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How to Choose a babysitter

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How to Choose a babysitter

image 47Choosing a reliable babysitter whom you can trust with your children can be tedious and down right scary, especially if your children are still very young. Knowing what to ask, what to check and what instructions and information to give this person is of critical importance. Although it’s scary, being cautious and doing your homework will give you peace of mind and that’s worth its weight in gold.

…So what is the first step? How do you begin your search? What options are there?

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is probably one of the best ways of finding a babysitter, as long as the people you are asking are people you know well and trust. This is especially true if your children are the same age. You are trusting the lives of your children to this person, so if they come highly recommended by someone who has used their services, then it’s probably a safe option.


If you don’t have good friends that know of an excellent sitter then an agency  is another safe route to take as long as they are a reputable company which has very high standards for their staff. It is of great importance that, when contacting the agency, you make them are aware of the age of your children and your needs for the evening that you will be away. You should also ensure that the sitter suggested has experience, has been reference checked and has her own transport. It is also important that the agency sends you a sitter whose age, experience and training is suitable to your children’s needs. An agency, if they do ensure these factors, you may just solve your babysitting requirements for all time! Reputable agencies definitely do take the pressure off you to find what you are looking for.

….If you are doing it yourself though there are many factors to take into account:

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Information to give to your babysitter

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Consider the age of your children and that of the sitter:

Younger teenagers do not posses the emotional or physical maturity to deal with the many problems that could arise; in fact some of the situations that could arise may even be caused by this. A good general rule to apply: the younger the children, the older the babysitter should be and the more experience they should have. The sitters level of maturity is of vital importance to your children’s care and your own peace of mind. If you are comfortable with just anyone then that’s your choice. However considering the babysitters own behaviour and maturity is a major consideration before leaving your children with her or him. Another consideration you should take into account is that; should you leave your children with anyone under the age of 16, you are legally responsible for anything that occurs in your absence.

Interview the potential candidates

Again if you are doing the research yourself, it’s important to hold interviews with any potential sitters, to ensure that they are appropriate for your children. Arrange to interview the candidates. Invite them to your home; find a good interview guide that will help you in knowing what questions to ask. Keep it casual so that you get to know what they like on a professional and personal level. If you interview a candidate that you feel may be “the one”, introduce her/him to your children and observe their interaction. Let the children lead the interaction, from showing her their room, or favourite toys etc. Do they interact well? Is the sitter genuinely interested in your children and do they like her as well? Your children will be a great indicator of the sitters sincerity and suitability. After she leaves chat to the children and value their opinion of sitter. The combination of your and their instincts will give you the impression you need.

Check potential sitters references

References are of the utmost importance! References can be an excellent indication of the sitters capabilities, skills and personality. Ask about the reference about their children, how old they were when the sitter cared for them, did they ever experience problems with reliability, time keeping or otherwise? What was their children’s opinion of the sitter? What was the sitters interaction with the children and what responsibilities did she have?

Quality and Personality

Some of the qualities and personality traits you should ascertain in your ideal candidate include:

• Is she in good health? She should preferably not smoke, be experiencing any illness at the time of the babysitting and have no contagious diseases/viruses.
• Is she dependable and responsible? She must be dependable in the sense that if she experiences any problems whatsoever, she feels confident enough to contact you about it. It should be clear that she is willing to this and that if she cant make it to the job for any reason she gives you enough time to find a suitable replacement. She needs to realize that she is responsible for your children’s health and welfare whilst they are in her care.
• Does she have a genuine interest in child care? She should be understanding and love being around your children and this can be shown through her experience, training and as mentioned previously, your children will automatically know whether her interest is genuine or not.
• Self confidence is also very important. Your children will respond better to a sitter who can remain calm in all situations. She should be self confident and present herself in a respectable manner. She should be respectful of the children in the same way that you are. She should have good manners, and respect for the privacy of your family; both for your personal space, possessions and information. Cross questioning her about the previous babysitting jobs and families she has worked for and her attitude towards them is another great indication.
• She should show a basic understanding of the different stages of a child’s development. For example she should know that whilst removing privileges from an 8 year old may work for discipline, a 2 minute time out for a 2 year old will work better than taking away his toys, if she knows how to implement it properly or that for example, while a child of 10 years old goes to bed at 9pm and 4 year old may need to be in bed at 7pm.
• She should be adaptable to your pattern and routines and have a responsible outlook towards working with you. This can be evaluated by the information she requests from you, emergency numbers, the route to the closest hospital, what the children are allowed to eat and what they are not etc.
• Above all trust your instincts!

