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Guide to Finding an Occasional/ Date Night Babysitter


An occasional sitter is someone who takes care of your children every once in a while and is not steadily and consistently employed by your family for childcare.

Occasional sitters are for special occasions like nights out, weekend afternoons when parents have events, or infrequent school pick-ups when extra help is needed.

Unlike regular, consistent childcare arranged by parents who engage nannies or other consistent childcare, this type of childcare follows a different set of standards. If you are looking specifically for regular part-time childcare help to handle after school pick up, please read The Park Slope Parents Guide to Finding an After School Nanny/ After School Babysitter.

If it’s just an occasional/date night babysitter you need, then read on!

Where do you look for an occasional babysitter?

If you don’t have someone in mind it can be daunting to try to find someone to trust with your children. Here is advice from Park Slope Parents members about how to find good babysitters.

Ask

  • Ask friends and neighbors if they have babysitters they recommend.
  • Ask friends if they have college-aged relatives in NYC.
  • See if your baby nurse has availability.
  • Ask friends who have a nanny to see if their nanny would be interested in extra evening/ weekend work. Many nannies are open to an opportunity to earn more money.
  • Ask preschool and after-school teachers, especially junior staffers.
  • Ask camp counselors from summer camp.
  • Baby group members.
  • Inquire about older tweens/teens who live in your building.
  • Seek out people in your church/synagogue community.
  • Consider friends/relatives of friends who may be retired and have extra time on their hands.
  • Other parents with children might be able to take care of your child at the same time or after their children are sleeping.

Use  websites, apps and babysitting services

Sitter City
Care.com
Sensible Sitters
Sitters Studio
Craigslist
Beyond Care Co-op (Sunset Park)
Pinchsitters

Colleges with babysitter lists (e.g., Barnard Babysitting ,Brooklyn CollegeNYU Babysitting Registry


NOTE: Some apps have a recurring monthly fee that incurs even when you don’t use their services.

Making smart choices


Once you find a few babysitters who might fit the bill you’ll need to vet them to make sure they are going to work with your family. Remember, even if a friend loves a certain sitter it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll love them.

Interview candidates and check references. Find out how much experience the potential sitter has as well as the ages the sitter has cared for. A potential sitter may be great with babies, but not be the fun, crafty person you were hoping for with older kids. (And vice versa.) See if the sitter is trained in First Aid and CPR or has any other prior safety training.

Check references. Just as you would with anyone coming into your house and caring for your child, check references for occasional sitters too. Do not rely on email alone for a reference. Talk to their referee over the phone. If anything feels off, trust your gut and take a pass on that sitter.

Find out if they're reliable and on time. If you’ve got a deadline and your sitter is late it may make your excursion stressful and not worth the effort.

Make expectations clear. While it’s unlikely that you will have a work agreement with an occasional sitter, do spell out financial items like paying for car rides home, food purchases, subway fares, and spending money if the sitter is taking the kids out. If you discussed by phone, follow up with a text or email so you have written documentation of the expectations.

Get the babysitter’s details.  Make sure you know your sitter’s full name, address and contact number in case there is an emergency. Make sure you know where the sitter lives if you are covering a cab home as it could be super expensive! Park Slope Parents has this Caregiver Emergency Contact  document you can ask the potential sitter to fill out.


 

Cost Considerations

The hourly cost of a babysitter varies widely. Costs differ depending on:
  • Age of the sitter (teen sitters typically charge less per hour).
  • Experience.
  • Number of children being watched.
  • Age of kids (sitters of newborns typically charge more).

Depending on the situation you may also need to factor in dinner and transit costs (for late car service) when you think about the expense. Some sitters will also charge extra on special nights (New Year’s Eve) or for nights after midnight.


Here are some standard practices:

Pay for the sitter’s dinner. It may not be necessary if you’re not going out until after dinner hours, but some sitters have to travel to get to your place on time and may miss dinner.
 
Pay for the sitter’s ride home. If you are coming home late (after 9:00pm in the summer, 8:00pm all other times of the year) it’s standard to pay for a car service or take the sitter home.
 
