Summer opens up so many new possibilities. Not least of all, it brings a fresh array of babysitting talent to the fore. All those high school and college students at loose ends, looking for jobs, clamoring for the chance to hang out with your kids by the pool all summer and get paid for it.... OK, so there's a little more to the job description than that. Indeed, while it may be easier to find (relatively) inexpensive babysitting during the summer months, we still need to take just as much care in selecting the right person to care for our kids as we would otherwise.
If anything, the stakes are higher. Summer with young children is such a special time, and a summer babysitter can have a big impact on the experience, for good or for bad. A babysitter who is imaginative, cheerful, responsible, and independent can make everyone's summer happier. The kids will get the most out of their time away from school, and the parents can actually get bit of a vacation themselves. (What a concept!) In contrast, a moody teenager who forgets to apply your kid's sunscreen is not going to help put anyone in the vacation spirit.
When interviewing candidates for a summer babysitter or parent's helper position, we often need to ask different sorts of questions than we would of someone helping during the school year. The usual questions about previous job experience and references still apply, but the unscheduled time that many kids have for large swaths of the summer means that a summer sitter needs to have extra stamina for outdoor explorations, play and projects.
So sit that would-be sitter down, and ask away:
1. Why do you want to spend your summer with kids? Hopefully you will hear some enthusiasm for the wild ways of youngsters who are set free from school.
2. How did you spend your summers as a child? It can be helpful to hear about a person's own experiences and expectations of childhood summer.
3. What are your favorite outdoor activities? Do you enjoy being in nature? If a sitter is averse to bugs, snails, frogs, hermit crabs and other kid-favored creatures, you may want to think twice.
4. What sports and games do you like to play? Do you have strong swimming skills? A big goal of summer is to help kids develop their gross motor skills; another is to keep them cool and get them comfortable in water. Can your sitter help?
5. What ideas do you have for fun summer outings and projects with the kids? It would be music to our ears if a sitter said, "There's this great park I know" or "I'd love to help the kids keep a nature journal, or paint watercolors or get good a checkers or..." you get the idea.
6. Do you enjoy reading? What are some of your favorite children's books? Reading should be an important part of any kid's summer, and hopefully your sitter will share a love of children's books.
7. What kinds of meals can you make? Do you enjoy cooking projects? Younger sitters may or may not have a lot of experience in the kitchen. If you'd sometimes like a break from cooking duty, it's important to assess. Also, we all know how much the little ones love baking!
8. What would you do with the kids on a rainy day with nothing planned? What would you do on the third rainy day in a row? Creativity under pressure is a huge asset in a babysitter. (Secretly we hope he or she will say, "Take them out in the rain anyway and get wet!")
9. What would you do in case of a medical emergency? Accidents can happen anytime, but the physicality of many summer activities makes them even more likely. Find out what your prospective sitter does and doesn't know about dealing with emergencies.
10. What are your friends and family doing this summer? As busy as you may keep your teenage or college-age sitter, remember that nothing can trump his/her own social and personal life. This question can give you some sense of this (still) young person's social landscape, and how it might possibly affect her/his disposition and focus over the summer.
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