How to Select a Babysitter

There are many different opinions and guidelines concerning the proper selection of a quality babysitter. Every family is unique. Keep in mind your family’s special needs and choose your babysitter accordingly. There may be some situations, even within these guidelines, when it may not be safe to leave a child with a babysitter. Remember, not only should your babysitter be properly prepared, so should you as a parent. Parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions about their child’s safety. The suggestions below are provided as guidelines only.

Major considerations:

  • Generally, age 13 is the minimum recommended age for a babysitter. In making decisions about who is an acceptable babysitter, consider not only age, but also level of maturity.
    • The sitter must possess a level of maturity necessary for applying solid judgment and decision-making skills. There must be no emotional, medical, or behavioral problems affecting this ability.
    • The sitter must know how and when to summon help and have a safety plan for what to do in an emergency.
  • The physical environment where the babysitting will take place must be safe.
    • If you are taking your child to someone else’s home, check it out before leaving your child.
      • Is the home in good repair? No debris or damaged materials that could be harmful to your child?
      • Are there any potentially harmful pets? Is the pet restrained?
      • Is there a pool, pond, or other body of water nearby? Are there any access safeguards in place?


Interviewing a prospective babysitter –

Before placing your child in the care of a new sitter, an interview should take place and references requested and checked. This is the time for direct questions and answers and also an opportunity for your instincts to come into play. Trust your instincts. If you are not comfortable with the sitter, look for another.

  • Is the sitter comfortable around children?
  • Does the sitter possess basic childcare skills and experience?
  • Does the sitter know basic first aid and CPR?
  • Does the sitter show a responsible attitude?
  • Does the sitter have views on discipline that are reasonably close to yours?
  • Could the sitter respond to any special medical needs or allergies your child may have?
  • Does the sitter have references? Have you checked them out?

Before the babysitter arrives:

Prepare a sheet of vital information for your sitter, and leave it in a convenient place such as directly over the telephone.

The list should include:

  • Your name, home address, and phone number. This may seem unnecessary but, in an emergency, sitters have been known to “blank out” while trying to give this critical information over the phone.
  • The phone numbers of your doctor, the police department, and the fire department.
  • The name, address, and phone number where you can be reached.
  • The name and phone number of nearby neighbors to be contacted in an emergency. (This should be cleared with the neighbors in advance.)
  • As a back-up, the phone number and name of a relative or close friend.
  • The time you expect to return.
    • If there is any change in plans, and you find you are going to be late, be sure to let the sitter know. There may be people she will need to notify so they won’t worry about her.

Before leaving your children with a babysitter, have you …

  • Informed the sitter of your family’s safety plan for emergency situations and ensured that the sitter is able to carry out the plan?
  • Made your expectations for food preparation and bathing realistic?
  • Left a place and phone number where you can be reached?
  • Reminded the sitter to limit personal phone calls and not allow visitors into your home?
  • Describe the routines in your home, particularly the ones that involve the child.
    • Jot down any special words the child uses for certain items or functions.
    • What are your guidelines for watching television, using the computer, or using the phone?
    • What nighttime snacks or beverages are acceptable?
    • Explain what methods of discipline are acceptable to you.
    • What time is the child to go to bed? Do you read him a story before he goes to bed? Is a night light turned on? Is the door to his room left ajar?

When you get home…

  • Take the time to talk with the sitter.
    • How did things go?
    • Were there any concerns or questions?
  • Talk with your children.
    • Were they comfortable with the sitter?
    • Do your children have any concerns about the sitter?
      • Be sure to weigh concerns against the standards and guidelines you left the sitter.
      • For example – “She wouldn’t give us candy” vs. “She was on the phone all the time”.

Get a list of Child Care Providers –

Call the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine by dialing 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588 to be connected to a Child Care Referral Specialist for your area. You can also get child care referrals online at in the Family Resources section.