The average day camp costs $304 per week.

Image via Frank McKenna.

There are lots of things to love about summer: Warmer temperatures, beach days, and barbecues are a few things that come to mind. But, outside of vacations and long weekends, summer can also become a hectic and expensive time for parents - especially for single moms and dads.  

According to the American Camp Association (ACA), the average day camp cost is $304 per week. Sure, some families can afford to go this route and have their summer child care needs taken care of in one fell swoop. But for other families -- especially those on a strict budget -- this option is more or less out of reach. 

So, what do they do instead?


A Single Parent's Summer Child Care Challenges

Over the weekend, NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke with several moms and dads to learn more about how they navigate the unique challenges that summer creates for parents. Although the callers mentioned a variety of different obstacles, there were two in particular that seemed to stand out: the high costs of camps, as well as their off hours. (Camps typically start later than school, which creates a time conflict with parents' work schedules.)

Deborah Lederman of Nashville, TN, is a single mom and explained her situation to NPR:

"Being a single mom, I have to work all the time...I have to work very hard to find a way to keep Madeline, my daughter, in some sort of program so that I can go to work and not just be sitting in the house in front of the electronic babysitter. So it's hard to find the program that can meet my 8-to-5 work needs and get her where she has to be."

Lederman, like a lot of parents, struggles with the high cost of summer camps and the off hours.

"The summers come, and there's not many programs that support the working parent - and certainly not the single parent. Some programs are 9 to 12, which is great for someone that can drop them at 9 and pick them up at 12. And I just - I don't have that.

...Summer camp costs more than sending her to school. There are very few scholarships. The YMCA has done the best job that I could imagine. But camp still comes in at over $300 a week."


It's All About Creativity

In order to offset the high costs of summer camp, Lederman explained that she doesn't go on vacation, she keeps her family's travel local, and she shops at Goodwill. In addition to that, she also leans heavily on another resource: her community of family and friends.

"I rely very much on my friends to support me. I have a wonderful community of friends. And honestly, I couldn't do the single-parent thing without them and without my family...

I had dinner with a girlfriend last night who said, 'Just give her to me for a week, and then you don't have to send her to the camp and don't have to pay.' So my friends see my need, and they have been really great this summer to give some support."

Since she also works with other parents, they've turned keeping the kids busy into a team effort:

"Whether it's a babysitter or a friend that's taking them, we pass the kids around as much as we can to take them to the botanical gardens, to Cheekwood, or we take them to the park. Or on rainy days, they stay home or go to the museum, so it's an ongoing struggle...We find a way to make what we have work."


Additional Resources

If you're looking for alternative ways to keep your kids busy this summer, here are some additional Care.com resources you can use to find the perfect option for your family's needs:

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