A very common question in any childcare center . . . “Do you know anyone that babysits?” While some early childhood programs do allow babysitting by staff and teachers, other programs do not permit this at all. What is a viable solution to this dilemma? The answer may be simple (contingent upon the neighborhood in which you live). Start a babysitting co-op!
What is a babysitting co-op? It is an enterprise, business or group of people that manage and operate a particular service. In this case, it would be babysitting. Instead of a paid service, a co-op would allow families to provide free babysitting for other families and have the favor returned.
Creating a co-op ensures that you are partnering with like-minded individuals. You do not have to rely on a stranger or outside agency as your child or children would be cared for by other parents. Experience is a guarantee! It’s also a great way to promote social interaction for your own child or children.
Take the initiative to start a co-op if there is not one nearby. You can do this without pricey advertising. Social media platforms can spread the word readily. This can be done on local parenting groups sites. You may even be able to partner with your local early childhood programs to have them spread the word on the school’s site or social media platforms. You can also go “old school” and print flyers to post at the local library, ice cream shops, grocery stores, or shops catering to young children.
There are a few things to consider:
- You must be able to track time: either a point system, time-reward system, spreadsheet, etc. of those providing the service. For example, do you receive 10 points for every half hour? What is the point system if you surpass the half hour mark? Do you receive the full point amount after the half hour or a fraction?
- The system needs to be in a centralized location to allow members to see if they need to offer time to babysit to increase their points, chips, etc. or to see if they have enough to acquire babysitting services. The system would also need to have each member’s contact information.
- Does one person maintain the tracking system and contact information or is this responsibility shared with the group? If it is shared, how often is one responsible for this upkeep?
- Determine the value of services offered. For example, will households with more than one child need to accumulate more points for services than a household with one child. Does someone babysitting 3 children accumulate more points than someone babysitting one child? Do holidays or late nights accumulate a greater number of credits?
- Is there a required notification period for requesting a sitter?
- What are the requirements for joining the co-op? Do you have to be recommended by another family?
While this may seem like a huge undertaking, once established a babysitting co-op could create lifelong friendships and partnerships, promote socialization for both children and adults, and establish a true community. Like the old adage states, “It takes a village to raise a child!”