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Forming a Babysitting Co-op: Round-Robin Child Care

Forming a Babysitting Co-op: Round-Robin Child Care
How to Start a Babysitting Cooperative That Sticks

To parents with young children at home, a trusted babysitter is a treasure. Often, in neighborhoods with plenty of young families, eligible babysitters are in high demand. In addition, babysitting costs can add up quickly.

Creative parents look for ways to devise practical and safe child care plans for their toddlers and preschoolers, so that they can occasionally enjoy afternoons or evenings out.

In many subdivisions and neighborhoods, where young families abound, parents have pooled their parenting skills by forming babysitting cooperatives. These co-ops, or babysitting exchange networks, allow parents to care for one another’s children in turn.

Neighborhood associations may offer complex cooperative child care programs, including printed regulations and possibly elected directors. Others have much simpler systems.

Babysitting Co-op Bonuses

Before my children started school, we lived in a very friendly neighborhood, filled with young families. Tricycles and training wheels cluttered the sidewalk, every time the sun was shining. Swing-sets and sandboxes attracted neighborhood youngsters in droves. Kiddie pools were filled with splashing, shrieking tots.

Before long, the grownups became fast friends, sharing parenting pointers and fresh air.

In this happy and hospitable environment, several stay-at-home mothers put our heads together and developed a babysitting co-op. Using a simple system (earning and spending printed popsicle stick tokens), we cared for one another’s children once a week.

In our neighborhood, the babysitting co-op offered several important benefits to our families.

Trustworthy Babysitters

First, as stay-at-home mothers, we all agreed on the importance of relying on safe and skilled babysitters. Who could be more eligible to care for our children than other confident and capable parents? We knew our neighbors well, and we were able to trust one another.

After all, we had already shared many playground visits, museum and zoo trips and neighborhood events.

Super Socialization for Kids

Our children loved playing with their neighborhood pals, and the babysitting co-op allowed them one more opportunity to enjoy each other.

As neighbors, we made an informal pact to avoid television and video games during this window every week. The children interacted with each other instead, and they had a blast.

Each week, the babysitting co-op met at a different house, using scheduled rotations. The kids looked forward to playing with a new set of toys and fun project ideas, in a new environment, each week.

Nice Neighborhood Friends

The weekly babysitting co-op inspired us, as parents, to get to know one another better. Two mothers served as staff each week, so we shared responsibilities and fun together that way.

In time, many of us actually went shopping or elsewhere together, while our kids were occupied at that week’s babysitting co-op host home. Many fine friendships were formed.

A Most Welcome Respite for Parents

Of course, the most obvious benefit of the babysitting co-op is the periodic break that it offers to parents of young children. Many young mothers in our group were astonished to discover how much they needed a brief outing, or how quickly they could complete errands when they did so alone.

At the end of the three-hour break each week, most of us missed our youngsters and could hardly wait to retrieve them from the babysitting co-op host home.

A babysitting co-op can offer plenty of much-needed assistance to young families, provided the babysitting co-op is based on a simple, workable system with friendly and dependable people. After all, cooperation is the key to its success.

Practically a Playgroup

The simplest babysitting exchange network minimizes administration and complication. For example, our system employed a very basic playgroup model.

In our particular case, all of the participants in our babysitting exchange network happened to be stay-at-home mothers.

First, our group of mothers and children met at a local park to discuss the babysitting cooperative plan. Each mother received twenty plain craft sticks (like popsicle sticks), which were marked with a rubber stamped symbol.

Every Friday afternoon (from 3 pm to 6 pm), we would have playgroup, or co-op. The program would rotate among our homes. Two mothers would staff the playgroup each week. The others would drop their kids off at playgroup after naptime.

During the three-hour babysitting exchange session, the children would enjoy playtime, a basic craft (such as crayons, play-clay, bubbles or sidewalk chalk), and a snack. The cost for each session was one printed popsicle stick per child.

Of course, each mother would earn four popsicle sticks for serving as playgroup staff. Each mother was responsible for keeping track of her own popsicle sticks and stepping up to serve regularly.

Our babysitting exchange system worked smoothly and sociably for several years. It was easy, and no neighbor was required to shoulder administrative responsibilities.

One of the secrets to our babysitting exchange program’s success was probably our preexisting friendships. Even before we started our playgroup, we were socializing together and taking field trips with our children. The babysitting co-op simply made it official and efficient.

Love poetry? Click here to visit Linda Ann Nickerson’s poetry and humor blog, Nickers and Ink.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow! This is an excellent idea that all parents should at least consider and your guide to setting it up is equally excellent. :-)



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