If you’re thinking you’d like a night out now and again but don’t have family nearby and either can’t afford babysitters or don’t like leaving your children with people you don’t really know, then starting a babysitting circle with your friends could be the answer.

Babysitting circles have been around for yonks as parents in need of some quality time (and maybe a sherry or two) have opted to help each other out with childcare. My mum was part of one in the late 1970s. I remember the big book of phone numbers and sitting schedules she kept in the drawer by the telephone.

We knew she was planning a night out when she sat at the bottom of the stairs, book on her lap, dialling every number until she found someone who was free. They paid each other in tokens and mum said it was the only way my parents could afford to go out because they didn’t have to pay a babysitter.

Technology has made things much more straightforward but the concept is still the same. The book of telephone numbers and the tokens might be gone but parents are still supporting each other and agreeing to help each other out with childcare.  And it feels so good to do friends a favour in this way, particularly when you know it’ll be your turn to get a night out next time.

So here’s how to get started:

Firstly think about who you would like to ask to join your babysitting group. The number of people you ask is up to you but remember, too many in a group might feel less personal and too few makes it difficult to find someone available to sit for you.  Between five and ten is ideal. Being in more than one group works really well too. For example, you might have a group of parents you know via your child’s primary school and another group of your NCT friends.

Once you’ve got your group sorted the next step is for to download the free SITSTER app from the App Store or Google Play.

How the app works:

When you download the app you’ll create a simple profile. By the way, all your data and details are safe and secure. We never pass these on.

You can then invite your friends to download the Sitster app via the invite link.

Once they’ve downloaded Sitster their name will appear in your contacts and you can add them to your babysitting group.

You can then make sitting requests. So if you’d like to go out on your birthday for example, you’d send out a sitting request which will ping to all the people in your babysitting circle.  When a friend accepts your request it will appear in your sitting schedule and Sitster calendar and your friend will get a reminder on the day.

When you sit for your friends you will earn points. When your friends sit for you, you will use points. Sitster app keeps track of everyone’s points.

One point = one hour of babysitting. So if you go out for three hours you’ll pay 3 points to your friend sitting for you. You can choose how many points the members of your group starts with – starting with ten points works well.

Keeping things going:

Babysitting circles work best when there’s a fair distribution of sits and going out. The same person offering to sit each time means other people don’t get a chance to earn points. Agree rules if you want to, and you’re all set.

The great thing about using Sitster app to manage your babysitting circle is that it makes it all completely easy and fair.

Sitster is a mobile app to help you organise a babysitting circle. No more money on babysitters. Ask your trusted friends. It’s easy, free and fair.