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Try these 5 free child care options before you leave your kid alone in the LEGO store

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

5 Places you can leave your kid without going to jail

A Long Island mom faces charges after allegedly leaving her 7-year-old son alone at the LEGO store for an hour and a half. While bins of LEGO bricks might seem like free babysitting, they're not. At least not according to the mall officials who called the cops on Patricia Juarez. If you need to shop without your kid in tow, try these safe, legal alternatives.

1. Ikea

There's a reason families flock to Ikea. The tasty cheap meatballs and modular cheap furniture are great, but the free child care is where it's at. There's nothing like dumping your (potty-trained) kids in Småland while you pretend that you're living in a 400-square-foot flat in Stockholm. Just make sure your little ones are over 37 inches and under 54 inches tall, or you'll have to drag them around the enormous store with you.

2. The Y

Most YMCA locations offer free drop-in child care for families with memberships. Take a fitness class, go swimming or just flop in the sauna and enjoy an hour of pure grownup time. You might be surprised at how many classes your local Y has to offer. Family memberships are an excellent deal if you have tweens and teens who want to participate in group classes.

3. Barre3

Barre3 fitness studios offer hour-long classes with free child care. No, you can't just leave the building and go shopping elsewhere. But yes, you can zone out to loud music and experience the very best kind of butthurt — the kind that makes your butt stronger than ever. It's not a cheap child care option, but it's an excellent solution for moms who struggle to find time to work out. Find a studio near you.

4. The grocery store

Many parents have no idea that local grocery stores offer child activity centers. Call around and see what your local stores have to offer. Care options range from a semi-supervised craft center somewhere in the store to full-scale drop-in child care. If you've ever shopped with more than one child, you know how soul sucking it is. From now on, only shop with a perky teenager watching your kids for you.

5. Michaels

At $2 a kid, Michaels craft store's child supervision isn't free — but it's pretty close. The cost covers supplies for kids ages 3 and up to spend 30 minutes making art while Mom shops. Craft stores are legitimately the most difficult places to shop with grabby kids, so the handful of change is completely worth half an hour of kid-free browsing. Activities are usually on Saturdays, so check the kid craft schedule.

More on child care

How to find child care you can afford
Everything you need to know about sick child care
After-school care options for every budget

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