It used to be fairly common for parents of previous generations to either recruit a relative such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent to watch their child if they needed some time off for a night out at a fancy restaurant or they simply recruited one of the neighborhood teens to watch their child.
For example, one of my childhood best friends made a good deal of money when she was in high school by baby sitting for her relatives’ children or the children that lived on her block.
Nowadays, if parents can’t recruit a trusted relative or friend to watch their child, then they hire a professional sitter and make sure that they have the necessary experience and credentials in order to take care of children. This includes peppering their references with constant questions about their experience, making sure they know basic first aid, etc.
It can still be nerve-wracking for parents to leave their precious child or children in the care of someone else, which is why it is important to follow checklists such as the one outlined below to set the child and the sitter up for success during the baby sitter’s very first visit to your home.
20 Create A Sitter Guide For The Person Watching The Little One
Real Simple recommends that parents create a “baby sitter guide” for the new sitter before the scheduled appointment. In this guide should be a list of important information such as the parents’ cell phone numbers and email addresses and the names, addresses and cell phone numbers of the child’s emergency contacts.
Parents might also want to consider making a list of other important information such as if their son or daughter is allergic to any kind of animals like cats or dogs, where the extra flashlights and batteries are stored in case the power goes out for one reason or another and reminders of where the bathrooms are located in the house.
19 Invite The Sitter Over For A Dry Run Before He Or She Starts
Zero to Three highly recommends that parents and the sitter have a “dry run” to make sure that the baby sitter is a good fit for their family a few weeks or so before the scheduled appointment. That way, if it doesn’t work out, they’ll have time to find someone new without scrambling around frantically trying to find someone.
Another good thing about inviting the sitter over for an observation is that the parents get a chance to see how the person’s style meshes with their child and vice versa, since it is very important that both parties “click” with one another.
18 Lay Out The Clothes Your Child Might Need
Being a baby sitter for a new child (or children) can be kind of awkward, so in order to smooth things over for everyone, Lemon Lime Adventures writes that you should lay out the clothes that you want your child to wear before the baby sitter arrives.
That way, there won’t be any awkward moments when the sitter has to dig through unfamiliar bureaus to find something for their charge to wear and it lessens the chance of your little one pitching a fit because they don’t want to wear an outfit that someone new has picked out for them.
17 If You Have An Infant, Set Up The Pack And Play Before You Leave
Not all baby sitters have children of their own, and let’s face it, setting up an infant’s Pack and Play can be a frustrating mystery even at the best of times.
Lemon Lime Adventures adds that it makes it easier on everyone if you set up the Pack and Play for the baby sitter the first time he or she watches your infant. After the second or third visit, you can take the time out to show them how to properly set it up and what toys your little one enjoys playing with, but in the beginning, it’s best to set it up before you leave.
16 Check Through Their References One More Time
Whether you are working as a dog walker or as a baby sitter, having solid references can make or break getting a new client. Your baby sitter should have given you a list of people they worked for in the past as well as basic information about themselves and their credentials.
Fatherly points out that even if you have checked their references after the meet-and-greet, it’s a good idea to do so again at least two weeks before the scheduled date. Make sure that you grill them by asking them questions such as whether they’re very animated with children or more laid back. You might also want to consider running a background check too.
15 Invite The Sitter Over For A Paid Observation
Fatherly writes that one way to make sure that your sitter is legitimate before you trust them enough to leave your precious child in their care is to invite them over for a paid observation.
That way, you can hang back and let the potential sitter take charge of your children but you can also observe them closely (and unobtrusively) to see if they are keeping their eyes on the little ones at all times or if he or she slacks off when they think no one is looking and pulls out their phone so they can chat with their friends on social media.
14 Leave A List Of House Or Apartment Rules For Sitter
Every family has different rules. When my sister was little and my mother had to hire a baby sitter to watch her after she went back to work, she instructed the sitter to make sure that my sibling ate lunch by noon, otherwise she’d be really grouchy and grumpy the entire day.
Parents recommends that you write down a list of house rules and rules for the children and post them on the refrigerator for the baby sitter. For example, if your child needs to be in bed by a certain time or if he or she is not allowed to watch television or surf the web on their smartphone after 9 p.m. at night.
13 Give Them A List Of Activities Your Child Enjoys Beforehand
When my sister was little, one of her favorite activities was playing the board game Candy Land. Her baby sitter was very patient and played that game with my sister day in and day out for months at a time. I’m sure she must have been dancing for joy when my little sister finally grew out of that phase.
Lemon Lime Adventures adds that it will help make the sitter’s task go smoothly if you leave them a list if your child’s favorite activities. For example, let them know if they love to play with their Barbie Dolls for hours on end or if they could sit and watch that Baby Shark video on repeat for 20 minutes straight.
12 Double Check That You Are Both Clear On The Rates
Talking about money can always feel embarrassing, but when it comes to an agreement between parents and the baby sitter, it has to be done so that there is less of a chance of any squabbles erupting over rates and services.
Fatherly points out that it is a good idea to double check with the baby sitter that the two of you are clearly on the same page in terms of the rates (such as whether they’ll get paid per hour or a flat sum) and what amount, if any, you will give them when you get home. Some parents prefer to pay up front while others like to pay half in the beginning and half when they get home.
11 Make Sure They Have The Information For Your Emergency Contact
Even if you make the decision to leave the baby sitter a reference guide before you leave to go out, Fatherly says it is always a good idea to make sure that they know the names, addresses and cell phone numbers for your family’s emergency contacts even before they look through the check list that you created for them.
