When heading out for an evening without the kids, make sure that your babysitter has a list of "Do's and Don'ts" while you are out. Be sure to include emergency information as well as nightly routines and special notes. The list below is a good guide:
1) Emergency Information - Include your cell number, a neighbor or close friend's number and the number for Poison Control (800-222-1222). Write down specific directions for getting to your house in case the sitter has to call 911.
2) Escape Route and Emergency Items - Walk your sitter around the house and show him or her all entrances and exits. Make sure they know where the fire extinguisher, first aid kit and flashlights are located.
3) Medicine Cabinet - Explain any medication that your children are taking (or allowed to take - such as cough medicine or aspirin).
4) Food and Drink List - I'm a pretty lenient parent so when I have a sitter there are no food or beverage restrictions. However, you may not want your child to have caffeine or chocolate before bedtime. If snacks are allowed, show your sitter where they are and establish a limit.
5) Your Child's Routine - The younger your child is, the more they will benefit from sticking to their normal routine. If your infant always has a bath at 7:30, followed by a bottle and story, lay out the necessary bath items and your baby's favorite book. If your toddler goes to bed with his favorite baby blanket every night, make sure he knows where it is before you leave the house. It's amazing how one break from their routine can cause a major meltdown!
6) Expectations for your Sitter - If you want the house to look as it did when you left, make sure the babysitter knows you expect them to pick up after the kids. I don't think this is too much to ask, especially if the kids will be in bed long before you arrive home. Let your sitter know what time you will be home, and call them if this changes. If your child wants to call to tell you good night, tell the sitter whether this is allowed. I allow my babysitters to eat or drink anything they find in the house, but you may want to set out specific snacks.
If you use more than 1 sitter or your expectations change from one evening to the next, you may want to pick up a Babysitter Notepad like the one shown above. They can be found at most discount stores or online (the item pictured can be purchased at Amazon.com).