5 Reasons Why You Should Join a Babysitting Coop (Instead of Hiring a Babysitter)

It’s a dilemma every parent is familiar with: how to find a good babysitter? Most parents search for babysitters online or through town bulletin boards, hoping to find a sitter they like. But that’s just one part of the problem. Even when you have a go-to sitter, there is the issue of scheduling. And, as all parents know, there are no guarantees that your sitter will be around on any given night.

What most parents don’t know is that there is an alternative to hiring a babysitter: joining a babysitting coop. For a large number of families, babysitting coops solve the childcare problem in ways regular sitters cannot. Because of this, coops are sweeping the country! Is a coop right for you? Read some of the benefits below to find out!

1. Save lots of money. In a babysitting coop, you trade free childcare with other parents. Aside from your membership fee (usually around $25 per year), you never pay a dime for using the coop. Whether you go out once a week or once a year, your babysitting is essentially free.

2. Have a sitter available when needed. If you’re in a babysitting coop with 15 other families, you have 15 potential babysitters. Imagine you need a sitter on a Saturday afternoon. What are the odds someone is available? All but guaranteed. And because your one sit request goes to everyone in your coop, there’s no need to worry about calling or emailing around. Simple.

3. Get higher quality care. Who knows how to look after kids better than another parent? Babysitters can be great, but usually those babysitters are teenagers or twenty-something’s with limited experience – doesn’t compare to someone who already does the job 24 hours a day.

4. Create fun for your kids. My son used to call our coop the “Friends Come Over and Play Club” and with good reason. Whenever we were sitting for another coop family, he treated it like a play date. And when I told him he was having a coop sitter (aka another mom or dad), he clapped with excitement because it meant he got to go to another child’s house to play.

5. Build community. A babysitting coop is an amazing way to get plugged in. You get to know the other families in your coop quite well and in essence, create an extended support network. As new families join your coop, this network continues to grow, providing support and friendship beyond babysitting.

Think a coop is right for you? Browse our SittingAround Coop Directory to find out if there’s a coop in your neighborhood. Or, grab a few friends and start your own!


Back-to-School Babysitting

School is starting up again all across the country. As schedules resume and we fall back into our school year routines, access to childcare becomes very important.

Thankfully, the start of school is a great time to reevaluate your babysitting needs and create a solution that works for your family. If you have been toying with the idea of starting a babysitting coop, there is no better time to do it. Get to know the other families in your child’s class by swapping free babysitting with them. It’ll be fun for the kids (who want play dates with their friends anyway) and it’s a great way for you to get to know the other parents. Not sure if a coop already exists near you? Search our coop directory to find out.

Looking for a paid sitter instead? We’ve got you covered. Fall is when college students return to campus. Many college students look to babysitting as a way to earn extra money during the semester. Chances are, if there’s a college near you, there are lots of great SittingAround babysitters, too. Search for a babysitter with confidence. We provide access to background checks, identity verification, ratings, and more.

Will you be hiring a new sitter this fall or participating in a babysitting coop?

How to Prepare Your Kids for a New Babysitter

Whether you have an infant with attachment or an adolescent with attitude, introducing kids to a new caregiver can be trying for the children, the babysitter, and you as a parent.

The best way to prepare your kids for this change is to plan ahead. Don’t have the new babysitter make his or her first arrival at your home five minutes before you’re planning to leave for an important event. You’ll be rushing around getting ready as well as giving last-minute information to the babysitter, and the short transition period will not make for an easy good-bye. Abrupt change-overs leave children feeling out of sorts and anxious, and babysitters a bit nervous. By doing as much prep as possible before bringing the sitter to “go live” on an actual job, everyone will feel more comfortable.

Even if you haven’t already found a new sitter, your first step should be to sit down and make a general information sheet for any babysitter to use. This could include:

  • Your physical address, email address, home phone, work phone, and cell phone
  • Neighbors, relatives, and/or emergency contacts
  • A short note on each child (name, age, school grade, likes and dislikes, health conditions, behavioral problems, bedtimes, etc.)

You probably will have gone over many of these things during the interview process, but email this list to your new babysitter anyway so that all of it is written down and in one place. That way, there is far less possibility for potential misunderstandings or “I didn’t know” situations to arise. The babysitter will have time to review the sheet thoroughly, think about it, and contact you with any questions or concerns that haven’t already been addressed in your previous communications.

