I did a lot of babysitting when I was a teenager and I really loved it. I had a few families that I tended for regularly and loved, and others in the neighborhood who called me once a month or so. There were a few times when two families would call with a babysitting job that would fall at the same time, and I'd have to decide which one I was going to take. It wasn't a very hard decision, and I usually knew who I'd rather tend for. Those families who welcomed me into their home, treated me like one of the family and always made me feel comfortable while I was there usually won out, even over the jobs that I knew might pay more.
In the three years that we've been parents, we've only ever had our nieces, parents or siblings tend for us, but I've still worked hard to make the experience a positive one for them so that they'll want to continue helping us out. Now that we're looking to diversify our babysitter pool, I have been thinking about these things more than ever. What are the things we can do to make babysitting our kids a fun experience and make our home one that sitters are excited to come back to? These are just a few of the things that we've done or are doing to make babysitting a positive experience for anyone who enters our home. Feel free to add your tips in the comments under the post!
Leave Any Information They Need
We recently put together a babysitter binder using this kit from The Dating Divas (partner link). It's been on my list to do for a while, but I never found the time to create one of my own. When I realized The Divas had a product perfect for what I was looking for, I grabbed it and printed it immediately. The binder kit includes an emergency contact sheet, allregy sheets for your kids, a getting to know you sheet for each kid to list their favorite things, a page for listing all of the house rules (this one is especially awesome, if you remember how often you tried to convince sitters that "our parents always let us do insert activity that is against the rules here"), a sheet dedicated to listing the baby's schedule and needs, and a little printable to note where you'll be that night and when you'll be home.
I love that I can reprint sheets and update them as things change and print more of the little papers to say where we'll be each night. The Divas seriously thought of everything, and although we aren't currently using some of the pages like the baby's schedule or children's allergies, I love knowing that I have them on hand for different seasons of our life and can add them to the babysitting binder in an instant. Click here to grab yours (partner link)!
Make Sure They're Fed
One of the first times that our niece babysat for us, I let her know what we had in the house for her to eat, but found out later that she didn't have anything while she was there. After that experience, I made a point to have food out on the counter, show her where everything was located and make sure she knew that she was welcome to anything we had in our house. Some nights I'll grab food from the drive-thru for my kids on my way home from picking up the sitter, so I'll ask them what they want and add it to my order. Even if I think the babysitter might have eaten before coming over, I'll make sure they know that they are welcome to anything we have.
*Tip* I've found that it's helpful to know what your babysitter's food preferences are. One of our babysitter's doesn't like pizza, a go to date night food for the kiddos at our house. Knowing that, I can offer a few other options so she doesn't spend the night hungry or feel like she has to eat something she really doesn't like.
Plan Fun Things for the Kids
Like I shared in yesterday's post, I love the idea of making date night special for the kids too. I want them to look forward to date night as much as we do and for them to feel grateful later in their lives, that we made time for date night and our marriage. Some nights, having their cousins come to play is fun enough for my kids, but having special activities, rituals or toys that are reserved for nights when the babysitter is over could be fun too. I shared a few ideas in this post, but you could also put together a box with games, puzzles, crafts, seasonal activities and toys that only comes out when the babysitter comes over.
Make Them Feel at Home
Those families that I loved to babysit for when I was a teenager were great about making me feel comfortable whenever I was at their house. There were a couple of homes I babysat at where I didn't feel comfortable and after the kids were in bed, I would sit awkwardly on the couch until their parents came home because I didn't know what else to do. Along with making sure our babysitter eats dinner when they come over, we now leave a box just for them. We share our Wifi password, leave popcorn and a their favorite candy bar, make sure they have something fun to watch and show them how to use the TV. Our nieces look forward to coming over because they know that after the kids are in bed, they can watch one of my chick flicks or continue watching a show on Netflix, since they don't have Netflix at home. We leave blankets out in the winter, show them where the thermostat is located and how to use it, point out our secret candy stash and let them use scissors or craft supplies when they've brought a project of their own to finish.
Hire Two if Necessary
Because our kids are only 16 months apart and Emmy was two months premature, for the first year of her life, the two of them together was quite the challenge sometimes. Bedtime was especially chaotic and left me in tears some nights. Because date night and our marriage is such a priority, we knew that we couldn't stay home for a year just because the job of being with our kids was a little more difficult, so we started to hire two babysitters at once. Both of our nieces would come over together and they'd each take care of one kid or the other for the night. We paid a little bit more when they were both over, so that they didn't feel jipped after they'd split the money from the night. We weren't able to go on as many date night since it was a bit more expensive to go out, but it was worth it because one date was better than none. If you have a lot of kids, or young kids who are a lot of work, consider hiring two sitters (friends or sisters) to come together.
Get to Know Them
I babysat for one family growing up who became some of my closest friends. They'd talk to me when they saw me at church, were always interested in my life and took the time to talk to me when they'd drop me off after a babysitting job. Now that I'm a parent, I realize that they probably weren't eager and excited to sit in the car in my driveway and talk for 20-30 minutes when they took me home after their date night, and that makes me even more grateful that they took the time to care about me.
These babysitters who come into your home are taking care of your most prized possessions. Treat them well and don't take them for granted so that they will treat you well in return and want to keep coming back. It can be hard to find a really good sitter who your children really love and who is willing to give up a Friday or Saturday night to play with your kids instead of being out with their friends. Making your babysitter feel welcomed and valued in your home will keep them coming back for years, maybe even after they've stopped babysitting for other families in the area.
Photography by Sadie Banks Photography