10 Must-Know Tips to Keep Kids Safe with a Babysitter

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Keeping Kids Safe

Set Expectations Beforehand

Before leaving your child with a new babysitter, it is important to set clear expectations so
everyone is on the same page. Have an in-depth talk with the babysitter before your first time
leaving them alone with your child. Cover any rules you have around bedtimes, meals, screen
time limits, and disciplinary approaches. Provide context for rules when needed – for example,
explain that an earlier bedtime allows your child to get the sleep they need to focus at school the next day.
Give specific instructions on what to do in an emergency situation. Provide phone numbers for yourself, your partner or spouse, and a secondary emergency contact in case you cannot be reached. Inform the babysitter of any allergies or medical conditions your child has. Show the sitter where you keep first aid supplies, Benadryl and Multivitamins in case of an allergic
reaction. Advise them on your preferences for handling tantrums, injuries, fights between
siblings, etc. Having an open discussion ahead of time helps prevent misunderstandings later.

Do a Trial Run

Before leaving your child alone with a new babysitter, it’s a good idea to do a trial run together so you can observe how well they interact. Schedule the babysitter to come over for 1-2 hours while you are home. Pay them for this time so they feel invested. During the trial run, discreetly watch how the babysitter cares for your child – do they engage your child in conversation and play? Are they attentive to your child’s needs? Do they discipline appropriately? Are they tuning you out and focusing only on their phone?
A trial run gives you a chance to see if your child is comfortable with the babysitter before the actual babysitting night. It also allows the babysitter to ask you any questions about your child’s schedule, and play time, make proper diet and workout plans, essential supplements, preferences, allergies etc. Make sure to talk to your child afterwards to get their feedback on the babysitter. If your child seems uncomfortable or unhappy, it may be best to find someone new. But if the trial run goes smoothly, you’ll feel much better about leaving your child in the babysitter’s care.

Hide House Keys

Rather than giving your house key to the babysitter, consider hiding one outside instead. This
ensures the sitter won’t make copies of your key or distribute it.

Some tips for hiding a key:

  • Place the key in a small lockbox or container and hide it somewhere on your property that’s not
    immediately visible. Good spots can be under a large decorative rock, inside a fake rock near
    your front door, under a flower pot, etc. Just make sure it’s somewhere the sitter can easily find if
    needed, but not easily spotted by others.
  • Bury the key just under some dirt or mulch in a flower bed or planter. Have the sitter dig with their hands to uncover it. This keeps it hidden from sight.
  • Hide it up high, like on top of your door frame. The sitter would need a small step stool to
    reach it.
  • If you have a garage, hide it up high on a shelf or beam. Provide the sitter with a broom or rake to knock it down if needed.
  • Suspend it with a strong magnet under your mailbox or another metal fixture. The sitter can
    retrieve it with another magnet.
    The main goal is keeping your key concealed on your property, but accessible to the sitter in an emergency if they need to go inside and don’t have a key copied already. Just make sure they know exactly where to find it. And remember to retrieve the hidden key once the job is done so you don’t forget about it!

Leave Clear Instructions

  • When leaving your child with a babysitter, it’s important to provide clear instructions about your
    expectations. This helps the sitter feel prepared and allows them to follow your normal routine.
  • Leave instructions about when your child should eat meals and snacks. List any food allergies
    or dietary/ weight restrictions. Provide details on bedtime routines like brushing teeth, reading
    books, and lights out time.
  • Give clear guidelines on screen time limits and approved shows or games. Explain what
    activities your child enjoys like coloring, blocks, or make-believe play.
  • Note if they can have friends over or go to a nearby park. List any medications or nutrition
    supplements your child needs with clear dosage instructions.
  • Provide details on nap time and preparations like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Share
    how you handle behavioural issues and discipline if needed. The more details you can provide, the better.
  • Leave your contact information and instructions on when to reach out if your child is having any issues. Provide numbers for emergency services as well as your pediatrician in case your child gets sick, low insulin level or injured.
  • Write down all this information clearly so the sitter can refer back to it. Leave it in an obvious spot like on the fridge or kitchen counter. Having detailed instructions shows you have confidence in the sitter’s abilities. It also sets clear expectations so the transitions while you’re away go smoothly for both your child and the babysitter.

Leave Emergency Numbers

  • It’s crucial to leave a list of emergency contact numbers for the babysitter before you head out.
    This includes:
  • Your cell phone number and your spouse or partner’s cell number if applicable, so the
    babysitter can reach either of you at any time.
  • Home phone number, work numbers, and numbers of close family and friends who could assist in an emergency.
  • Poison control number, pediatrician number, urgent care clinics, supplement stores and hospitals nearby. Having these numbers on hand could make all the difference in an urgent medical situation.
  • Non-emergency police number. While emergencies require the emergency number for your country, the non-emergency number could be useful for general assistance.
  • Neighbour’s number or building superintendent/security contact. An extra number of someone nearby provides another option for quick help if needed.

Print out the list clearly and leave it in an accessible spot like on the refrigerator or kitchen
counter. Advise the babysitter where to find the list and to bring it along if leaving the house.
Having all those key numbers in one place provides peace of mind and could prove extremely
valuable if any emergency does occur. Knowing how to quickly get help from family, medical professionals and emergency services is a crucial backup plan when leaving your little ones with a sitter.