Give them spending money for outings with the kids. If you are going to have the sitter take the kids out for an afternoon to a park, playground, or museum, be sure to give them extra cash. Be clear about what you expect the cash to be spent on, including your sugar/junk food policy. For example: Is a trip to McDonald’s okay? Can the kids buy ice cream with the cash?

Tipping.  Some people round up on an hourly rate or tip if they are using an online service. While tipping is not expected, if you have someone for a short time giving them something extra can help make the job more worth their while and the sitter more inclined to make themselves available for you next time.

Cancellation policy.
There are a lot of different opinions and practices about canceling on your babysitter and whether you owe payment when you cancel. Ask the babysitter about their cancellation policies. Some people say it depends on when you cancel, with the idea that anything more than 48 hours in advance you can avoid payment. Some believe you need to give a week in advance or you need to pay your babysitter their full rate or at least half rate for canceling. It depends a lot on the context in the situation (e.g., whether you booked a full day babysitting a month in advance) but as with any hiring situation you might ask, “What would I expect if it was my job?

Note: some online babysitting booking agencies have cancellation policies; check those before you commit.

How can I save money?


Stay local.  Using a local person can save you on car services for sitters who live far afield. A car service to Queens can cost $20+.

Take people up on their offer to help.  If friends say they want to help, have them come over after the baby is asleep and watch a movie while you go out. As a PSP member relayed:
“We ask friends/couples who want to stay in and watch movies. We put our son down to bed (by 8:00pm) and sneak out. We usually buy our friends dinner/takeout and get them a car service home. It has worked out well over the past 2 years.”

Swap sitting with friends. Swapping with a neighbor, friend or fellow baby group member.

Use younger sitters. Typically younger sitters charge a lower rate. Ask the sitter (or the sitter’s parents if you are working through the parents) about their rate. A younger sitter living at home may not rely on the money as much as someone older paying their own rent, bills, and loans. Don’t, however, assume a younger sitter doesn’t want/need the money as much as an older sitter.

Join/create a babysitting co-op.  Starting a babysitting co-op with other new parents in the neighborhood is not only free but a great way to get to know and trust other families while building a strong support network. Park Slope Parents has information on How to Start a Babysitting Co-Op. Note: Folks tell us that this can get more complicated if you have more than one child.

Consider sleepovers. While younger kids may not be ready, kids aged five and older may be okay with a sleepover.


Picking and setting a time

Once you find someone you are comfortable with, make sure to discuss the following:
  • Hourly Rate
  • Cancellation Policy
  • Car Service home (if appropriate)
  • Date and time of the first job

It’s a good idea to send an email or text so you have a written record of what you’ve agreed on.


How to approach the first time babysitting session:


Once you find a sitter you’re comfortable leaving your child(ren) with and have talked through the details, have the sitter come 30 minutes before you need to leave so that you can show them anything they need to know while you’re out. Pay them for this time.
 
Give the sitter the lay of the land. Show the sitter around your home and explain routines. Explain how to work appliances and devices (TV, video games, oven etc.), and discuss what food in the refrigerator is OK to eat. What are the nighttime rituals? Having these instructions written down is also incredibly helpful for the sitter as it can be a lot to take in the first time. It also helps a sitter who can say, “Your parents say that sweets are not allowed until after dinner.” Park Slope Parents has this  Orientation Checklist that goes over important home safety issues.

Go over policies/rules. Is it okay to take the kids out for ice cream? Can the sitter fall asleep after the kids go to sleep? Is it okay to have friends over (including a romantic partner) if the kids are awake/asleep? What discipline (if any) do you expect the sitter to use if the kids misbehave? How much television vs creative play, read-aloud do you want.

Go over unexpected situations. What happens if there are unexpected issues over bedtimes? What if sleeping children awaken? What if your home phone rings?


