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Creative Alternatives to Hiring a Babysitter

Grocery stores, gyms, IKEA, school: There for your romance

Published on: January 26, 2013

Don't cancel date night — get creative!

Tight budgets, nursing infants, unpredictable schedules—sometimes, hiring a traditional babysitter just isn’t in the cards. Thankfully, there are still many creative ways to make date night happen. (Hover over photos, then click on arrows to read more!)

Creative alternatives

Check out baby-friendly movie showings

Parents aren't relegated to waiting until the latest movies finally come out for rental to see them. Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue (look on the left as you scroll down the page for "Mommy & Me" showtime information) and Kirkland Park Place Cinema both offer a movie time for parents and their infants.

Another option are theaters that have "cry rooms"— such as the Guild on 45th in Wallingford. Parents with fussy children can view the show in a sound-proof room without disrupting other movie-goers. The cry room at the Guild is attached to the blue theater. Call ahead to find out which movie is showing: 206-547-2127.

Kids - creative alternatives to babysitting

Babysitting swap

You aren't the only parents trying to make date night happen. If you know another couple with kids, ask them if they would be interested in trading child-care. If you have three couples, arrange a few date nights. On each night, two of the couples watch all of the kids, while the third goes out alone. The bonus? Your kids get a few play dates with their friends out of the deal. Win-win!

Ikea Play Land

Try in-store childcare

Ikea calls it "Smaland," Fred Meyer calls it "Playland,"—parents can call it "me-time." Parents can grab some food at Ikea's cafe and enjoy adult conversation while the kids frolic in the ball-pit or create original art. Kids must be between 36 and 54 inches tall to enter Smaland.

At Fred Meyer, parents can chat over coffee at the in-store coffee shop, or grab a snack from the deli while the kids play with toys and color in their supervised play area. To see if your nearest Fred Meyer has a playland, find a location here and look under details for "child care". Kids must be between ages 2–5 to attend Playland and there is a one-hour time-limit.

kids playing at a coffeeshop

Use your mom-date spot for an actual date

You know that place you love meeting your best mom friend? Whether it's an amazing park or a restaurant with a play area, why not enjoy it with your spouse?

Check out our list of kid-friendly coffee shops, many of which have entire separate areas designed to keep kids fully occupied while you quietly chat over coffee or lunch nearby.

Sharing a sitter

Share a babysitter

Get more bang for your buck by sharing a babysitter. Find another couple and plan a date night at the same time. Your kids will have friends to play with and you'll save on babysitting fees.

Another option is to throw a dinner party and have other couples with kids over. Enjoy an evening with adults while the babysitter entertains all of the kids in another room.

Child attending a My Gym PNO

Take the kids to a "Parents Night Out" event

Check out this list of places that host a Parents' Night Out (PNO) event. Parents can drop their kids off and go on a date while the kids are entertained and worn right out. With everything from drama and art studios to swimming, your kids may start begging you to have a date night once they discover all of the fun that is in store for them.

Couple relaxing in hot tub

Make the most of gym childcare

The gym doesn't just have to be a place for burning calories and pumping iron. Make a date of it by dropping the kids off at the gym's childcare while you play a game of racquetball or soak in the jacuzzi. You won't even have to change out of your yoga pants if you don't want to.

Family together

Take the kids along on your date

Some of the best bonding moments with your spouse can happen when you nurture your kids together. Kids are great at reminding us to let loose and have fun. Take the family skatingbowling or hike to a waterfall. Check out our latest family adventure ideas here.

Have a date while the kids sleep

Once the little ones are snoozing, make the most of the alone-time. Enjoy a quiet candle-lit conversation. Share dessert without little fingers trying to steal a bite. Snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie. The possibilities are endless, and you don't even have to leave the house.

heart-shaped popcorn

Make the most of school time

Who says dates can only happen on weekends? Take advantage of the hours your kids are in daycare or school by planning a date.

Matinees and lunch are less pricey than evening showings and dinner, and you won't have to fight the crowds.

Bring along baby

It's hard to leave a brand-new baby behind. Who says you have to? 

A semi-noisy, kid-friendly pub can be a great place for a dinner date. The noise has the double effect of masking any crying bouts while lulling the baby to sleep. Save some bucks with our list of hip happy hours for families.

If you have an chill baby or can breast-feed in your cloth carrier, you could even bring baby to dinner and holiday parties.

Find your family

If you have grandparents nearby I'll bet you're way ahead of us on this one. If your relatives live far away, plan a vacation near them or take a date while they're in town.

Also, dig deep. If you've been afraid of approaching a childless younger sibling or close cousin, try casually mentioning that you have trouble getting out and see if they offer. If you're really desperate, just ask. Think about something you might be able to do for them in return, like watching their beloved Cocker Spaniel the next time they take a trip.

More ideas for Nurturing the Romance:

Our ParentMap Lecture Series often include relationship experts and free childcare!

Overnight Date Night: Wine-tasting in Woodinville

A Year of Date Nights! 12 Ideas for Multiplying the Magic Hours

Is There a Sex-life After Birth? 10 Ways to Bring Back That Lovin' Feelin'

Nearby Seattle Romantic Getaways for Parents

An Interview with John Gottman on Sex, Lies, and Love

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