The first time we ever left our oldest with a babysitter, she cried until she fell asleep on the kitchen floor. She was devastated we would ever leave her. But it was our anniversary, she was a toddler, and we hadn’t left the house on a date since before she was born. But we sought out a well-qualified babysitter because we desperately needed out.
As a teen, I was a nanny and certified babysitter. I remember taking pride in the fact that I could show completed and passed CPR training, Heimlich maneuver experience, and even carried my own first aid kit in my little bag of babysitting tricks.
So it was important when looking for a caregiver for my own children to have someone loving, well-equipped, and ready to take on the job.
The top 5 Things Your Babysitter Needs to Know
From the moment you gave birth, your priorities change as parents.
You’d do anything for that bundle of joy, including an extensive search and interview process for the most qualified babysitters.
How do you know you’ve hired a babysitter or nanny who has the knowledge and ability to do the job well? They should know the basics of childcare as well as possessing several other skills. I’ve written them below.
You respect your babysitter, and he/she respects your family. They must know what’s important to you and your family in order to do their job well. Your priorities, standards of behavior and the value of his/her service to you should all be explained before the job starts.
Tell them what your priorities are.
All families do things differently and place a greater weight on some things more than others.For some, it’s imperative that children not be allowed to have more than a certain number of hours of screen time per day.For others, certain types of foods, such as sweets, are strictly limited. For others, their religion and values guide their everyday life. If the babysitter doesn’t recognize what’s important to you or disregards your priorities, they are not a good match for your family.
Explain your standards of behavior
… not only for the babysitter but for your children as well. Tell the nanny if you expect her to keep her phone on silent, or to limit texting or social media while she’s with your kids.Explain that under no circumstances is your babysitter allowed to invite other people into your home. Be clear about the behavior you expect from your children as well. Go over expectations for the levels of respect and obedience you expect your children to show the babysitter and the consequences that will occur if they do not meet those expectations.
Show him/her how much you value them.
Express your thankfulness for their service to your family, and do it often. Let them know that you appreciate them. You can tell them verbally, of course. You can also express their value in terms of consistent and timely payment. Explain upfront how much you’ll pay them for their time, and be sure to pay them consistently and fairly.
How to Handle Household Emergencies with kids
The caregiver of your children should know how to handle an emergency. Of course, the hope is that he/she would never have to use their training in CPR/First Aid, have to call an ambulance, or have to drive your children anywhere. But if she had to, would she be capable?
They must know where the first aid kit, emergency supplies, exit plans, and medications are located in the event of an emergency.
If the worst happens, the seconds it takes for them to find what they need can be crucial.
If there’s a tornado, do they know where the best location in your house is to go for safety?
If there’s a kitchen fire, do they know where the fire extinguisher is, and if it spreads, do they know where all the exits to the house are located and where the family has agreed to meet upon exit?
And if a child falls and has a large cut, can your babysitter quickly find the gauze and pain reliever?
Access to a phone is important.
If your babysitter does not own their own cell phone, be sure you provide one, or have a landline they can use in an emergency. In fact we got a “Home cell phone” through Republic Wireless that is preprogrammed and costs us $15/mo.. Perfect for our young kids to dial in emergencies or for babysitters to have without worry.
It’s important that your child, if old enough, can dial 911 in case something happens with a babysitter.
Having phone numbers for yourself, the fire department and police department programmed on the phone is a good idea too. Teach the babysitter or nanny how to use it to find the important numbers quickly if needed.
Find more on Republic Wireless by clicking the photo below. You can get a card for an unlocked phone you already own! If you sign up, we’ll get a small kickback that helps pay for our own plan.
It’s not so necessary that the babysitter knows how to drive, but it’s a big plus.
There might be a situation in which he/she needs to drive your children somewhere, and if so, having a driver’s license and a car is a good thing. If they don’t have a car, leave the keys to yours, and have it stocked with child seats if your children still use them. If they don’t have a license, be sure to provide them with phone numbers for someone close by who does, or at the very least, provide the numbers or access to businesses (like Uber <use my link to get $20 towards your first ride!) that will come and pick them up if necessary.
Your babysitter or nanny needs to be good with time management, be responsible, and possess confidence and leadership skills.
Without these character traits, they may let you or your children down.
