Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer and the Single Parent: Childcare Options When School's Out

The kids may be off of school but you still have to work.  So how do you keep them safe and happy without spending a fortune on summer childcare? As a single or co-parent it can be difficult to juggle schedules to make sure the kids have the supervision and entertainment they need and deserve on their summer break.

For me this is always a challenge as the word “daycare” freaks my son out. He has not had to be in a daycare setting since he started attending school, and this year with the completion of second grade under his belt, daycare in his words, is for babies.

So how can I juggle working full time and provide him with a fun filled summer without spending a bundle? There are many options available but finding what works for your family and your budget can be a challenge.

Summer Camp!

This is probably the most expensive of all options, but will prove to be a special treat for my son this summer. He was allowed to pick four camps to attend. His top two picks included a week of football camp and a week of wrestling camp. As luck would have it both camps are partially funded by a booster club fundraiser that was held during the corresponding sports seasons. So, each week of full-day camp will only cost me $55, not bad! His other choices were a week of Lego camp, and cooking camp offered by our school district; they cost $45 and $65 respectively—but are only offered half days.

Be sure to explore all of your camp options. You can look to your local YMCA, community or school system to see what’s available.

  • YMCA.  Our local YMCA programs offer daily scheduled activities the kids will love but, can run up to $175/ week for non-members and $95 / week for members 
  • Community camps.  Our local community offers various camps including: sports, art and crafts, and themed weeks. For residents the cost is around $55 / week, but are only half day programs.
  • School sponsored camps.  Our local school district has over 50 different summer camps available for kids over the summer months. They vary in cost based on the camp but, are typically between $35 and $65 but again, are only available for half days.
Filling in the Gaps

Obviously 4 weeks of camp, 2 of which are only half days are not going to get me through the summer. Here are a few ways I plan to supplement camp on the cheap.

  • Neighborhood Babysitters.  Believe it or not there are still some teenagers out there who are willing to baby-sit. Your mission is to find one that is still too young to work a regular job, but old enough to be “in charge”. The benefits of neighborhood babysitters include reasonable costs and proximity to your home.  Potential drawbacks include: reliability of a teenager, and potential irresponsibility (you come home to your child hanging from a chandelier). To help avoid this be sure to get references of previous employers.  I was lucky enough to find an older sister of one of my sons friends who is both reliable and reasonably priced. 
  • Don’t forget family.  My son has a grandpa that just retired and can’t wait to spend some quality time with him this summer! He will be on-hand to fill in when needed and provide hours of fun for my son. No retired grandparents? Consider a relative that teaches school and will be home for the summer. My sister-in-law is a kindergarten teacher and is available sporadically through out the summer. 
  • The “other” parent.  Don’t let the summertime childcare burden fall solely on you! If you have primary custody and your child spends the majority of the school year with you take advantage of school being out for extra visits with their other parent. Consider a few weeks or a month at their house. The benefits are obvious; quality time with your child’s other parent and some “down time” for you. Sure you will miss them but they need time with the other parent too. I am still working on this one; but I am hoping my son can spend some quality time with his dad this summer. 
Coming up with a summer time childcare plan can be frustrating and expensive. Be sure to use your resources when possible and don’t be afraid to ask for help! You want your child to have a safe and fun summer, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune.

What are your plans for the kids this summer?

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief Services. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and Major Life Challenges. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @ADivorcedMom where she shares her insights as a single-divorced mom with tips and tricks to keep your finances in check. 


  1. Summer camp sounds like fun! I always had a great time at it when I was a kid. Harlan is still too young but she still does a toddler summer camp that she loves!

  2. I'm one of those folks who are off in the summer, but I choose to teach summer school most of the time. That means 3-6 weeks of still working. My daughter attends an awesome daycare that allows us to pay for only the weeks she attends in the summer. Many don't do that -- we're blessed!

    Those weeks that I AM off in the summer, I try to find ways to keep my little one entertained and learning. We like to do "field trips" to local kid's museums, the zoo, and the library!

    I can't wait until she gets to the "camp" age! I went to summer camp as a Girl Scout, and those are some of my fondest childhood memories.

    Great post!

  3. @Gerri and Lauren: I have some of my fondest memories from summer sleep away camp. I can't wait until Aiden gets old enough for sleep away camp... I hope he loves it as much as I did.

  4. @mommyinthecity I too have fond memories of summer camp~I want to give my sons the innocence and wonder of childhood I feel he deserves.

    @Gerri Glad you enjoyed the post. Field trips are always fun for younger and older children and there are many low cost options out there.

    @Alicia My favorite summer memories as a tween were definitely sleep away camp~still not ready for my baby to try one of those...lol

  5. Great post!!.. I'm lucky that Ralphy's pre school offers a summer camp as well...

    Thank you for the post... very informative :)

  6. What a great post... much needed info... I'm lucky, because as a teacher, my kids and I are off together so there is no need for summer childcare. I am calling tomorrow for one camp for them. Other than that, we'll be traveling some for my sister's wedding and they will spend a week with their dad!

  7. Luckily this summer is an "easier" one for me as I am off school too and am not working. But, I do lose sleep thinking about what I'm going to do in the future. When I was in college I volunteered at a Boys & Girls club in the summer. You know, I don't know what/if any? the families paid but it was an all day thing and I think all the kids had a lot of fun

  8. This was a great post! Although my daughter isn't school age yet, I want to make sure that she has a variety of activities this summer to help prepare her for the school year, once it begins. I will definitely be using this post as my guidance!


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