6 Things to Prep for the Babysitter (They’ll Thank You!)

written by GIANNA ALDANA

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babysitter prep"
babysitter prep
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Like most teenagers looking to make some extra cash, I started babysitting in high school and haven’t stopped since. Now, in my early 20s, I can confidently say that while many things have changed in the babysitting game, some expectations will always stay the same. Take it from a well-seasoned babysitter: Mastering the art of nannying/babysitting is, in fact, a conjoint effort with the parents.

Babysitting jobs will always vary from family to family, but there are certain things I’ve learned along the way that I so badly wish I could tell parents about babysitter prep (without actually telling them). That’s why I’ve compiled a list of what you can do ahead of time to make babysitting an enjoyable experience for everyone. So, whether you’re freshening up on babysitting expectations or are a parent new to childcare, here are six tips for babysitter prep they will thank you for later! 

Set Clear Expectations With Your Kids

Make it a priority to go over common courtesies, manners, and expectations with your kids. This will set the tone and alleviate some stress on the babysitter—no one wants to pull the ‘I’ll tell your parents’ card. Doing this when the babysitter is present can also be helpful, as it’ll make your boundaries known to both sides.

There’s nothing worse than being put on the spot when kids say they’re allowed to do something that’s questionable, yet not wanting to bombard parents with tons of questions. Establishing expectations and rules gives the babysitter a clear idea of what’s off-limits and helps build the relationship between your kids and the babysitter. Here are some topics to go over when setting expectations:

  • Bedtime/nap windows, including buffer time in case they take longer than usual.
  • What does playtime look like (e.g., if they can play with neighbors, go to the park, ride certain toys, etc.)? Also, make it clear if there’s a time limit for electronics, and if any shows or movies are not allowed.
  • If you work from home, let them know when they can or can’t see you, and that although you’re home—the babysitter is in charge!

Make a Detailed Routine

While it may require a bit more effort on your end to create a detailed outline of their routine, creating this can be beneficial—and yes, the more details, the better! Sometimes, parents like to give free reins to the babysitter, but it’s always better to be on the safer side. This can be a step-by-step overview of their nighttime routine, bedtime essentials (lovey, sound machine, etc.), time estimates of their schedule, and where everything is located (this is a big one). If you have a consistent babysitter, presenting them with some foundation will only set them up for success, since it’ll allow them to establish their own routine with your child.

Have In Case of Emergency Info Handy

No one wants to think worst-case scenario, but leave them with emergency information anyway. It would be useful to provide them with emergency contacts and trusted neighbors, showing them where the first-aid kit is and the closest hospital and police station. Again, while they’ll hopefully never need this information, it’ll give you and your babysitter peace of mind to have this knowledge just in case.

Establish an Open Line of Communication

It’s natural for things to come up, so it’s important that both you and your babysitter feel comfortable communicating any questions or concerns with one another. Don’t be afraid to make it clear what you’re expecting when they’re in charge, and in return, make yourself approachable if they need to ask you about anything. I commonly see this when a parent is running late or needs me to stay a bit longer (which is OK); just communicate as soon as possible to see if that aligns with their schedule. If you are unavailable to answer any questions, specify beforehand and leave them a contact they can reach or provide a detailed guide.

Be transparent with any worries and notify your babysitter of any nanny cams in your home. This seems like a very specific call-out, but you’d be surprised how many fellow babysitters feel like they’re being spied on! That goes without saying: Nanny cams are valid to have, but make them known to your sitter.

For my WFH parents, it can be hard to resist checking in on your little one given the proximity but let your babysitter do their thing! If your goal is to create space for your child while working from home, make sure to communicate these boundaries. Additionally, let them know when it’s appropriate for your kid to spend some time with you or whether you’d like them to be elsewhere.

Have Activities Ready Beforehand

While it’s part of the job to be quick on our feet and think of creative and fun activities to keep the kiddos entertained, having a few go-to games or toys at hand that you know are pretty foolproof is helpful. This can be as simple as showing their current favorites, providing DIY crafts, or directing the sitter to a nearby park or playground. If driving is an option, give them a selection of approved locations they can travel to.

Specifically for my WFH parents, set aside places inside and outside the house for your babysitter to choose from if you’re in a meeting or need some alone time. 

Similarly, let them know what’s off limits and if there are any specific learning activities you’d like the babysitter to incorporate during their time with your child. We’ve even included a few of our favorite activities and games that have never failed us and are always good to have on deck!

Kid-Friendly Toys and Games

baby activity center
Target | Skip Hop
Baby 3-Stage Acitivty Center
Shop now
wooden play set
Target | Melissa & Doug
Wooden Activity Board
Shop now
duplo lego set
Target | LEGO
DUPLO Educationaly Toy Set
Shop now
mini karaoke machine
Mini Karaoke Machine
Shop now
sand sensory bin
Sensory Bin
Shop now
twister game
Target | Hasbro Gaming
Twister Game
Shop now

Create a Warm and Welcoming Environment

Putting yourself in their shoes is the key to creating a good relationship with your babysitter. This goes for just about everything. Be considerate when asking for certain things from them, such as light household duties, making meals, tidying up, and so on. While it’s all part of the job, chances are, if you wouldn’t want to do something beyond your pay grade, they wouldn’t want to either. So, before assuming they’re on board with your expectations, ensure you go over everything beforehand so nothing surprises anyone.

Regarding payment, agree on a rate ahead of time to avoid any confusion at the end of their shift. Additionally, make it known what payment method you’ll be using, as electronic apps such as Zelle or Venmo require some personal information. And make sure you don’t forget to pay them! To avoid an awkward reminder text from the babysitter, make an effort to pay them right after they leave.

Lastly, the goal should be for your sitter to become a reliable and trusted friend to your family who wants to keep coming back. Your intent should be for your babysitter to feel welcomed and at ease when looking after our kids. This can be achieved with gestures, such as sharing the Wi-Fi, offering food occasionally, and providing amenities where you see fit (TV, access to the pantry, etc.). Even if they are hesitant to help themselves or politely decline, these efforts go a long way and are greatly appreciated!

Interview Questions to Ask a Potential Nanny or Babysitter