Starting a Babysitting Co-Op {Child Care Series}

I love having a nice, relaxing dinner with my husband. No juggling sippy cups, passing out crayons, or hiding away the salt and pepper shakers. Just the two of us. But seriously, when did it start costing so much to have a date night?! Oh, yeah. When I started having kids. Babysitting is EXPENSIVE! I drop at least $60 just for the sitter. Add dinner and drinks to that, and we are easily spending $120. Just for one night! So I’ve been doing some research on how to start a babysitting co-op.  Basically, a group of parents who join together to swap babysitting duties. I am totally doing this.

I mean, I’m sure we all have a few friends we could drop our kids off with for the evening – but with a co-op you “earn” time, so you don’t feel guilty when you leave your kids with a friend. You earned it.

While doing my research, I’ve realized people can go a bit cray-cray with this babysitting co-op thing. But hey, maybe *you* need a 15 page list of rules and regulations. {Maybe I’ll find out that is what I need.} But for now, I’m going to keep this simple. I was given the Smart Mom’s Baby-Sitting Co-Op Handbook which spells out in detail how to arrange a co-op. Reading the book gave me a great understanding of how this all works, and with my other research I hope to start a very simple co-op in my hood.

Babysitting Co-Ops{Click image above for more posts within the series.}

Steps to Starting a Babysitting Co-Op ::

1. Find a group of parents you trust and ask them if they would be interested in starting up a co-op. This can be people from church, neighbors, or maybe people from your child’s school.  {Free sitters? No guilt? Play dates for the kiddos? It’s a win/win!}  This will probably work best with friends who have kids around the same age and with people who live near you. From all the blogs and other advice I have read about this, a start out co-op works best with 6-8 families.

2. Set up some ground rules for the group. You earn “points” for the hours you babysit. Then you can cash out those points by using a sitter. Hour for hour trade. Food should be provided by sitter. This just seems easier. Some groups offer the option to buy or sell “points” and go at it that way. Eh, I think a one for one swap is just easier.

Other things to discuss with the group :: pools, gates on stairs, dogs, punishment plan {maybe you say no physical punishment for other’s kids}. For me, all of these are obvious, as I hope I will already know these things about the families in my group – but it’s worth mentioning.

3. Fill out medical forms. {I have always done this with the grandparents.} Have each family fill out a form with the child’s date of birth, names of parents, address, phone number, and any allergies or medical condition of the child. Also, leave the name and number of an emergency contact just in case you can’t be reached {or God forbid something happens to you}.

4. Each member can say no to a request to sit without having to explain why. {Heck, maybe you just don’t want extra kids at your house that night!}

5. Arranging a sitter. There will have to be someone in charge of the points and hours. I’m thinking of making a private Facebook page and keeping track that way. However, there are several websites out there that will keep track of this for you – but there is a fee. {Babysitting Co-Op and Sitting Around, for example}.

I have met so many people who say they can’t afford to hire a sitter or don’t have the luxury of having family around to help sit. Creating a babysitting co-op with people you trust sounds like the perfect solution to me!  What about you…

Have you tried this before? Would you try it? Let us know what you think!


  1. Great article Andrea. If I can add one thing I would like to point your readers to yet another website that makes this possible ( With IOU Sitter not only can you set up a co-op for free but we have a point system already in place to make the swap easy and straight forward. We also make inviting others to join straight forward by giving options for inviting existing IOU Sitter members as well as non existing ones. It’s all free.

    I hope your readers find IOU Sitter of use to them as they start their babysitting co-op.


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