When choosing a babysitter, it's best not to consider anyone younger than 13, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Younger children don't have the emotional and physical maturity to deal with many problems. The younger the children being watched, the older the caregiver should be, says the AAP.
Be careful, however, about leaving children with an elderly person whose eyesight, hearing or mobility is impaired.
The AAP also offers these sitter tips:
Sitters should have a track record of demonstrating common sense, maturity and the ability to follow instructions. Call other parents, teachers or other references.
Lay down the ground rules
Before a sitter is left alone with the children, discuss fees, house rules and discipline. Make sure everyone understands the house rules regarding what is permissible for both the children and the babysitter.
Leave phone numbers
Tell the sitter where you will be, and leave the phone number for that location as well as your cell phone number.
Post emergency telephone numbers, including 911 and the poison control center, by the phone.
The sitter may not remember the address of your home. Include that too, so he or she can tell emergency personnel where to come if they are needed.
Provide medication pointers
If the sitter has to give medicine to your kids, measure the medicine in advance or make sure the sitter knows how to measure it properly.
Require first aid training
Sitters should have first aid training, and they should know the Heimlich maneuver and CPR for infants and children. Make sure your sitter knows the location of your first aid kit and how to use everything in it.
Tell your sitter the shortest route to the door of the hospital emergency department in case he or she needs to drive there.
If the sitter doesn't drive, make arrangements with a neighbor who can be contacted in an emergency.