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Parenting 101

1. Allowable Edibles Don’t expect a sitter to sift through your pantry in search of acceptable treats for the tots. Post a list of appropriate

eats on the fridge, and store snacks where they're easy to find. Show her the goods before you go. If the kids are hungry, no one’s happy.

2. Shimmer and Shine Nothing kills the mood of a romantic date night like coming home to a toy-strewn mess. If you’d like the kids and

their caregiver to tidy up, say so. Explain your expectations to the kids and the sitter at the same time so everyone understands.

3. Play-by-play Leave a (flexible) schedule of events to guide the sitter through your usual routine. “Dinner at 5:30, play games or

color, bath at 7, put on pajamas, stories at 7:30, lights out at 8,” for instance. Unstructured time is stressful for everyone.

4. Show Me the Money Don’t be reluctant to talk about money. Tell your sitter up front how much you’re willing to pay. She may not

speak up if she’s underpaid, but she won’t be available next time you need her, so be sure to pay fairly and generously.

5. Tech Specs If you want to limit kids’ screen time, give guidelines to your kids and the sitter. Say, “You can watch Hole in the Wall, but

after that, the TV turns off.” While you’re at it, show the sitter how to operate electronics.

6. Secret Soothers Some kids struggle with separation or grow agitated when their routine is disrupted. Let the sitter in on your if-

all-else-fails options for comforting tired, cranky kids. Favorite songs? Best-loved book? Must-have blankie? Bubble bath bonus time? Share your secret weapons with this coveted ally.

7. Bedtime Basics Resist the urge to say, “Just lay her on her back in the crib” and leave it at that. Your nighttime wind-down is probably

10 Things the Babysitter Should Know

40 PLAYGROUND Winter 2011

more complicated — and more instrumental in getting your child to sleep — than you realize. Leave a quick step-by-step guide. “Bath, pajamas, snack, two books on the bedroom floor, put her in the crib on her back with her brown and pink polka-dot blanket” isn’t bossy; it’s helpful.

8. Hidden Hazards Food allergies, pesky pets, and your toddler’s obsession with toilets and trash cans should be revealed up front.

Situations you monitor regularly (like the fact that your 5-year-old goes outside without asking) won’t be on your sitter’s radar unless you point them out.

9. Discipline Directions In your tour of the house, point out where kids go for time-out and where you may stash taken-away toys. When

your little angels behave badly, the sitter will need to know how to address their behavior.

With your go-to sitter off to college and holiday parties on the horizon, many parents secure new babysitters this time of year. I know from personal experience that babysitters won’t tell you what they don’t know. Set your next sitter up for success, even if she doesn’t ask for advice. Written by Heidi Smith Luedtke, Ph.D.

10. Contact Info Always leave detailed information about your plans and several cell phone numbers your sitter can call in case of

emergency. You never know whether you’ll have a weak signal or a dead battery. Also, let her know if it’s all right to call with questions or problems.


We surveyed our readers to get the scoop on what the going rate is in Central Florida. - 1 child: $5 to $8 per hour - 2 or more children: $10 to $15 per hour

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