This Is What to Look For in a Nanny

nanny drawing with toddler
Photo by Studio Romantic/shutterstock

There’s nothing quite as nerve-racking as choosing a person to leave your children with for extended periods of time.

Finding a nanny you can trust isn’t a simple process, and it only seems to get that much more intense when you factor in the endless procession of disturbing headlines and revelations that tend to pop up every year about child care services.  

With that in mind, here are some of the most important things that you should be thinking about as you go about your nanny search.

Head Knowledge 

Once upon a time, the nanny-hiring process boiled down to answers to basic questions like, “Can you feed and dress a child?” and “Can you put a kid to bed?” In the digital age, though, we’re all aware of so much more child-rearing information. This only makes vetting your new nanny that much more complicated – especially since everyone prioritizes different things throughout their parenting journeys. 

When it comes to hiring a good nanny, though, apart from making sure that they fit your parenting style, you’re also going to want to make sure that they have a good grasp on modern child-rearing knowledge in general.  

Whoever you hire will be watching your child, likely for large amounts of time. They should be well-versed in things like food allergies and baby development exercises. A nanny must be able to identify that an itchy throat is an allergic reaction to a pineapple from a mile away. They need to know that your 18-month old is more “toddler” than “baby,” has officially entered full-blown exploration mode, and should already be learning how to do baby development exercises.  

The point isn’t to check whether or not the person you’re hiring is a genius – it’s to ensure that your nanny-to-be understands the modern world of parenting knowledge. 

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Communication Skills 

When it comes to finding a nanny, communication skills are essential – and in more ways than one. Obviously, you’re going to want to find a person who you can trust will relay important information to you regarding your children and how things go throughout each day.  

Ensuring good two-way communication between you and your caregiver is just one piece of the puzzle, though. It’s also important to gauge how well a potential nanny can handle explaining complex subjects in the event that challenging conversations come up between them and your children — and don’t doubt that they will sooner or later!  

It’s also important to decide how active you want your nanny to be in your child’s educational life, growth, and development. A child starts developing their love – or fear – of learning in the earliest stages of their exploration into the world.  

If you want your nanny to help them grow in a certain direction, you’ll have to be sure you communicate that desire to your nanny and have confidence in her ability to understand and follow-through with your requests. Communication is a two-way street – you have to communicate clearly and directly, and you also have to hire someone who can take your direction and run with it.  

A poignant example of this kind of communication done well is found in the context of reading. For young children, reading can be one of the first and biggest educational hurdles to overcome. Reading skills prepare a child for success down the road. Reading storybooks to children from a young age helps to inspire them to enjoy reading.  

A parent who hires a nanny might not be able to read to their child as much as they’d like, but if you communicate the importance of reading to your nanny, they can build story-time into your child’s day, week, month, and year, setting them up for success in school and as an adult.  

Of course, just because you have your specific conditions regarding communication set in your head doesn’t mean any nanny will be capable of delivering to your standards. Make sure to draw up a list of questions beforehand (a necessary part of any nanny-vetting process). Test them in the interview by offering an example of an important educational issue to your family, and ask them to explain what they would do to help encourage your child to grow in that area. 

Open-ended questions leave a lot of room for interpretations, so make sure you know what you’re looking for in an answer before you ask the questions! 

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Finally, you’re always going to want to look for that all-important experience. While letting your 15-year-old niece babysit your kids for the first time is cute, if you’re looking for a dependable nanny that you can trust, you’re going to want to look for someone with a solid recommendation.  

This doesn’t mean you’re limited to finding them through friends or family, either. If you find yourself running out of options, consider reaching out to a local church, synagogue, pediatrician, or even — if you’re in the NYC area — the Mommybites Nanny Board

Whatever direction you choose for childcare, make sure to go into the process with a plan in place, parameters set, and questions ready to ask. Vet each candidate for their experience, head knowledge, and communication skills. Make sure that whoever you end up hiring is capable and up to date on their childcare acumen! 

fun with nanny
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Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @ataylorian with any questions or suggestions.

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