Arranging a Kid Swap

The following is a guest post by Angie of Many Little Blessings and The Homeschool Classroom.

While I love that we made the decision to start homeschooling four years ago, I would occasionally think that I wished I could just have a couple of hours to just get caught up on things without the kids around.

Imagine my surprise when I casually mentioned this desire to a friend, and her response was, “Let’s do it!”

It has been such a blessing that I wished I had done something like this sooner.  Not only do my friend and I each have four hours a month when we get some free time to run errands, have appointments, work on projects, or just relax, but our kids get to spend eight hours a month together.  As my friend pointed out one day, “I love that the kids think we’re doing them a favor by letting them get together!”

This kind of arrangement can be doable for almost any family, as long as you have another family (or two) that would like to participate with you.  It will be important beforehand, however, to come up with some basic ground rules and guidelines, which will look different for different situations (i.e. your family will arrange things differently than mine and my friend’s family arrange it).

Our Basic Structure for “Kid Swap”

Every other week, our families get together on a Friday afternoon from noon – 4 pm.  The host Mom is responsible for serving lunch to everyone.  This allows the Mom that is dropping kids off to not have to worry about feeding the kids quickly before dropping them off.  (Plus, the kids all like having lunch together.)  The host Mom will also serve a snack at some point during the afternoon.

The host Mom will occasionally plan an activity for the kids, but we agreed from the beginning that that was never going to be required.  If a mom wanted to, then she could.  If she just wanted to let the kids play the whole time, then that would be fine too.

The mom that is dropping kids off is expected to pretty much drop and go.  It’s not that we don’t like to see each other (my friend and I), but we’re more likely to do a little visiting at 4 pm when we do the pick-up. We both understand that this time is precious.

In your arrangement, of course, you could form a basic structure that works best of your families.  The only important thing is that everyone involved agrees with the structure.

Guidelines

Before starting, we agreed that we didn’t want it to be stressful for the host mom.  We wanted her to be able to be there for the kids, but not to have to spend every moment watching the children.  Because of this, we decided that only children who were old enough to be independent could be included.

This means that with my youngest being six, all three of my children go.  However, my friend has five children, and only four of them participate, with her six month old staying with her.  We previously had another friend who also did this swap with us.  She has six children, and her youngest (who was two at the time) had to stay with her.

Other than the expectation of lunch and a snack, we don’t have a lot of other guidelines.  Our families have similar parenting styles, a shared faith, and children of very similar ages.  This means that we’ve been able to be very free about what happens during our swaps.  My kids roam around the woods with her children at their house, and her kids are allowed to play video games (which they don’t have at home) at my house.

If you don’t have similar parenting styles as the family (or families) that you have a kid swap arrangement with, it might be more important to agree upon more guidelines than what we have.

The Benefits

Not only do my friend and I benefit from time alone, we also both look forward to our weeks as the host Mom too!  Our kids are all fun, sweet kids, so it’s not hard work having the group of seven kids at once.

I can definitely say that my children have benefited so much from this arrangement.  As kids from the suburbs, they love the chance to go to their friends in the country who have woods, a creek, chickens, pigs, and lots of adventure.

I hope that our house also offers something to our friends.  Above all, I know that the kids all benefit from being together.  They genuinely enjoy each other’s company, so time for building and sustaining their friendships is the best benefit.

The Bottom Line

If a kid swap sounds appealing to you, try approaching another family (or two) that you think might be interested.

Work together to pick out the best structure and guidelines for your situation, and let this be an arrangement that benefits everyone, moms and kids alike!

Would you be interested in doing a kid swap? Have you ever been a part of one?

About Angie Kauffman

Angie, a domestically challenged nerd, writer, and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home, as well as the Real Life at Home Podcast. She loves music, lives on caffeine, and is married to her best friend. Angie can also be found on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.

Comments

  1. Funny, a friend and I did this just today! Except that I had her son in the am and she had my 2 sons in the pm. I barely knew what to do with myself with a whole quiet afternoon! (I will admit that I didn’t necessarily spend it all productively…and I don’t feel guilty about that, either!) :)

    • Whew! I don’t know if I would be up to doing both swaps in one day, although we did once do it two days in a row because of vacations and the like.

      I have to admit that I often just flitter away my time. My friend comes back telling me productive things she has done, and for me – it’s often a time to hang out, listen to music, and just relax.
      Angie @ Many Little Blessings’s latest post: 10 Places I Would Love to Visit

  2. This does seem like a great idea for those who have children old enough to be independent. I think swapping lots of littles would end up being quite stressful for everyone.
    Anna@The DIY Mom’s latest post: DIY Scottish Shortbread

    • Anna – I totally agree about swapping lots of littles. If there were just a couple of littles and both families (or all families) had some, then I think it would be more manageable. That way, nobody would be out of their element. It sounds silly, but now that my youngest is seven (she is older than when I wrote the post), I feel like I’m out of practice for watching littles.
      Angie @ Many Little Blessings’s latest post: 10 Places I Would Love to Visit

  3. Great post, would work well for public school kids in summer months too.

  4. This is a great idea! It is something I have thought about a lot lately. I just need to get over leaving my babes in the hands of a friend (which I haven’t ever done). My mom has always been my go to babysitter, but with her traveling a lot more lately for work, well, it doesn’t end up working. And I have definitely noticed my need for some free time. I think I will see if I can work something like this out. Thanks!
    Heather’s latest post: movin’ right along

    • Heather – Maybe if you did for just a couple of hours the first few times, then that would help. Because my friend’s house is a place of adventure (both because the landscape makes that possible and that is their family’s mindset), I always drop off my kids knowing that they may come home very dirty and possibly with a tale of a small injury. That was something that, at first, made me very nervous.

