Kids rejoice that “school’s out for the summer” but parents facing three months without childcare may be singing a different tune. How do you manage daycare if you can’t afford a babysitter? You think like a detective and ask who, why, where, when and what. Then based on your answers, you develop a plan for free and low-cost summer childcare.
–Who needs care and who could provide it? Consider family dynamics, support network, childrens’ ages and needs. Are children old enough (12+) to stay home alone? Is one mature enough to care for siblings? Is there a neighbor home-alone kids could contact for help? Are there families with whom you could start a childcare cooperative? Do you have relatives who might babysit free? How about someone you could barter with for other services–yardwork, home maintenance, snow shoveling, hair-styling, meals, elder care, pet-sitting?
–Why do both need to work at the same time? Could one or both reschedule hours, take time off or move to a different shift for the summer? Why are both working? Are we making enough to justify added vehicle, gas and child care costs? Is one job not paying for itself? Could one parent work at home? Once you’ve reorganized all you can, move to the next question.
–Where could you go for supervised activities? What community resources offer child-minding activities. Our library lets kids seven and up stay alone if they behave. Libraries host children’s reading, summer programs and computer labs. Schools and parks and recreation departments offer free daytime activities, including lunch, for school-age children. