Finding a Safe Babysitter

All parents want to keep their kids safe and are naturally nervous whenever they have to leave them with a babysitter…

Babysitters and trust

When leaving your child with a babysitter, it’s important that you trust the babysitter and that they have credible references and/or proof of professional caring qualifications. Parents should be aware of any training that the babysitter has undergone. Parents also should establish if the sitter is adept with holding techniques, bottle-feeding knowledge, nappy changing and bathing.

Babysitters should be advised of the details of each child, including age, weight, height, nap and/or bed times, food allergies, medical condition(s), names, doses of medicines to be taken and any other special conditions.

Information about the babysitter

Once a babysitter has been interviewed and hired, the following important information should be supplied to him or her so there’s no misunderstanding as to where you will be in the case of an emergency:

  • Your home address and telephone number
  • Name, phone number and location of where you will be or the mobile numbers for both parents
  • Time you intend to return home
  • Place where the house key is kept and the car key if necessary
  • Exact location of the first-aid kit
  • Place where the children's medications are kept

The babysitter should be given specific instructions with respect to calling parents back to the house, and should be advised of a possible problem concerning the child. Situations may include:

  • If the child has been crying for 20 or 30 minutes and the sitter cannot establish what the problem is
  • If the child develops a temperature or is injured (i.e. more than a superficial scratch)
  • Any time a situation develops that the sitter feels he or she cannot handle

Should it happen that neither parent can be contacted, the names of three relatives, neighbours or close friends should be supplied, as well as their addresses and telephone numbers.

The babysitter and house rules

The babysitter should be made aware of what television programmes and movies are acceptable and unacceptable, as well as what the children are allowed to eat and drink. Guidelines should be laid down for ‘outside’ play and for what company is acceptable for each child. A bedtime routine must be explained together with the parent’s discipline philosophy. The sitter should ask the parents well in advance to prepare bottles, nappies and anything else that he or she feels is necessary. Parents should provide information to the sitter on how they usually get a child to sleep. He or she should be instructed to make notes of the following when babysitting:

  • What and when did the children eat
  • What time the children napped and went to bed
  • How they behaved

The babysitter and safety

Sitters should be instructed not to give the children any of the following:

Under four years of age

Raisins, hot dogs, raw carrots, celery, grapes, nuts, hard sweets, chewing gum, raw pears and apples.

Four to six years

Apples, pears and carrots to be peeled.

The sitter must be instructed not to drink anything hot while holding a baby or young child. The sitter should be aware that children should never be left alone with food.

Babysitter's do's and don'ts


  • Follow the parents’ rules
  • Tell the children amusing stories
  • Get to know the children and parents before babysitting
  • If you are under 18, ensure that your parents know that you are undertaking the job
  • Undergo first aid training
  • Know what the children are doing at all times
  • When children are asleep, check on them periodically


  • Ever leave the children alone
  • Ignore the children
  • Give them large amounts of sugar or caffeine
  • Tell scary bedtime stories
  • Let the children near the stove or anything hazardous
  • Mention that you are a babysitter when you answer the phone
  • Talk on the phone
  • Invite friends over
  • Smoke

Babysitter fire instructions

If there is a small fire, such as one on the stove, know where the extinguisher is and how to operate it. If there is a large fire, the sitter should gather the children together immediately and lead them out of the house through the nearest door or window. In the event of a fire, test doors before they are opened. This is done by kneeling on the floor and reaching up as far as possible using the back of the hand to check for the presence of heat. If a fire is present on the other side of the door, its knob will be warm and the area in the vicinity of cracks will feel hot. If the door is warm, use an alternative escape route. The children should be taken to a neighbour, preferably one who is on the 'in case of emergency' list and the fire and rescue service should be contacted.

Babysitter emergency numbers

The babysitter should be provided with the following information:

  • Nearest police station and emergency number
  • Nearest fire station and telephone number
  • Nearest hospital and contact number
  • Doctor or paediatrician’s phone number
  • Poison control telephone number

Related links

  • Choosing a Child Carer: If you’re a parent planning to return to work or education, you’ll need to start thinking about childcare. The National Childminding Association offers some tips...

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