How to Organize a Babysitting Co-op
For many parents, going out together doesn’t happen because paying for a babysitter is expensive—and good babysitters may be hard to find. Organizing a babysitting co-op with some good friends or neighbours—fellow parents—can solve that problem. Here are some tips for starting a babysitting co-op in your area.
1. Approach Other Parents
Make a list of other parents whom you would trust to watch your kids and whom you think would be willing to exchange babysitting with you. If your list starts small, don’t worry; those parents may be able to suggest other parents who can join the group. Ideally, all of you will have the same number of kids in about the same age so that babysitting is a simple exchange. If one family has more kids or older or younger kids, you could discuss ways to make this work to compensate for the difference.
2. Decide How to Keep Track of Hours
Decide with the other parents how you will keep track of hours babysat. This might look like a list on the fridge. Or perhaps one parent could create a set of “tickets” that can be exchanged—each family starts with five tickets, and then when one family goes out, they would give one ticket per hour to the babysitter. The babysitter can then go out the following week and pay those tickets to the first family or to another family in the co-op, and so on. Some parents use poker chips: “For example, a half hour of sitting can be exchanged for a white chip, an hour exchanged for a red chip, and two hours exchanged for a blue chip. When members accumulate enough chips to “pay” for an upcoming outing, they ask another member to babysit” (BabyCenter.ca).
3. Create a Phone or Email List or Facebook Group
Decide how the members in the group prefer to be contacted. For example, you could create a phone list of all the members, and when one members needs babysitting, they call the other members to see who is available. You could also create an email list, where an email requesting babysitting could be sent to the entire group. Or you could create a Facebook group (which can be done privately, so only members can see the posts in the group), and someone needing babysitting could post a message to the group, to which someone who needs credits with the group could respond to say they are available to babysit.
4. Where Should the Babysitter Go?
This could work in a variety of ways. If the children are younger (babies or toddlers), the family going out may wish to put their children to bed. Then another parent could come over to sit with the sleeping children while the parents go out for a few hours.
If a mom has an afternoon appointment, she could drop her children off at another mom’s for a playdate—if the children play well together, watching four children instead of just two is often easy for both families involved. The moms could alternate weeks going out. Sarah Deveau found that “when my girls have friends over, they need far less of my attention. I don’t work while I care for someone else’s kids the way I do when I have just my kids, so I use the time to clean and tidy, while supervising their play.”
Or the families could alternate pizza and movie nights; the children go to one home to eat pizza and a movie while their parents go out, and then the follow week the other parents go out while the children go to the other home to do the same thing. The parents get a regular date night and the children have a regular routine.
5. Other Things to Consider
If any children in the co-op have allergies, make sure that all the families are aware of this. A Facebook group may be a good way to keep track of this, as documents can be created in the group to list allergies.
It may be a good idea for all the parents in the co-op to go for first aid and CPR training. This way all parents know what to do in case of medical emergencies.
Parents should also discuss discipline strategies for their children, to ensure that all have similar ideas about discipline. Again, creating a document for this which all parents agree to is likely a good idea. Parents could meet once or twice a year (or have a family picnic or potluck) during which such issues could be discussed.
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