Where to find childcare in Chicago at the last minute

Written by: Amelia Levin

How to find last-minute childcare in Chicago

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, a work-at-home mom or dad, or even a full-time working one with regular childcare, with holidays and conference season upon us, we all need extra help from time to time. Here’s a quick list of places in the city that offer last-minute and/or part-time services.

The Nook (Bucktown and South Loop)
This full-service daycare allows non-member parents to book absent children’s open spots via an online app, which is regularly updated until 6 a.m. day-of. There is currently no smartphone app, but rumor has it that could soon become available as interest in the program grows.

Pros: Easy-to-use online app for scheduling; half- and full-day options; reasonable prices

Cons: Limited availability for last-minute drop-ins; better to book well in advance if you know you’ll need the help

K Grace
Specializing in part-time childcare, K Grace serves many nurses, artists, photographers and others with non-traditional and/or flexible work schedules. Parents also use the service for last-minute sitters to run errands, finish some work or otherwise fill in the gaps. Bookings are made through an online calendar system up to 48 hours in advance (although K Grace staffers try to honor last-minute requests via an after-hours phone number), and the sitter is matched based on availability, experience and ability to meet special needs.

Pros: Highly-vetted, CPR-certified sitters (over 1,000 on file) available same-day for last-minute needs; nights and weekend help available; high success rate for last-minute requests within a few hours

Cons: Complex pricing structure, which becomes more affordable the more you use the service; must pay sitter separately

Bright Horizons (various locations)
This nationwide daycare offers employer-subsidized backup childcare, including both drop-offs at the various centers or in-home help. Many clients take advantage of their own or their spouse’s benefits when they know schools will be closed or need someone at the last minute.

Pros: Subsidized last-minute care year-round; facilities across the country for use while traveling with children

Cons: Only available for those with employer-provided backup-care benefits; limit on number of days available for the services

Chime by Sittercity
Nicknamed “the Uber for babysitters”, Chime — online and via an app on your smartphone — makes it easy to book sitters in your immediate area. Chime sitters are the cream of the crop of sister site Sittercity.com, vetted through background and reference checks and in-person interviews. Typically, sitters must be booked before 3 p.m. same-day, but staffers will work to find help for last-minute needs.

Pros: Same-day sitters can be available; easy-to-use app without the need for cash; free to join

Cons: Rates vary by sitter; favorite sitters subject to availability so you might have to work with multiple sitters for more regular needs

Take a Break Playcare (Lakeview)
Most play places in the city require you to remain onsite, but this spot in Lakeview allows you to drop off your child for a couple hours or more while you work or run errands. With age-appropriate rooms — computer room, movie room, one for infants, an indoor “playground” and game room — there’s something for every child (and baby) here. Think of it like one big, sitter-staffed play date. Reservations are not required but recommended for infants and weekend nights.

Pros: Week-of and day-of, last-minute childcare and weekend/night hours offered; activities and space for both infants and older children

Cons: No official vaccination reports required — only as stated by parents on their application — so bring infants and younger children at your own risk; no napping space or cribs

Amelia Levin is a freelance food/restaurant industry writer and cookbook author and lives with her husband, Harvey Henao, and two beautiful children, Jonah, 3, and Lily, 5 months, in the Lakeview neighborhood, where Harvey grew up. She has often needed last-minute childcare help with her youngest.

Related articles:

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7 ways daycare changed our lives for the better

5 rules for traveling with caregivers and kids

The NPN blog gives voice to our members' thoughts about parenting in the city, and the views expressed don't necessarily reflect our own. Want to write for us? Email laura@npnparents.org with your topic ideas.

 

Posted on October 08, 2018 at 3:08 PM