Article Summary:A checklist of essential items and guidelines to cover with your child's babysitter.
Ok, you've found a great sitter (see "What to Look for in a Babysitter")... Now what? Use this checklist to ensure you've covered all the bases with your new child care provider.
The first time a person sits, he or she should arrive about 30 minutes before you need to depart. You will need time to give a tour of the house, go over any contact or emergency information and talk about your "house rules."
Whether you realize it or not, every home has a set of unwritten rules that provide a basic framework for how the household operates. Be pleasant, but don't hesitate to lay the ground rules. If you don't want anyone wearing shoes on your new carpet, then that's a house rule. If your kids can watch a specific television show or movie, then you should convey that information. Meals and bedtime also fall under house rules.
Another house rule is discipline. Make sure that your sitter knows how to get your kids to mind, and if discipline is a problem then point that out. Give the sitter some tips. And, make sure that the sitter knows that you never hit or physically force your children.
What do you want your children and sitter doing while you are away? Suggest activities, such as playing in the backyard, going for a walk, board games, dress up, reading and crafts.
Povide the sitter with a house key. Another essential item is a first aid kit. Every home should have one and it should be in an easily accessible place.
Cell Phone and a Back-Up
Make sure that you provide a cell phone number and a land line telephone number for where you can be reached. Why? Cell phones are not always reliable, so a second number acts as your back up.
Speaking of Phones
Make it clear that the sitter should not be making or receiving phone calls or texting. You are paying the sitter to provide childcare and supervision, so chatting with friends isn't appropriate. Unless you approve, your sitter should not be doing homework, listening to an iPod or using your computer.
It may sound outrageous, but make sure the sitter knows that smoking or drinking alcohol or using drugs is unacceptable when your children are in his or her care. And, the sitter's friends are not allowed in your home.
Provide a Checklist
Ahead of time, write out a list of important contact information: your name, address, telephone numbers, emergency contact person and medical information about your child.
What's to Eat?
Your sitter should be capable of making a simple meal for your child, but the emphasis is on simple. Most parents make up a meal ahead of time so that all the sitter has to do is serve it. Be sure to provide some food alternatives to the sitter as well - a teenager may not want to continue sitting for a family that doesn't have a well-stocked pantry!
While you are away...
Call home if you will be gone for a long period. However, if you think that your call may upset your kids or make it difficult for them to sleep, then ask the sitter to call you at a designated time.
Get Feedback From the Sitter
Communication is a two-way street, so ask the sitter to be honest with you. If there are any issues, it is better to resolve them quickly.
Get Feedback From Your Kids
If your kids are old enough, ask them what they thought of the sitter. Use your best judgment...if something seems wrong, then follow your instinct and use another person the next time.
Observe Your Home
Did the sitter leave your home tidy? Sitters are not required to do housework, but nor should you come home to a mess. Bottom line: Toys should be picked up, clothes need to be in the hamper and dishes in the dishwasher.
This Sitter is a Winner!
After all your research and effort, you have found the sitter of your dreams. Don't let the person get away! Book in advance or consider setting up a standing day or evening each week. This is a great way to have a scheduled getaway and not have to hassle with calling around to book a sitter. Give it a try to see if it works for you.
Nancy Wurtzel is the founder and owner of All About Baby, an online store located at www.allbaby.com. All About Baby offers more than 300 personalized and memorable baby gifts for young children. The site also features interesting and helpful child-related content. Ms. Wurtzel has over 25 years of marketing and communications experience. She consults with small businesses seeking to enter the marketplace or grow their existing e-commerce business.