Finding a good babysitter can seem like an impossible feat. From figuring out how to pinpoint a great candidate to honing a list of babysitter interview questions, it’s no simple quest.
You want someone who’s fun and welcoming with your kids, but won’t freak out when your 3-year-old has a total meltdown after you leave. And one who’s patient when your 7-year-old insists on playing Apples to Apples. Again. For the 100th time.
So – a mix of Mary Poppins’ charm along with Captain American’s sense of duty and the calm of a Supreme Court Justice all put together.
OK: So that may not be completely realistic. Still, choosing a babysitter who you feel comfortable leaving your kids with is important. You want someone you can trust so you’re not worried the whole time you’re gone.
While there’s no perfect sitter (really, remember Mary Poppins was hopping around rooftops with her charges) – and no perfect kids – there are questions you can ask your potential hire to feel more at ease.
These babysitter interview questions are designed to help spark a conversation between you and your wannabe sitter. A conversation that should be able to give you the green light that she or he will be the right fit for you kids – or that will send up red flags that you need to keep looking.
1. Do you have any babysitter training?
Many local libraries and community centers offer basic training for teenagers. These courses certainly aren’t exhaustive, but they do give teenagers more know-how.
And by taking them, your potential sitter demonstrates he’s is committed to doing a good job. It also shows a level of interest in doing a good job while babysitting – i.e., they had to go sit in the class for the certificate.
2. How much babysitting have you done?
If she says none – well, you might not want your kids to be the guinea pigs. Or you might have her come over and watch your kids while you’re there to gain some experience before you leave her solo.
On the other hand, if she does answer yes, ask her to explain more. How she talks about her experiences should give you a decent idea about what kind of sitter she is – patient and doting or distracted and annoyed.
3. Are there certain ages of kids you feel more comfortable watching?
Some sitters are simply better with certain ages of kids. I remember when I was a teen, I could charm 3- and 4-year-olds, spending the afternoon doing Play-Doh sculptures with them. But babies? Well, I had few skills when it came to calming a cranky infant. That’s not to say I was a terrible sitter – but for babies, I wasn’t the best fit.
This item on our list of babysitter interview questions may alert you to some of your sitter’s strengths – and pitfalls.
4. Can you tell me a little bit about why you enjoy babysitting?
Seems like a simple enough question, right? But here’s your chance to gain more insights into what kind of sitter you’re hiring without saying, “So you seem nice enough but are you really a psycho?” That question probably wouldn’t yield helpful responses.
Give the sitter a chance to chat. You might learn that he looks forward to cooking for the kids, or maybe he’s the sitter that likes to play games with them the whole time. Understanding his interests may even help you make the experience better for him – and your kiddos.
5. Do you have younger siblings?
OK, your sitter doesn’t need to have younger brothers and sisters to be decent at watching your kiddos. But it can help. Those with younger siblings may be more used to some of the noise, drama and needs of small children compared with an only child or a youngest.
Again, this isn’t a deal breaker, but this is another way to get at how well your sitter will be able to manage your kids.
6. Have you ever had an emergency while babysitting?
In other words, “Can I trust that you’ll stay cool headed if something crazy happens while I’m out?” See what her response is.
If she hasn’t (whew!) that’s fine, but you can take the opportunity to go over how you’d like emergencies handled – like calling you ASAP and then going next door to get a neighbor’s help or whatever approach you’d like her to take.
7. Do you have any allergies?
Even the greatest babysitter can’t be at his best if he’s sneezing uncontrollably because your cat causes his sinuses to swell to the size of grapefruits. There’s not a whole lot you can do if your house isn’t allergy friendly for your sitter except to keep looking.
Don’t forget to ask about food allergies, too. He may be hypersensitive to peanuts or other items you might serve regularly at your house.
Now this doesn’t mean you can’t hire him, it just means you should stash away food that might trigger a reaction, depending on the severity.
8. Are you OK with preparing simple meals for the kids?
You’re hiring someone to watch your kids, not cook them a gourmet meal. But it’s nice to have someone who’s reasonably comfortably fixing a light meal or snack for your kids.
This question also opens the door to how engaged she’s going to be once you’re gone and it’s just her and your youngsters.
9. Do you have any references I can contact?
Don’t be shy about asking for references. After all, if he’s a stellar sitter, those he’s worked with before should be more than happy to tell you all about it.
They’re also likely to tell you if they encountered any hiccups while he was watching their kids – parent to parent.
10. What’s your hourly charge?
Here’s a sticky item on the babysitter interview questions list. My kids have been paid anywhere from $5 an hour for three energetic preschoolers to $10 for two quiet kids that went to bed within half an hour of them coming over. There’s a wide range.
This question isn’t so much about the sitter’s response as much as it is about how well you’ll be able to work together. If you like an assertive sitter who expects $10 an hour, great. If he says, “I leave it up to you,” maybe you like that more laidback style.
Either way, this will save you from any awkward moments at the end of the night when you’re reaching into your wallet.
11. Do you feel comfortable changing diapers?
This one’s a doozy. Let’s be honest, no one likes changing diapers (except my mother-in-law who claims it’s a privilege – I’ve got my suspicions on that one).
But a potential sitter who starts making gag faces might not have the maturity you need to watch your 3-month-old who happens to fill her pants regularly.
Likewise, you don’t want your child sitting in a full diaper when you get home since the sitter thinks diapers are not her responsibility.
12. How do you discipline kids when they’re misbehaving?
Your kids – angels that they are – just might test the sitter’s limits. It happens. And what is he going to do if they try his patience by dumping out every toy they own, even when asked not to? Or what about when they empty every baking ingredient bin in your kitchen?
There’s no one right response here – it’s a matter of you and the sitter being on the same page on disciplining.
(Actually, scratch that; there are some bad answers on this one. If he gets real involved on how he’d discipline, especially if it’s at all physical – such as any mentions of spanking kids – steer clear.)
13. How often do you use social media?
Your first clue as to her frequency? If she’s texting while you’re talking to her. Some young candidates are more attached to their phones and social than others, thinking nothing of FaceTiming friends, mindlessly texting, streaming YouTube videos, browsing and posting to SnapChat – all while watching your kids.
You need to be very clear about your expectations, including not posting images with your kids or being on her phone at all unless it’s an emergency.
Note: This list of babysitter interview questions is meant to be a helpful tool for your family; it’s not meant to be an exhaustive rundown of questions to ask potential caregivers. What would you add? Let us know in the comments.