do a bank transfer!

How to build a successful ongoing relationship with a babysitter

A good babysitter is a valuable thing for parents who want to enjoy themselves without feeling worried about leaving their kids in someone else’s care. 

Once your babysitter has earned your trust, it’s imperative to give something back (and we don’t just mean the payment!) to ensure that when it comes to clients, you’re at the top of their list too. This way, you’ll always have someone on hand when you need them.

Parent’s guide to Babysitter Do’s and Don’ts

DO be clear about expectations around what the babysitter will and won’t do from the beginning. If you want to change them, discuss it well ahead of time. This includes things like preparing meals, changing nappies, help with homework, and similar. If it seems obvious to you, it might not be, so double check!

DO let the babysitter know if your children are sick. Some babysitters are okay with caring for children who are sick, but don’t assume that’s the case. It won’t win you any favours with your babysitter if the first they hear of your child being under the weather is a cough or a sneeze as they walk in the door.

DO listen to any feedback or observations your babysitter has. Your babysitter can often have insights from their experience with other kids. Listen honestly to your babysitter and engage with them on their points. It’s not just respectful, it’s a great way to learn something new about how your kids act when you’re not around as well.

DO let your babysitter know if there are any cameras in the house and where they are pointing. Cameras are a great way to keep an eye on the most precious things in your life, your kids included, but nobody likes to be filmed without their knowledge.

DO make sure your babysitter knows about pets and their behaviours as well. If the cat is aggressive or the dog is skittish around strangers, tell your babysitter ahead of time. You’re concentrating on your kids, so it’s easy to forget the furry members of the family, but a bit of forewarning goes a long way to building a better relationship with your babysitter.

DON’T come home and relieve your babysitter later than agreed. Traffic happens, as do overly chatty relatives who trap you on the way out the door, so a certain amount of flexibility is part of the package of a babysitting gig. However, if you’ve agreed to a set time, try your hardest to meet that time. If you can’t, let your babysitter know as soon as possible.

DON’T be slow with payment. Pay on time, every time, in full, without the babysitter needing to prompt you or ask. The topic of money can be awkward for anyone to bring up, especially for a less experienced babysitter who is operating on a casual basis. Pay your babysitter as soon as possible and avoid those awkward conversations.

DON’T make the babysitter the enemy by accident. You know how your children will go to Dad when Mum says no, and vice versa? The same thing can happen where the kids will go to Mum and Dad if the babysitter has provided a (sanctioned) punishment. Presenting a united front is important to maintaining standards of behaviour, even when you’re not home. Extend that to your babysitter as well, and ensure they don’t become “the enemy” in your childrens’ minds.

DON’T leave scheduling to the last minute. Plan ahead for scheduling your sitter. Not only will this a) give you a higher chance of securing your babysitter for a given night and b) get you a better, non-emergency rate, but it’s also a lot easier for the sitter to prepare themselves properly for looking after your children.

With that complete, hopefully our parent’s guide to babysitting has you ready and prepared for date night.

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