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Parents' Guide to Babysitting

The Best Ways to Hire a Babysitter (The Complete Guide)

The Best Ways to Hire a Babysitter

19 Jan 2020

 Matthew James Taylor

Written & Illustrated by
Matthew James Taylor

 Renee Irving Lee, B.Ed.

Reviewed & Edited by
Renee Irving Lee, B.Ed.

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Not sure where to start with hiring a babysitter? I've got you covered.

What are the best ways to hire a babysitter? Hiring a babysitter for the first time can be a lengthy and complicated process. You can get referrals for babysitters from family and friends, ask at your child's daycare or other places you trust, go through a babysitting agency, or post a job ad online.

This guide will help walk you through the steps of hiring a babysitter from start to finish. I'll help you figure out what you're looking for in a babysitter and where to find them, as well as the entire hiring process including screening, interviewing, performing background checks, and making your job offer to your new babysitter.

Getting Started – Figure Out What You Want And Need

Hiring a babysitter for the first time can be stressful. It's hard to know where to start!

Breaking down the hiring process into smaller steps makes it more manageable and makes it more likely that you'll have a great babysitter hiring experience.

The first step is to list out all of your wants, needs, and requirements for your new babysitter.

Your budget. How much can you afford to pay for your new babysitter? What do you envision paying your babysitter per hour, or per night?

A more experienced or qualified babysitter will charge more, so that might limit what you can expect of your sitter if you're looking for a lower price range. You might be able to get the teenager next door to babysit for minimum wage, but if you've got any requirements besides the bare minimum, it will cost you extra.

Research the going rates for a babysitter in your area to see how much you can expect to pay. The amount babysitters expect varies widely between cities and is usually tied to the cost of living in an area.

Consider how many children you have and their ages as well. Babysitters will want to be paid more to watch very young children, and watching two children will cost you more than just having them watch one.

If your babysitter is going to be working full time, you might have other considerations like taxes to keep in mind.

Learn how your requirements can dictate babysitter costs in our article: The complete guide to babysitter pay.

Availability. How often will you need a babysitter, and when? It makes a big difference if you're going to need your babysitter every day or every couple of weeks. Same with getting a babysitter for the daytime compared to evenings and weekends. You need to figure out what kind of availability you're looking for in a babysitter before you can go out and find someone that matches your needs.

What kind of qualities are you looking for? Do you want a fun and upbeat babysitter for your children, or is it more important that they're able to enforce your house rules while you're gone? Do you have any dealbreakers like smokers, male babysitters, or sitters who are very young or old? Is first aid and CPR training a must-have?

Be sure to read 12 essential qualities to look for in a babysitter to help with this step.

What kind of duties will you be giving your sitter? They will be supervising your children, but do you expect anything else of them? Maybe a driver's license and car are must-haves because you'll need your babysitter to pick them up from school. Do you want them to cook dinner for your child? What about helping with homework, washing dishes, or feeding your pets?

Learn which chores babysitters are typically expected to do and why it's important to list them during the hiring process.

Do you want someone with specific past work experience or specialties? Maybe you want someone with an education or job experience in teaching or nursing. Or you might need a sitter with the ability to care for your children with special needs.

What do you want your sitter to do with your children? Are you okay with a babysitter that just sits your children down in front of the TV or video games while you're out? Or do you expect a more engaging babysitter that will do arts and crafts with them and other fun activities? What about leaving the house to take your children to a park or playground?

Different Kinds of Babysitters

Babysitters come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Each has different pros and cons, so take a look at the list below and see what one would most closely fit your needs.

High school babysitters. These kinds of sitters are good if you need someone to watch your children after school, in the evenings, or on weekends.

You can probably find a teenager who lives close to you that is looking to babysit. Teenage babysitters have less experience than most other sitters, but they also charge a lower hourly rate.

They're a good choice for older children, but you might not want to leave them in charge of infants or toddlers.

College-aged babysitters. A babysitter attending college or university is another good option. They're a bit more experienced and mature than a high school babysitter, and they may have been babysitting for several years.