You might also want to have the potential sitter meet your emergency contacts a few days before you’re scheduled to go out and make sure that the sitter puts the contacts’ information into their smartphone and actually saves the necessary information so that they don’t have to flip through the phone book or the reference guide in case something pops up.
10 Double Check They Know Your Cell Phone Number By Heart
I have to hand it to the woman that used to watch my little sister full-time when she was little and my mother was at work. In an age before cell phones really took off, she was able to quickly memorize not only our home phone number, but both of my parents’ work numbers with ease.
Fatherly notes that it is important for parents to make sure that their potential sitter not only has your cell phone numbers saved and stored in their cell phone contacts list, but also that they memorize your numbers just in case their phone battery decides to conk out for one reason or another.
9 Have A Plan In Place To Deal With Your Child's Separation Anxiety
Most children can feel mixed emotions the first time they meet their new baby sitter. I remember that it took my little sister an hour or two to warm up to the woman that eventually became her full-time sitter where as other children might take a few weeks of regular visits from the sitter in order to feel comfortable around them.
Zero to Three notes that it is perfectly normal for your child to have a bit of separation anxiety from you, especially if this is the first time that you’ve left them by themselves with a sitter. That’s why it is best to create a plan on how to mitigate these feelings and communicate said plan with the sitter before you leave.
8 Be Patient With Your Mixed Emotions
Lemon Lime Adventures points out that it is perfectly normal for parents to have mixed emotions about leaving their child (or children) alone with a baby sitter—even if it is someone they know, like a grandparent or a professional sitter with impeccable credentials and excellent references.
Instead of trying to ignore said mixed emotions, it is best to acknowledge them as you get ready. Yes, it is difficult to leave your precious little one in someone else’s care for a few hours, but it is also important that you and your significant other spend some kid-free time at a restaurant or kicking back and relaxing while watching a movie.
7 Keep Your Tone Cheerful When You Say Goodbye
Leaving your child alone with a baby sitter is always going to be fraught with emotion from both parties, but there is one tactic that you can use in order to set your son or daughter up for success with the sitter as you head out the door.
Parents notes that it is best to opt for a cheerful tone as you say your good-byes to your child before you leave. Kids are pretty smart and can tell if your voice wavers, so even if you’re feeling a bit sad about it, put on a mask and make your voice sound bright and happy so they will be reassured that everything will be fine.
6 Leave When The Sitter's Engaging Your Child In An Activity
Parents writes that another tip to lessen the chance of your child turning on the waterworks due to separation anxiety and flustering the poor baby sitter during their first visit is to leave when your little one and their sitter are engaged in an activity.
For example, put out some of your child’s favorite toys out on a play mat and have the sitter sit down on the floor with them and get them to play. When you see that your child’s attention is fully absorbed in the game, that is when you quietly leave the house or apartment for a night out to yourself.
5 Let The Sitter Know If Your Child Can't Have Certain Foods
I dealt with several allergies when I was growing up, but I always thanked my lucky stars that I was never allergic to anything food-related because those are a huge pain to deal with. I remember there was one kid in my junior high school that was allergic to peanuts and the poor little dude had to be so careful about anything he ate or even touched.
Lemon Lime Adventures adds that if your child has food allergies, it is very important to inform the sitter of this fact and run them through any protocols for dealing with a potential allergic reaction. For example, if they need an Epi-Pen, if they have to take daily medication at a certain time, etc.
4 Tell Your Sitter To Call You If Your Child Isn't Calming Down During Your Absence
Zero to Three notes that despite parents and the baby sitter’s best efforts, sometimes a child can just be inconsolable for one reason or another long past the normal time that they should have calmed down and gotten used to the fact that their parents were going to be gone for a few hours.
It is a good idea to instruct your sitter to call you ASAP after a certain period of time (like a half hour or so) and they can’t get your little one to calm down. That way, you can come right home and try again another time.
3 Show Your Child You're Comfortable Around The Sitter
Zero to Three writes that another good tip to set up both baby sitter and your child for success during the first visit is to show your little one that you are comfortable around the person that is going to be watching them for a few hours.
For example, make sure that you have a relaxed look on your face and treat the sitter like an old friend instead of acting formally. That way, your child will see that you clearly trust this person and are comfortable in their presence, which means that they can trust this person and be themselves around them too.
2 Make Sure You Give Your Child A Comfort Item Before You Go
When my sister was little and had to be watched by a baby sitter, my parents always tried to make things a bit easier by leaving her with her favorite Elmo stuffed animal. It was one of those toys that sang and moved if you touched his hands and without question, it always managed to smooth over those moments when my parents had to say good-bye.
According to Disney Baby, leaving your child with a comfort item such as a favorite blanket that they have to have in order to fall asleep or a beloved stuffed animal will help make the first outing a total success.
1 Be Sure To Stock Up On Extra Diapers Just In Case
If there’s any rule of thumb that parents need to live by, it is that you are always going to need more diapers than you think you will need for your infant.
Disney Baby adds that infants are messy creatures in general, and whether the sitter comes over to your place or you drop your baby off at their house or apartment, it is always a good idea to make sure that you stock up on diapers and pack extra, just in case. After all, you don’t want the poor sitter to have to take your infant with them to a quick grocery store run because there wasn’t enough diapers and the little one had a blowout situation due to an upset stomach.