parents date nightWhen was the last time you saw a movie in the theater that wasn’t animated? Or shared a bottle of wine with your partner at your favorite restaurant? Busy parents often find that they don’t make plans on Saturday nights as frequently as they should, partly because they don’t have a babysitter or three to call. Build a small roster of dependable babysitters, and reclaim your Saturday nights out!

First, conduct a search. Email or text your friends and the parents you know from preschool or daycare, and ask them if they have any babysitter recommendations. If that fails, placing an ad on sites such as Care.com and Sittercity.com can be very useful, as these sites allow you to conduct background checks on potential sitters. You can always let the teachers at daycare, preschool, or your older children’s grade school know that you’re in need of occasional date night sitting. Many teachers may be interested in picking up some extra work sitting for the kids they already know and care for!

Next, conduct interviews of potential sitters you don’t already know from school. Try to schedule these interviews in your home, at a time when your partner can entertain your children in another room, while you get to know the sitter. Once you’ve finished your talk, you can introduce her to your kids and see how they interact. Bring up pertinent questions about her experience working with children, talk about specific needs your kids may have or challenges that may arise, and ask her how she might deal with those challenges. Remember to ask specifically about the ages of children she has watched over in the past. You don’t want to hire a sitter who has experience with older kids, only to find that she doesn’t know how to diaper an 18 month-old! Ask her what her hourly rate is and be sure to ask for two or three references.

Once it’s time to pick a Saturday night and hire your sitter, think about what information she’ll need to have a successful babysitter with childnight with your kids. Write down a little primer if you like, so that she knows when they eat dinner, what they eat, when to put them to bed, and where to find essentials like pajamas, diapers, and favorite toys and blankets. Provide her with information on any allergies or medical issues your kids have, and make sure she has your contact info, and any emergency contact info, on hand. Prep your kids as well. Let them know that you’re going out for dinner, and that their sitter will play with them, feed them dinner, and put them to bed. You might even want to give permission to watch a favorite movie or bring out a “new to them” toy for the night, to make the evening feel special.

How often do you go out, just the two of you? Any tips for making your whole family more comfortable hiring and using babysitters on the weekends? Let us know in the comments section!