What is a babysitting co-op?
A babysitting co-op is a group of parents (often moms) who arrange to be available for babysitting co-op services based on a point system. Parents agree to babysit in exchange for their own children being babysat at a later date. It is more flexible than a one to one person trade because with more babysitters there are more options times. I use it all the time so that I can get stuff done for my business as well as be kid free for appointments and other errands.
Why is a babysitting co-op so amazing?
- It gives you time to go on a date, get stuff done or do whatever you’d like to do
- Work on home projects without kids underfoot
- Saves money on babysitters
- Avoids the awkwardness of having to ask people to watch your kids
- You get to meet new people
- Kids make new friends and have fun
- Your children get comfortable being in others homes (it’s great to have some go-to’s in times of emergencies!)
- It is flexible because you have different options for when to watch and for kids to be watched
- You can better plan childcare and appointments because there are set times for people to watch
- It accounts for families with different number of children
So basically it’s the best thing ever and I love it.
To set your own babysitting co-op up you need to:
- Find members
- Set the rules
- Set a schedule
- Figure out a point system
The key to a good co-op is finding people you TRUST because you will be trusting them to watch your children. In our group we have mothers from our church so we know each other fairly well and have worked with each other through church, school and in our community in some way or another. I know of some groups who do group events to get to know each other better such as mom’s babysitting co-op overnight getaway, family bbq’s or Christmas parties. Whatever works best so that everyone feels comfortable.
Ideas for where to find members
- church group
- neighborhood members
- school groups
- moms clubs
- sports teams
Also, you need to decide how many members you want. Right now we have 8 but I think we’ve had up to 12 or 15.
Setting the Rules
The great thing about setting up your own babysitting co-op group is that you can adjust the rules to fit your needs and what works for everyone.
Here is a list of our rules that are
handed out at the beginning of each school year
- Each member receives a total of 40 tickets.
- At the end of the co-op, try to have as close to 40 tickets as you can. We will all be turning in our tickets at the end of every school year.
- Pay 1 ticket per child per half hour.
- If you are late you owe the “on duty” mom 1 ticket per child per ten minutes late.
- If you and or your husband will be further than 15 minutes away, in case of emergency, please leave a medical treatment permission note with shift mom in event of a 911 call. (They will not treat without it.)
- It is a good idea to just keep an emergency paper in the bag your drop off with your kids.
- Babysitting set-up is on an individual basis. (If you are going to use co-op services you need to call/email/text the “on duty” mom to make arrangements.)
- Easiest correspondence is through e-mail. Please respond back to e-mail as soon as possible.
- For day-of changes, phone calls will be necessary.
- Always let the mom “on duty” know you are planning on bringing your child as soon as you can. Likewise, if you decide not to bring your child, please communicate that as well.
- Preferably notify “on duty” mom by the night before her shift. If no one has contacted her by the night before she is free to leave.
- If you are unable to watch on your day please find someone to exchange shifts with and then update google calendar.
- The “on duty” mom can decide when co-op is full and when it is she needs to email the group.
- Children one and older. Unless otherwise agreed upon.
- Please keep the children at your house unless otherwise agreed upon.
- Please notify those dropping their children off at your house if someone is sick at your home.
- Don’t drop off sick children. (If they simply have a cold or a lingering cough, please check with hosting mom as to whether or not she wants to care for them.)
- Husbands are not allowed to watch kids, notify mom if husband or any other adult will be present while you are “on duty.”
- If your child is in the beginning stages of toilet training, please put your child in a pull-up or bring and extra change of clothes.
- Discipline of other children is limited to time outs. Let parents know that their child was in time out and why.
- Bring a snack or food for your child if it is needed.
Setting a Schedule
- The first thing you need to do for your babysitting co-op is to decide if this is an ongoing group or for a set period of time. We do it for during the school year and then often a separate babysitting co-op during the summer just because sometimes people might want to do one and not the other.
- Each group needs to figure out times and what works for them and their needs. Some set up their babysitting co-op for date nights and others set theirs up for during the daytime. Figure out the most days and times that fill the needs of the group and go from there.
- You can schedule however works best for you but we have everything setup on a google calendar so that way people can make changes quickly and everyone in the babysitting co-op can see it. Here is a tutorial with how to set up a group google calendar.
- Once the schedule is set up you need to decide how is going to be best to request babysitting services. You can do it through phone calls, emails or texts. Or snail mail if you’re into that! Whatever works for your group.
How we do it: Everyone one in our group is scheduled for one 3 hour shift every two weeks. They are mostly in the day either from 8:30-11:30 or 11:30 -2:30 but it is flexible depending on the various schedules. I always take a Friday night because that is what works for me and people love to bring their kids so they can have a date night without paying a sitter. We do it so each person has their same day/time shift every two weeks. It is flexible and can change, you just need to update the calendar and let the group know. In our group we also allow for others to cover shifts or shifts to be added if someone needs to earn more tickets.
How Tickets Work
Everyone starts out with a set amount of tickets. Each ticket represents one half hour worth of babysitting per kid. Pretty simple. Each person is on duty for a certain amount of time to watch children and earns tickets based on the time and number of kids they watch. We use simple carnival tickets in different colors which are easy to find and super cheap.
How we do it: We each get 40 tickets. Our group only goes for the school year so at the beginning we have a meeting where tickets are distributed, times/days are scheduled and rules are gone over again. At the end of the year the group leader collects the tickets with the expectation that everyone has around the same amount as they started.
Note: It used to be an ongoing thing with the same tickets in ‘circulation’ for a couple of years but then problems came up because many were always out of tickets because some had left the group, tickets were lost or run through the washer (yes that happened to me!) so more were given out evenly, 20 or so. Then more problems. Long story short to keep that from happening again our babysitting co-op runs for a certain amount of time (the school year) then tickets are collected and new ones are passed out at the beginning of the next. We’ve been doing it like that for several years and it has worked out well.
Anyways, I love doing our babysitting co-op and did it when my second child was younger, took a couple years break when I had older kids and now am doing it again and am loving it. I can seriously get so much done when I don’t have kiddos interrupting me every ten minutes!