My children were 6 and 9 years old when I finally tried a drop-off Parent's Night Out for the first time. I think it's a great idea — group babysitting — but my reluctance had to do with the fact that I like that when I come home, after hiring a babysitter for a night out, they are asleep in their own beds.
We finally took advantage of the Parent's Night Out offered by Cal Golden Bear Gymnastics, and I thought it was great. Here's the rundown:
- Runs from 6 pm to 10 pm two Saturday nights per month. They take sign ups in advance, until noon on the day of, plus sign ups at the door for those have commitment issues. Drop off was easy: we signed our kids in, paid, and watched them find something to do in the gym.
- Cost is $30/kid, no sibling discount. Everybody's got their own math to do. I have two kids the ideal age for this venue, and the same number of hours of babysitting will cost me (4 hrs x $12-$18) = between $48 and $72 depending on which sitter I book. My $12/hr sitter is a better deal than this, but my $18/hr sitter is much more expensive. We viewed this as a fun, occasional treat for the kids since it didn't save much money, but for just one child, it's a great deal unless you have a sitter who charges $6/hr (or nothing).
- Dinner is served. The kids get cheese pizza and did not report to me if they had any veggies or extra nutrients. Milk? I don't think so. My son, who lives his life by the clock, complained that dinner was not served until 7.15. I don't know if that's the regular plan or if there was a delay. He wanted it earlier, however.
- The space offers amazing fun. I cannot imagine a better environment for kids to run around in for the evening. Trampoline, bouncy floor exercise mat, crash pads, and more. When I picked them up, my daughter and her friend seemed to be having a blast creating a house out of mats — and jumping over it. My son and his friend were tossing a Nerf football they had brought with them.
I recommend Parent's Night Out at Cal for active kids 4 and up who can handle staying up until 10 pm. (There is no winding down or sleeping bag ritual.) You do not need to be a student of the gym (or the University) to participate. No gymnastics experience is necessary either.
There was only one other boy over 7 years old present beside my son and his friend, with whom we had coordinated our evening plans. Because of this, I would plan again for my son to have a friend there in the future. I think my daughter — currently a gymnast there — would have been fine with or without a friend.
Cal Golden Bears Gym is located at the very top of Dwight Way where it dead ends, behind Clark Kerr Campus.
Golden Bear Rec Center
25 Sports Lane
Berkeley, CA 94720