Family, Kids & Relationships

Questions you should ask your sitter/daycare provider

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Many parents who’ve been weathering the ongoing pandemic for over two years now finally feel like possibilities are opening back up for their families. With many Covid-19 health restrictions lifting, parents might feel newly comfortable with decisions like increasing their in-person hours at work, or even going out on a date or to meet up with friends—without the kids. Or, maybe you’ve recently moved or just need to switch from the caregiver you’ve been using for whatever reason.

These developments might mean finding a new babysitter or daycare provider! But parents are, understandably, nervous about taking this step—especially with children who are not used to the idea of their parents actually going out and living their adult lives.

How do you find a babysitter or childcare provider that you’re comfortable with? What factors do you need to consider, and what questions should you ask, before trusting someone else to care for your children?

Of course we can’t promise that you—or your kids—will adore your new sitter, but here are some of the most important questions to ask, the reasons behind the questions, and what to do with the information you get.

Safety questions

  • Do you know infant/child CPR? Are you certified?
    • If you’ve decided that CPR knowledge is a requirement for your babysitter, and they don’t have any experience in this area yet or their certification has expired, see if they’re open to taking a class. You may even offer to cover or split the cost, if that’s an option for you.
  • What would you do if a child got hurt or sick while you were watching them?
    • Your babysitter doesn’t necessarily need to be a first aid expert, although some experience with the basics is helpful. Mainly you’re looking for a calm, confident response that shows the provider is comfortable solving problems on the fly, contacting parents with important updates, and doing what they can to keep kids safe and comforted.
  • Do you smoke or vape?
    • Although it might be an uncomfortable question to ask, you do want to make sure you don’t hire someone who will be needing nicotine breaks, bringing smoking/vaping equipment in their bag for curious kids to discover, or bringing a smoke smell into your house. Also be sure to establish that marijuana/THC edibles shouldn’t come anywhere near your children, for safety reasons.
  • What kind of precautions would you be willing to take if Covid cases start to rise in our area again?
    • The answer you’re looking for totally depends on your family’s level of risk and caution. The bottom line is, the provider should be flexible, open to listening to public health officials’ recommendations, and willing to follow your health and safety guidelines while in your house.

Experience questions

  • How many children have you been responsible for at the same time? Were you comfortable with that number?
    • This only applies if you have multiple children or are looking to start a nanny share with another family. You’ll want the response to not only match up to your family’s needs, but also display the provider’s confidence in taking care of that number of children or more.
  • What are your favorite activities to do with kids of this age?
    • This question can get at the potential babysitter’s creativity as well as their experience and enthusiasm for working with kids. You can also share what your kids usually like to do to see if it sparks any ideas or interest on their end.
  • Can you recall a time when a child you were watching was being unsafe or disrespectful? How did you handle it?
    • Look for a response that shows that the childcare provider can react well under pressure, use appropriate discipline or redirection methods (even if they don’t match up exactly to what you would do), and demonstrate patience and compassion with children.
  • Have you ever disagreed with a family’s rules or discipline methods? How did you handle it?
    • A good babysitter should be concerned with finding the right balance between using their tried-and-true childcare style and principles, and working within the family’s requirements.
  • When did you start as a babysitter/childcare provider? How did you become interested in working with kids?
    • The number of years of professional experience might not matter as much as the sitter’s enthusiasm and capacity for the work. You’re looking for a childcare provider who loves working with kids, enjoys learning about childhood development (formally or informally), takes the responsibility seriously, and seems to have a lot of creative energy for the job—even if it’s not their main career goal.
  • Would you mind if I contacted a couple of your past employers?
    • A potential babysitter should be comfortable sharing references. Even if they weren’t a perfect fit for a previous job, you should be able to vet them based on basic safety and reliability questions.

Personality and “family fit” questions

These will vary according to what’s important to your family, but here are some examples of additional questions you might want to ask.

Remember that finding the “right fit” isn’t the same as finding someone who shares your family’s background and preferences. Be open to different cultural approaches and demeanors—who knows, you may learn something new and expand your family’s world a bit.

The most important thing is that you’re upfront with your expectations for the job so that you know the person you’re working with will be on the same page.

  • Our kids don’t watch a lot of TV and we try to direct them toward more creative or outdoor play instead. Would you be into coming up with creative or outdoor activities for them to do?
  • One of our kids talks a whole lot, and the other one is very quiet. How would you make sure you’re giving them both the attention they need?
  • My child has X allergy/sensitivity/condition. Have you dealt with anything similar before? Are you open to learning more about the requirements/strategies for this?
  • How comfortable are you with making lunch/putting kids to bed/helping with the potty/picking them up from school/staying late at night?

Finally, you might want to set up a brief meet-and-greet for the childcare provider and your child. Choose a time when you can stay and observe their interactions together, and be sure to compensate the provider for their time. Not only will this give you a bit more peace of mind that this arrangement is the right fit for your family, but if your child is already familiar with the provider it can really ease the transition when it’s time for you to actually say “Bye for now!” to your child and leave the provider in charge.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.