Ideally, the next step would be to invite the babysitter over for a short working visit (paid, of course). You might spend a half an hour together with the children, observing them playing while talking and interacting. This will alert you to how the children will receive the new babysitter. You will have time to talk with the children about who this person is and how often she will be watching them. The babysitter can introduce herself and ask questions of each child. You can also do a tour of your home at this time, which will make the babysitter feel more at ease during the first job. Then you might leave to go for a walk, take an exercise class, or go grocery shopping; just a short excursion, no more than an hour, which will give the babysitter a chance to interact with your children on her own. When you return, you can talk with the children and the babysitter about what they did while you were gone and see if there were any problems that needed to be resolved.

When the babysitter does show up for the first job, have her arrive at least fifteen minutes ahead of your departure time. It may cost a few dollars more, but it will let you finish getting ready without worrying about the kids, and you and the babysitter will have time to address any last-minute concerns.

This may seem like a lot of work up front, but it will surely minimize your headaches later. A couple of hours is all it takes to make your children feel secure and happy with their new babysitter.

The Babysitter Interview: What Questions to Ask?

Hiring a new babysitter can cause anxiety for both parents and children, whether it’s the first time you’re leaving your infant with a stranger or you have used sitters with your kids for years. The days of asking a next-door neighbor to watch your kids are long gone. Modern times have understandably made us all more wary about the people who care for our children and the treatment our children receive.

In order to find the best babysitter for your family, it is important that you screen a few candidates and compare them before deciding whom to hire. However, it can be hard to strike the right balance between an “anything goes” approach and an FBI interrogation! You want to give the impression that you are very involved and concerned, but you also don’t want to scare all potential sitters away. Preparing a list of standard questions will help you to stay focused yet relaxed and friendly during a babysitter interview. Here are a few suggestions on what to ask. Remember, the “right” and “wrong” answers are entirely up to you.

Fact Questions
The first questions you ask will probably be straightforward information-seeking questions.

  • Do you have a driver’s license? Do you have your own transportation?
  • Are you in school? Do you work? If yes, where?
  • When are you available to babysit? How much notice do you need before a job?
  • What do you charge?
  • How long have you been babysitting? What is your childcare experience?
  • Are you certified in CPR or first aid?
  • Do you know how to use a car seat/high chair/stroller/playpen?
  • Can you give me a list of references?

Opinion Questions
Asking the interviewee’s opinion on various subjects will give you an idea of the person’s general outlook and value system. Remember that no candidate is going to be perfect, so keep these questions within reason and applicable to a sitting job.

  • What do you like most about babysitting children? What do you dislike about it?
  • How would you discipline a child who was not behaving?
  • Do you feel comfortable driving the children in your vehicle? In one of our vehicles?
  • What ages do you enjoy working with?
  • Are you comfortable with caring for an infant, including feeding and diapering?

Situational Questions
It’s a good idea to ask one or two “What if?” questions of every babysitter candidate to give you some idea of the babysitter’s analytical thinking skills, knowledge base, life experience and common sense. Here are a few examples, but you should make up your own questions based on a specific situation in your household.

  • “If I tell you that we are going to be home by 10:00 p.m. and you find yourself still waiting at 10:15, what will you do?”
  • “So I’ve talked to you about Jesse’s severe allergy to bee stings… What steps would you take if Jesse were to be stung?”

When conducting an interview, try to do it in person or over the phone. While technology such as email, social networking, chatting, and texting is convenient in many situations, it’s not an ideal way to get a sense of a person’s true character. Facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice will round out your complete picture of a person. It’s almost impossible to get a vibe from written words alone, and sometimes those vibes are crucial input when making a final decision.



How to Be a Good Babysitter

Getting hired is one thing. Getting hired over and over again is quite another. What does it to be a great babysitter? What can you do to become a parent’s “go-to” babysitter?

We asked 6 moms what sets a great babysitter apart. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Positive reviews (from the critics who matter most!). “The real bottom line is the feedback from the boys,” says Kelli Cochran-West.  Moms are happy when their kids are happy. Yes, you’re there to make sure the house doesn’t burn down, but you’re also there to make sure the kids have a good time when their parents are away. Don’t know what to do? We’ve got a list of ten activities you can do with kids when you’re babysitting.

