Many parents have found that the best way to find good services to help your kids is by word of mouth. Utilizing the network built around you just by befriending other parents and asking for recommendations from your friends, neighbors and other parents you respect can make a major difference in the experience your kids have as they see a specialized doctor or take a special class. Here’s several categories that word-of-mouth recommendations can really make a difference.

Babysitters: Every parent, especially first-time parents, worry about finding a great babysitter that is firm enough to keep their kids in line, but fun enough that their kids don’t freak out everytime they find out the sitter is coming over. Parents want kids to love and obey their sitter like the Banks kids loved Mary Poppins. Even if you have family living in the same town as you, there comes a time when you need a sitter and a recommendation from a friend who adores their own babysitter can ensure you have a successful experience where your children are safe and can have some fun at the same time.

Summer camp: That dreaded time of year when school is about to get out for summer can be a time of huge stress for parents. If you are part of a two-job household, you need to find something for your kids to do during the day while you’re both at work. If you’re lucky enough to have a stay-at-home parent, you still need to find activities and camps for the kids to participate in so that you’re not all stuck at home for weeks on end driving each other crazy. Ask the parents of your kid’s classmates what they’re doing, talk to your kid’s teachers about programs they’re familiar with and would recommend, call the local library and find out what kind of summer programs they’re promoting or putting on themselves. There are tons of options out there for you, you just need to ask around and find out what your kid’s peers are going to be doing.

Doctors and dentists: Take a poll of your friends and you’ll find several that had traumatic experiences with a doctor or dentist that impacts them still today. This is an area that word-of-mouth recommendations can influence your kids in a most positive way, and is one that is worth making the effort to find a good suggestion. Websites like Angie’s List have medical reviews but require a paid membership. Ask friends and local family members who have older children who they go to for medical and dental checkups and see what they have to say (good or bad) about your local medical community.

Used kids clothing: Kids grow so quickly, and almost always they have a good amount of clothing that isn’t perfectly new but is totally usable by someone else. Ask around to see where other parents take their gently used children's clothing to trade for other used clothing in larger sizes or different seasons and you’ll find there is a plethora of places in your community waiting for you to bring your stuff in as well. Some of the better consignment or used clothing stores can be hard to find, tucked into shopping centers here and there all around your community and word-of-mouth is a great way to find the hidden gems that are just right for you.

Tutoring: There comes a time in almost every child’s academic career where they need some extra assistance with their studies. Having a great tutor can make all the difference, and again, word-of-mouth recommendations can really make a difference here. Having a great tutor can get your student interested in the topic they’re struggling with, and get them excited about learning again. A bad tutor can do just the opposite, thwarting your best efforts to get them back on track. Whether you’re looking for a tutoring company like Sylvan or Kumon, or a private tutor to spend some one-on-one time with your child, asking around for who other parents are using can take you far. Also ask your child’s teacher, principal and any other administrators at your kid’s school that you trust and see who they recommend for tutoring outside of school.

Whether you’re looking for a great dentist or a summer activity designed to keep your kids engaged and out of your hair, asking around for other parent’s recommendations should be your first step. Why reinvent the wheel, doing all the research to find great ideas when you can ask the other parents around you. Chances are they will need a suggestion from you at some point, so why not start the sharing of great parenting recommendations with a few questions of your own?