Beginning the search for a nanny or babysitter can seem daunting. Establishing a rapport and trust with someone to care for your most precious commodities is no easy task. As a mama who used to be the neighbourhood block babysitter to coming full circle as a woman with her own children on a quest for the best babysitter she could find, take it from me — these are some key questions to ask potential babysitters if you have babies and toddlers.
1. Describe your previous babysitting experiences. I’d love to hear about them!
You want to hire someone with experience, who has at least volunteered working with kids or who has younger siblings. Everyone has to start somewhere, so use your discretion and trust your gut!
2. What is your mode of transportation – how do you plan on getting here?
This one is mainly for the teens, but important to ask the adults too. Some families share a car and not everyone uses a car for their transportation. We set up an arrangement to pick up and drop off our two current babysitters, but this may not work for everyone. It’s important to work out the kinks in the beginning.
3. What are your hobbies and interests?
This will be very telling about what kind of person they are, what sort of things they’ll do with your children, and how comfortable they are doing new things.
4. Have you ever been in an emergency situation? How did you deal with it? Do you have an an adult that you can reach out to if need be?
This is really important if you decide to hire a teenager or someone who doesn’t drive.
5. What are the top three nurturing characteristics that you believe are essential in caring for children?
You’re looking for the magic three: kindness, affection, gentle patience, and flexibility. Okay maybe that’s a bit more than three. Anyone worth their salt won’t be able to resist on expanding on it.
6. How will you respond when one (or all) of my kids has a meltdown? Experiences separation anxiety when we leave? Has a sibling conflict?
These things happen everyday in a household where babies and/or toddlers live. It’s important that a potential new babysitter can expect the unexpected and remain calm, know that these behavioural challenges are a regular part of baby and toddler development and that they have developed some techniques on how to work through them.
7. Describe to me a typical day that you’d have with our kids. What kind of activities would you do without spending any money?
You want to know that TV or other forms of screen-time aren’t their automatic go-to. You want to hear about different outings, crafts, and activities they’ve done with children in their care in the past and what they’d hope to do with your kids in the future.
8. Describe to me what you would do with our children for the day with 50 bucks.
A day at the Science Centre or a trip to the arcade? Off-the-cuff questions will inspire genuine answers.
9. Do you have any health problems or dietary restrictions we should know about?
Since you’re obviously going to stock up on some of their favourite snacks, it’s important to know about these things. Even more important to know if they have health issues that could affect how they care for your children.
10. Describe to me a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that you might serve to our children. What kind of snacks would you give them?
Again, putting them on the spot like this will garner an authentic response! That’s what you want.
11. Do you have any additional training that relates to childcare? Such as first aid/CPR, local babysitting courses, swimming, or driver’s ed?
When I first started babysitting as a teen, I took a course and got my first first aid/CPR training. It’s kind of the gold standard. Don’t feel weird about expecting it or making it a pre-requisite to getting the job with your family.
12. We require three references. Can you provide those? In addition, are you comfortable with me doing a background check?
This is so important and totally warranted. Perhaps not with your 14-year-old neighbour’s daughter, but an adult? I’m gonna be a narcissist here and say HECK YES.
13. Are you a fan of social media? Do you have an Instragram account, Tumblr, or blog?
Essential questions in this day and age. It’s a very personal decision as to what you’re comfortable with having your babysitter share about your kids on the internet and you should know up front if such a thing is even in question.
14. Why do you love working with kids?
An obvious one.
15. Which age group of children are you most comfortable/experienced with?
Some people aren’t comfortable with newborns, for example, or even babies and toddlers. Even though this is usually known before you even get to the interviewing process, it’s always good to get the answers in person too.
16. What sort of things can we do to make you comfortable here with our kids? What are the top three things that you believe make for a good relationship between a babysitter and parent(s)?
It shouldn’t just be all about you!
17. What sort of things have you accomplished that you’re proud of?
An unexpected, introspective question with answers that will hopefully shine more light into their true personality, values, and morals.
18. What do you and your friends do for fun? We’re down with you having one friend over at a time when you babysit, but we ask to meet them first. Are you cool with that?
Obviously this one is geared more towards the teenagers!
19. What kinds of discipline have you administered in the past?
Establish the basics right up front.
20. Can you do overnights?
21. How experienced are you with diaper changes, potty training, bathtime, and bedtime routines?
An essential group of baby- and toddler-geared questions that are mandatory!
22. What is your availability and hourly rate?
All cards on the table right up front.