Create an informational document for sitters which includes:
  • Your home address and cross streets
  • Poison control
  • Kids’ ages and birthdates
  • Allergies, food issues or other reminders
  • Medication
  • Children’s health insurance information
  • Your cell phone and work phone
  • Doctor’s name and emergency number
  • Dentist’s Name and emergency number
  • Two emergency contacts besides yourself
  • Keys to the house in case the babysitter has to leave
  • Preferred hospital in case of emergency
  • House rules (bedtime, computer policy, TV watching policy, off limits information, approved activities, unapproved activities).
  • Bedtime Routine (shower, teeth)
  • Tips and tricks (favorite shows, music, loveys)
  • Other notes (refrigerator policy, pet info)
Park Slope Parents has this Family Emergency Contact Information.

Have information specific to the current situation:

  • Where you are going
  • Phone numbers of where you are going to be at, with time estimations (e.g. 7-9pm at this restaurant, 9-11pm at this movie theater).
  • What time you’re expected home

Determine how you will stay in touch. If you will be checking in, let sitters know the best form of communication - texting, phone calls, emails, etc.  For example, if the sitter is putting the child to sleep and has the ringer turned off, you’ll need to remind them to turn on a vibration or some other soundless alert.

Have a monitor or nanny cam? 
Let sitters know. If you don’t trust them and want to be secretive about having a camera, then you can probably don’t trust this person enough to be taking care of your child.

You’re home: Now what?

Ask the sitter for a debrief. Check in and ask how it went. (Yes, even if you’re tired and a little tipsy.) What did they eat? When was bedtime (this will help gauge whether the kids will be well-rested the next day)? Were there any issues or concerns? If something doesn’t seem right, trust your gut and don’t hire the person again.

Assess the situation after the sitter leaves. Was the house as neat (or messy) as when you left it? (Did you discuss having the sitter do the dinner dishes after the kids went to bed? Consider tipping them if they did more than you asked.) Did the kids seem happy?  Ask what your child thought of the sitter, likes/dislikes. For babies, take stock of how many diapers were used (versus what’s typical), food eaten and bottles used.
 
Arrange for the sitter’s ride home. Call a car service and arrange for your sitter to get home. Note: There are times that you will give the sitter money for a car service and they will pocket the money and take public transit. Decide if this warrants paying in a way that ensures this doesn’t happen. Also make sure you’ve given enough for a cab ride home. Do not shortchange this expense if you’ve promised it to the sitter.




Other Considerations

Considerations if you have younger kids:

  • Some sitters will come over after the baby is asleep. This can help you get away for a few hours without teaching someone the bedtime routine. Plus, some sitters have different asleep and awake rates which can save you money.
  • Consider someone who is a soothing presence if they are going to put your kids to sleep. Also, while an energetic person is great for other kids, a calm sitter can help with anxieties kids may feel or emergencies that may arise.

Considerations if you have older kids:

  • If your child is old enough, give them a heads up that they are going to have a sitter.
  • Having a babysitter with skills specific to your kids interests (e.g., plays soccer, loves crafts, and likes video games) can be more fun for your child.
  • Planning a special activity (craft, movie, etc.) can help your child perceive a babysitter as a fun experience.
  • “Now our children are in elementary school and want a sitter who is FUN!  We regularly use one of the junior counselors from our daughter's summer camp.  She is in high school and charges $9 per hour.  On her watch, our girls go to sleep very late and the house is a mess when we come home but the girls love their nights with their sitter and we are happy that we are all having a good time on these nights.”
  • Domestic Workers’ Laws apply to babysitters.
  • If you are using your daytime nanny for nighttime babysitting, the laws for domestic workers apply. Note: if you are having your nanny work more than 40 hours in a given week you are legally responsible for paying 1.5x their hourly rate.
  • If you pay more than $2,100 in a calendar year on an occasional sitter (think weekly date nights @ $75/week) then you are required to pay taxes on this babysitter.