Emergencies and Medical Training

Accidental injuries in the home are one of the highest causes of death in children under the age of 14 in South Africa today and in fact the world over. Scary, right? The importance of proper first aid training should be obvious and cannot be stressed enough.

Ideally your sitter should have first aid training and know the Heimlich manoeuvre and the appropriate way to use this technique age appropriately. Knowledge of CPR techniques for children and infants is also vital. You should have a first aid kit which is accessible to them and they should know where this kit is located. Sitters need to be alert at all times, if they suspect that a child requires professional medical assistance for any reason what so ever, they need to feel secure to do it even if it ends up to be unnecessary. If they do not have proper training they should at the very least be able to think logically and rationally in the case of an emergency.

In the case of an immediately life threatening emergency, a medical professional is allowed to treat your child, however if the situation does not immediately threaten the child’s life, the doctor will not be able to help without your consent. Ensuring that you leave a “consent to treat” letter with your sitter is a good option if you are very worried about this.

Remember that nothing is more important than the safety and well being of your children. Be prepared and responsible. Never cut costs when it comes to the safety measures you put in place! Your sitters ability to remain calm in the event of an emergency can mean the difference between the life and death of your child. Cutting corners and not doing proper research on your sitter can be fatal.

Make sure your sitter knows the following basic safety guidelines:

• Never give a child any medication without written consent from you.
• Never leave the children alone outside or even inside, not even for a minute.
• Children must never be left alone near water. Infants and small children under 5 years of age can drown in a matter of minutes in only a few centimetres of water.
• Do not give children under the age of 5 hard sweets, popcorn, nuts or other foods that may cause blockage. Large pieces of food, particularly meat, should always be chopped into edible portions before being given to younger children.
• Keep children away from small objects, plastic bags and balloons. Children should also not be permitted to play in the kitchen, near the stairs, windows and should be monitored to ensure they do not go near electrical power points.


…Now you have now found a sitter you are happy with, and tonight is the first time she will be looking after your children by herself. What’s next?

Early Arrival is Key!

Asking your sitter to arrive 30 minutes before the time, especially the first time she is babysitting for you is essential, even if you have to pay her a little extra, it’s worth it. Use this time to discuss emergency procedures, telephone numbers she may need, the quickest route to the closest hospital, discipline guidelines, house rules, bed times, fees etc should all be clearly discussed.
By planning in advance you will know that your children are safe and happy and this will bring you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your time off or out.

The Instructions

Before leaving always ensure that your sitter is armed with the following information:

• Go through your child’s routine and the general household rules.
• Ensure the sitter knows where you will be and under what circumstances she may phone you or emergency services. Provide an emergency phone list including your own number and address.
• Ensure she knows where to find numbers for emergencies including the poison centre number.
• Demonstrate how to enable and disable your security systems and alarms. With South Africa’s high crime rates this can be imperatives.
• Let the sitter know about any allergies or special needs your child/children may have. If medication needs to given to your children right down specific directions for the administration of these, including time and amount.
• It may seem strange but it is advisable that your children are also aware of emergency numbers and how to dial them in case anything happens to your babysitter.
• Explain any guidelines and expectations you have with regard to leaving the house or use of the phone etc, clearly to your sitter.

House rules and other information

It is important that both your sitter and your children know the rules for while you are gone, and it is a good idea to have your children sit in on this explanation so that there is no arguing with the sitter from the children about instructions once you are gone. Discuss snacks, rules for TV, time for bed, and what you expect from your sitter and children.

Call home

It is a wise idea to call home at some point in time during the evening. A good time for this is just before bedtime. You can check to see everything is running smoothly and if there are any problems you can help with.

The Follow up

When you get home spend a few minutes going over the evening with your sitter. Ask about the things you think the sitter may have had problems with. Often sitters are hesitant to discuss problems they have encountered unless asked directly. The next morning chat to your children about the evening and whether they enjoyed having her there. What they ate, what activities they did and if anything happened that made them feel uncomfortable.

With all of this behind you, you can feel more at ease next time in the knowledge that all your hard work has paid off, your children are safe and happy, and you can enjoy your evenings out without much worry!


Article written by Bianca from:


babysitters, au pairs, housesitters


email:      sitters@sitters4u.co.za

mobile:   +27 (0) 83 691 2009

fax:         +27 (0) 86 631 4837


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