Creative Babysitting Alternatives
Want a low-cost, neighborly alternative to traditional babysitters? Consider one of these creative ideas, which involve swapping care for someone else’s kids with care for your own:

• Join or start a baby-sitting co-op. Co-ops offer a solution to the occasional childcare dilemma with a swap arrangement. In some towns, long-standing baby-sitting co-ops already exist. Usually, a new member must be invited to join so that no one enters a co-op without a personal referral.

• Swap care with neighbors or friends. Decide how often you will swap and then stick to a regular schedule. This way, you can plan your nights out and also decide which movies to rent on the nights you sit.

• Try a one-night sit-and-swap. Two families meet at one home. The first couple goes out to the early movie or dinner while the other couple puts the kids to bed. When the first couple comes home, the second couple goes out to the later showing of the movie. Later, the two couples meet at the house for coffee while the children sleep. At the end of the evening, the sleeping child is bundled into the car and taken home to his own bed.

--Carol Band