Lining up summer child care is a process that often starts in the winter but unfortunately can go on until back to school time. It rarely works out that a single solution to summer child care does the trick, particularly for those of us who work at home. But even if you do have to employ several of these summer child care ideas, the sooner you make a plan for summer, the easier your life will be.
1. Summer Camp
Summer camp carries a lot of different connotations. Summer camp could, of course, mean the traditional overnight camp or it might be a general day camp or a specialty camp. But it might also include programs like "Vacation Bible School" or a school after-care program that runs a special summer camp. Though we think of summer camp as an outdoor affair, summer camp could be entirely indoors, as in a dance or museum camp.
For our purposes, let's define summer camp as a daily summer child care program that is offered for least a half day (but not necessarily every week of the summer). All of these options provide both child care for the parents and fun for the child. A child might attend the same camp all summer or try several different ones. Camp is a great option when you need daily summer child care, but it can get expensive.
2. Work Alongside Kids
Depending on your occupation and your children's ages, you may find that you don't need summer child care every day, or possibly at all. Even preschoolers and toddlers can entertain themselves for short periods of time while you work, and they, as well as infants, usually take naps. For these ages, make good use of naptime and have toys in your office. Older children should have a varied repertoire of everyday summer activities to keep them busy. Plus, try to plan out some parent-child fun time too.
3. Classes and Other Drop-Off Activities
If you can work in short stretches, you may not need summer child care as all-encompassing and expensive as camp. Several classes or other activities (that parents are not required to attend) strung together may provide you enough time to get work done. If you can arrange a carpool with other parents in the class, that extends the block of time you can work on some days. If you can't, bring along your laptop and wait the class out in a nearby wi-fi hotspot.
But do think about how many days your child might be absent before you sign up. If vacations and summer camp will mean a lot of missed days, your child (and your carpool partner) might be unhappy with the arrangement.
4. Babysitter or Mother’s Helper
If you only need part-time summer child care, arranging a babysitter can add flexibility to your work schedule because sitters work the hours you request. Many college and high school students are eager to babysit during the summer, and you can hire more than one person if their other engagements conflict with your schedule.
Also consider using a tween as a mother's helper in the summer. You may not get as much work accomplished, but you will be training a future babysitter. The downside to a babysitter, compared to camp or activities, is that the kids are still in your home and, perhaps, not having as much fun.
5. Rearrange Your Schedule/Take Time Off
For work at home moms with a flexible work arrangement, a new summer schedule is often part of the summer child care equation. Maybe you can work early in the morning, late at night or weekends. Another option is to enroll kids in camp for some weeks and work intensely while they are gone. Then simply take off the weeks they are not in camp or otherwise engaged, either going on a trip or a staycation. Or perhaps have your spouse take time off and spend it with the kids.
6. Take a Working Vacation
While we all need a real vacation from work, you might consider taking a working vacation, in addition to a real vacation. If your spouse can take time off or has a flexible schedule, take a trip and bring your laptop along. The kids will be better entertained than at home (and perhaps not even notice that you are working for part of your vacation), and you may get more done than you think.
7. Grandparents or Relatives
Summer is usually when it’s easiest for grandparents and other relatives to spend time with your kids. The school year is so busy with activities, and school holidays are sometimes just too short for all the visiting we’d like to do.
So summer is the time for kids to get to know grandparents better. If kids are old enough and grandparents are game, send them to the grandparents’ house to stay overnight. Another possibility is grandkids and grandparents vacationing together, leaving you home to catch up on work. Or if grandparents are local, you might work out an arrangement where grandparents provide child care. But whatever you do, be sure to look at it from all sides (i.e. grandparents’ and kids’ point of view) not just through the lens of your summer child care needs.
8. Set Up Regular Play Dates
Make regular play dates with children of other work-at-home or stay-at-home moms. You host one day, and then the child’s parents reciprocate on another day. This gives your child an opportunity for play dates both inside and outside your home. Make it an ongoing arrangement. For example, you host Tuesdays, and the other family hosts on Thursdays. Or invite other families and start a babysitting co-op. See other free child care ideas.