I was a teen nanny and babysitter in high school. In fact, I started watching kids as young as 2 when I was just 11 years old. I am pretty sure I would have never let a pre-teen watch my own children that young; nonetheless, it’s something I did in the summer, on weeknights, and throughout my entire high school experience.
So I got used to not knowing what to expect from family to family.
Like the one weird time I had a lady call me, tell me she’d pay me $50 per day, and then just took off when I arrived. At the end of the week she claimed she knew where I lived (which happened to be in the boonies) and that she left money on the grill in the driveway. Only we didn’t have a grill in the driveway.
It was the strangest situation I have ever been in. I was left confused both in terms of payment on exactly what exactly she expected from me in watching her kids because it was a near free-for-all in that house.
Expectations are important both for parents and the caregiver. Because without expectations getting met, someone is left feeling confused or frustrated.
For that particular mom, I had no idea what her kids liked or were allowed to eat. They were crazy kids who tore apart that whole house. And while I personally had the desire to never leave a house in disarray, what really was the expectation and would the mom be upset if I asked the kids to help?
As a parent, I have certain expectations and I would be remiss if I didn’t communicate them.
So let’s start with your priorities.
Common information to provide for a babysitter
You’re leaving the house for the long-awaited date night, and the kids are excited to be spending time with their new babysitter. It’s pretty chaotic, and you think to yourself, “Did I forget to mention anything?” as you shut the door behind you. Walking to the car, you are mentally ticking off every detail on your list of important things to tell the babysitter.
Instead, having it written down beforehand can ease your heart and mind that all the bases are covered… just in case.
Being prepared for a babysitter often means tidying the house, having the children wipe their faces and hands, and cleverly setting out a board game or a box of Legos in hopes that the television won’t be the main entertainment.
Plus, don’t forget to snag the handy printable at the bottom of this post. It’s a single sheet that will provide you an easy way to record it all. Just print and post on your fridge.
And while we’ll discuss the common things your babysitter needs to know, go ahead and brainstorm the uncommon. What do you do mindlessly that is actually really important? Once I had a friend who left her baby with pumped breastmilk and the babysitter shook the bottle up vigorously instead of gently swirling.
It was a minor detail to the babysitter, but my friend wished it was something she would have told the car provider upfront.
What to Tell the Babysitter Before You Leave the House:
Your Home Address – If the babysitter needs to call an ambulance, where will s/he say s/he’s located?
Your Numbers – List your cell phone number, and your husband’s/friend’s – whoever you’ll be with for the evening. More than one number is never a bad idea, in case your battery dies.
Where you’ll be – List the name of the location where you’ll be at for the duration of the time. If you’re going to multiple locations, list all of them, and the approximate times.
Emergency contacts- What to do if the babysitter can’t reach you and needs immediate help with something – do you have a trustworthy neighbor who knows where your extra house key is located?
Do you have family nearby who can help secure a car seat or can tell you what the toddler’s favorite sleep toy is?
Important time frames to follow – when do the children need to be in bed? Is there a cut-off time at night for snacks/drinks? How long are the older children allowed to stay up to read? Do you have a cut-off time for screen time?
When (or when not) to interrupt your date – is there anything of importance that you would want the babysitter to NOT hesitate to call/text you? If the baby won’t stop crying or if the child has an asthma attack, for instance? Or maybe you want to know everything but not during a certain time frame.
Where to find first aid supplies – If your babysitter needs a band-aid or some bee sting medication, where can she find it? Is it easily accessible?
Health/Safety Information – are there any allergies or health/behavioral concerns with any of your children? Also, list any foods/drinks that the children can’t have or any instructions for particular foods that you wish the babysitter to prepare for the kids. Are the kids used to getting a vitamin before bed or any other routine a babysitter should either know to perform or be prepared to let the kids know they’re skipping that night.
House Rules & Disciplinary Measures – any important house rules such as washing hands before meals, or no balls indoors, or routines that are generally followed can be listed. If you prefer a certain method of behavior management, you can specify what is or isn’t appropriate.
One of the hardest things about having someone else watch your kids is when you expect them to handle a situation a certain way and they don’t. So let them know upfront how you would like tough situations handled (or even left alone).
When leaving your children with the babysitter, it can be a challenge to remember every detail that needs to be explained.
The truth is, your babysitter will also have a hard time remember verbal instructions after you’re gone. It’s a good idea to write down the important information that your babysitter needs to know ahead of time. In this way, you will have peace of mind while you’re out, and the babysitter will be confident to handle any situation that arises.
Print out this handy printable reference sheet so you will have every detail written before the babysitter even arrives!
More from the Babysitter series
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!