Domestic Workers’ Laws apply to sitters

  • If you are using your daytime nanny for nighttime sitting, the laws for domestic workers apply. Note: If the nanny works more than 40 hours in a given week, you are legally responsible for paying 1.5x their hourly rate.
  • If you pay more than $2,100 in a calendar year on an occasional sitter (think weekly date nights @ $75.00/week) then you are required to pay taxes on this sitter.

Advice from Park Slope Parents members:

  • Choose someone young because in the past I have had difficulty with older babysitters staying for date night and plus my child has the time of her life!!!
  • Be upfront about expectations and responsibilities, like if you want her to make dinner, give baths, wash dishes, etc.
  • give a detailed list and timeline. Don't assume she'll know how you want things done. Also: be generous! Round up on a late night, or for those half hours, random ten minutes, etc.--especially if it's only the difference of a couple bucks. An extra $3 is virtually nothing to the person paying it, but it makes you seem more generous and easy going if you give the sitter $50 vs $47, even if you only technically owe her the $47.
  • You can hire people who work at locally owned businesses and who you see on a regular basis.
  • Toy stores and restaurants are great. You should also ask for recommendations from friends. Some nannies who you meet in the park may have available hours as well. You should try to get to know the person beforehand and maybe be at home for a while with both the sitter and the children to see how they work together.
  • Get recommendations from friends but do not steal away/hog that babysitter.
  • Keep a list of babysitters because they all have different availabilities and may not be available when you need them. Try to hire someone for evenings who lives close enough that providing a car service for her won't cost a fortune, or someone who is confident enough to make their own way home late at night to save on car service entirely.
  • Get someone with whom you truly feel comfortable.
  • If you have to call home to check in on your sitter, it's not a really relaxing time out.
  • Put up a sign in the local high school.
  • Ask older friends who might have teenage children if they have potential sitters. Teens are cheaper than college age sitters or professional nannies.
  • Have the sitter come over once or twice when you're able to be there with them and your child, so you can see how they interact.
  • Check references and if possible, introduce the sitter to your kids in advance of going out especially if this is one of your first times out as a new parent.
  • Two things.
  • Don't be afraid to do trials with several potential babysitters while you're home or only going to be out of the house for a short while. Once you find someone you like, use them regularly and be consistent so you have a time slot in their schedule. Your child and the sitter will thank you.
  • Find someone you trust, but don't assume the most expensive person is the best.
  • Always get references before leaving your child with someone. It's pricey but worth it!
  • references are valuable, but in my experience meeting the babysitter, and watching them interact with your children, is the most important for ensuring that this is a person who you and your children will like spending time with.
  • Make it easy for the babysitter--leave a note with contact numbers, have dinner ready for both of them, be lenient about the routine and bedtime if your child is used to you putting her to sleep (we let our daughter go to sleep in our bed with all her stuffed animals when she has a babysitter).
  • We also try to have something special planned as a "treat" for her & the sitter--a movie, favorite dessert, game--so leaving is easier and she has a little fun, too.
  • Make your expectations clear from the beginning.
  • Have a "training night" where the babysitter comes early and you train her/him on night routine. You will spend more money that one night but it will be really helpful for the future.
  • Ideally someone you know or came recommended so you feel comfortable and less anxious about leaving your child.
  • I think the earlier you do use a sitter the better for you, your marriage, and your child so everyone gets used to it!
  • I was babysat by neighborhood teens as a kid and was OK with it from age 2 on, but my husband, who never had teen sitters was uncomfortable with the idea.
  • His image was of leaving our tiny daughter with a random teenager who would be immature and irresponsible. But then when I actually brought some of these sitters home to meet him and they were smart, articulate, reasonable, had experience taking care of kids as sitters or camp counselors, went to good high schools (like hunter), etc. he was fine with it. There are a lot of great, responsible teens in this neighborhood so I would suggest being open to the teen sitter idea. I look for kids who are HS juniors or seniors or in college. And I try to find someone who is close by so my husband can easily walk or drive the sitter home when we're very late. Also, my preschool-age daughter is very VERY girly but she has two college-age male sitters that she really likes. I know a lot of people have an instinctual need for sitters to be women, but don't rule out boys automatically.
  • Take the time to meet them in person with your child before hiring.
  • Check references. Be sure to tell your child the day before if possible as well as reminding her/him the day of. Have a special activity if your child will be awake (making playdough, doing a puzzle or using something that they enjoy that you only do occasionally). Tell your child what you will be doing and what you will do when you come home (check on them, kiss them goodnight, sleep with them if you co-sleep). Write down the bedtime (mealtime, etc... routine for the sitter). Have a clearly printed emergency sheet with contact numbers for you, another emergency contact, pediatrician, child's medications/allergies, preferred hospital (e.g. Cornell Weill's pediatric ER), and poison control. Make sure the sitter has a key, in case (for some reason) they have to go outside (fire alarm, whatever), so they can get back in).
