Tips for finding a baby sitter

Whether you have a dentist appointment in the middle of the day, a meeting at your kid’s school in the evening or are trying to plan “date night” with your spouse, the task of finding a sitter can be a challenge. Where to begin, what to ask and what to expect are just a few of the dilemmas you might face. Here are a few tips to guide you through this journey.

The best place to begin the search for a sitter is in your own neighborhood: at the playground, at the library, at your church. Learn about kids who live near you who may be of baby-sitting age and seek recommendations from other parents. Word of mouth is the most useful and comfortable way to find a sitter who will be a good fit for your family and will be interested in doing the job. If you want an older sitter, college age or adult, find out if local colleges have lists of potential babysitters. John Carroll University, Notre Dame College and Ursuline College all have services available to connect to students. Nanny agencies also provide part- and full-time care options (Heights Parent Center does not endorse any particular agency or institution).

Be sure to ask questions that will make you feel secure with your choices. Ask for references to give you a feeling for the sitter’s promptness, level of maturity and attitude towards kids. Do they have experience with baby-sitting? Have they taken a first aid class? If not, are they willing? Baby-sitting classes are available at the CH-UH libraries. Heights Parent Center provides the library with a speaker during these sessions to help kids be successful baby sitters. Don’t forget to ask why they want to baby-sit. Although most kids want to baby-sit to earn money it shouldn’t be the only reason. You want them to “like kids” or “like to hold babies” or something that indicates they’ll enjoy their work!

Once you have found a potential sitter, invest the time getting to know him or her. Some of the best baby-sitting experiences come from beginning with a “mother’s helper.” This involves choosing a younger sitter who would be there only when you are home. Mother’s helpers are usually between 8 and 11 years old and can provide an extra pair of hands and eyes on your child for you while you pay bills, prepare dinner or even take a rest. The benefits of starting with a helper often result in your being able to “groom” a sitter for future long term jobs. They will benefit from getting to know your house rules, hearing the way you interact with your child, bonding with your child and developing a vested interest in your family. One downside is that you won’t be able to rely on them right away for the appointments that will take you out of the house. But before you know it, you’ll be able to run a quick errand or two as your helper grows into the job.

Be sure to give your sitter all they will need to be successful:
-Arm them with information about your child’s routines and habits.
-Inform them about any allergies, food preferences or restrictions.
-Provide contact information for yourself or spouse, close neighbors and pediatrician.
-Be sure they know to call 911 in an emergency.
-Leave them with clear rules about television watching, bed time and other situations that might occur.

Have realistic expectations. Remember, sitters are not parents. Their job is to keep your kids safe and happy. They should not be expected to discipline your child as you might. They should not be asked to prepare difficult meals or clean up anything that isn’t related to their tasks. Sometimes, baby sitters can provide special fun by doing things with your kids that you might not want to. Set them up with play dough, finger paint or other messy projects. Let them eat ice cream together or order pizza for dinner. Make it special and exciting so both the sitter and your kids will have a positive experience and want to do it again!

Baby sitters can provide much needed respite from the daily grind of parenting, as well as enable parents to meet their responsibilities outside the home. Taking the time to choose a sitter carefully will go a long way towards a comfortable and successful relationship. Remember to treat your sitter fairly and in most cases they will reciprocate. Like any other relationship, the more you put into it the more you’ll gain!

For more information on parenting, call Heights Parent Center at 321-0079 or visit

Ellen Barrett is the program director at Heights Parent Center She has been with the Center for 12 years and is a life long resident of Cleveland Heights. She has two sons Ryan and Peter who are in college.
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Volume 1, Issue 5, Posted 3:37 PM, 07.22.2008