Find a Great Summer Sitter

Find a Great Summer Sitter

by Kathy Green

The typical school-age child has 10 weeks of summer vacation. That is approximately 70 days. Before you panic, remember, that in the summer months there are many great sources for summer sitters; teachers, teacher's aides, college students and high school students. Mid April or the beginning of May is the best time to start your search for a sitter that will care for your child in the summer. To get the best candidate, one with the necessary skill set and to let you relax and enjoy your summer, do not start your search later than this.

Beyond the usual qualities you are looking for in a nanny, summer sitters must have a specific skill set to ensure your child will securely enjoy summer activities. The applicant should really enjoy children and should not just be looking for what they think is an “easy” summer job. Some qualities to look for include:

  • Enthusiastic: A good summer sitter is enthusiastic and creative. She makes activities fun by her enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment of interacting with the children.
  • Energetic: If your children love to play outside, you will need a summer sitter who is willing and able to keep up with them in the hot weather. Make clear how many hours and what kinds of activity your kids like, so your sitter knows what she’s committing to. Sitting in front of the television in an air conditioned house is an easy copout, but that is not what you are paying for or what will make a healthy and happy summer for your children.
  • Sensible: Summer brings with it higher temperatures, insects and other possible hazards. A summer sitter with good common sense will make prudent decisions about proper hydration, and the responsible use of sunscreen and bug repellent for your children.
  • Ability to Swim: This is a definite plus when hiring a summer sitter, but not essential.
  • CPR trained: If swim class or trips to the pool are on the agenda this summer, it might be reassuring to hire a sitter who has been trained or is certified in child/infant CPR.

Establish Rules and Guidelines

It is important to set clear and firm rules and guidelines before you leave your children in the care of a new sitter for the first time.

  • Keep Phone Use to a Minimum – Teens and adults alike these days are addicted to their smartphones, which can pose a very real distraction when caring for children. Let your sitter know that you’d prefer it if she kept phone use to a minimum.
  • No Visitors – While most older sitters will know better than to have visitors over when they’re supposed to be babysitting, teen sitters may not always be so savvy when it comes to professionalism and child safety. Make sure that your new sitter understands that visitors are never allowed in your home when you are not there.
  • No Unauthorized Outings – Unless the sitter is very experienced, comes highly recommended and is a responsible adult, you should never let her take your children on an unsupervised outing. There are too many dangers at a park, shopping mall or playground that aren’t present at home. These are dangers that a younger, less experienced sitter may not be equipped to handle well.
  • No Unapproved Television or Movies – Let your sitter know what the accepted guidelines are in your home regarding television and movies, and that she should not be watching television while the kids are otherwise occupied without supervision.
  • Don’t Post or Tag Photos – Teens often don’t understand the risk that posting and tagging photos of your children online can pose. It’s also wise to request that she not post status updates about babysitting for you, as it sends out a message for anyone to see that she and your children are alone in your home.
  • Keep Play Gentle – You want a sitter that’s active and engaging, but you need to talk about what is and what is not appropriate regarding play with your kids, especially if you have kids who love to roughhouse.
  • No Physical Discipline – You should make it clear to any sitter that there’s no reason for physical punishment, and that you will not tolerate it under any circumstance.
  • Be Present and Pay Attention – With so many possible distractions, it’s not always easy for a young sitter to give your children her undivided attention. Every parent knows that it only takes a moment for a child to get hurt or end up in trouble. Stress the importance of watching your children carefully.
  • When In Doubt, Call for Help – Talk to your sitter about calling you or a trusted family member or neighbour for help in the event of a minor emergency, and the absolute importance of contacting the authorities in the event of a major one.

Clear and frequent communication is key to helping the summer sitter do a great job. A good idea is to give the babysitter a written job description. Child care is first, but you should write down any additional chores you expect her to help with. References should be carefully checked for all potential candidates.

Choosing someone to trust with your children is one of the biggest decisions a parent ever has to make. With your own thoughtful consideration, and Sitter.com, where you will find a wealth of potential candidates, you will find an excellent summer sitter and your family will enjoy a safe and exciting summer holiday.