Tips For Getting The Most From Your Babysitter

Going out for the night and leaving your kids in the care of someone else can often be pretty nerve-wracking. If you are booking a babysitter, though, particularly for the first time, you may find yourself wondering – what does a babysitter need to know? What do I need to tell them to ensure that they can give the best care to my little ones, allowing me to relax and enjoy my night?

For the sake of your relationship, your self-esteem and your mental health, you really need some time out, adult conversation and a chance to be the person you used to be – if only for a short while.  So it’s well worth making sure you are prepared and that both you, and your babysitter know what to expect.

what does a babysitter need to know - Caitlin and Ieuan at home by the back door

Caitlin and Ieuan in 2015 – double trouble!

If you don’t want to spend all night grasping your mobile in case the babysitter calls, here’s what you need to do.

What does a babysitter need to know?

First off, make sure your babysitter is up to the job.

There is no legal age requirement for a babysitter but the NSPCC recommends that no-one under the age of 16 should be left alone to look after children.

Frankly, I think even 16 is too young, no matter how responsible their own parents may claim them to be.

You may feel differently if the babysitter is a member of your own family or an older sibling of course, but I would rather play safe and ensure that a responsible adult was looking after the kids in case of accident, sickness or some other emergency.

There are babysitting websites such as www.findababysitter.com where you can buy a monthly subscription (currently £25 a month).

You can post your requirements and receive messages from prospective babysitters free of charge but you’ll need to subscribe to message them if they do not include a contact number.

Whilst schemes such as these offer the added peace of mind of being able to put you in touch with far more local babysitters than you could probably drum up by just asking around, and some background checks are carried out, you may find that lots of your messages are from eager teenagers looking to earn some pocket money.

I also found lots of messages from babysitters who lived so far away from me it would have taken them a couple of hours to get home!

You still need to take steps to ensure you find the right person to look after your kids, even if it is just for a night out.

I always interview any new babysitter and make sure that they meet my children.

I’ve found the babysitters who are truly interested in the job generally don’t mind a quick 20-minute meet ‘n’ greet.

Kids are usually very upfront about whether or not they like someone and it’s a great way to see how the babysitter interacts with the children.

Sitting on a sofa clutching a coffee and observing them from the other side of the room isn’t that great a sign.

The best babysitters I have had have found themselves dragged off to play / colour / inspect toys and haven’t minded in the slightest (well, maybe just a bit!).

Tell them exactly where you’re going and roughly when you expect to be back

If you’re going to a restaurant, give them the establishment’s phone number in case you cannot be reached by mobile. This is particularly important if you’re going somewhere where you know the mobile signal is poor – as it is at one of our regular haunts. If you’re going to a show, tell them that you will not be contactable during the performance but that you will call them during the interval.

Leave a list of emergency telephone numbers

It’s a good idea to have a typed list of emergency telephone numbers to give to the babysitter.

We usually visit the same restaurants on our rare nights out so I add the restaurant telephone numbers to the list.

I also include the number of a nearby responsible adult (in this case my parents) in case we are in an area where mobile reception is poor.

Leave stuff for the kids to do.

Our current babysitter always brings a selection of craft material and some DVDs but you may want to have similar things available to help the babysitter out.

Leave clear instructions about bedtimes and bedtime routines.

Our babysitters know to put our kids to bed at 8 pm.

We’ve found in the past that telling a babysitter to put them to bed “when they’re tired” means kids will suddenly be bright eyed and bushy tailed way past 9 pm.

Tell your babysitter which toothbrush/toothpaste/comforter is required and whether doors should be shut and lights left on or off.

Our kids always have a glass of milk before bed too.  Departing from their normal routine can be unsettling for some children so let the babysitter know what helps your little ones to settle best.

Leave even clearer instructions about any medicines to be given and in what situation.

Generally, I’m talking about antibiotics and medicines like Calpol or Nurofen here.

Make sure the babysitter knows where they are and most importantly when the last dose was given.

To be honest, if my kids are unwell enough to need medicine we usually stay home but this isn’t always possible I know.

