When it comes to hiring a babysitter, your child's age is not the only number in the equation. It's also important to think about the age of the sitter you're using.

When it comes to hiring a babysitter, your child's age is not the only number in the equation. It's also important to think about the age of the sitter you're using.

The American Red Cross offers its babysitting course to children aged 11 or older but that doesn't mean every 11-year-old is ready for every babysitting scenario. For example, said Mary Selid, four of whose five daughters babysit, younger babysitters probably ought to be responsible for one toddler at a time.

Selid also prefers not asking younger sitters to cook.

"I wouldn't be comfortable having them doing that much cooking at a young age while watching children," Selid said, adding that if food must be served, then it's best to have a younger sitter serve food that you've prepared already or that doesn't require cooking.

Sitters at different ages have different qualities to offer, said Selid, whose daughters are now 20, 17, 15 and 12.

Young sitters are sometimes more eager to play with the children and charge less per hour than older teen-agers. Teen-agers often will be able to drive themselves to and from a family's home. And college-aged students can be asked to drive children to events.

The best way to gauge what a sitter can handle is to thoroughly interview them, said both Selid and Christine Creagh, a program coordinator with the Early Childhood Development Program at Columbus State Community College.

Invite a potential sitter to your home, Creagh said, and find out what the sitters are comfortable doing. Ask if they are willing to cook meals, bathe the children or take them to a park.

Rather than ask the sitter what they charge, suggest an hourly wage. This will give the sitter the opportunity to accept the offer, counter it or decline the job, Creagh said.

She also suggested asking sitters about how they discipline children.

"Make sure the person you pick is a good fit with your parenting ideals," Creagh said. She also recommends checking references.

While the sitter is at your home, watch their interactions with your child. A good sitter will make an effort to connect with the child right away.

At the initial meeting, it's also a good idea to tell the sitter about your expectations. If you limit your children's screen time, make sure they will follow your guidelines. Make it clear how much tidying up you expect.

Selid has trained her daughters to put away toys they and the children have gotten out and to clean up the kitchen.

"I tell them that's how you keep your jobs," she said.