Choosing a Babysitter

Helpful tips for finding a great sitter for your little one.

Finding a Candidate

No one ever said that choosing a babysitter was easy. How can you find someone who can diaper like a pro, handle any emergency, and play games instead of parking your baby in front of the TV?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Tell everyone you know that you're looking. Even the nurse in your pediatrician's office might have a name for you.
  • Check with local high schools, colleges, nursing schools, and senior citizen centers.
  • Read the bulletin boards (or place a posting yourself) at places where parents tend to congregate, such as churches, supermarkets, or the YMCA.
  • If your child is in day care, find out if any junior staffers are looking for additional work. The best part is that they are already familiar with your child, making the transition easier.

But how young is too young? Safe Kids, a child advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., says a babysitter should be at least 13 years old. The American Red Cross, however, offers a babysitter training course, available nationwide, to kids as young as 11. An 11- or 12-year-old can make a great babysitter, especially if they have younger siblings, notes Sherrita Rose, who trains instructors for the Red Cross course. Ultimately, the age of the sitter depends on your own comfort level and the age of your child. If you have a baby, you may want an older teen, simply because younger kids may not have the strength or coordination to hold, feed, and diaper a baby. If you have more than one child, it's probably best to have a sitter who's at least 13.

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