Making Checklists for Your Babysitter

Babysitter
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We've all had that moment when we're somewhere, at a meeting, at the movies, when we suddenly think, "Did I remember to tell the sitter how to reach me if cell phones go out/which neighbor to go to in an emergency/where the fire extinguisher is?" Or you realize that you forgot to tell her where your kids' favorite snacks are or what they shouldn't have (no dairy before bed because they get upset tummies, for example). The solution to all that second-guessing and having to call home: a babysitter checklist.

Having a babysitter checklist is the perfect way to make sure your sitter has all the information she'll need at her fingertips. Whether your kids are with a trusted grownup or a neighborhood teen, having the peace of mind that your kids are safe and having fun while you're out is essential and invaluable. The next time you need to leave your kids with a sitter, make a list, review it with her, and post it in a central location that she can access whenever she needs it.

What to Put on Your Babysitter Checklist

Communications

  • Your cell phone number. Ask the babysitter to put this in her phone so that she can access it quickly.
  • Where you can be reached, and a landline phone number of the place where you will be in case the cell phone service is disrupted.
  • Emergency phone numbers like police, fire, poison control, pediatrician, local hospital, your pharmacy.
  • Phone numbers of trusted neighbors, friends, and relatives who can be contacted if she cannot reach you in an emergency. Let them know beforehand that you will have a sitter watching your kids and that they are on the emergency contact list.
  • Pre-arranged meeting place (such as a neighbor's house) in case all communication goes down, and they cannot remain in the house.

If you have a home landline, you should also have a simple corded phone that plugs into the wall since most cordless phones won't work in the event of a power outage. But be sure to check with your telephone provider to confirm that your landline will still work and that you'll be able to access 911 even in the event of a power outage.

Emergency and Medical

  • Your address and directions to your house for operators in case of an emergency.
  • Any medical information about your child, allergies, health insurance information, pediatrician's name, and telephone number.
  • Medical release form for your child's care in the event of an emergency
  • Where the emergency kit for power outages is.
  • Where the fire extinguisher is. Be sure to give your sitter strict instructions to leave the house with the children and call 911 outside if the fire is anything more significant than something small that can be put out immediately with the fire extinguisher.
  • Where the first-aid kit is. Go over basic first aid, such as what to do if your child chokes. Knowing CPR and first aid is one of the basics you will look for in a qualified babysitter when you interview sitters.
  • Any food allergies or restrictions your children have, and what the sitter should do in case of a reaction to foods, including how much antihistamine to give or how to give your child an Epi-Pen shot.
  • Be aware of what foods are choking hazards. Kids under age four should never be given large pieces of food, especially things like grapes, hard candy, popcorn, and hot dogs.

House Rules

  • What to do if your child breaks a rule or misbehaves. It's a good idea to work out a plan for what your sitter should do if your child does not listen or doesn't behave.
  • What time you expect the kids to be in bed and a list of their bedtime routines, such as a bath and a favorite book.
  • What television shows, movies, or other tech content your children can and cannot see. Your 7-year-old may be psyched about watching that PG-13 movie, but make sure your sitter knows beforehand what is and is not approved by you.
  • Where she should and should not take the children. If you want her to take the kids to the park, discuss how she'll get there, for example. Be clear about what you expect and want (that kids get exercise, put on lots of sunscreen, or get home before dark) so that there's no confusion about what's expected.

Additional Checklist Items for Babies

If you have an infant, be sure your sitter knows the following:

  • Put baby to sleep on her back in a bare crib (no blankets, pillows, or toys) to reduce SIDS risk..
  • Never give baby honey (it poses a risk of botulism poisoning for babies under one year old).
  • Never leave a baby unattended, especially on top of a changing table or in the bathroom.
  • Never give a baby or toddler a food other than what you left specifically for her (expressed breastmilk, for example); heat the food very carefully, if necessary; and check the temperature before giving it to the baby.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

If your babysitter is new, ask her to come at least 30 minutes to an hour before you have to leave so that she can spend some time with the kids and get to know them. (Or better yet, have her come and play for an hour while you are home on a day before she is scheduled to babysit.)

Don't expect your sitter to be your housekeeper. She is there to play with the kids, feed them, and take care of them; she should not be expected to do housework (unless that's something that you agreed to pay her extra for and that she wants to do after the kids are safely in bed and sleeping).

Make sure you have set aside dinner and snacks (and lunch, if she's there early in the day) for your sitter.

Be sure your sitter has a safe way to get home, especially if she is a teenager.

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Article Sources
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  1. Ramirez JM, Ramirez SC, Anderson TM. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, sleep, and the physiology and pathophysiology of the respiratory network. In: Duncan JR, Byard RW, eds. SIDS Sudden Infant and Early Childhood Death: The Past, the Present and the Future. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2018.

  2. National Capital Poison Center. Botulism and Honey, What's the Connection?