Babysitting at the Beach: Tips from a Professional

It can be tough to find a good babysitter any time, but it’s even harder when you’re away from home on vacation. When mom and dad want to enjoy a night out by themselves, who can you call? What questions should you ask a potential babysitter? With a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, classroom teaching experience and over 10 years babysitting for friends and families in the area, we sat down with 30A local Janae Grice of SoWalSitter Childcare Services to ask for some matronly advice.

South Walton is known as a very family-friendly destination, and yet it can be challenging to find professional childcare providers. Why do you think that is?

JANAE: Especially when you don’t know the person, it’s not as simple as making one phone call and booking the first available sitter. ‘Available’ doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for your family. Every family is unique. Some children have special needs or allergies, and a professional sitter should be able to care for them accordingly. Multiple families often travel to the beach together, forming a large group of children that need to be properly watched, so some jobs might even call for two or more sitters working together.

Anyone can sit on the couch on their phone all night and be present in the house, but it’s best to find someone who will interact with your kids by playing games, engaging them in conversation, making crafts and other activities.

A professional sitter will make sure he or she fully understands a family’s specific needs first, and that type of attention to detail only comes after years of professional experience. South Walton is a relatively young community, and we’re just now able to support different types of professionals year-round.

What should parents look for / ask about when screening childcare services?

Janae Grice at SoWalSitter Childcare Services

JANAE: Always ask for at least 3 references, and then call them. The reviews on Care.com are great because feedback can only be posted by families who have created a Care.com account.

If the sitter will be asked to transport your children somewhere, make sure you do a background check on their driving record. Background checks are also readily available on Care.com. if you have teens that need to be supervised, it may not be the best idea to hire a 19- or 20-year-old to watch them.

Also, be sure to ask about fees and deposits. It’s always best to know what the fees are before booking. Many sitters require a non-refundable deposit to hold a spot on the calendar. Some may accept tips and others may not. Ask how they like to be paid so you can have the money ready when you return to the house.

It can be uncomfortable for both the client and the sitter to have to calculate the total amount owed after a long day or night out.

Finally, even though some children may be old enough to take care of themselves, you want to hire someone who engages and allows them to have a fun, MEMORABLE time while you’re out enjoying your special time. It’s a vacation for both the parents and the children. If the family needs a daytime sitter, they should ask what the sitter plans to do to keep the children engaged and entertained.

How do you know if you’ll be a good fit with a family?

JANAE: The information I’m GIVEN by parents is just as important as questions they have for me. If a child has severe food allergies, specials needs or is sick, the sitter needs to be aware. Unfortunately I’ve shown up to homes to find a child running a high fever and the parent never mentioned a thing. This may be because the parents are afraid the sitter will not watch sick children, but it’s better to make the sitter aware so they can provide medication if needed. The more advance information a sitter has about the children they’ll be watching, the better they can care for them.

What types of services do you provide for families?

JANAE: I also offer Concierge and House Sitting services, so I make grocery runs and frequently stock rental homes for clients. It’s hard arriving in town with a car full of children, only to have the grocery store be your first stop. Families can send me an itemized list of grocery items, and the address of their rental, and I go ahead and stock the fridge and pantry for them. House sitting entails checking on homes, watering plants, collecting mail and newspapers, putting the trash out, turning lights off/on and more for homeowners who are out-of-town. I even pet sit for some locals families to ensure their furry friends are very well taken care of while they’re away.

What would you like to see over the next 5 years in terms of childcare?

JANAE: I’d love to see more indoor facilities for children such as a Dave & Busters, a bowling alley, craft centers, skating rinks – things to do with kids on a rainy day. I’d love to see a Minor League Baseball team here one day too. Those are always fun, family-friendly events.

You can find Janae Grice at SoWalSitter Childcare Services on Facebook, on Care.com, by email or by calling 850-443-9947.

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