Being home all day every day, while also trying to work, entertain your kids, or make sure they finish all their schoolwork can be beyond exhausting. Sometimes, you just need a break so you can actually finish an email without being distracted, hop on a conference call, or, you know, take a shower. On the flip side of this issue are the many babysitters who are currently unable to work because of social distancing guidelines.
Childcare organisations across the country have had to get creative in order to find a solution to this problem, and that solution is virtual babysitting. Wondering if virtual babysitting could work for you and give you the much-needed break you deserve? POPSUGAR spoke with a few organisations offering virtual babysitting to learn more about what it is and who might best benefit from the service.
What is virtual babysitting?
As the name implies, virtual babysitting allows caregivers to spend time with your children virtually via phone, laptop, or tablet, instead of in person. Unlike traditional babysitting where the parents are often out of the house, parents are still close by and able to keep an eye on their children, but the babysitter will keep them engaged with games, dancing, story time, and educational activities.
How does virtual babysitting work?
Exact details vary from service to service, but you typically schedule your sitter online or over the phone and, as part of your intake form, you will fill out information on what types of activities you'd like for your child to do. The Babysitting Company, for example, offers yoga, dance, meditation, singing sessions, tutoring, and free play, just to name a few. Rachel Charlupski, the company's founder, told POPSUGAR, "We recently had a child who was making pretend food in their bedroom and bringing it up to the camera to show the babysitter what she had made."
Maryland-based Minutes 4 Moms has taken virtual babysitting a step further and is offering virtual learning in addition to their regular services. "Most schools are providing prerecorded videos and worksheets, but we are providing interactive, small group lessons where the kids are doing hands-on activities and peer conferencing, so it really has a classroom feel," Delaney Fox, Minutes 4 Moms founder and CEO, told POPSUGAR.
"They're getting to do a lot of really cool things they wouldn't necessarily even get to do in a regular classroom," Fox added. For example, the first-grade group recently completed a research project on animals and ended the week by making monkey muffins. Some of the older students created their own hotels, built the hotels from materials they had around the house, and presented them to the class. The classes are 90 minutes (with an additional 30 minutes of social time for the older kids), which offers parents a pretty good block of uninterrupted time to get a few things done.
What is the recommended age range for virtual babysitting?
The services we spoke with agree that it really depends on the child. Charlupski told POPSUGAR that her service has had success with kids as young as 2 and a half, but the recommended age range is 3 and up, as they've probably had more exposure to screen time and online games. Fox agreed, adding, "It just depends on the kids. We are taking that family to family and using the parents' discretion."
How much does virtual babysitting cost?
The Babysitting Company's one-hour sessions are $25 (virtual tutoring is an additional $10 per session), and Minutes 4 Moms' virtual learning is $100 for four 90-minute classes per week. With a service like Care.com, who is also offering virtual babysitting, this would be determined between the parent and the sitter, with prices being similar to those of traditional babysitting. The services we spoke with said this model can even work with multiple children, though this may affect the pricing.
How can I sign up for virtual babysitting?
What's great about virtual babysitting is it is open to anyone, anywhere and you don't have to be a current client of any of the companies offering these services (the only exception being Minutes 4 Moms' virtual learning, which is only available in Eastern and Central time zones). Here's a quick rundown of services offering virtual babysitting and how you can sign up.
- The Babysitting Company: Fill out the reservation form on their website or call (888)407-7822.
- Minutes 4 Moms: Text 443-863-MOMS or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Care.com: Set up a Care.com account (premium access is currently free for frontline workers and seniors during COVID-19), note in your bio that you are looking for "virtual babysitting," and connect with prospective caretakers to set up virtual sessions.
- Respectful Caregiving: Sign up on Facebook for a free virtual story time every weekday at 4:45 P.T.
- Broadway Babysitters: Sign up on their website for live virtual Playhouse classes with Broadway performers.