What is a Babysitting Co-op?
A Babysitting Co-op is a group of families who babysit for one other. Instead of paying with money, parents earn babysitting credit that can be used among the group.
What you need to start a Babysitting Co-op:
Ideally, eight families to start and a willing and patient parent to be a coordinator.
How a Babysitting Co-op Works:
A Babysitting Co-op is based on a credit system that equates to babysitting hours. Some Co-ops call this credit “points.” Parents earn points through babysitting. These points can be used with other families in the Co-op. A successful Co-op has points/credits constantly in circulation.
Credit / Points:
Each Babysitting Co-op is different in how they establish points and organize time. There are a variety of methods to organize the credit system (see our Further Reading section to read about the different Co-op models out there).
Looking for Babysitting Co-op By-Laws?
Head to our page HERE.
Some initial ideas to get you started include:
- Each family starts with 20 points.
- Points are earned/charged in half-hour increments.
- Two points for one hour of babysitting for one child; three points for one hour of babysitting for two children.
- Set up a working agreement so everyone is clear.
- How you want to monitor the points is completely up to you. Some families exchange physical points in the form of coupons, tokens, or even used raffle-like tickets. Other co-ops have used Excel sheets, and there are even online management systems designed specifically for co-op purposes.
Pros of a Co-op:
- Babysitters can be expensive! In a Babysitting Co-op, no money ever changes hands.
- Kids make new friends.
- Builds community.
- It takes a village—so build the village you want!
Here's one PSP member's experience that illustrates how a successful co-op can look: "I've got too many kids to participate now, but this was a GREAT set up when I had my first. We kept it pretty casual, no credits involved, just a 1 to 1 swap. An initial email went out asking if anyone would want to do something like that and it basically became an email group of people who would want to participate. Someone would send an email to the group 'Would anyone be available to watch my kid on such and such night?' Someone would chime in that they could, and then the two of you would discuss details, and generally figure out a date that they could do the reverse (when they could come to your house). We always did so the person would come over after the baby went to sleep and generally used it for not super late nights, really just to grab dinner or a movie and not pay a sitter. It was a win-win for me because A) I'd get to go out and B) all I had to do was go over to someone else's house and watch TV or work...what I would be doing at home any way! ... We kept it up until we each had second kids, and things got a little more complicated."
Complications / considerations of a Co-op:
- The system is based on a self-enforcing economic model that assumes the system will maintain itself. Credit needs to always be in circulation, so watch out for parents that never use their credit.
- Have plans in place for when a family moves or leaves the Co-op.
Babysitting Swap on NY Mag
Babysitting Co-ops article on Baby Center
How To Start a Babysitting Co-op on Frugal Mama
A write-up on why one Co-op did NOT work
Some Co-ops use a website to monitor hours and points:
Some of these websites charge annually (around $150) for their services. Consider distributing the cost equally among the Co-op participants.
One parent’s recommendation: “You can organize a Co-op through Sitting Around, and that site also has a list of local sitters.”