The three or so hours between the last bell and dinner time can be hectic for kids, which means hiring a stand-out after-school sitter is a must. Not only does she need to be on top of the daily post-school juggling act—she needs to manage your kids through multiple transitions, help with homework, act as your proxy for teachers and other parents, and provide you with a thorough report of it all. Here are the qualities to look for as you begin your search for an A+ after-school sitter.
1. Organized and reliable
It goes without saying that the last thing you want is your kids waiting for their ride to show up after a long day at school—but punctuality for pick-up is only the beginning when it comes to hiring the right sitter. Your after-school sitter will also be responsible for ensuring your kids stay on schedule for a rotating agenda of lessons and practices, after-school clubs and playdates, so organizational skills and reliability are musts.
2. Stellar communication
Picking the kids up after school can sometimes feel like hanging around the watercooler at the office—it may not be formal, but valuable information is often passed along during this time. Your after-school sitter should fill you in on the details of these informal chats with other parents, conversations with teachers and your child’s interactions with his classmates. In addition, your sitter should feel comfortable talking to your child about the details of his day—bonus points if she intuitively understands non-verbal cues that suggest something is amiss at school. Finally, she needs to communicate effectively with you. Expect a full report each day.
3. Creativity and energy
After sitting in class, listening and following directions for eight hours or more, most kids will need to let loose and burn off energy—or at least have some downtime—before starting the next focused activity. Ask your potential sitters how they handle post-school burnout. Make sure your sitter takes time to understand your kids and whether physical activity or quiet relaxation recharges their batteries. She should plan accordingly and resist the urge to turn to screen time.
4. The ability to transition the kids
After-school can be busy for kids—sports, extracurriculars, homework, playdates and dinner all happen within a few hours. It can be hard for kids to transition from one activity to another, and a great after-school sitter knows how to expertly management those sticky moments that can result in whining, tears and even tantrums.
5. A clean driving record
Whether it’s picking the kids up from school or chauffeuring them around town after class, if your sitter will be driving your children, she should have a clean driving record, a well-maintained car, and the appropriate car seats or boosters. Don’t forget to run a Motor Vehicles Records Check and an Enhanced Background Check before hiring a sitter who will be driving your children.
6. Homework know-how
Kids, for the most part, should be tackling homework on their own, but your after-school sitter needs to be available to help without handing out answers. Moreover, an after-school sitter should be able to create an environment that ensures kids can focus and get their work done.
7. Cooking skills
If you can count on one thing—it’s that kids will be starving after school. Your sitter needs to be prepared with healthy snacks to feed hungry kids—points for variety and creativity. And, depending on your needs, consider whether you’ll want a sitter who is skilled and comfortable enough in the kitchen to prep dinner for the family.
Ready to get started? Write your job description
Before you start your search, think through a typical school week for your kids and make a list of the duties you’ll need your after-school sitter to tackle. Use that to craft your job description and keep this list of traits handy as you begin the interview process. The right combination of skills and personality will make for a great after-school sitter.