If you can snag a babysitter that's studying something like early childhood education, you can get someone who is great with children at a bargain price.

The main downside of college babysitters is availability. They might have long periods where they aren't available around exam time or holidays. They might also only be available during the school year and go home during the summer.

Mature babysitters. A mature babysitter can be anyone from former nannies or childcare providers to simply older women who've had children of their own.

Even elementary school teachers are sometimes interested in babysitting to earn a little extra money.

A mature babysitter has the skills and experience that you might be looking for, but they also charge a bit more than less experienced babysitters.

Family members. A family member is a great way to get a babysitter if you need someone who will do it for free or at a really low cost, or if you need someone last minute when you can't get a hold of a regular babysitter.

Your children will be really comfortable with them, and your family member will probably be excited to spend a couple of hours with your kids too.

Make sure to pick someone you trust and set the same kinds of guidelines and expectations you'd want from any other babysitter.

Even if you don't think your family member will expect to be paid, it's still good to give them a little gift, like paying for their meal or giving them a bottle of wine. Or you can offer to babysit their children sometime in return.

Where To Find Babysitters

Now that you have got a basic idea of what you're looking for in a babysitter. It's time to try and find someone that meets your criteria as closely as possible. But where do you start looking?

Personal Recommendations

Start by asking people that you know and trust for their opinions and recommendations. This includes friends, family members other parents from school, and people from your church or yoga class. Basically, anyone whose opinion you value that has their own children. Or even if they don't have kids of their own, they might be able to put you in touch with a responsible niece or nephew.

Getting a personal recommendation is the best place to start. Getting a babysitter recommended to you by word of mouth is like an automatic reference check. People you know aren't likely to recommend a bad sitter to you because they know it could reflect badly on them.

Of course just because a babysitter comes with high praise from someone you know doesn't mean they're perfect for your family. One sitter might be great for older children, but not comfortable watching a newborn and changing diapers.

Try to ask the person you're getting recommendations from for as much information as possible before you even contact the sitter themselves.

Also, don't feel pressured to hire a specific babysitter just because your sister in law recommended them.

Through Places You Trust

Check if anyone at your child’s daycare is looking to make some extra money by babysitting for you. Or other people like the Sunday school teachers at your church that watch your child during the church service.

Many such organizations already have pretty stringent screening processes, including requiring specific training and running background checks on childcare providers.

Plus your child already knows them, so it won't be as big of a transition as leaving them with a stranger when you go out.

Babysitter Agencies And Websites

Babysitter agencies can connect you as a parent with babysitters. There are multiple reputable babysitting websites to choose from. These websites allow you to browse babysitter's profiles and find someone that matches your criteria.

These websites give information like the babysitter's past work experience. Many sites will do their own background checks.

If you're looking for more of a full-time babysitter as an alternative to putting your child in daycare, you can connect with a local nanny agency to do most of the hiring process for you.

Other Websites

You can post job ads on websites like Gumtree, Craigslist, or Kijiji to look for babysitters if you're having trouble finding them through other avenues. You can also look through Facebook groups and other places where parents in your area discuss things online.

You might be able to find a hidden gem that you wouldn't have been able to contact otherwise. But it's important to perform more thorough background checks and screening on strangers that you hire online, compared to people you hire through agencies or recommendations from friends.

Screening Candidates

Once you've started to collect some names and applications from babysitters, it's time to start screening them and narrowing down the list to your favorites.

If you've received email applications or resumes to a job you posted, it's time to go through each one. Read them over and see if the babysitter's qualifications meet your needs.

  • When are they available?
  • What education or training do they have?
  • What experience do they have?
  • What are their rates?

If a sitter doesn't meet your requirements, just send them a quick message to say no thanks and continue through your applications. It's not worth meeting with someone if they already don't meet your expectations.

It can usually take a few days for people to see your posting and respond, so give them at least a few days before you start selecting your top picks.

When you're ready, next try to narrow down the list to your favorite five or ten candidates that you'll actually speak to.

