10 tips for finding the perfect babysitter

Parenting is a never-ending job. Between doctors visits, homework, swimming classes and ballet lessons, we are stretched so thin, it is a wonder we have time to do anything else. With this is mind, it’s always good to have a babysitter on speed dial who can drop everything and just turn up when you need them

Here, KidSitter, the on-demand babysitting service connecting parents with trusted carers, shares its ten tips to help you find the perfect one:

1. Check their identification documents
Before you let someone in your home to watch your children, you should absolutely make sure the person is indeed who they say they are. Asking them to bring along a valid to the first meeting is not out of the question. In fact, it is quite important.

2. Request their CRB or DBS check
A DBS certificate, which stands for Disclosure and Barring Service, formerly known as a CRB check, tells you whether a person has any criminal history. It is issued by the Home Office, and its purpose is to help employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, especially children. A DBS check can only be requested by an employer.

3. Examine their original certificates
Childcare providers who have worked with children on a regular basis will typically have special certificates, like paediatric first-aid, NVQ in childcare or maternity nurse training. Make sure you ask them to bring these certificates along when you meet, so you can get a better understanding of their experience. In some instances, certifications expire in three years; for example, a paediatric first-aid is only valid for three years.

4. Make sure they are local to you
A babysitter who lives an hour away will not work out in the long-term – you need someone who lives close by, and can get to you quickly and easily. This is especially important if the babysitter ends up staying late at night. The last thing you want is for them to take an hour-long bus ride home at one o’clock in the morning! Moreover, a local babysitter knows the neighbourhood, so if you need them to take your child to the park, they’ll know exactly where to go.

5. Ask for their availability to provide childcare
This is a very important one. You might find the perfect babysitter after a long search, only to find out they’re not available at the times you need them. If they are in school or at university, they might have exams. If they are teachers, they may only be available in the evenings. First consider how frequently you need them. Is it ad-hoc or one-off? Or do you need someone regularly? Check with them to see how often they are available. If you are someone who prefers a little spontaneity, you need someone flexible who can come to you with little to almost no advanced notice. If you need an extra pair of hands during summer to help out with the children at home, you need someone who can take weeks off at a time.

6. Do they have the relevant experience you need?
Every babysitter has a unique background. Some have been maternity nurses or have gone through the joys and tribulations of parenthood themselves, so tend to be comfortable with newborn children. Some babysitters are university students, training to be nutritionists or therapists, and might not have the right experience to take care of a child under the age of two years. Depending on your situation as a parent, the age of your child, or any special needs that your child might have, it is always sensible to ask the babysitter about their experience before you continue the conversation. If you need someone to cook your child a healthy meal, there is no sense in talking to someone who might not be willing to do so. Similarly, if you have a two year old who want to run around and play, you may want someone with ample energy to keep them busy. If your children like drawing, or crafts, consider a babysitter who can engage and connect with them. Really think about the type of babysitter you want, and be up front and clear about your expectations.

7. Probe them about their profession and experience
It is important to know what a babysitter does outside of babysitting hours – this is a key consideration to finding a great one. It is always preferable if a babysitter is someone who works as a childminder, a nanny, au pair, nurse, teacher or is a student training to be a care giver (doctor, nurse, dietician, nutritionist, therapist etc.). If they are dedicated professional care providers, they will likely be up to date on all new developments in their field, have the necessary qualifications, certifications and training. Caring for children also requires someone with patience, tolerance and know-how, and people who work in such professions tend to have the right temperament. Some of them are likely to have children of their own as well, which makes a big difference.

8. Pick the right interview or meeting location
When KidSitter interviews babysitters, it is usually at a neutral venue, which requires the sitter to travel a little bit and navigate her way to an area which is unfamiliar to her. It might surprise you to know that this is often a strong indicator of whether a babysitter can follow directions. If she gets to the interview without problems, she is likely to find your place without problems. When interviewing babysitters, it is good practice to do so at a venue that is a little bit demanding to get to.

9. Watch out for behavioural indicators during the meeting
Imagine a situation where the babysitter arrives promptly at 7pm. You barely have any time to bark instructions before you have to dash out, but you manage to cram it all into one breath. You want to be sure your babysitter picks up on everything you are saying, and one way to assess this is during the interview. You have to be sure your babysitter has the ability to pick up instructions quickly, and communicate well both with you and your baby. Test their listening skills by trying to give them a lot of information in a short span of time and watch the reaction. If your child is present during the interview, what better way to see how they get on than by watching the interaction with your child. Communication, comprehension and chemistry are very important and an actual face-to-face interview is the best way to judge how a babysitter scores in these areas.

10. Conduct reference checks
This is a very important part of the vetting process. You simply cannot hire a babysitter without someone who can vouch for them professionally. It goes without saying that personal references are not acceptable. At least two professional references must be provided, and you should call each of them. Ask them a few different questions to assess whether they would recommend the applicant for babysitting. It takes time to reference check babysitters, in fact, it is probably the most tedious part of the entire process. References can be hard to get hold of, but you must persevere and make sure you contact them – nothing less than a stellar reference should be accepted. As it is, references tend to be slightly biased toward the reference seeker. For one, they don’t want to be responsible for someone not getting a job. Then there is also the fact that references feel compelled to repay the trust that the reference seeker has bestowed upon them. So a lukewarm reference, even if generally positive, is not good enough.

Let’s face it. We would all like to have a babysitter who lives down the street, charges £7 per hour and has been recommended by the neighbour or a friend. But ask yourself whether you really want to entrust the most valuable thing in your life to someone who likely doesn’t have any formal training in childcare, who wouldn’t know how to react in an emergency, who has no experience in providing professional childcare and has no references except their own mother. For reliable, trustworthy babysitters who take care of children for a living, you should be prepared to go through the above steps and pay at least £9 or £10 per hour.

KidSitter is an on-demand childcare service serving London families. They provide thoroughly vetted, local, background checked and reference checked babysitters any time, anywhere, even on a repeat or recurring basis. Visit the website for more details