Do you value some dependable time each week away from your children to devote to your marriage, house-cleaning, errands, or time with friends? Our marriages are the next most important relationship outside of Christ. Your investment in your marriage models to your children that you value your spouse. This enables them to experience security and love from a unified front of parents. Are you strapped for cash for such endeavors? I have a solution for you!

A babysitting Co-op! Here are the basic details in an original blogpost I wrote here. You can include two families, three families, or even four families in this type of swap depending on how many children are included between the bunch and what you deem is appropriate for all involved!

Having been involved in several of these type of coops, I thought I might also include some extra details (READ: LOADS OF DETAILS!) that really help one of these systems to flow smoothly. These are some ‘ground rules’ that worked for us you may also want to consider:

-Three hours is a great slot of time. Not too much, not too little.
-Once a week is really ideal, but you can also swap every other week if that is better for each family.
-Generally, a day of week is easier than a weekend for swapping. But to each his own!
-4pm-7pm or 4:30pm-7:30pm is a great time frame. It enables children to be ready for bed by the time their parents pick them up, but not over-tired.
-It is ideal to swap with your neighbors, but if not, try to pick families SUPER local to you.
-Each family brings their own diapers/wipes/dinner/snacks/
juice/sleeping arrangements/clothes for their OWN kids. Ideally, it would be nice if the host could provide a paper towel or a paper plate for the children. Though, sippy cups should be brought by each family. Dishes ARE NOT required to be returned washed 🙂
-You host all the kids at your home once a month (if you need the help of your husband, then plan for that). The other three thursdays (or whichever day you choose!) of the month you get time to yourself or with your husband or really whatever you want to do. (clean, grocery shop, meet a friend, read a book). You can also double date with other families in the co-op! the possibilities are endless!
-For families with smaller children. Please either email the host in advance or write on a notecard instructions that are more specific so that the host is not overwhelmed trying to remember various details for different babies (i.e. Jimmy needs 5oz of milk at 5:30, he will sleep after that, etc).
-If you cannot host the event that you are assigned, please swap with another family and notify everyone else in the swap accordingly.
-if you cannot make the swap in which you are provided a date, please… get over it ;). We will not reschedule the swap for a family that cannot attend being babysat unless two or more families cannot make that particular date night in which the evening is cancelled for everyone.
-Each family is responsible to drop off and pick up their own kids at the location designated each week. It is ok if you drop your children off late to the co-op, but please ensure you are not late to pick them up so as to honor everyone’s time. Please be prepared to have your house ready to accept children five minutes prior to the start of coop, so that each family can utilize the full three hours! (i.e. if your coop swap is from 4:30pm-7:30pm, families can drop off their children at 4:25pm so they are able to leave by 4:30pm)
-Unfortunately, I’m not making the number of kids a factor in our coop swap as far as equal proportion of time per child. Some families may have one kid, other families two kids, and others three or four kids but every family gets the designated three hour slot each week. Obviously, it is best to pick families to join your coop in which all families have roughly the same number of children.
-If you need more time than the three hour slot- feel free to arrange a swap with another family in the co-op (or a babysitter) if you want them to watch your children before/after and notify the hosting family that said person will pick up/drop off your children accordingly.

-Discipline: I think it goes without saying that we are in agreement about honoring the Lord with our children and as well as helping the children we are watching pursue righteousness. I would advise setting up an avenue to talk to other families about their behavior in a non-threatening way. Thus, the questionaire resource: Please answer the following questionnaire each time you host for each child participating in the co-op in order to honestly evaluate each child’s obedience/disobedience as they learn to respect differing authority. For example, if I hosted the co-op one week, I’d send a separate email to family A, family B, and family C at the end of the session and communicate how her children did/did not obey so that their parents can further praise/train their child for the next session. (Questionnaire: _______honored Christ this co-op session through…. _______did not honor Christ this co-op session by…. Other thoughts: ….). Aside from this, I advise avoid spanking other children altogether and use time outs or natural consequences when necessary. Ask other families in the group if ahead of time if they have any concerns with this/further ideas to consider.

-Location: Typically, it is helpful to stay at the host homes for the first rotational schedule. However, once you are in the groove, consider talking to your group about visiting at a nearby park, field, or forest while you are hosting. When we host, we take our double stroller, borrow a double stroller and have a couple of ergo baby carriers and head to the park! The kids are instructed to stay close to us, and parents are notified in advance to pack dinners that can be eaten outside (as well as pack coats or rainboots depending on weather). The children walk back after a fun evening and the three hour time slot FLIES by- fun had by all and your host house stays clean (added bonus!).
-Other house rules
For example, I do not allow my children in the road, and unless an adult is in the road, I’d like this to be upheld for my child. Consider asking if there are any other rules like this you need the group to follow (tv shows you don’t want your children to watch, food they cannot eat if offered, reoccuring misbehavior of your child host needs to know about). I have found it helpful to ask all the children to stay at the host home the entirety of the three hours unless they quickly need to run back to their house to get something else to play with.
-After the one month time frame, we can all either meet together to discuss what you liked/didn’t like or email about such things and decide whether to continue to stop.

The General Set-up: In the past we have separated out the three hour slot for similarly so the children know what to expect at each household. The children seemed to thrive off of order/consistency. So, do not feel pressured to do this, but it is worth considering.
4:30-5:30: Big energy time, play outside, crafts (we have found this to be extremely fun and successful in the past if you want to attempt it!), running, jumping, games (red light/green light; red rover; hide and go seek; etc) get all their energy out!
5:30-6pm: Eat Dinner
6pm-6:15(ish)pm- Clean up host’s home
6:15-7:15 watch movie
7:15-7:30 get on socks/shoes/gather bags to get ready to go back home!

Example Schedule:

Nov 7th- Family A
Nov 14th- Family B
Nov 21ts- Family C
Nov 28th- Family D

OK! whew! You stuck with me! Loads of details, I warned you!! But I do hope that this will bring about an easy way for you to plow into serving your community as well as enjoying some time away from your lovely children.

The end. 🙂