2. Enthusiasm. “My favorite babysitters are the ones who say, ‘I’m exhausted, it’s a lot of work to keep up with your son.’ That tells me she or he played with him and did their best to keep up with a 4 yr old,” shares Shari McGuire. “Our son knows who plays with him most and gets more excited for the active babysitters to come over than the not so active ones.”

3. Availability. If you’re never actually around to babysit, you’re probably not going to become someone’s regular babysitter.  “I have received referrals [for babysitters],” says Jeanine Sipple Dougherty, “but they all seem to be involved in so many school activities, that it leaves them practically unavailable.” Of course you’re going to be busy, but what’s important is that you clearly communicate when you’re generally available and when you’re not. (You can do this easily via your SittingAround babysitting calendar.)

4. Manners. “Show interest in not only our children but in holding a polite and adult conversation with us,” says Carrie E. Carroll. Being able to communicate well with the parents shows them your manners — manners which they hope you’ll model for their kids. Plus, it lets parents know you’re comfortable discussing issues or concerns they (or you) may have.

5. Punctuality. Be there when you say you’ll be there. They’re counting on you. Running late? It happens. Make sure you call and let the parents know you’ll be late — and don’t make it a habit. Also, don’t be late to the interview. “A prospective babysitter should report to the interview in a punctual manner. If a babysitter is late to an interview, [it tells me] she will be late to work as well,” says Candi Wingate.

6. Safety. Tracy Gibb says, “THE most important thing for me is that my son is safe. I look for babysitters with CPR training.” Beyond training, showing an awareness of and concern for safety is important, too. “I pay attention to babysitters that ask safety questions such as, ‘Where are your emergency phone numbers?’ and ‘How can I reach you in an emergency?’,” says Gibb.


10 Activities to Do with Kids While You’re Babysitting

Babysitting is a lot easier when you’ve got fun activities planned! Here are ten activities that you can adapt to your babysitting needs:

  1. Start the day (or evening) off by passing out pre-made “fun” bags. In the bag you can have many things that you will use during your time together: movies, music, coloring pages, small toys, the materials for crafts and some games.
  2. Games are great and don’t require much preparation. There are the traditional “Simon Says” or “123 Red Light” which are best played outside. As for inside favorites, besides board games there’s the “Do Not Laugh” game. All sit in a semi-circle and make silly faces; the one who laughs last is the winner and should be awarded a small prize. Tried and true “Hide and Seek” is usually very popular, too.
  3. Go to a nearby park or playground. Assuming it’s okay with the parents, taking kids to a playground is a fun and easy way to let them burn off energy. No park nearby? Grab a soccer ball and head out to the backyard for some fresh air.
  4. Crafts are always a wonderful way to spend babysitting hours. For younger children, activities like finger-painting using edible materials such as vanilla yogurt and food coloring are a big hit. Older children will love cutting shapes out of cookie dough and baking their fantasy creations.
  5. Reading aloud is always an option for babysitters and nothing enhances the experience more than if you take blankets and pillows and make a reading tent. If you pop some popcorn that will make the time shared feel even more special.
  6. Speaking of popcorn, watching a movie together can be a tremendously fun experience. Give out “tickets” before the show and collect them at the “door”. Then, turn off the lights and prepare to have a wonderful time in the land of imagination!
  7. Small children love to do things by themselves. Let them “help” you by stirring their own drinks or making their own sandwiches.
  8. Reverse the roles and play pretend. Let the kids “be” the babysitter. Permit them to give you a prepared snack, like fruit roll-ups and a boxed juice.
  9. Put on some music and dance! Download some great music on your iPod and then, like Snoopy and the Peanuts crowd, make merry! Teach them a dance or encourage them to choreograph their own.
  10. Do a puzzle together. Not only will this keep kids busy for a while, it keeps their energy at a controllable level — which makes it a great activity for before bedtime.

Regardless of what you plan to do, check with the parents first and make sure you have their approval. Be sure to be a responsible babysitter so that all have an enjoyable but safe time during activities. Above all, maintain a positive attitude and have fun! Your energy and smile will enhance any activity and make your time with the children you are caring for memorable indeed.