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Now is the time to find the perfect baby sitter

Finding a baby sitter to take care of your kids for the summer can be stressful. But, it doesn’t need to be.

babysitter

(Photo courtesy of SharonaGott/Flickr)

By asking the right questions, giving yourself plenty of time to line up interviews, and making sure you’re looking for qualities in sitters that you deem important, you’re ensuring that you’ll find the perfect fit for your family.

The first guideline: make sure you give yourself plenty of time. April and May are the best times to start looking, said Katie Bugbee, a global parenting expert for Care.com, a website designed to help parents find child care.

“This is when most people, sitters included, are starting to line up their summer plans,” Bugbee said. “At care.com we see a surge of parents looking for summer care at the end of May. But you can always beat the rush and start looking a month earlier.

“And if hiring someone currently in college, you may need to Skype interview or wait until they come home in May to meet in person,” she added.

Once you’ve lined up candidates to interview, make sure you go into the meeting prepared to ask the right questions. That begins with the basics, which include availability, experience and safety. It’s important to check that the caregiver will be able to meet your scheduling needs, ensuring that you’ll be able to keep your same office hours, Bugbee said. Check on their flexibility, and see if they’ll be able to accommodate your travel schedule or stay a little bit later on evenings that you work late.

For experience, focus on the familiarity that the caregiver has with your children’s needs, Bugbee said. This is a great time to hear about their past babysitting jobs.

“Is she a school teacher? Is she an after-school sitter for another family during the year? Has she taken similar jobs previous summers? There are so many sitters out there, but you’ll want to focus on the familiarity she has with your children’s age ranges and needs,” Bugbee said.

Finally, when it comes to your kids, don’t gloss over safety. If you want your caregiver to drive your kids around, get a background check, which includes driving record information. Ask scenario-based questions to gauge how sitter candidates will handle themselves in an emergency situation. Questions to ask include: What would you do if my child fell and hit her head on concrete? What would you do if my child got stung by a bee? How would you react if you got locked out without a cellphone? What would you do if someone came to the door?

“Her on-the-spot answers will give you a great sense for her maturity, responsibility and quick-thinking,” Bugbee said. “If your child has certain allergies you will want to ask detailed questions on her experience with this as well.”

SITTER SITES

Looking for a website to find a baby sitter around the Milwaukee area? Try out these:

Care.com — One of the most popular sites to connect baby sitters and nannies with the people who are looking for them.

SitterCity.com — Parents can post their jobs and find prospective care-givers.

GreatAuPair.com — A international online job matching service for baby sitters, nannies and even personal assistants and housekeepers.

NannyPro.com — The online service puts care-givers through a test and does its own background checks.

Once the basics are covered, focus on finding the perfect fit for your family. Review whether the caregiver’s energy and interests align with your kids’ needs, Bugbee said. Find someone who you’ll consider to be a role-model for your kids and will help encourage goals you have for your children, such as summer reading and educational activities.

Consider candidates who have background in skills that your child might be working on or interested in, such as playing piano, soccer, drama, crafts and violin. And, take time to assess the caregiver’s sense of responsibility and maturity.

“You should also make sure the person is creative, energetic and can challenge your kids with new activities each day. And don’t forget patient. In fact, a recent Care.com poll revealed that the top quality parents look for in a nanny is patience,” Bugbee said.

Ask the caregiver about her “nanny philosophy,” she said. This includes asking your prospective care-giver how she views her role in the family and with the kids. Once you find your perfect match, it’s time to figure out a fair hourly rate.

Bugbee said that the average hourly rate for a sitter or nanny in Milwaukee starts at $8.50, according to the Care.com rate calculator. However, you may need to add more to that, depending on the number of kids you have and the years of experience you’re looking for.

Always remember that this is someone who will be spending a lot of time with your kids. Look for someone who shares similar values to you, and who is invested in helping your kids grow, Bugbee said.

“This is someone who will be your parenting partner – for the summer or year – and you want to make sure you are aligned with them when it comes to teaching styles as well as discipline,” Bugbee said. “You also need someone your kids will respect, as well as enjoy their time with.”

About Kirsten Yovino

Kirsten Yovino is a Milwaukee-area resident and co-owner of brewcityparent.com.

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