Babysitter Basics: Leaving Your Child in Good Hands

Choosing a trusted caregiver for your child is important. Whether it's a friend, neighbor, relative or a babysitting service, take the time to make sure your kids will be happy and safe when you're not around.

Babysitter with baby

Where to find a babysitter

Someone perfect might be in your own neighborhood. Ask your friends, neighbors, daycare center staff or families at your place of worship if they can recommend a good babysitter. Take notice of responsible, mature young people in your community and talk to their parents.

How to pick a babysitter

  • Prepare questions before you have the sitter over for the first time. Important questions to ask include: have you taken a babysitting or CPR/first aid course? Can you change a diaper? How do you deal with crying babies? How would you handle an emergency like fire or injury? How do you discipline kids? You are looking for someone responsible, experienced, mature, friendly and honest, who likes kids.
  • Be sure the babysitter is at least 13 years old and mature enough to handle common emergencies.
  • Invite the sitter over a few times to help out while you're at home so you can see how comfortable your child is with the sitter. Trust your gut; if something doesn’t feel right, it’s most likely not a good match.
  • If child has special needs, be sure to explain.
  • Find out how much your babysitter charges beforehand.
  • Talk to other families who have hired this babysitter. Ask how many kids they have and if they’ve ever had any issues with the sitter.

What to give the babysitter

  • Print out this emergency contact number sheet, fill it out completely and post it where the babysitter will see it.
  • Write down and go over the child's routine: bedtime, bath-time, homework time, when and what to eat, phone time and TV. Include any food allergies and medications.
  • Discuss the house rules for your child(ren) and the sitter
  • Show the babysitter any emergency exits, extra keys, fire extinguishers and first aid kits.

When you leave and return

  • Say goodbye to your kids instead of sneaking out. Call (at least) once and check on everything.
  • Make sure you return exactly when you say you will. If you are going to be late, call and let the babysitter know.
  • Ask your babysitter and/or the kids afterward how things went: when did everyone eat? Did you all have fun together?

For More Information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these reminders for having a babysitter at home. Also available in Spanish. [go now]