Planning for Child Care Year-Round
Help! Do you have any advice for summer child care? Are summer camps really the answer? What do people do during lapses between camps?
Summer is right around the corner and it’s not too soon to start planning. While your need for child care is year-round, summertime offers special opportunities, as well as challenges. Do you fill your preschooler’s summer with various summer camps, or do you choose to keep him in his day care’s summer program?
Most daycare facilities undergo an exciting transformation in the summer months from their established program. Many facilities have warm-weather activities to keep children enrolled in their program. Daycares typically package weekly sessions involving field trips; swimming, water parks or splash days; art and music enrichment offerings; sports outings; and more. Frequently, parents enroll their children in a preschool or daycare and continue care during the summer. If your child attends the same daycare during the rest of the year, they will benefit from the consistency of being around the same teachers and their friends.
Unfortunately, many programs run on a “Summer Schedule.” They may not have the same routines so there will be some adjustment for your child. There may not be many educational elements and a lot of time in the school playground. To be well informed about the program, follow these guidelines.
- What will they be doing all summer? Be sure you know what your child will be doing, who will be caring for them, and what activities are planned.
- What is the policy regarding television use? Even facilities that frown on heavy television use may allow much more during the summer.
- Is the summer program staffed by the same teachers your child had during the school year? Very often the staff is cut because attendance is low. Some facilities use inexperienced staff fresh from high school to cut costs.
- What trips will be taken? How often will they be away from the center? Who will supervise trips? How appropriate are the destinations? (Your 3-year-old shouldn’t be taken to the Museum of Fine Arts unless they offer age appropriate programs for preschoolers.)
Parents may also face a dilemma about child care for their school-aged children. While everyone agrees that a 7-year-old shouldn’t be left alone all day, it’s less clear what type and level of adult supervision is appropriate for children ages 10, 11 or 12. Yet, studies show there are substantial risks for children ages 10 to 13 that stay home unsupervised—including increased risk of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and experimentation with other risky behaviors.
With older children—those in upper elementary and early middle school—the same activities and schedule each day rapidly become boring. For them, a variety of less-structured activities spread throughout the summer may work best. For instance, two weeks of day camp, a week of overnight camp, a couple weeks of park program activities and a week of a skills camp, like tennis or computers.
Sometimes a group of neighborhood parents may get together to arrange for informal supervision, with parents taking turns being at home one day a week to care for kids from several families at a time.