One of our Moms Talk readers suggested this week’s topic – How to find free child care.
Whether you are a Mom (or Dad) working from home and you need some focused work time, or you have an important home project to get done, or the regular sitter called in sick, or you just crave a few hours to yourself, we all find ourselves in situations where we need some childcare coverage.
What options do parents have when they don’t really need a permanent child care provider or don't want to pay child care fees to get a project done? Take a deep breath because help is available. You might need to pay it forward a little or do some homework on options, but by tapping into your social network and exploring child care options in your community, you can find help.
Since infants and toddlers require more supervision and care, some of these options may not apply but here’s a list of some free, even last-minute child care options to make life a little easier and give you some precious time.
Note: If you need full-time child care coverage, none of these options will work for you long-term. These ideas work best for those last minute, short-term, “I’ve-got-to-get-this-done” needs.
Kid Swap. Ask your neighbors, friends, or family if you can set up a babysitting swap or just plain ask if they can watch your kids while you run to a meeting, write that article, or clean the closets. I have a few Mom friends who work full or part-time from home and it has been nice to offer to swap shifts. I will take all the kids for a few hours and then we’ll switch houses. It allows us Moms to get some work done during those hours. Make sure you reciprocate in some way or if there is no swap involved, at least thank them with some homemade cookies.
Gym with Child Care. If you have a membership to a local gym or park district, check and see if they offer child care. At our local YMCA, members can drop their kids off in the nursery or play area for up to 2 hours and go work out or take advantage of their free Wi-Fi. While you can’t leave the building, it’s perfect for getting work done on your laptop. If you already have the membership, take advantage of it. If you don’t, maybe consider a membership not only for child care coverage but also as an opportunity to get fit this year. Even if the child care isn’t free but rather a nominal fee, it’s worth it for a few hours of uninterrupted, productive time.
Mommy’s Little Helper. Are there any 8-10 year old kids in your neighborhood that are really good with younger kids and want to get some babysitting experience? Talk to their parents and tell them you need a Mommy’s Little Helper for a few hours after school or on the weekend. While you still need to be in the house with the kids, it can be a lifesaver to have an older child keep your kids busy while you get some work done in the office.
Childcare Co-op. Look online for a babysitting co-op in your area that you could join or start one. Ask your friends and neighbors if they belong to one or are interested in forming one with you and set up a schedule of who watches the kids and when. See if your Church offers any child care options or if they host a local Mom’s Group. There are plenty of Mom’s groups out there and some may offer childcare co-ops or be willing to start one with you. Here’s a good article from BabyCenter.com on how to set up a childcare co-op. http://www.babycenter.com/0_babysitting-co-ops_51.bc
Museums, Libraries, and Child Play Places. Have you joined any children’s Museums or taken advantage of child play places? Does your local library offer craft and story time programs for kids? While you can’t just drop your children off at these places and leave, most have Internet access and if you go when there is a story time or structured activity, you may be able to get some work done on your laptop while your child is entertained. You’ve already paid for the membership or joined your local library, so take advantage of the structured play time to get work done or make some important phone calls.
I hope one of these ideas brings you some relief. Here are some more ideas on How to Keep Your Kids Occupied While You Work from Home. If you have any other tips on free child care that work for you, please share!