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P&K How to: How to Choose a Five-Star Babysitter

The thought of leaving your children in someone else’s hands can be a little intimidating. But between work, errands, and even date nights, it’s inevitable that a time will come when you can’t bring your children with you. When that time comes, follow these tips to choose the best babysitter for your family.

My number one piece of advice for choosing childcare is to seek recommendations from trusted friends. Parents who share your values and have been in similar situations can be a great source for finding local babysitters. They can offer honest opinions on the caregivers they have used, and you’ll be able to ask questions about each candidate. Start by asking friends, neighbors, and parents of your children’s classmates.

If you’re new to the area, try using an app or website like Bambino or Care.com to find an array of sitters in your neighborhood. Some services will conduct an official background check for a fee and even show you each babysitter’s availability. Another great feature is that you can easily see which sitters are CPR and first aid certified, and which ones have taken the Red Cross babysitting course.

If you don’t know the sitter personally (or know someone who does), search her name on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. By checking out her profile, you’ll be able to form an initial impression and see if she’s someone you would want your children to look up to. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for references. Chances are, she’ll be happy to give you contact information for another family she has worked with. If she cannot provide these references, keep looking.

It can be a good idea to have your potential sitter over for dinner or an outing with your family to see how she interacts with your children. This will give you a chance to observe firsthand how the scene would look if you weren’t present. Be sure to set expectations up front, such as additional responsibilities like cleaning or pet care, and communicate clearly about the hourly rate to be paid by asking your sitter how much she typically charges (Care.com also has a handy hourly rate calculator if you want an idea of what to expect).

Even if you ultimately choose one sitter, it’s ideal to have a few people you can call in case your regular is unavailable. However, it’s comforting knowing your children are with someone who has built a relationship with your family. With these tips, you’re sure to find someone you and your kids both love and trust. Now… Go plan that date night!

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