by Kate Petersen, contributing writer

The job of a parent is full. No wonder it’s often referred to as a juggling act! By hiring a trustworthy and qualified babysitter, parents are given some help while children are given the time to engage and connect with a fun, responsible caregiver.

Mother and daughter playing with finger toys

How to Find a Babysitter

We surveyed parents about how they choose a babysitter and what they look for when hiring a babysitter. The survey said that 89 percent of parents find their babysitters through referrals from family members or friends. If you don’t have a resource for referrals, another option is use websites like sittercity.com or care.com. Both of these sites are free to view or post babysitting jobs, but both charge a fee to view individual babysitter profiles. The advantage of viewing individual babysitter profiles are that they provide you with the applicant’s age, babysitting experience, medical training, availability, pay requirement and contact info. These sites also allow you run a background and/or driving history report on your potential babysitter.

What to Look for in a Babysitter

Entrusting your child in the care of someone else is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. As mentioned, some babysitting websites allow you to run background or driving history report on your potential babysitter. These reports can be a great way to screen potential sitters before you conduct your interview or introduce them to your child. Remember, it is okay to be picky, trust your gut and set the bar high.

What to Pay a Babysitter

According to care.com, the average rate to pay a babysitter is $10.75 per hour (location and number of children were not specified). In our survey, babysitter pay rates were mixed, but 38 percent of the respondents said they pay at least $5 per hour for their sitter to watch one child. Some shared that they pay a flat rate no matter how many children their sitter watches, and some calculate their rate by paying the sitter $2-3 per child per hour.

Guidelines to Set for a Babysitter

It’s always wise to give your new sitter a tour of your home so they can learn where things are and what places and things are off limits. Be sure to go over safety precautions such as never leaving a child unattended in a bath, on a changing table or any other areas where the child could fall or be injured, as well as any precautions to take if they are allowed to go outdoors. It’s also important to teach your sitter how to use any safety equipment you have in your home and to provide them with emergency information like your cell number(s), home address, neighbor contact info, poison control and pediatricians phone number.

To make meal time easier, think ahead by providing previously prepared meals or snacks or meals you are comfortable with the sitter preparing. If the sitter is coming during a particularly busy time, it may be helpful to outline a schedule to follow. Also go over your rules on your child’s screen time. In our survey, 76 percent of parents allow their children to watch TV or a movie with a sitter, but only shows they have approved, and 39 percent allowed watching TV or a movie during a designated time period. To promote screen-free time with your child and their babysitter, try encouraging your child ahead of time to pick out a activities they would like to play with their sitter. In our survey, 85 percent of parents expect their babysitter to solely watch and play with their child or children, but 59 percent said they would pay more if their sitter offered to do household chores in addition to watching the children. If you have expectations on what you’d like your home to look like when you come home, make sure remind your sitter and children to clean up.

Don’t forget to go over your policy on your babysitter using their cellphone or having guests. In our survey, 93 percent of parents do not allow their babysitter to have anyone else visit, and 46 percent of parents approved of their sitter only using their cellphone in case of an emergency