Make Life Easier With These Popular Swaps

Carpooling can be as simple as saying to another parent, “I’ll drop the kids off at soccer on Thursday if you can pick them up.” However, it’s wise to make sure all parents involved in the carpool are very clear on who is covering each drop-off or pick-up, which children are being transported and from where/to where. Discuss whether parents are willing to have a teen babysitter or older sibling of a child in the carpool cover any of the carpool driving duties. Exchange phone numbers so parents can reach each other in case of last-minute crises. Tell your child who will be transporting him, what time he’ll be picked up or dropped off, and how to reach you if his ride doesn’t show up.

Clothing, toy or book swaps are a terrific way to clear the closets of outgrown, gently used items and get items your child may currently need without the expense of buying new. They can work with any size group. Get a group of parents together, decide on a location, date and time, and agree on what items will be included in the swap.

Depending on the preferences of swap participants, you may want to count how many items each participant brings so each can take home a similar number of items or use some other method of trying to ensure that the swap is equitable. Rules about such counting or valuing of goods given and taken should be established in advance to avoid any conflict or misunderstandings on the day of the swap. Or, parents may just be happy for the opportunity to trade unneeded items for needed items without any “accounting” of value.

On the day of the swap, set up tables for various categories of items. Within a category, items may need to be sorted by size, gender or age group. Set aside time before the swap begins for everyone to put their items on the appropriate tables.

Parents may also want to swap books for themselves – a great way to read the latest best-seller without shelling out a fortune for it at the bookstore. Adult clothing swaps are also popular. Just be sure to have a private room for “trying on” with mirrors.

While carpools and clothing, book or toy swaps are relatively simple to set up, babysitting co-ops can be more tricky. Since you’re entrusting others with your children, the most important thing is to be sure you only exchange babysitting services with other parents you know well, who share your values about child-rearing and with whom you feel comfortable leaving your child.

Other critical decisions include the minimum and maximum number of families that will be part of the group and the process for recruiting and accepting new families into the group. Many babysitting co-ops rely on a system of sponsorships, where new members may join only if recommended by a current member. Many groups also ask for and check references for any new members.

Next, decide on rules and a process for members to get and give babysitting services. Some co-ops use a ticket system, where co-op members are given a set number of tickets per child to start with. Members spend tickets to get babysitting services from other members (typically one ticket per hour per child; half a ticket per child for a meal served during babysitting). Members earn tickets by babysitting other members’ children.

Rules might include whether members need to live within a certain area to minimize transportation issues, whether parents can transport children they’re babysitting, where sitting will occur (child’s home or sitter’s home) and how much advance notice members should give to request or cancel babysitting services.

Provide everyone with contact information for all members plus emergency information for each child. Regular scheduled meetings with all members can be used to discuss progress and address issues. Some groups also schedule regular family activities to build stronger relationships among members and introduce new members.
The Babysitter Exchange Web site,, can help groups keep track of the points issued and used by each member, and facilitate communications and scheduling.

Melanie G. Snyder writes for parenting magazines nationwide. Visit her Web site at