Let’s face it: Going to a party with children in tow can be a lot more stressful than attending sans kiddos. At formal events, it can be tough to keep little ones from being disruptive during ceremonies and long dinners. Parents may also have to endure looks of disapproval for bringing a child to an event, which can put a damper on the festivities for mom and dad. But even at casual gatherings where kids are welcome, keeping tabs on little ones while attempting to relax or even just hold a cohesive conversation can be a challenge. And unfortunately for the host, expecting all invitees with children to have a sitter available can seriously slash a guest list. Want an easy solution that will make you a hero at your next event? Hire a sitter to entertain the kids while the parents party. Here’s how:

Determine the number of kids and age ranges. Before you book, keep in mind that hiring a sitter (or sitters) to entertain a group of kids during a party is different than hiring a sitter to watch one or two kids for date night. More kids equals more variables, and a broader age range means your sitter will need an arsenal of entertainment options to cater to different interests. When you start your search for sitters, it’s a good idea to have an estimate of how many kids will be at the party and how old they are—even if you haven’t finalized the RSVPs.

Hire the right number of sitters.
Do you need more than one sitter? Short answer: Probably. You’ll need to consider how many children are attending, whether or not there are any infants, and the type of event. For example, a neighborhood party where parents are present and available may require less sitters than a wedding where babysitters are watching kids in a separate space. That said, a good rule of thumb is to hire one sitter for every three kids. Treat the hiring process the same way you would for any other sitter—conduct interviews, run background checks, and call references.

Find sitters who can manage a crew.
Finding activities that satisfy several children can be a bit trickier than for one or two kids. Depending on the group, crafts, board games, movies, or even an organized sport might be the best way to maximize entertainment for the group. Look for active sitters who are prepared to make the event fun and special for the kids—after all, they are at a party.

Don’t forget the basics.
Just because there’s a group doesn’t mean that your sitters don’t need to know about allergies, medications, or any other common issues that might arise with individual children. Ask the parents prior to the event to provide this information and give it to the sitters in advance. Then, make sure parents review any issues with the sitters once they arrive at the party. And remember, sitters should always be able to easily access parents, by phone if necessary, in the event of an emergency.

Designate a space.
Hiring a sitter for a party works best when kids have a space separate from the adults. At formal events in hotels, there are plenty of options for extra rooms (though that may get pricey). If you’re having guests over to your house, a basement rec room or playroom where the kids can be corralled makes a huge difference when trying to keep little ones from seeking out mom and dad every 10 minutes.

Budget for the expense.
A babysitter’s pay is determined by experience and the number of children she is watching. Remember: When you’re hiring more than one sitter, it’s not OK to split an hourly rate. So yes, offering babysitting services at an event can get pricey. Is it appropriate to ask guests to chip in? Maybe. If you’re inviting guests to a wedding or a formal event, you should factor the cost of sitters into the budget as well as any additional costs you may incur—like reserving a separate room or ordering additional meals. However, if you’re hosting a neighborhood bash, you could suggest the group split the cost. In all likelihood, your friends will applaud your genius and happily chip in.

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