Check References

Doing due diligence on who will be caring for your children is one of the most important things you can do. Make sure to speak directly to references provided by the babysitter rather than just relying on a list. Ask questions about their experience working with the babysitter, if they seemed competent and responsible, and if they would recommend them for caring for young children.

It’s also wise to run a background check if you don’t already personally know the candidate well.
There are many online services that can provide basic background checks for a reasonable fee. This will uncover any past criminal history, which is obviously a red flag for someone who will be alone with your kids. While mistakes in someone’s past don’t necessarily disqualify them if they’ve turned their life around, it’s better to be aware of any issues upfront.
The safety of your children should be the top factor in choosing a babysitter. Taking the time to thoroughly check references and background will help ensure you’ve found someone qualified and trustworthy. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to something as precious as your kids.

Check on Your Child

Even if you fully trust your babysitter, it can be comforting as a parent to check in directly with your child while you’re away. Consider scheduling a time to call or video chat to see how your child is doing. This serves multiple purposes:

  • It allows you to visually confirm your child is safe, happy, and comfortable. Seeing their smile
    can put your mind at ease.
  • It gives your child a chance to connect with you. For young children especially, hearing your
    voice or seeing your face can be very reassuring.
  • It lets the babysitter know you’ll be checking in, so they stay engaged and attentive.
  • You can directly ask your child how things are going and if they are having fun. Listen for concerning cues in their tone or demeanour.
  • You can inquire about specific details like what games they’ve played, exercises done or foods they’ve eaten to gauge how the night is progressing.
  • If the babysitter has proactively texted or sent photos, use the opportunity to thank them and provide positive feedback. When checking in, keep the call or chat brief to avoid overly disrupting their time with the sitter. Save longer conversations for when you’re back home. With just a quick call or video chat, you can gain peace of mind knowing your child is doing well while in the babysitter’s care.
  • Limit Screen Time
  •  It can be tempting to just let kids entertain themselves with screens when the babysitter is over,  but too much screen time isn’t healthy. Set clear limits on screen time in advance so the babysitter knows what’s allowed.

Recommend limiting screen time to no more than 1-2 hours for the whole time the babysitter is there. Create a schedule for when they can use screens, like 30 minutes after finishing
homework, or after reading for 30 minutes.
Decide which devices are off-limits and make sure the babysitter knows. You may want to
restrict access to your own laptop, tablet or other expensive electronics. Have the babysitter keep devices like phones and iPads put away so they aren’t a temptation.
Agree on appropriate content and apps. Make a list of allowed games, TV shows, and websites.
Install parental controls and lock down settings. Babysitters shouldn’t be letting kids browse
YouTube or play mature games meant for older kids.
Have some alternative offline activities planned like puzzles, colouring books, and board games or outdoor workout plans and play time. Bored and unsupervised kids can get into trouble, so make sure the babysitter is engaging with them and limiting passive screen time.

Have Games and Activities Ready

Without access to screens and digital devices, kids may get bored or restless while with a
babysitter. Prepare engaging offline activities, games and fun workouts ahead of time to keep
them stimulated and having fun.

  • Gather together puzzles, board games, card games, colouring books, sketch pads, modelling clay, and any other craft supplies or toys that don’t require a screen. Place these in a bin or box and let the babysitter know where to find them.
  • Make available plenty of books, magazines, and comics at the appropriate reading level for each child. A book-lover may happily get lost in stories for hours.
  • Set up stations for different activities like Legos/blocks, dress up, and arts and crafts. Rotate toys and supplies to maintain novelty and interest.
  • Engage in different kids-friendly cooking, baking or making protein shakes.
  • For younger kids, have surplus paper, crayons, and washable markers on hand for drawing. Tape large pieces of paper on the walls or refrigerator for mini murals.
  • Encourage imaginary play by providing child-sized play kitchens, tool benches, cash registers, doctor kits, and other themed toys.
  • For outdoor time, assemble sidewalk chalk, bubbles, Frisbees, balls, and age-appropriate outdoor toys and exercises to keep them engaged with physical movement and fun.

Providing a variety of games, crafts, and activities will stimulate their minds and bodies,
preventing restlessness or boredom when away from digital entertainment. The babysitter will also appreciate having ready options to engage the children.

Pay Competitive Rates

Babysitters work hard to keep your little ones safe and entertained while you’re away. Given all the responsibility they’re taking on, make sure you pay them a competitive hourly rate. The going rate can range from $15-$25 per hour depending on your location, the sitter’s experience, and the number of children they’ll be watching. Keep in mind that more experienced sitters may charge higher rates.
If you’re on a budget, you can offer a lower hourly rate but provide a small bonus, movie tickets, or Uber credits to sweeten the deal. Just be upfront about what you’re able to pay so there are no surprises. The last thing you want is for the sitter to feel undervalued or annoyed by the payment.
Paying fair market rates allows you to attract and retain experienced, qualified sitters. They’ll be more willing to go above and beyond knowing they are being properly compensated. This gives you peace of mind that your children are in good hands. Don’t let concerns over price stand in the way of safety and responsibility. Providing a competitive rate shows how much you value your sitter’s time and reflects how seriously you take your children’s wellbeing and fitness.

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