Conduct Phone Interviews

A phone interview helps you narrow down the people that you actually want to meet in person.

Plus it gets all the boring stuff out of the way. You can confirm their basic info like their name, address, and birth date.

You should also ask about their availability, rates, references, and get permission to run a background check on them.

At this stage, you won't be asking any real interview questions. It's mostly to rule out people whose availability or rates don't match what you need. But you can ask a couple of questions about their experience if you want.

Be sure to ask if they have any questions for you as well.

After talking to your potential babysitters on the phone, you should have a good idea which you have a gut feeling about, and which already don't seem like great choices.

When you're ready to end the call, let the babysitters know you're going to check their references and will let them know if they're moving on to the next phase within a few days. If someone is obviously not a good fit, feel free just to let them know on your call, rather than leaving them wondering. Explain that you appreciate their interest but it doesn't seem like a good fit.

Check Their References

If you say you're going to check references, actually do it! Lots of people skip this step and miss out on valuable insights. A reference can let you know if a sitter is dependable, good at communicating, and able to interact with children comfortably. It's also a good idea to ask why the sitter is no longer working for them.

Normally checking references is pretty routine, but you might get the occasional red flag that causes you to rule out a potential babysitter.

Download our checklist of the best questions to ask babysitter references and learn what responses to look for.

Interviewing The Remaining Candidates

Here is where it's time to narrow down your candidates to just one or two babysitters that you'd most like to work with.

For the final interview, you want to meet with the babysitters in person. There's a lot of information conveyed in body language that is impossible to get over the phone.

You can either meet your prospective babysitters at your own home, or you can get them to meet you at a neutral location like a coffee shop if you don't want them to know where you live just yet.

You can bring your children, but it's usually better to meet them alone for the first time. Each interview should take about 30 to 45 minutes.

Make sure to bring a pad of paper and a pen to take notes. Have your babysitter bring photo ID, copies of any certification (like first aid and CPR) and any questions they want to ask.

Tell the babysitter about your children, including how many you have and how old they are. As well as your house rules, or any other general information they should know.

See our complete guide on how to interview a babysitter for essential tips and trusted techniques.

For an overview of the kinds of questions you should be asking, check out my article on babysitter interview questions and the responses you should be looking for.

You might also want to have your babysitter complete a test run. Either as the first interview or as a follow-up interview.

Have the babysitter meet your children and see how they interact with each other. If you wish, you can also get the babysitter to do a short paid job watching your children for a few hours while you're still in the house. That will give you a chance to observe how they behave with them one on one, but try to give them space and not hover over them the entire time.

Background Checks

After the interviews are done and you've got your favorite candidates, it's a good idea to run some background checks for safety and peace of mind.

Hopefully, you've already seen their driver’s license or another form of ID to verify their name, date of birth, and address. If they have CPR or first aid certification, you should have viewed their documentation during the in-person interview as well.

It's a good idea to run their name through a criminal database search and make sure they aren't on a sex offender registry. Nowadays this is pretty easy and you can do it online in just a couple of minutes.

It's also worth checking their Facebook and other social media accounts if they're public to make sure they aren't up to anything too crazy or inappropriate in their spare time for what you'd expect from a responsible babysitter.

Refer to our complete guide: how to run a background check on a babysitter so you don't miss anything important.

Make Your Offer

Once all the interviews and background checks are done, it's time to make your offer to the best candidate or candidates.

Normally you'll have a pretty good idea of which candidate is the right one. Trust your instincts and go with the one who seems like the best fit.

If you're a bit unsure, you can always offer a trial period for a week or two as a way to make sure things are working out the way you expected.

If none of the people you interviewed seem like a good fit, you can always start the process over again and find a new batch of candidates.

As a courtesy, it's good to let all of the remaining candidates know once the position has been filled so they aren't left wondering.

Other Considerations

Now you've got a babysitter hired and ready to start! But there are a few other things you should do before their first shift.

