For some families with children, summer is typically defined by its carefree aura, where the troupe treks to exotic beach locales, frequent exciting amusement parks and generally has a relaxed, fun few months. But that’s not the case for all families. With school out, it’s common for many to struggle to balance child care with work — because, in most instances, working adults don’t get summer breaks.
And while the only true remedy to summer child care challenges is making child care more affordable and accessible, sometimes, it helps to take a few pointers from the pros themselves –– aka other parents. Here, they share their top tips.
1. Dive into the search ASAP
Mo Mulla, founder of Parental Questions, says she tries to be proactive and start looking for a nanny or babysitter early in the year — in other words, well before summer break hits. “This way, I have plenty of time to interview and screen potential candidates,” she notes.
2. Ask around
“My number one tip for parents finding the right caregiver for their kids is to ask for recommendations,” says Elizabeth Hicks, cofounder of Parenting Nerd, who adds that a nanny’s credibility soars if their referral comes from someone you know and trust.
Hicks also recommends asking potential candidates about their caregiving philosophies, like their views on discipline. “Consider their temperament and personality,” adds Hicks. “That’s because the [caregiver and children] need to vibe naturally.”
3. Find a summer camp
“Before I worked full-time from home, I would resolve the issue by making sure the kids had supervised summer activities to attend during my working hours,” says Rachel Fink, the founder and CEO of Parenting Pod. “There are plenty of summer day camp options, as well as summer day activities with licensed childcare professionals.”
Jennifer Beale, a small business owner and mom to two elementary-aged kids says, “Look at your local YMCA and other community programs for their summer schedules.”
You can also browse summer camps through the American Camp Association.
4. Connect and collaborate
“Finding summer child care programs is tough, especially if you’re a working parent who does not spend much time at home,” explains Meera Watts, founder and CEO of Siddhi Yoga. “The only thing that has helped me is my friends’ support.”
Jaya Aiyar, founder and CEO at Créatif and Créatif Franchise, agrees, advising, “Talk to other parents and ask around at school to find parents who are having the same struggle. Ask if you can take turns at work and mind each other’s children. PTA at the school can recommend local childminders providing care for children, other parents may help you with some childcare arrangements.”
5. Take the stress out of meal planning
For Smriti Tuteja of Yogic-Experience, parent to a 5-year-old and 2-year-old, mealtime can be a particularly stressful experience in the summertime. That’s where batch cooking and freezing come into play. “I normally do batch cooking over the weekends and freeze meals to ensure that weekdays are not weighed down by any extra tasks,” she explains.
6. Curate a mix of chores and activities
For Ling Ling Fung, founder of Australia-based Metro Baby, keeping her kiddos on track with what she refers to as a “schedule of calls” helps to ward off idle time.
“A schedule of calls is a breakdown of to-do’s that will help keep your kids feeling busy and loaded during summertime,” she explains. And while this can run the gamut, from signing them up for swimming lessons to executing household chores or scheduling play dates with friends, Fung is a big fan of showing them a new (time-consuming) hobby.
“Let them learn a new hobby [like] gardening or cross-stitch,” she suggests. “You can also alternate the schedule so it doesn’t feel repetitive for your kids.”
7. Consider day care
Summer child care providers do much more than just look after your child, says Elanna Yalow, chief academic officer of KinderCare. “They are an important part of continuing your child’s learning and development after the school year is over and can be a great resource and support to set your child up for success in the next school year,” explains Yalow.
Here, she offers her top advice for picking the right facility:
Visit the day care facility beforehand.
“If you’re able to visit the program ahead of signing up, look at the interactions teachers and children have with one another. Are the teachers interacting with the children on the child’s level? Are the children engaged with the activities they’re doing and having fun? Will the program provide you with a level of communication that will make you feel comfortable leaving your child in their care? If you think your child will feel welcomed and valued for the unique person they are and happy in this program, then you’ve found the right place,” explains Yalow.
Interact with the day care owner/director.
“Is the director [of the day care center] responsive to your questions and knowledgeable about those areas in which you’d like more information?”
Find out how flexible their schedule is.
“Families’ schedules change, so ask if the program you’re considering offers part-time or full-time programs,” Yalow recommends. “Remember to ask about everyday schedule changes too. If you need to change your drop off and pick up times, will the program be able to accommodate those changes? Understanding the program’s policies around schedules will give you a better idea of whether or not the program will be a good fit for your family.”
Make sure you’re onboard with the curriculum.
“The program should be intentional, with activities that build a child’s academic and social emotional skills. There should be opportunities for group and free play as well as outdoor play,” says Yalow.
Ask about the program’s health and safety protocols.
“Make sure that your potential summer program has clear guidelines on when a child must stay home due to illness and a well-developed plan in place for a range of illnesses, particularly COVID,” explains Yalow, noting that all programs need a clear and detailed emergency plan for parents to review. “Directors should be able to clearly articulate their safety plans and policies and explain how their staff are trained to handle a variety of safety issues.”
8. If you’re struggling, know you’re not alone
For Ashley, mother-of-two to a 2-year-old and 3-year-old, working full-time — while her partner also works full-time — has been a major struggle. “It has been extremely hard to find child care because of how expensive it is,” she shares. “What is the point of working when your entire paycheck goes to someone else raising your children?”
She adds, “Society really makes it hard for working mothers to succeed.”
Nonetheless, she’s preserving and making a tough situation work with her partner. “I work opposite schedules from the father of my children, so I wake up with them, take care of them and then leave for work when he gets home,” she says. “He then is in charge of dinner and bedtime. It has been a little rough for both of us to adjust, but it is really the only option we have right now.”