Respects your time frames
Knowing routines, taking the job seriously, and having the confidence to step up to the tasks required of them will make the time spent with your children much more efficient and reliable.
What time is bath and bedtime?
What time must they leave the house to get to piano lessons?
Does your babysitter know these things, and can he/she follow your time frames?
Bath and bedtimes should be respected and consistently met for long-term care commitments. If you depend on them for meals, bathtime, or other daily routines, and they fail to perform them, then it can cause a disruption to the entire family.
Behavior management is a skill that is not often intuitive.
Young, inexperienced babysitters often laugh when confronted with a child’s misbehavior, because they aren’t sure how to respond. In effect, the behavior is encouraged instead of redirected, and it can quickly spiral into a bad habit.It’s important that the nanny or babysitter has the confidence and wisdom needed to regain composure and take the lead in redirection or training. You may need to teach her the tools and provide her the resources she needs to manage your children’s behavior when necessary if she doesn’t already possess those skills.
A calm disposition, flexible attitude, and ability to prioritize
They are tasks that are necessary skills that he/she needs to practice. With children, things rarely go as planned. The babysitter must be willing to plan ahead as much as possible but still have the ability to change things when needed, rearrange schedules, and organize priorities. Multitasking under pressure with an ability to take a deep breath and go with whatever happens is the key to a fun and enjoyable day for everyone.
Basic Home Management Skills
If you have a nanny, they are often used to doing small chores or tasks around the home when needed. However, babysitters aren’t usually expected to do very much other than simple cooking and tidying after the children.
Your children’s babysitter should ideally be able to manage the oven or at least the microwave.
Knowing how to cook meals and prepare snacks is not necessary but it is a huge benefit. Being able to do minimal cooking and meal preparation such as sticking a pizza in the oven, or safely chopping vegetables for snacking is a benefit to hiring a good babysitter.
Their skills in the kitchen saves you time and stress.
Understanding of technology and its rules
Technology is growing increasingly prominent everywhere. If your child’s babysitter can’t troubleshoot minor issues with a Kindle, or can’t figure out how to work the television, it can throw a wrench into their day. But also an understanding of when to put it away is important too.
It doesn’t hurt to show them how to run the television, computer, and/or the tablet. If your home is monitored by an electronic security system or has video baby monitors hooked up to cell phone apps, those are important to explain as well.
Even a teen babysitter should be comfortable with cleaning or doing laundry.
No, you shouldn’t assign them your weekly chores, but if there’s a spill, he/she should be willing to clean it up whether it involves sweeping or vacuuming, scrubbing or soaking.
If a child has a potty training accident, a babysitter should be knowledgeable and courteous enough to at least contain the mess and place it in a sanitary place until you can take care of it later. And how awesome it is when you have a babysitter who will actually pre-treat a stain or even wash such laundry so you don’t have to worry about it when you get home!
Caring for Children… of course!
It goes without saying that a babysitter needs obvious skill in caring for children. Kids can be rowdy, messy, mischevious, and unpredictable. But they can be sweet, loving, kind and thoughtful too. It’s important that a babysitter or nanny be able to lovingly provide all the needs that any child might have, such as keeping them content, clean, and safe.
The caregiver should be mindful of a child’s sanitary needs and graciously provides for them.
They should be comfortable changing diapers and giving baths and promote sanitary practices such as handwashing before meals and after going to the bathroom.
A basic understanding of safety standards in regards to children is necessary.
First aid and CPR training is often required of nannies, but not so much babysitters. Encourage your child’s babysitter or nanny to gain certification through an official first aid or CPR course, or perhaps even pay for their training yourself. Your child’s safety is important enough to push for such training.
A babysitter should be aware of electrical outlets, sharp objects, or choking hazards and prevent injury by taking measures to protect children. He/she should also be well-trained and understand current laws or recommendations regarding car seats, and how to properly position and latch car seat straps and buckles. and if going outside, s/he should understand and enforce street safety for kids.
Your babysitter is given responsibility for the most precious things in your life – your children. It’s important that they are capable and know what they are doing when you leave your children in their care.
Get the printable babysitter guide to post on your refrigerator when leaving the kids at home with a caregiver! (There’s a sneak peek and the sign-up below the picture.)
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!