With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, parents of school-age kids are making childcare plans for the summer months. If you work full time, part-time or just need occasional help, it can be daunting to find the right fit for your family. That’s why getting recommendations from people you trust can help with the process.
Whether you prefer someone who watches kids in her own home or yours, here are some tips to help you find the best option for your family:
- Do you need someone all day, every day? If so, you’ll want a sitter who is mature enough to set firm boundaries and that your kids will listen to and respect (i.e., don’t hire a 12-year-old to watch your 10-year-old).
- Do you need a sitter who can drive your kids to extracurriculars or the pool? Can their vehicle accommodate car seats and/or boosters? Do they know how to correctly install them? What is their driving history and experience?
- Look for a sitter who has had Safe Sitter or Red Cross training. Sitters who have gone through these types of classes are trained in infant and child CPR, first aid, safe sleep, choking hazards, water safety and household hazards.
- For sitters providing care in your home, do you expect meal prep, light housekeeping, pet care and homework help in addition to childcare? Set clear expectations before you hire someone to make sure you are both on the same page.
- What is your policy on the sitter having visitors? Taking the kids on outings to the zoo or park?
Once you find someone you’d like to hire, invite her over while you’re home to see if she seems like a good fit. Go over your child’s routine and medical information as well as emergency contacts and your house rules (screen time, medication administration, playing at someone else’s house, disciplinary procedures, approved snacks).
If you prefer a sitter who watches kids in her own home, plan a daytime visit so you can observe how she interacts with and cares for the kids. Things to look for:
- Is the house clean, tidy and odor-free?
- Is the home child proofed? For example, are toys age appropriate for the kids in her care (no items that pose choking hazards)? Are stairs blocked off to avoid kids falling down them?
- Are sleep surfaces safe for napping (older kids on cots or beds and younger ones in cribs or pack-n-plays)?
- Does the home have a fenced yard?
- Does the sitter own pets?
- How does the sitter handle meals? Does she prefer you pack your child’s lunch, or is food provided?
- What is the sitter’s policy on discipline? Screen time?
Take into account your family’s needs to help you choose the best option. A hybrid situation (spending one day a week with grandma or a few days at day camp) in addition to a few days with a sitter, may work well depending on your work schedule and budget.
If your kids are old enough, ask for their input. When you find a reliable sitter you both like, it will make for a more relaxing and enjoyable summer for all.
Akron Children’s Hospital offers a Safe Sitter program for children ages 11 to 13. Students can expect to learn skills related to safety, childcare, first aid, rescue, life and business in the class.