Let the babysitter know under what circumstances you must be called.

This will vary according to the level of trust you have in the babysitter.

If your child just wakes and needs comforting, the babysitter should be able to handle this but if your child is sick, for example, you really need to know so you can come home.

This is another reason for carefully vetting your babysitter and employing someone with experience – many babysitters now have first aid training under their belt which an inexperienced teenager is unlikely to have.

Be clear about when you are likely to be back.

We are not exactly rock ‘n’ roll types (any more) so we are usually back before 11 pm.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly I don’t think it’s particularly fair on the babysitter to leave them there into the small hours and secondly, given that the average hourly rate for a babysitter is now upwards of £8 an hour, you can quickly find a night out becomes very expensive indeed.

Leave refreshments for the babysitter

Explain where the tea, coffee or soft drinks are and leave some biscuits or a light snack if you are going to be late and you know the babysitter hasn’t eaten.

Explain where the TV remote works

If your house is anything like ours, it takes at least 2 remotes to turn the TV on and some complicated button pushing to swop over from the XBox.

You might also be asked for your Wi-Fi password.  We have a guest one set up for friends and babysitters.

Check that the babysitter can get home safely

It’s just courtesy to ensure that your babysitter isn’t wandering off home alone in the dark. Again, employing a babysitter from a reputable agency means you can check whether they can drive and how far they will be travelling.  Generally, our babysitters drive themselves but we will drive babysitters home if they live nearby.

Have their pay ready and make sure you’ve agreed what that will be beforehand.

Make sure you have the right money to pay the babysitter on hand as soon as you get home.

You don’t want to be rifling through bags, pockets and down the back of the sofa to find the right money – and your babysitter will be eager to get home.

And since this is your date night….

Dress up

This is your chance to dress up, glam up and be a woman again.

Some of you might have managed to maintain immaculate levels of grooming despite having children but I seem to have been welded into a pair of black leggings so it makes a nice change to see my legs again and slip into a pair of heels.

Try to relax

This is your time so make the most of it.  I find I often get so stressed before I go out I get a headache.  I’m working on becoming a little more chilled.

Don’t just talk about the kids

If you have made sure you have the best babysitter for the job then you should be able to relax a little and concentrate on your date.

Chat about your holiday plans, what you’d like to do in the future, how your partner’s job is going, what your ambitions are.

This is your chance to try to reignite any spark that may be less bright than it was between you.

Don’t constantly look at your mobile.

Put it next to your plate if you must but try to concentrate on your date. On the other hand, make sure your phone is fully charged when you go out.

Eat something

Yes I know – you’re spending money on yourselves – so try to enjoy it!

If you’re like us, it may be quite a while before you’re able to go out again so try to make it memorable.

The world won’t implode if you have a Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Book your taxi home before you leave.

Worth considering if it’s a Friday or Saturday night and you face a long wait to get a cab.

And if you’re taking the car, put your mind at rest by checking the fuel level and having cash on hand for the car park.

I always love coming home after a night out and going upstairs to give Caitlin and Ieuan a sneaky good night kiss and to straighten their bed covers.

They look so angelic when they sleeping.

And I feel extra happy, having had a break of a couple of hours.

Why Becoming A Child Minder Can Kick Start Your Career Post Pregnancy

As a stay at home mum and blogger, I know how lucky I have been to have been on hand for the kids throughout their early years.  If you are stuck in a job you hate, you probably feel as if you would give anything to stay at home to be nearer to your kids and be your own boss into the bargain.

How to become a childminder

One way around this dilemma is to train to become a qualified childminder – but I am sure lots of us wouldn’t know where to start.

So how do you become a qualified childminder?

To be a childminder, you need to be registered with OFSTED (in England) and although you don’t need any formal qualifications, there is an expectation that you will have a detailed knowledge of children, and both their physical and emotional needs whilst in your care.

Thus, many people will become qualified, choosing from the growing range of accredited childminder courses available online and in colleges throughout the UK.

