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    Alternatives to babysitters

    Hiring a babysitter isn’t the only way that parents can steal away for a few hours of peace. With current babysitting rates hovering between $1 and $22 per hour, there are more affordable options. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but I’ve used these for my 5-year-old daughter. The plus side is that parents have more money for their fun evening out, but the down side is that parents must call it a night at 9 p.m. and still do bedtime routines.

    One Stop Fun in Westford hosts a “Parents’ Night Out” about once a month on Saturdays. For $21.50 per child ($12.50 for each additional kid), you can drop off your little ones for four hours of playtime from 5-to-9 p.m. They have a terrific indoor play space with climbing structures, slides, a ball pit, and more, plus they open their full-size gymnasium (complete with a giant bouncy caterpillar obstacle course) so the kids can burn off all that energy.

    A pizza dinner is included in the cost, and they have on duty one staffer for every 10 children (ages 4-12) in attendance. Downside: Parents have to pick up the kids by 9, but it’s cheaper than $15/hour for a babysitter.


    Imajine That in Lawrence offers “Date Night” every Friday and Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. They have a large indoor play space, which includes a small stage with dress-up clothes, a grocery store with play food and carts, climbing structures, slides, and more. They also serve a pizza dinner included in the cost: $16.95 per child (10% off each additional sibling).

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    Their staff-to-child ratio depends on the ages and number of children pre-registered (kids must be of walking age through age 9). The plus is that it’s every week, but the downside is that kids can stay for only two hours within that block. That’s hardly enough time to down a worthy amount of Chardonnay.

    The Little Gym, which has five locations in Massachusetts, has an aptly named “Parents’ Survival Night.” Of these three options, this one is most expensive, with a cost of $30-$35 per child for 3.5 hours of play from 6:30-to--9 pm. Depending on the age of the kids, the staff ratio is either 7-1 or 10-1 (for older kids). Call the individual location for schedules.

    Angela Nelson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @bostonangela.