Download our handy Babysitter Information Sheet to equip your sitter with all the important info she'll need to know.
You've heard the advice: Go on date nights with your husband. Make time to hang out with friends. Yet every Friday night you're either glued to the baby monitor or watching Over the Hedge with your toddler. It just seems easier than trying to line up a sitter. Where can you find someone you trust? And how can you be sure she's experienced? We've pulled together all the info you need to find a great babysitter your family will love.
You're looking for someone who can handle a crisis and who won't spend the night text-messaging her boyfriend. The obvious first step: Hit up neighbors, friends, and coworkers for recommendations. No luck? Try your pediatrician's office, the local daycare center or preschool, high schools (talk to the guidance counselor), and colleges (check with career services and the education and nursing departments). Or go online: For a fee, sites like SitterCity and CallForSitters will connect you with babysitters in your area. You can also try a free classifieds site like Craigslist, but always ask for (and call!) lots of references.
As you line up potential sitters, avoid going too young just to save cash. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babysitters be at least 13 years old, but choose one in her mid to late teens if you have an infant. "She should be mature enough to handle an emergency," explains Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, MD, a pediatrician in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. If she's young and hasn't had much experience sitting, ask whether she has younger siblings she's watched, or whether she's worked at a day camp. Or you may luck out and find a teen who's taken a babysitter-training course offered by the American Red Cross or the YMCA; she'll know basic first aid like how to treat cuts and bee stings and what to do if your child is choking.