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Creating a Successful Summer Childcare Plan

School’s out in a few weeks and your school-age kids will be home for the summer–or perhaps their school year is already over. Their structured school days will end and it will be your job to fill their time each day! Whether you need full-time care for your kids or just someone to watch them a few hours a week, most parents need to develop a summer childcare plan.
Your childcare choices may be limited by the age of your kids and your summer work schedule. Some working parents opt for routine and choose a daycare program for their children. Other parents hire babysitters or a nanny for the summer. A choice some parents have is to ask family members or friends to help take care of the kids. Summer camps (day camps and overnight camps) are also a very popular option as they do more than just keep kids busy, they can enrich their lives!
Parents may choose one option or they can create a plan that includes many types of summer childcare. The benefits and drawbacks of each option should be carefully considered. The needs of parents and their children can differ greatly from family to family, and what might work for one family may not be the best solution for others.

Daycare Centers

Infants and toddlers can usually stay at the same daycare center year-round. Many daycare centers offer summer programming for school-age children as well. But keep in mind that older school-age children may object to attending a daycare with young children unless their friends are there too!
Licensed daycare centers usually have annual inspections and certified staff members who receive training throughout the year. They also provide a more stable arrangement than many home childcare providers. Drawbacks of day care centers include strict policies, larger child to adult ratios, and exposure to more illnesses.

Babysitter or Nanny?

Some parents hire a babysitter or nanny to provide childcare at home. In order for this option to be successful, it’s important to have a really good idea of the hours, schedule, pay, and expectations that you are asking the sitter or nanny to commit to. Communication is the key to everyone’s happiness!
Depending on the age of your children and the number of hours of care needed, high school students may be a great fit. You will save money with this choice, but it works best for part-time care. Students may enjoy children but working with them full-time is a big responsibility and it can be overwhelming. Even though it may cost you more, college students may be a better fit for summer child care in your home. And if you need someone to be deeply involved with your children and family because of your work schedule, a nanny may be your best choice. And if you plan ahead, a summer Au Pair may be a great option to expose your family to someone from another country and have a rich rewarding cross-cultural experience.

Family Members or Friends

Being able to have family members or friends watch your kids in the summer can save money and strengthen relationships. Grandparents might enjoy having the kids one or two days a week in the summer. And if your friends or neighbors have kids, having them care for your children makes sense too. Create a calendar of care where you share time covering child care for each other. A win-win for everyone involved!
This option is often used by parents who work part-time or as a way to fill gaps in their child care plan. But there are a few drawbacks to consider. You may need to take time off of work if the caregiver is ill or goes on vacation. Another issue is that people’s lives change and you may end up losing the child care you had counted on. Finally, even with good friends and family, there can be misunderstandings and hard feelings over the time and energy involved with childcare. This is another example of how important clear communication is to avoid problems.

Summer Camps

Spending a week at summer camp is a highlight of a child’s summer! Many day camps now offer extended hours to make camp a viable option for working parents. There are sports camps, music camps, nature camps, acting camps, and science and engineering camps. If you look hard enough, there are summer camps available for almost anything your child is interested in!
While many popular camps fill up as early as the fall through January, there are still many day camps with spots available. Try your local YMCA/YWCA, JCC, 4-H and other organizations, and check the free local parent publication for complete lists of camps in your area. Camps frequently have cancellations and you’re likely to find a good fit for your camper even at the last minute.
But sending your child to a new camp each week might not be the best decision. Even kids who are super active need time to relax and enjoy downtime during the summer. The cost of summer camps may also make you re-think the number of camp weeks in your child care plan. Summer camps may fit best as part of a flexible plan.
Parents need to consider their own needs and the needs of their kids to create a Successful Summer Child Care Plan. As much as we love our kids, most of them crave the activity and social interactions they have at school too. Careful Summer Child Care Planning can give you the support you need and the activity your kids need to have a happy and healthy summer!
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