Parents and Babysitters: Preparing for Emergencies

No one wants to think there will be an emergency when a babysitter is home with a child, and most likely it won’t happen. But it’s best to be prepared. Here’s a brief list of steps both parents and sitters can take to be ready.


1. Write down your home address. It sounds basic, but many parents forget. Before you leave for the night, make sure your sitter knows where you’ve written it down. She’ll need it if she needs to call 911. Also necessary: Your cell number and where you’ll be for the next few hours.

2. Be clear about food and/or medication instructions. You know your child best, so don’t tell the sitter to prepare a food (such as hot dogs) if there is a major risk of choking. Also be certain to make the sitter aware of any food allergies. And if your child really needs medication, be super clear about how much, when, and how to put it away. Better yet, give your child the meds before you leave or when you return. This way, there’s no room for error.

3. Make certain your sitter knows the basics. Tell her you’d rather her call 911 than wait around for half an hour if you’re not answering your cell phone. Also, printing out basic CPR instructions is never a bad idea. Tape them to the inside of an upper cabinet or keep them in a top desk drawer. Or, find a sitter that already has child and infant CPR certification, first aid training, or has taken a babysitting course. If you already have a favorite sitter, offer to pay for classes to get them trained.


1. Know your numbers. The parents’ cell numbers, 911, and Poison Control. Try the parents first, but you can call 911 for most emergencies, and if you’re fearful, better to err on the safe side. The 911 operators will ask you for the home address and guide you through the process. Also, if you think a child has ingested medicine or hazardous cleaning products, call Poison Control. In the United States, the toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222.

2. Prevent choking. Found objects are definitely a choking hazard, so find and put away anything small you see when you arrive, but everyday foods can also be a choking risk. Make sure to follow all the parents’ instructions regarding food, but also be aware of these foods that might pose a challenge. Always watch children while they are eating and if you see them choking or turning blue, try the Heimlich maneuver (if you know it) or call 911.

  • hot dogs (be sure to cut length-wise AND width-wise)
  • carrots (cut into small pieces)
  • grapes
  • popcorn
  • hard candy
  • nuts

3. Take a babysitting and/or CPR course. Parents love a super-qualified sitter. Many local community centers as well as the Red Cross offer babysitting classes that cover all of the above, including first aid and child/infant CPR. You’ll feel even more comfortable babysitting when you know you’re prepared.

To find CPR and first aid trained sitters near you, visit UrbanSitter.

Sharing Your Sitter Isn’t the Kiss of Death

Guest post written by UrbanSitter member and parent Matt Koidin

Planning a night out on the town with your significant other should be fun, right? Yet, in the no-so-distant past I dreaded making plans because booking a babysitter caused me so much stress.

Anytime I wanted to do something with my wife, I had to do the sitter search and shuffle. Dinner date? Call the babysitter. Anniversary weekend? Call the babysitter. Sunday afternoon movie? Call the babysitter. I spent more time finding and arranging childcare, than on planning the date. I could book a dinner reservation online in two minutes, but it would take me days to find a sitter? I have to admit, there were times I declined dinner or party invitations simply because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

Of course, once I found a good babysitter, I kept her a secret. Can you blame me? It’s so stressful and difficult to find a sitter, that once I had a good one, I wanted her to be there for me … and me alone. She was after all, my ticket out. My hall pass. The one person who held the fate of a date in her hands. My friends would ask me for sitter recommendations, but I’d never dream of sharing her.

The reality is that one great sitter isn’t enough. I decided I needed to find a better sitter system, so I’d have a few “on the bench.” I thought long and hard about what I wanted in a sitter, and, what I needed to make the process less painful.

  • Trust: I needed to know the sitter was responsible and fun, and I needed a “stamp of approval” from people I know and respect. But, how could I expect my friends to recommend their sitters when I wouldn’t share mine?
  • Faster and easier: It shouldn’t take days to identify and book a sitter I feel confident in. A spur-of-the-moment outing with my wife had become nearly impossible. I needed to bring back some spontaneity!
  • More options: My rolodex of babysitters had approximately two names in it (no wonder I was so stressed!). I needed to cast a wider net.

So, I started to weigh my options.

Despite the fact that there are countless services out there offering ways to connect caregivers and parents, few appealed to me. There are lots of “sitter sites” showing babysitters in your neighborhood. But, let’s face it – searching their profiles without any context and then conducting interviews just wasn’t going to make the process faster and easier for me. As a busy working dad, I just didn’t want to put in the time. And, I know lots of people swear by nanny agencies, but that’s a lengthy—and expensive—process that I wasn’t interested in.

Then, I discovered UrbanSitter, a service new to the Bay Area that takes a different approach. With UrbanSitter, parents use their Facebook connections and affiliations (kids’ schools, sports teams, parent groups, etc.) for immediate access to a community of sitters their friends trust. Bingo!

As I said, recommendations from friends are a must when it comes to booking a sitter for my kids. Knowing that a friend, who shares my values, has hired and liked a particular sitter speaks volumes. Trust? Check.

I can login through Facebook and see which sitters are available when. Picture this: I score last minute tickets to a show. I can login and choose a sitter based on her availability and I can book her online. Faster and easier? Check.

I’ve expanded my network of great babysitters exponentially. We still have our favorites of course, but we also have a great list of alternates. More options? Check.

I realize now that sharing sitters (the very concept I was vehemently opposed to) isn’t the kiss of death. Sharing my sitters actually helped me to gain more sitters. And clearly, if you have a bigger community of sitters, it’s easier to find one, and easier in turn to go out more often and more spontaneously. Even if you’re not willing to make the leap to share your favorite sitter, it’s still a good idea to try someone new from time to time in order to slowly build your team of sitters.

So go on….open your mind and your little black book of sitters. You’ll be glad you did.

Sharing Sitters Makes the World Go Round

Daisy Downs
Article contributed by Daisy Downs, co-founder of UrbanSitter

Most moms wouldn’t dream of sharing their sitters. I kind of get it. It can be stressful and hard to find a sitter, and when you find one you love, you want them to be there for you and you alone.

But, in my opinion, it’s a pretty old-fashioned way of thinking – and in the end, it’s going to backfire.

While it seems counter-intuitive to share your sitter, I have 4 reasons why sharing sitters makes the world go round:

1. Help your sitter and your sitter will help you.
By sharing your sitter, you’re getting that sitter business that she or he would have a hard time getting on their own.  There’s no good way for sitters to market themselves, and they’ll appreciate your help. In return, a sitter might forgo a movie night with friends if you were in a bind and needed a sitter. They might also recommend a friend to fill in if they weren’t available. You could even strike a deal and say, “I’ll introduce you to 3 new parents, and you introduce me to 3 new sitters!”

2. Help a friend and a friend will help you.
There will be a time when your sitter is not available (yes, they do have lives!), and no, this does not mean that you have to stay home. Imagine having 10 great sitters that you could reach out to at any time.  Sound too good to be true?  It’s not. If you and 9 of your mommy friends all shared your sitters, you’d have exactly that.

3. Share your sitter and you’ll go out more often.
“What?” This is exactly why you don’t share your sitter, right?  You’re worried that if you share your sitter they won’t be available when you need them.  But if you follow the logic above, sharing a sitter is actually going to gain you sitters in the end.  And, if you have a bigger community of sitters, it’s easier to find one, and thus you might decide to go out more often!

4. Go out more often, and you’ll help your sanity and the even the economy!
Okay, so maybe helping the economy is a stretch, but I think the sanity bit is definitely true.  As a new mom my heart sunk when I got invited to events because I wanted to go, but couldn’t deal with finding a sitter.  I turned down more invitations than I should have out of laziness or anxiety.  Sometimes I rationalized this decision by thinking to myself, “it’s expensive” – and it can be – but deep down, I knew if it had be easier to do, I would have jumped at more opportunities.

This is the very reason we (two fellow moms and I) started UrbanSitter. Why should we be able to book a dinner reservation online in two minutes, yet it takes days to find a sitter? With UrbanSitter, parents use their Facebook connections and affiliations for immediate access to a community of sitters their friends trust.

Even if you’re not willing to make the leap to share your favorite sitter, it’s still a good idea to “draw from the bench.” Try someone new from time to time in order to slowly build your team of sitters. UrbanSitter allows you to see which sitters your friends have used and liked, which makes it much easier to give someone new a chance.

So go on….extend your team of sitters…and get out more often and bring back your sanity!

Contributed by Daisy Downs, co-founder of UrbanSitter

What Sitters Want

The perfect babysitterYou’ve finally found her, the perfect babysitter!

Your life is about to change.  You start thinking about all of the new restaurants you’ve wanted to try.  You imagine how wonderful it will be after she gets to know the kids and their routine.  When she shows up at the door your kids will be eager to see her. They will pull her into the house to show her their latest game or activity.  At this point she will be comfortable giving them dinner and a bath. No need to leave instructions.

Whoa, slow down a minute

Before you invite her to watch the kids on your next family vacation, it might be helpful to understand what sitters are looking for in a family and babysitting job.  The same way you put your best foot forward on a first date there are things that parents can do to make sure there is a “second date”!  We surveyed the babysitters on UrbanSitter and have some helpful tips to share with you based on their responses.

Money isn’t everything

While money is important to sitters, it’s not the number one factor in a sitter’s decision to accept a job.  “Liking the children” is the most important factor in accepting a job according to our sitters. (Hmm, I have twin toddler boys. My chances of getting a second date are not looking good. So much for my “offer them more money” strategy.)   “Convenient job location” and “liking the parents” closely follow on the list of sitter considerations.  One sitter commented that she is mostly likely to accept a babysitting job, “If I like the parents and we have mutual respect for each other.”

Safety first

The sitters were also asked about what would prevent them from babysitting for a family again.  Luckily for my family the response, “There was nothing to eat, “ received no votes.  I guess our refrigerator void of pizza, snacks or even yummy leftovers is not keeping sitters away.  Feeling unsafe in the home was the number one reason why a sitter would not babysit for a family again.  One sitter said, “If I am comfortable in the home and with the family, all is well!”  Spend your extra money on buying a second deadbolt versus ordering a pizza for your sitter.  Sitters who responded to the survey were also less than thrilled about sitting for a family who expected them to accomplish too much.  Looks like I may have to take washing those last few dishes in the sink off the wish list.

Skip the call

Now you’re ready to keep that perfect sitter.  Wait!  Before you pick up the phone to call her about next Saturday night, we have one final tip for you.  Book her online, send a text or an email message.  Sitters would rather not get a phone call!