The information in this post relates to OFSTED and becoming a childminder in England. For those would-be childminders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the requirements and registration process may be slightly different;

Scotland Childminding Association

Wales; Care and Social Services Inspectorate

Northern Ireland Childminding Association

Registration

If you look after someone else’s children in your own home in exchange for payment, you will need to register as a childminder. There are a few exceptions, for example, if you look after your friend’s children for a few hours every week, as a mutual arrangement. Grandparents don’t need to register as childminders.

Qualifications

Even though you don’t need any qualifications as such to become a childminder, there is an expectation that you will offer a professional service. The only real way of doing this is to complete a range of courses that show parents that you have the skills and the abilities to offer high quality and safe care for their children.

·       Overarching qualification

Some childminders choose to start their professional qualifications with a general and overarching course. This course would look at all aspects of being a childminder including;

  • What resources are needed
  • What paperwork and documentation you will need to keep
  • How to organise childminding sessions
  • How many children you can look after
  • Activities that are appropriate for certain age groups
  • Health and Safety
  • Safeguarding and other similar issues

·       Paediatric First Aid

If you are registering as a childminder with OFSTED, you will need to have a current paediatric first aid certificate. You will need to renew this every three years.

This is clearly important as accidents and emergencies can and do happen. With the duty of care for children on your shoulders, you will need to be confident you have the necessary first aid skills to help an injured child.

·      Awareness Raising Courses

There are many issues, from behavioural difficulties to emotional ones that can affect children. For some, these are short term symptoms as a result of situations happening in their lives. For other children, social, emotional and behavioural difficulties are diagnosed conditions such as Asperger’s, ADHD, ADD and autism.

Some children also have speech and language difficulties and there are courses that help childminders to work with children to develop vocabulary and so on.

Awareness courses are short courses that look at these conditions, what they are and how best to deal with situations that arise, and can prove invaluable for a childminder who is looking to offer a professional service to a wide a range of children as possible.

·      Working with Children: Safeguarding

As well as working with children, you will be working with their families. Not every child is brought up in a stable home, with some living in foster care or are adopted.

There are times when foster and adopted children can display challenging behaviour, as can other children. This behaviour and certain patterns can be indicative of other, serious issues that are happening to them but they are unable or unwilling to verbalise what they are.

As a childminder working directly with a child, you have a duty of care and you have a safeguarding role. That means you will do your best to keep them safe. If you think that a child is being harmed, mentally and/or physically, you are expected to act. In most cases, this is either reporting your concerns to social services or calling the police. Not acting could be construed as neglect but unless you have the training and the experience, you may miss vital signs.

Being a Childminder

Thousands of parents across the UK rely on childminders to look after their children. They have expectations too: they want their children to be safe in your care, but be stimulated and cared for too.

The rewards of working with children, watching them grow and flourish knowing that you have played an important part of their development, are many and varied. Do you have the commitment and drive to run your own business, looking after children in your own home?

NCC Home Learning is one of the leading online providers of certificate and diploma courses in the UK. As well as ‘working with children’ courses, they have a range of courses that cover a range of topics, all studied for in the comfort of your own home.

Why not take a look at the courses they offer?

Find A Babysitter Online With Childcare.co.uk: Review

The thing about being an older stay at home mum is that it’s pretty difficult, ironically, to find childcare. No, it’s not just a problem affecting working parents. That’s why many of us try to find a babysitter online.

The Husband works away much of the time and my parents, being in their 80’s do what they can to have the children but, as you know, kids can be quite exhausting and I don’t like to ask them to babysit at night.

Baby boy with a blue dummy in his playpen

I have no other close family nearby to call upon so if the Husband and I do want to escape for a quiet child-free meal or a date night, finding a great babysitter is really important.

This is even more important if it’s your first time hiring a babysitter as you venture back into the adult world after possible months of seclusion surrounded by nappies and Milton.

It’s always tempting, of course, to pay a couple of quid to a teenager to sit for you.  I used to earn my pocket money this way when I was about 14 but the children I minded were two doors up from my parents’ house and their parents were friends of the family.