  • Call ahead.
  • They book up early.
  • Find someone who is very comfortable with your child's age group so they can just jump in and not need a lot of preparation and explaining time.
  • Finding someone who can come regularly is even better as they develop a relationship with your child and can more easily slide in.
  • We always leave instructions for calling 911.
  • We've never had a sitter need to use them, but it makes me feel more comfortable to have our address, apartment number, and the cross streets written down on a card by the phone. People lose their head in an emergency -- it's something that makes me feel more comfortable and sitters don't seem to be put off by it when I say that I know that I appear paranoid but I'm just playing it safe. I remind sitters each time where the card is and that they shouldn't hesitate to call 911 first in case of an emergency.
  • Our favorite babysitter is a neighborhood preschool assistant teacher.
  • He is awesome! My advice would be to ask around, and -- especially if you have young boys -- be open to hiring a male babysitter.
  • Don't be afraid to leave your kid with a sitter - seems like a lot of today's parents put off date nights because they're convinced everyone outside of their family is out to hurt their kids.
  • They don't have to be the most organized, neatest, best cook - they just need to be really responsible, like kids, and have common sense.
  • Maturity is personality-based. Some High School students are more mature than their college-aged counterparts.
  • Ask neighbors with kids for local recommendations.
  • Also consider doing a trade with another family -- we take and another family take it in turns to watch each other’s kids, so that we can go out without spending extra money. Our building also has a trade system.
  • Try to find someone who is experienced doing crafts or acting or something creative - you need your kids to be totally engaged even before you walk out the door to go out.
  • If you have an infant, try to go out after the baby is down for the night and negotiate a lower hourly rate for sleeping-only hours.
  • If you are using a teen talk to them and their parents be very clear about what you expect.
  • Bed times, serving dinner, ordering in, snacks, what and where kids and sitter are allowed to eat. That they are expected to be with the kids and not on their phone or texting. I have had teens that are basically living smoke detectors and nothing else. I have also had teens that are amazing and have become mentors and friends to my kids so try it.
  • Use teachers from your daycare or pre-school who already know your child and have been vetted by the school; use more than one so you have options in case one sitter is busy.
  • Do it even if you think you can't afford it!
  • Be open to dropping off your kids to their home, it widens availability.
  • Go with your gut; teenagers are fun but make sure they know CPR and are resourceful.
  • Find someone who lives close by--cheaper and easier to take them home or pay their ride back.
  • Personal recommendations are best- and it's wise to have a "pool" of 3 or 4 sitters who know your kids so you have backup if your regular go-to person is not available.
  • If you're comfortable with a few sitters you won't freak out every time you have to scramble for a brand new person.
  • Plan your date nights at least 2 weeks, preferably a month, in advance.
  • Many babysitters get booked up early and we've been disappointed several times finding no one with availability and had to cancel plans. Try to find someone local. We had a babysitter from Queens and the car service home added $25 to what we paid her. Also, many babysitters have a 3 hour minimum. My husband and I wanted to go play tennis for an hour, but it wasn't worth paying a babysitter for 3 hours. If your baby will be sleeping the whole time you are out, try to find a trusted teenager in the area who might take a lower rate. We've been paying professional sitters $15 per hour to sit and watch TV. There's always the chance that something will happen or the baby will wake up but it's a slim one and if you are just out to dinner in the neighborhood you can be home fast.
  • focus on safety, trustworthiness more than cold hard cash
  • Have her come over first (paid for her time) and play with the baby and get to know the baby/you.
  • Good to have at least 2 or 3 that you can call on to be sure to find someone available.
  • Be sure to factor in transit costs for late car service when you think about the expense (and before hiring someone far away) We tip better for short gigs (2 hrs) than longer (4+ hours) to make it worth her while
  • Stay in touch with group day care providers and nursery school teachers--two of our regular babysitters have been our child's care givers from infancy and toddler years.
  • Find someone you trust and try to make getting out a regular event, even if it's only for a couple of hours once a month.
  • We teamed up with another set of parents and swap a date night/babysit every week.
  • We still use a babysitter to fill in or during daytime after school hours, but this arrangement has saved us a bundle and gotten us out of the house together. I highly recommend it!
  • You need someone who has enough experience to work with minimal training, and who will be a soothing presence at bedtime from the get-go.
  • Find someone you are comfortable with so you aren't concerned and can enjoy your time out.
  • For first time night sits for young kids, might be easier to put your kids to bed yourselves if you can and have the sitter come later.
  • But once you find a sitter you like, you should probably try a couple daytime sits do your kids can get to know him or her. Then you should have a few local outings where you have the sitter do the night time ritual.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

