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Tips for Setting Up a Babysitting Exchange

Babysitting, Caring for Children

Are babysitting costs blowing a hole in your budget or are you finding it nearly impossible to line up a reliable baby sitter for your children? If so, why not consider setting up a babysitting exchange with other parents to share babysitting duties.

There are numerous benefits to setting up a babysitting exchange, including the following two.

First, it could save you a lot of money. If you pay $10 an hour or more for a babysitter for five hours each week, that’s $2,600 or more each year. Second, you will be able to relax and enjoy some quality time with your spouse, significant other or yourself, knowing that your kids are in the hands of responsible parents with plenty of experience entertaining and caring for children.

Here are six tips for setting up a babysitting exchange.

1. Start by finding two or three other parents who are interested in participating in an exchange. Ideally parents should have children in about the same age ranges, although that is not essential. You probably don’t want too many parents in the exchange, since it could result in too many children for each babysitting parent to handle. On the other hand, having some extras can give you more flexibility when, inevitably, someone can’t take their turn babysitting.

2. Once you have your babysitting exchange members, set up a meeting to decide on the structure of the exchange.

3. At the meeting, start by determining a babysitting cycle. For example, you could agree that the exchange will provide babysitting services for five hours every Saturday night from seven to midnight. In that event, if you have four sets of parents in your exchange, each would babysit once every four weeks and would have three free Saturday nights.

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4. Decide on any guidelines such as where the babysitting will occur (probably at the home of the babysitter) and what each parent should provide for their child (perhaps snacks, pajamas, and a favorite toy).

5. Talk about what will be done if a parent cannot babysit when it is her turn and if a parent is late picking up her child.

6. Finally, consider setting up a point system to take into account differences in the number of children each parent has or in the ages of children. For example, a parent with only one child may get more credit for the time she spends babysitting for parents with two or three children, and one with older children might get additional credit for babysitting an infant. Depending on how accommodating and easy going your babysitting exchange members are, you may not want to worry about a point system, which could get complicated and cumbersome, but, in the interest of fairness, it is worth discussing.

Each babysitting exchange will be different and, as a result, these guidelines may not suit your group, so be creative and flexible in setting your own structure. Also, plan to meet periodically, especially when your babysitting exchange is relatively new, so that you can make adjustments to improve the way your exchange works for its members.