Do your child care needs fall somewhere between full-time and no-time? Preschools and daycares that charge by the hour are popping up around Puget Sound to meet your sporadic needs.
How does drop-in care work?
Drop-in care typically means you need 2-4 hours for an occasional meeting, appointment or lunch date. Some also view it as an affordable way to partake in the benefits of preschool. Most facilities cater to parents needing care during normal business hours, though a few offer longer hours and night and weekend availability (Check out our list of Parents Night Out programs for more weekend child care.)
Reservation requirements depend on the place, but since all places have to keep within teacher-to-child ratios, calling in advance is always a good idea. You'll also likely need to fill out some paperwork and turn it in on your first visit.
Rates for drop-in care vary, but typical rates seem to orbit around $10/hour for a toddler. Many also have a one-time family registration fee, and discounted rate for siblings. Most are aimed at the preschool-age crowd but a few will take babies as young as 6 weeks.
Drop-in child care in Seattle
Trettin Drop-in Preschool (University District) accepts children 2 years and older. The play-based preschool offers discounts for frequent users and siblings and accepts DSHS and UW student vouchers.
Blossoming Buds Cottage (Wedgwood) is a new addition to Blossoming Buds Preschool offering drop-in "playcare" with a schedule of choice time, story time and snack time that repeats in the morning and afternoon. Kids ages 2.5–5 years can attend for 2-4 hours. Discounts are available for siblings, and additional fees apply for kids who are not potty trained.
At Discovery Bay at Pro Club (South Lake Union), gym members can use child care for offsite meetings or errands. Non-member patrons of the spa, physical therapy or podiatry services can also leave kids at Discovery Bay but must remain onsite. Kids from 6 weeks old to 8 years of age are welcome. Rates vary by age. Call 206-332-1873 or visit here to find out more about membership.
KinderCare Learning Centers (multiple locations) are all licensed and have hourly rates in place for drop-in childcare, though some locations are busy enough with tuition-based families that they don't typically take drop-ins. Age ranges vary by location, but most KinderCare centers in the Puget Sound will take children as young as 6 weeks. Find the location most convenient to you and call to see if they have availability to work with your family's needs. Rates are age-based and vary by location.
Penny Pumpernickel Pants Playcare (Northgate) is a preschool with drop-in "playcare" so popular it has won ParentMap's Golden Teddy Award for the past three consecutive years. Kids ages 2.5-4.5 can attend for a four-hour session in the morning or a two- to four-hour session in the afternoon, for fun and games indoors and outdoors.
Seattle Athletic Club Northgate has drop-in childcare for members and non-members at the Kids Court under the name of SAC to the Rescue! The service is available to non-members (at a higher hourly rate), and accepts kids as young as 6 weeks during normal Kids Court hours.
Drop-in child care north of Seattle
Time4Kidz Playcare (Lynnwood) is a new drop-in child care center for kids ages 2.5 to 10. The center is located close to the Regal Cinemas near the Alderwood mall, and you can leave kids for up to four hours. The center is open late most evenings, making it a great option for weekend shopping or a movie date.
Lynnwood Recreation Center (Lynnwood) has drop-in childcare on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Potty-trained kids 3–5 years of age play indoors and outdoors at sessions that run from 9–11 a.m. or noon–2 p.m.
Drop-in child care east of Seattle
The Nest (Woodinville) has three newly remodeled themed rooms and a charming reading loft for kids ages 2–6 to enjoy for a maximum of 4 hours (no time minimum). Potty training is not required. Snacks are supplied at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and parents can provide lunch if needed. The Nest loves playdates: If you refer a new family you can earn a free hour!
Dizzy's Tumblebus (Bellevue) offers stop-in service for kids ages 2.5–5. Kids can play for a minimum of 2 or up to 4 hours. Parents are highly encouraged to sign up for a regular schedule (1–5 days/week), but it is not required. Dizzy's pricing is packaged in time blocks, starting with a 20-hour block at $200, up to 80 hours at $640. While these rates are called "monthly", parents can roll over extra hours each month, and need not buy a block every month. Call to schedule a tour and find out what flexible arrangements are available for your family's needs. 425-564-8287.
The Growing Tree (Bellevue) is a daycare and preschool that welcomes drop-ins as long as there is room. Kids as young as 6 weeks are welcome, as well as older siblings (common during the summer months) for a minimum of 2 hours up to a full day. Call 425-502-7794 or email to check on availability.
At Discovery Bay at Pro Club (Bellevue) gym members can use childcare for offsite meetings or errands. Non-member patrons of the spa, physical therapy or podiatry services can also leave kids at Discovery Bay but must remain onsite. Kids as young as 6 weeks old up to 8 years of age are welcome. Call 206-332-1873 or visit here to find out more about membership. Patrons of the Bellevue location can take advantage of the online registration process.
Adventure Kids Playcare (Bellevue and Issaquah) is a drop-off playcare center that takes infants as young as 6 weeks. They are open late most nights (Monday–Thursday until 10 p.m.; Friday–Saturday until midnight) making it a great option for working parents who need extra care now and then, or for last-minute date night coverage.
Drop-in child care south of Seattle
Did we miss one? Email tips to email@example.com.