      However, I got over it (mostly anyway – LOL), because my kids (who are not those kinds of kids) love it and have experiences that I can’t easily offer them. They’ve done things like jumping creeks, riding zip lines, etc. It has been a chance for them to overcome fears they didn’t realize they had.
      Angie @ Many Little Blessings’s latest post: 10 Places I Would Love to Visit

  5. Stephanie B. says:

    This leaves me feeling very warm and fuzzy! Thanks for sharing with me, posting this, and for the great photos! Very well-written, and super great advice for all moms! What a blessing this is to us all!

    • I’m so glad that you liked the post! :) I wrote it all the back last summer (hence some age discrepancies in the mentionings of each of our youngest daughters), so to read it again today when it was posted — it just made my heart feel full. The kid swap is just one of those wonderful things in our family’s life and something the kids love so much.

      I’m glad that we’re still going to be able to make it work next year, given the changes. I don’t know what we would do without it!
      Angie @ Many Little Blessings’s latest post: 10 Places I Would Love to Visit

  6. My mom did this occasionally when we were homeschooled and my brothers and I had a blast.
    Steph’s latest post: Raising Sexually Healthy Preschoolers

  7. I used to do this years ago with a friend and it worked out great. We did the same thing with the host mom being responsible for lunch. We were both homeschool moms and really needed the quiet time!
    Heidi’s latest post: Homeschool Geometry Curriculum

  8. Love this idea! I have never done it for mom time, but I have done babysitting swap for date nights.
    Paula’s latest post: Homeschooling While Moving

  9. Love it! I’m doing a babysitting swap later this month for the first time. I have a feeling it will be easier for me than it will be for the other mom when it’s her turn — my two are 3 and 1 and in diapers, and her boys are 6 and 8 and totally at different stages! My son LOVES playing with the big boys and they are so kind to him and include him.

    I appreciate that he has an opportunity to play with older boys under the watchful eye of a great mama, and I love that I can go out to dinner with my husband on our wedding anniversary without paying a babysitter.

    As my kids get older and we are official homeschoolers, I hope to keep it up!
    Kacie’s latest post: Part 4: How Dorothy can save $1k and pay off $5,600 in credit cards in a year

  10. Cool! Our church has a babysitting co-op, it’s kind of the same principal except we use beads as currency to ensure even distribution of babysitting. I love it!

  11. We started doing this with my husband’s sisters family a few years ago. At that time we actually started with the little ones! We have now grown into doing date nights every other month. We have even added a few things to make it nicer for the parents “off duty.” We start the evening at 4 by dropping off your children which leaves time for you to get ready without children underfoot (or doing whatever you want). The host takes care of dinner and play and then either the host mom or dad brings the other kids back to their house for bed while the other spouse puts their own kids to bed. The host parent then just hangs out until the “off duty” parents come home. Our kids are all within the same age range and love spending time together. Plus with the family element the kids are all happy and comfortable with letting auntie or uncle tuck them into bed for the night. It has been nice for us to allow for planning big events knowing that our kids will be well taken care of. We plan to make it a sleepover as the kids get older (our oldest are 2 6 year olds). Great post!

  12. Love this! I’ll file this away for the future. Mine are only 4 mo & 3 years. Although I could easily take two more littles (…I think… I’ve done it a few times with a LO between my two). But I think it’d be more fun when they were bigger.
    Ashlee’s latest post: Cloth Napkins-Set of 6 by MomBabyMe

  13. I’ve used this idea with getting an evening out with my husband- but I love it with daytime errands running. We homeschool moms usually use everything as a teaching moment for our kids- but sometimes it is fun to do things ALONE! ;)
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s latest post: Easter Joy!

  14. Love this idea! I have swapped with other moms for a morning out but my kids are all so young that it ends up being a lot of work for the host mom. I hadn’t thought about a homeschool mom swap. I will keep that in mind!
    Johanna’s latest post: How Limiting Toys Helps Your Kids

  15. I’ve done this in the past, but right now I pay a babysitter two times a month for every other Friday afternoon. I find that a few hours of kid-free time to get caught up at home, run errands without four-hour potty breaks, or work on the computer without someone dropping crumbs onto my keyboard and asking me bizarre questions seems to be a much-needed boost for my sanity. Highly recommended!
    CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment’s latest post: Easter: Egg Dyeing

  16. Alexarrie says:

    Hi Angie…Hmm…This sounds like a good idea and I am already thinking of some families where I can have the kid swap…
    Alexarrie’s latest post: How To Cure A Panic Attack

  17. swap meet is a great way for collectors, crafters, scrapbookers, gardeners or antiquers to get new items and get rid of ones they no longer need or use. Swap meets can be a social event as well. Just ask everyone to bring finger foods to share and their own drinks, and you’ve practically got a party..
    Jazmine’s latest post: Spa Servicing

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