How do I go about choosing a babysitter?
- Choose a trusted friend or family member if possible.
- Get recommendations from friends.
- Trade childcare with friends who have kids.
- Do not hire a sitter under age 12.
- Watch your child’s reaction when you tell them a sitter they know is coming, and listen to what your child says about the sitter afterward.
- Meet the sitter in advance, and check references.
- Make sure he or she knows CPR and first aid.
- Ask whether young sitters have taken the American Red Cross babysitter class. If not, encourage them to take it. If you have a sitter aged 12 to 15 that you like, offer to pay for them to take the class.
- Have them spend time with you and your kids, and see how they interact with the kids. A good strategy is to hire them first as a “mother’s or father’s helper,” and have them watch the kids while you are home getting something done.
What do I need to tell the babysitter before I leave?
Your sitter will need lots of information from you before you leave. You can start with this handy fillable pdf form and add additional instructions and information as needed.
Allow enough time to go over the information with them, show them the house, and answer any questions. Be sure to show your sitter, in particular:
- Location of exits
- Location of first aid supplies
- Location of fire extinguisher, flashlights
Other things that may be helpful to discuss could include:
- Children’s bedtimes and bedtime routine
- Any food or drink to be given to the children
- Medications—name, time last given, time next dose due, amount to give (dose)
- Never to shake a baby or young child
- How to calm the baby if crying or colicky
- How to handle misbehavior
Does my child need a sitter?
Most states do not have laws about the age at which children are allowed to stay home alone or to babysit other kids. There is no set age at which all kids are ready to stay home alone. You know your child best. Consider factors like:
- Does your child know and follow house rules?
- Can your child make good decisions?
- Do they know how to handle an emergency?
- Will they make good use of their time?
- How mature are they?
- Are they familiar with safety guidelines, such as what to do in case of fire?
- Are they comfortable using the phone?
This is a very individual decision. You need to decide if your child is mature enough.
- Choosing a childcare provider
- Leaving your child at home alone (childcare.gov)
- Babysitter fire safety guide (firecomm.gov)
- Babysitter and childcare training (American Red Cross)
- Guidance on preventing shaken baby syndrome (National center on Shaken Baby Syndrome)
Written/reviewed by Sara Laule, MD
Updated March 2017