Check your home insurance coverage

Check with your insurance provider on what kind of insurance coverage you've got with your home insurance, and how it covers babysitters. Your insurance broker can make sure you have a sufficient amount of umbrella coverage for having someone work in your home for you.

Write A Contract

If a family member or friend's teenager is babysitting for you, you might be willing to pass on a contract. In every case, it's better to have a contract rather than not have one. Your babysitting contract should lay out every detail of the arrangement. How much they'll be paid, job duties and expectations, number of hours, and other requirements.

The more detail the better, as having a situation arise that's outside the scope of your original contract can be confusing and complicated to detangle later on. Having something in writing you can point to will be very helpful in case of any misunderstandings or arguments.

Set Up Taxes

This one is mostly only necessary if you're using a full-time babysitter. If they work full-time hours, they may be classified as an employee, like a nanny. If that's the case, you'll need to issue them a paycheck, collect employment taxes, and pay them benefits.

Check with your local tax authority to see how much a babysitter needs to earn (or how many hours they need to work) and other criteria they need to meet before they count as an employee.

Even if your babysitter isn't considered an employee, you'll need to start keeping track of how much you pay them and when for your own potential tax deductions. To claim a childcare tax credit, you'll need to get your babysitter to issue receipts so you can put your babysitting expenses on your tax return at the end of the year.

See our babysitting tax guide for parents to learn more about claiming expenses etc.

Make Lists For Your Babysitter

You should write down any instructions or expectations for your babysitter while they're watching your child. This can include stuff like your house rules, what time your child needs to eat, how many hours they're allowed to watch TV, if they can have friends over, and anything else that you think needs explaining.

If your child has any allergies or needs any medication, be sure to include a written list with those instructions too.

You should also leave a list of emergency contacts including 911, poison control, and some people they can reach out to if they can't get a hold of you directly. Write down your full home address so they know where to request help in case of an emergency too.

Go over all of your instructions with your babysitter before you leave home to make sure they understand everything. The first time your babysitter comes over, it's a good idea to ask them to come a bit early so you can go over everything and answer any questions they might have.

See our article: information to leave for your babysitter that includes a downloadable checklist so you never forget anything important!

Follow Up With Your Child

After the first time you use your new babysitter, you'll want to talk to your child when you get home. Ideally, you should talk to them as soon as possible so the events of the day are still fresh in their mind.

Ask your child if they like their babysitter, what they did together, and what they thought of the overall experience. Hopefully, your child had a fun and safe time with their new babysitter, but if their answers really don't meet your expectations, you might need to communicate better with the babysitter or start your search for a new sitter all over again.

Related Questions

What are the signs of a good babysitter?

Not sure what you're looking for in a sitter? Here are 3 qualities that almost all good babysitters will have:

Good references. A good babysitter will have great references and be open to sharing them. Be cautious if your sitter isn't able to provide references. Be sure to actually call and see what feedback their references have too!

Training. First aid and CPR qualifications are a must-have for some parents. Having taken a babysitting course is good to have for younger babysitters as well.

Punctuality. You want a babysitter that shows up on time. If they're late for their interview, that's a bad sign. You don't want to be sitting around waiting for your sitter to arrive when you've got dinner reservations. Being late can be a sign the sitter isn't really interested or is just irresponsible.

Alternatively, look out for these bad babysitter warning signs and follow up if you think something isn't right.

How much should I pay my babysitter?

Babysitting pay can vary widely. But in the US, anything from $10 to $15 per hour is pretty common. The former being more for a younger student babysitter, and the latter more so for an experienced babysitter. Your location plays a big part in how much you'll pay for a babysitter, as well as their qualifications and the duties you expect them to do.

If you're not sure, discuss with other parents to see what's typical in your area, or find a local Mom board to ask online. Once you know what's average, you're in a good place to negotiate a final rate with your babysitter.

If you've got more than one child, expect to pay an extra $1 or $2 per hour for each additional child. As well as if you expect your babysitter to perform any extra tasks like preparing dinner.

Don't miss our complete guide to babysitter pay to learn how much you should be paying in your particular situation.


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