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Start a Date Night Babysitting Co-op

Updated on March 7, 2009
shawna.wilson profile image

Shawna is a working wife and mom with a passion for achieving financial freedom. Her family is on track to be completely debt free by 2018!

Go on a Date Every Week!

Would you and your sweetheart like to get away from the kids for just a few hours once a week? The idea of having a regular date night every week is something most couples only dream of. Starting a date night babysitting co-op with a few other families is a great way to save money on childcare and still get your much needed time away from the children.


Being part of a babysitting co-op where you get three four-hour dates per month can save you $120 or more. So not only do you get to go on dates, you save a lot of money!

What is a Babysitting Co-op?

In a date night babysitting coop, couples exchange babysitting services for date nights. To start, you’ll need to find some other families to form the co-op with you. Having four families allows each couple to go out three times every four weeks and babysit once every four weeks. A co-op can be done with more than four families, but the babysitting part of the deal can become a bit overwhelming, depending how many children each couple has.

Regardless of how many families get on board, try to connect with families who live close by. You don’t want to drive half an hour out of your way to get to the house with the babysitting. Co-ops work great amongst neighbors and church members who live within five miles of one another. Closeness certainly isn’t a requirement, but it does make things easier on everyone involved.

Fun for Everyone

Babysitting co-ops aren't just for couples. Single parents can equally benefit from a babysitting co-op. The one night a week can be used for dates, errands, or just some peace and quiet. Who wouldn't want some time for themselves once a week?

How Does a Co-op Work?

I’ll explain how everything works using a four family example. Once four families have committed to being part of the co-op, everyone needs to agree which night of the week will be date night. Most likely this will be Friday or Saturday night. It’s best to keep the same night each week, rather than Friday one week, Saturday the next, and so on. Try to keep things simple.

Once the day of the week has been chosen, decide what the hours will be. Four hours allows a couple to go to a movie and dinner, while two hours may allow for dinner and an errand or two. Keep kids' bedtimes in mind too. For my family, 5-8pm might work best, but other couples might not even be home from work by 5pm. So make sure to discuss the time frame with everyone involved and choose hours that accommodate everyone in the group.

Once the day and time are set, make assignments for the month. For example, the Smiths will babysit the first Saturday of the month, the Arnolds will babysit the second Saturday of the month, etc. Assigning days this way keeps things simple and will be easy to remember. In a month with five Saturdays, take the last night off for family time.

Be Prepared

If you're dropping a baby off with a family who has older kids, you'll need to bring some baby gear along. Necessary items might include:

  • diapers
  • wipes
  • bottles
  • extra clothing
  • security items
  • baby toys

This will make things easier on the babysitting couple. As with any babysitter, make sure to leave contact information just in case.

Tips for a Successful Co-op

Set guidelines for the group. If you don't want meal prep to be a part of the babysitting time, then require families to feed their children dinner before dropping them off. Make sure people agree to pick their kids up by 9 pm or whatever time you've agreed upon. Respect the other members of the group so that no one feels like they want to quit.

Start with a one month trial run to see how everyone feels about the babysitting co-op. Give everyone the option to opt out at the end of the first month if they aren’t crazy about the arrangement. Some kids might have issues with strangers, other couples might have a hard time leaving their new baby with someone else. Whatever the reason, make sure there are no strings attached.

There will be times when a family can't participate due to illness, vacations, or other commitments. Be flexible and don't get upset if a date night has to be cancelled every once in a while. After all, this is an agreement amongst friends, and it's free. There's really nothing to lose.

That's pretty much all there is to it! The idea of babysitting all those kids for several hours might be overwhelming at first, but keep in mind that you will get three date nights later in the month, and you won’t have to pay a babysitter. Plus, it’s reassuring to know your children are staying with two experienced parents, rather than a teenage sitter.

Don't wait to get started!  Forming a date night babysitting co-op will be great for your health and your relationships.  We all need a break sometimes, and this is a great way to make that possible.  Good luck!


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    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a great idea. I think I've heard of something similar to this. Thanks for bringing it up!

    • profile image

      SittingAround 6 years ago

      Thanks for writing a great article introducing people to coops.

      My website,, was created for two reasons 1 - make babysitting coops easy to manage (and our online software does just that), and 2 - spread the word about coops (only 24% of parents know coops are an option).

    • marriednokids profile image

      marriednokids 6 years ago from California

      This is such a great idea! I will certainly keep this in mind for the future.

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 7 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for the kind words and the facebook post! I hope you can work something out. We all need time away from our kids sometimes!

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 7 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      As a mother of five -- I totally need a weekly break away from parenting -- just to be "jeff & heidi" with each other. This is a wonderful idea. I have a couple of friends who do this with each other -- but they have three or less children. Hopefully, I can start one of these soon. Thanks for the tip! BTW - I posted a link to my Facebook wall! :)

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona

      That was a great idea. Trading services saves so much money!

    • profile image

      Mom 8 years ago

      Your hub reminded me of the babysitting co-op that I was in when you were little. It sure came in handy and worked out well.

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks Ryan! Here's to you for being a single full time dad. Being a parent is hard work! I hope you find a group of people that can co-op with you. I'm sure you'll enjoy the time away, even if it's just for an evening!

    • profile image

      Ryan Wescott 8 years ago

      Wow that is such a great idea. I am a single full time dad and well a lot of the time i have to cancel because of babysitting problems. I know some couples and even family that will be interested. Great hub!!

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona

      RGraf-are your kids old enough to stay by themselves? It will be nice when a babysitter is no longer necessary. Then you can get away as a couple whenever! Thanks for your comment!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Really good idea! We try to get away regularly. Our problem is that we know very few with other children.

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona

      Aya-good point. My son would be upset if I left him with someone he didn't know. That would be bad for him, the babysitters, and the other kids.

      amy jane-I agree-babysitting is expensive! When I think about planning a date, say dinner and a movie, I realize it would probably cost $25-$30 just for the childcare. So we usually just stay home :) Thanks for reading!

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

      This is such a great idea! Thank you for the advice. Having a weekly date night is so important to a marriage - but the expense of hiring a babysitter makes it difficult to do every week. I think the kids would really enjoy this idea too. They would get a play date out of it!

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Shawna, that's a great idea. I agree with Peggy that the values of the people in the co-op should be compatible, but I also think it's important for the children to already know all the adults who will be sitting for them. That means, socialize with these people as a family, kids and all, before starting the co-op. This will reduce anxiety among the children the first time you leave them with another couple.

    • shawna.wilson profile image

      shawna.wilson 8 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks DarleneMarie!

      Peggy-I agree about the values. Co-oping with family or friends from church might be the best way to ensure compatibility.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great idea for families with children at home. Finding compatible people with the same values is the trick to making this work.

    • DarleneMarie profile image

      DarleneMarie 8 years ago from USA

      Really great ideas for couples wanting to spend time by themselves!