I have never been confident that a teenager would be able to cope in the event of a medical emergency and, in any case, it seems a bit unfair to put them in that situation in the first place.

I cannot find any UK law which is definitive in terms of a legal minimum age for babysitters but here is what the children’s charity, the NSPCC has to say on the subject of leaving children at home alone.  They advise that children under 13 should not be left at home alone for long periods and children under 16 should not be put in charge of younger children.

I am sure most parents wouldn’t even consider doing this but as the long summer holidays approach and stressed parents have to juggle work and family, the temptation to leave kids on their own “for a bit” seems to increase.

Whilst there is no minimum age at which UK children can be legally left on their own, the law doesn’t specify how old someone needs to be to babysit either.  BUT, if the babysitter is under 16 then you, as a parent, remain legally responsible for your child’s safety.

Be aware too, that the Children and Young Persons Act allows parents in England and Wales to be prosecuted for wilful neglect if they leave a child unsupervised “in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health”. That can cost you a fine or even up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Similar legislation also exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It also turns out that there is a whole host of things you need to check before you worry about providing tea, coffee and biscuits to your new babysitter or childminder.

Depending on the nature of their employment with you, you need to check their qualifications, insurances and even whether they have a valid driving licence if they are going to be driving your little ones anywhere.

Then there’s the DBS check (for England and Wales).  These were previously known as a CRB check (Criminal Records Bureau), but are now known as Disclosure & Barring checks.

These provide information about whether an individual has a criminal conviction or has been charged with a criminal conviction which has now expired.  Anyone who works with children should have one so it’s one of the first things you should be asking to see from your prospective babysitter.

So where do you find a suitably qualified babysitter and how do you vet them?

A great way to find a suitable babysitter is to use a service such as Childcare.co.uk which is the UK’s largest online community of parents, childcare providers, schools and private tutors.

I have been a member of their service and have used this successfully a couple of times to find good babysitters close to me.

Basically, their service allows parents to search for local childcare services such as babysitters, registered childminders, nannies, private tutors and nurseries using their postcode search facility.

This gives you an idea of how close the childcare provider is to your home and you can then read the childcare provider’s individual profile to find out more about them.

As a member, you can also post a ‘job’ – a brief post about your requirements – to which interested babysitters can respond.  They can email you or telephone you if you have left your number in your ‘job post’.

You can register for free and add a profile advertising your childcare/tutor requirements.

Here’s an excerpt from my profile to give you an idea.

You choose whether to be a free member or whether to pay for Gold Membership.

As a free member, you can read and reply to messages that have been sent to you from gold members. You can also send messages to gold members and view their direct contact details. As a free member, however, you have to wait for a response to your profile whilst Gold Membership allows you to contact childcare providers immediately using their secure private messaging system.

Gold members can also receive messages from free members and see their direct contact details if they have chosen to add these (email and telephone number).

Gold membership comes with a raft of other benefits such as 30 minutes free legal advice on childcare and family issues, access to 100 free online training courses, online access to Creative Steps magazine and free Tastecard membership.

Currently, the fee for Gold Membership is £24.99 per month or £129.99 per year.

There are no booking or agency fees and you pay your babysitter directly.  You will find an indication of their hourly rates in their profile.

You can also check to see if parents have written reviews for their childcare providers and tutors.

If there is any downside to paying for Gold Membership, it is that once you have found your babysitter or childcare provider you may find that you don’t use the service again until you need another one.  It is easy to find that 6 months have passed and you haven’t visited the site.

BUT, in terms of being able to find a childcare provider quickly, Childcare.co.uk is excellent.  It just depends whether you feel you will make full use of the extra benefits Gold membership provides. You may find free membership suffices.

Once you have found your sitter, however, be aware that it is your responsibility to interview them and to thoroughly check their qualifications – for example, request references and a copy of their DBS check.

This means you will still need to set aside some time to meet them.  I would never dream of letting someone who has never met my children babysit them!

So you will need to be organised and, if possible, start searching for your childcare well in advance of your special event.  This is a bit of a pain if you just want to sneak off to a quiet country pub with your husband but it has to be done.

