Your 7 Options for Summer Child Care
Explore ways to occupy your kids' time this summer, when one type of care just won't do the trick.
You're in a dilemma. The kids are out of school and you need to fill their time -- somehow. Whether you're just looking for a break to run errands (and let them run off some energy), need to fill gaps between activities or are looking to create a full-day care plan, here are your summer care options:
Hire a Summer Nanny
The good news is that your need for summer care generally aligns with the employment needs of a lot of other people on a school schedule, including both students and teachers. Decide if you'll need a part-time babysitter or full-time nanny, then spread the word that you're looking for a quality caregiver. Nannies can be a lifesaver for working parents who can't watch the kids during the day or stay-at-home moms or dads who need some free time to get things done.
Start a Camp Co-op
Think nanny-share, but for summer only. While this might take more work on your part, the goal is to find a few neighborhood families and hire a nanny together. The idea is that this summer sitter creates a camp-like curriculum for half the price. Not only will watching children from multiple families increase the caregiver's income, but having a built-in play date is often more fun for the children. Just be sure that all families are comfortable with the sitter before agreeing to share care.
Find a Babysitting Co-op
A babysitting co-op among several families can prove to be a cost and time saver for working and non-working parents alike. This option incorporates a group of families who agree to watch each other's children, free of charge. Organization is key in these situations, as you'll want to ensure that everyone is putting in the same amount of time and energy while reaping equal benefits.
Enroll in Day Camps
Summer day camps, especially those with extended hours, are a viable, albeit sometimes expensive option for summer care. Just remember, a solid summer of long days at camp may not result in a happy camper. Try to mix up your children's camp experience and cut down on expenses by exploring local community center or church-based day camps that might offer less stress and more variety. While day camps might cover the need for daycare entirely, combined with family care or babysitters and flexible schedules, camps may be an integral part of your family's summer solution.
Get a Tutor
While summer is about having fun, it also leaves a lot of time for some productive learning opportunities. Your kids might (okay, definitely will) roll their eyes at the mention of summertime homework, but it will all be worth it once you see those grades improve come fall. Also keep in mind tutors don't only specialize in academia. Consider getting the kids involved in a hobby like learning to play an instrument or a special skill like learning a foreign language. When choosing a tutor, first decide on the areas your child could use some extra help with, then ask around for recommendations. Teachers and other parents with kids in your daughter or son's grade are great places to start. Also remember that while tutors are great for many reasons, they're not babysitters, so you'll likely only get a few hours to get some work done around the house while the kids are getting school-ready.
Explore Extra-Curricular Activities
It's important for kids to remain active, not only for their health, but also for your sanity. Nothing is quite as daunting as coming home from a long day to kids who are still bouncing off the walls with energy, and getting to drop them for a few hours so they can burn off some energy is a win-win. Ask your kids what they'd like to try this summer. Even if they're normally not the sports-playing type, chances are, there's something out there they'll take to. Does your child prefer team sports like soccer, basketball or softball? Or do they prefer more individual sports like swimming and tennis? Don't be afraid to think outside the box, either -- dancing, martial arts and gymnastics are also fun ways to get exercise.
Create a Hybrid Plan
If a full-time nanny or daily day camp just isn't a viable option for you, consider creating a hybrid plan in which you mix, match and combine childcare solutions. This can mean having the kids spend a few days with a nanny and attending camp three days per week, or combining a half-day camp with a half-day babysitting co-op. Whether you need to fill a whole day or just get a few hour breaks in the week with extra-curricular activities, supplementing one kind of care with a few other options can be a great way to break from routine and let the kids experience some variance in activities this summer.
Meredith Bower is a freelance writer in Baltimore, Md. Her work can be found here.
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