CellPhone #1

 

CellPhone #2

 

HomeAddress

 

Home Phone

 

Child#1Birthdate

 

Child#2Birthdate

 

Child #3 Birthdate

 

EmergencyContact #1:

Name/Relationship/Phone

 

EmergencyContact #2:

Name/Relationship/Phone

 

PoisonControl

 

Local Police Precinct

 

Doctor/Pediatrician

 

Preferred Hospital

 

Dentist

 

Alarm Code/Information

 

Location of spare keys

 

Location of fire extinguisher/s

 

Additional information:

 



HOUSE RULES (suggestions)

Clean up each activity/toy before you move on to another one or another room (with help of the kids).Dishes and items from snacks and meals should be cleaned up (garbage, sink, dishwasher, fridge). Please do not leave a mess on the counter or table.

Snacks & meals must be eaten in the kitchen or outside (not in family room or upstairs)
Preferred drinks are _____________________________________________________________
Television time/approved channels: ________________________________________________

Manners: Encourage use on manners: please, thank you, excuse me, kind words and inside voices.
Playing outside (front or back) is always/not okay.

Wash hands before meals, after using the bathroom and after coming in from playing outside
No shoes on in the house.

Computer time/approved sites: ______________________________________________

Bedtime routine is as follows: ____________________________________________________

Before Bedtime books/songs/stories/favorite show/ is fine.
Lights out no later than__________________________________________________________

Pet Information: _______________________________________________________________

 

Discipline:

­­______ warning/s for bad behavior and then apply a consequence.  
Possible consequences include: ­­­­­­­__________________________________________________

(Three minute time-out on stairs; take the toy away that is causing the problem; separate the kids for separate play-time; write it down on a list for parents; earlier bedtime… )

Sitter rules/information:
Eat whatever you want but please clean up after yourself.
Please keep the baby monitor in the room with you at all times.  
WIFI password is :______________________

Information on playing music can be found here: _____________________________________

Electronics Information can be found here: __________________________________________

Appliance Information can be found here: ___________________________________________
Limit personal or social calls/texting when the kids are awake.

Keep your phone on you in case we need to get in touch or check in.

Keep your phone on vibrate when you are getting kids to bed.
Do not hesitate to call or text us for any reason.
In an emergency, please choose carefully and use your best judgment in terms of who you need to

call first (it may not be me):  Me? Police? Fire? Poison control? Your own mom?
Once the children are asleep, you may:
  • Rest/Sleep on the couch
  • Go on the computer
  • Watch television
  • Talk on the phone
  • Read/do homework
  • Listen to soft music/podcast without earphones