You will find lots of helpful information, including a checklist to work your way through on Childcare.co.uk’s site.

To be frank, when there is a resource such as this to guide you through the increasingly complex maze of regulations surrounding hiring a trusted childcare provider, not using a site like this is simply not worth the risk.

Yes, you still have to do much of the work such as telephoning the babysitter’s referees to double-check references or checking that your prospective childminder has a valid Paediatric First Aid certificate but when it comes to your children’s safety is there such as thing as too much work?

You may well find your ideal babysitter is just a mile away.

Find out more at Childcare.co.uk.

Kidsitter.co.uk – Reliable Childcare In A Hurry

One of my regular frustrations is finding a babysitter.  In the old days, all you would do is rope in the nearest adolescent and pay them a couple of pounds whilst giving them full reign of your biscuit cupboard.

I remember spending many happy hours babysitting for my parents’ next door neighbours.  Whilst their children slumbered upstairs, I would be happily ensconced downstairs accompanied by an extensive pile of magazines and an equally large pile of custard creams.

Today, though, we live in a different climate and parents are much more concerned to find appropriately qualified, professional and capable babysitters.

Easier said than done.

You can bet that when a function arises, your babysitter will be busy.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll find the number of sitters available generally dwindles down to just the one.

There’s a new answer to babysitter woes for those in the London area (and hopefully, later wider across the country) – Kidsitter.co.uk.

Founded by London Business School and Harvard alumni, KidSitter is a secure and curated online marketplace, with a mission to connect parents with trusted babysitters in London.

KidSitter uses a thorough 5-step vetting process to ensure they work with only the very best babysitters, most of who are nannies, childminders, nurses and teachers and, they say, only 1 in 10 will meet their criteria.

KidSitter babysitters are all DBS checked, paediatric first-aid certified, reference checked and interviewed in-person.

The in-person interview is worth its weight in gold to me.  There are a couple of other online babysitting services which operate much like a dating site.  You can create a free profile and input a ‘job’ and then wait for the responses to roll in.

But you then have to pay to respond to those messages (currently around £20 per month or £100 per year).

The vetting and interviewing are left to you which means that your chances of finding a babysitter at short notice are slim.

I have also found that the babysitters who use these other sites are not always amenable to meeting you and your kids either.

Often they are as young as 16 and their experience is solely looking after their younger siblings. Sometimes they don’t even live in the same county as you!

Kidsitter launched in Islington in October 2015 and has now increased their service to the whole of London.

They can send you a trusted babysitter in as little as 2 hours at a very reasonable price of £12 per hour with no joining fees, booking fees or added extras.

They also offer a scheduled babysitter service so that if you have a regular exercise class or brunch date (I wish!), help is always on hand.

For mums like me whose partners work away most of the week and who have practically zero access to childcare, this could well give you some of your freedom back!

At the moment, I can’t commit to a regular evening out because I never know where the Husband will be and, since my parents are elderly, I can’t really ask them to sit late in the evenings.

With Kidsitter you can book as much as a month in advance to two hours before you need a sitter, if the booking is made between 9 AM and 6 PM, on all days of the week.

There is a three hour minimum for each booking but if your plans change full refunds are offered for cancellations made from the time of the booking until 24 hours before the sitter is due to arrive.

The other thing I like is that you don’t pay the sitter directly.  Usually sorting out payment for our babysitter involves a dash to the cashpoint and, occasionally (don’t tell them!), a riffle through the kids’ money boxes (of course we put it back!).

At the time of booking, you will be asked to provide your credit or debit card details. 24 hours before the booking, KidSitter will charge your card for the amount of the booking. Once a sitter has completed her work successfully, KidSitter will pay them directly.

At the moment I have at least two upcoming events I need a babysitter for and I have a lot of vetting and interviewing I need to do urgently.

So if you need to find a babysitter in London, why not give Kidsitter a try and save yourself a lot of the extra stress of just having a night out?!

I really hope they come to Cardiff soon!

*collaborative post