How do I find a babysitter?

By Drum Digital
20 April 2014

If you have young children, it might be that you’ve been stuck at home for the past few years. But it doesn’t have to be that way – you can still have a romantic evening despite being a parent. Here’s some advice:

If you have young children, it might be that you’ve been stuck at home for the past few years. But it doesn’t have to be that way – you can still have a romantic evening despite being a parent. Here’s some advice:

Asking a family member

Just because someone is family doesn’t mean they’re the best babysitter for your child, says Bianca Steyn of Sitters4U, a babysitting agency based in Cape Town and Gauteng. “Trust your instincts and listen to your children. Watch their behaviour,” she advises. “If a child has an extremely strong negative reaction to someone, especially if they know the person, rather don’t leave your kids with them.”

Also, ask yourself: do they have the necessary skills to look after your child should there be an emergency. For example, will your 15-year-old niece know what to do if your child chokes on something?

Steyn advises your sitter shouldn’t be younger than 16. “Younger teenagers don’t possess the emotional or physical maturity to deal with the many problems that could arise. A good general rule to apply: the younger the children, the older the babysitter should be and the more experience they should have.”

Picking an agency

Not everyone can ask a trusted family member or friend living nearby to look after their kids this Valentine’s Day. An agency is a safe route to take as long as it’s a reputable company which has high standards for its staff, says Steyn.

Tips for using a babysitting agency:

  • Do your research: When choosing a babysitter, treat it like a job interview, advisesNataliia Zakriachenko from Baby-Sitters.co.za. “As with any job it’s important to get background information. Ask for their qualifications, experience or if they have family or kids of their own,” she says. “Choosing a candidate with an academic background in teaching or nursing may be the perfect option for you.” Ask at your school if there are any teachers offering babysitting services.

  • Ask for references: They’re of utmost importance, says Steyn. “References can be an excellent indication of the babysitter’s capabilities, skills and personality. Ask the reference about their children, how old they were when the sitter cared for them, did they ever experience problems with reliability, timekeeping or anything else? What was their child’s opinion of the sitter?”

  • Do a trial run: A good babysitter won’t blink an eye if you request a trial run, says Zakriachenko. “Watch her interact with your children. Do you like her style? How about her teaching skills? Is she playful? Are you comfortable with the way she disciplines? How do the kids connect with the candidate? It will help in making your final decision.”

  • Location, location: Choose a sitter who lives nearby and knows the area, advises Zakriachenko. They’ll know how to get to the nearest hospital or police station in case of an emergency.

  • Your needs: Every family has their own special needs. For example, if your child has a disability or a chronic illness such as asthma you need to communicate this to the agency and ensure the sitter is properly trained to deal with it. Also make sure the babysitter is fluent in your child’s language, adds Zakriachenko.

  • First aid: “Ideally your sitter should have first-aid training and know the Heimlich manoeuvre and the way to use this technique age appropriately,” Steyn says. “Knowledge of CPR techniques for children and infants is also vital. You should have a first-aid kit which is accessible to the sitter and they should know where it is located.”

  • Trust your instincts: “There might be a candidate who has a remarkable babysitting résumé, fantastic references and perfect answers for all your interview questions, but something just seems off. Then rather find a babysitter that you trust 100 per cent,” Zakriachenko says.

There are other options

Some crèches offer after-hour care over the weekends or for special occasions. Find out whether there are any in your area who’ll look after kids on Valentine’s Day.

The same advice still applies: you should do a background check on the crèche, ask for references and visit it beforehand to check out the facilities and staff.

What if you can’t get a sitter?

It’s not just typical family-friendly restaurants that offer child friendly facilities such as activity rooms or outdoor jungle gyms where kids can play. These days fancier restaurants also cater for parents and kids. Before making a Valentine’s booking check with your local restaurants if they have these facilities.

Another family-friendly Valentine’s Day outing is a picnic on a nearby wine farm or at a botanical garden. Look online to see if local picnic venues have anything planned for Valentine’s Day.

-Petro-Anne Vlok

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