Summer Camp Co-ops

A fun and affordable summer child care option that you manage with other families.

Kids playing in a park

If you are looking for ways to save on child care and day camp this summer, consider forming a Summer Camp Co-op through Care.com. By creating your own day camp with other parents in your neighborhood, you can be certain that the care will be affordable and trustworthy, and provide unique learning experiences for your child.

Co-ops are formed when a group of parents take turns caring for everyone's children. During the summer, parents can turn the co-op idea into a summer camp by committing to at least one day per week of care. If the co-op is comprised of five families, then one parent from each family is in charge of creating a fun summer experience for all the kids on just a single day out of the week. This leaves the other parents free to go to work, run errands or maybe even find some relaxation time during the other four days!

These arrangements are easy to organize. Here are five simple steps to put you on the right track.

If the parents are busy this summer, see if the caregivers can create a similar set-up called a nanny camp. To learn more, read What Is a Nanny Camp?

Step 1: Contact the other parents in your area and ask them if they can commit to a single day per week.

Step 2: Logon to www.Care.com/Co-ops and create a co-op. You will be asked to fill in general information about the co-op group and then you can send an e-mail invitation to the other parents.

Step 3: Complete the co-op charter -- this should contain rules that all the parents are comfortable with and can agree to follow.

Step 4: Consider creating a theme for your co-op! Pull ideas from what you know -- if parents have interesting hobbies or even speak additional languages, teach new skills to your kids through fun activities. Here are some suggestions:

  • Like gardening: Have the kids help you in your own garden and give them seedlings to take home and plant. After harvesting, teach them how to cook delicious meals with the vegetables they grew themselves.
  • Speak Spanish (or any additional language): Give the kids regular Spanish language lessons on your camp co-op day. Take them out to a Spanish or Mexican restaurant and encourage them to order with their new vocabulary - it's ok to make mistakes!
  • Know how to sail: Teach the kids to recognize the different parts of a sail boat, how to tie knots, boating safety, and then take them out on the water for a cruise (this day might involve all the parents).
  • Love to hike or camp: Chart out all of the age-appropriate hiking trails in your area and pack picnic lunches. First aid and wilderness survival skills are great tools for kids to learn.
  • Cook like Julia Child: If you are a fantastic cook, share your knowledge with the kids! You can easily vary the difficulty level for different ages, and each kid can contribute his or her own dish to an end-of-summer feast.
  • Are passionate about anything! Share your passions with the kids -- you'll have fun, they'll learn something new and the summer will fly by before you know it.

Step 5: If the co-op is a success, consider continuing the arrangement after the summer ends as day or after-school care. Care.com provides a point tracking system that replaces the exchange of money for care. Get started today! To establish your own do-it-yourself co-op, click here.

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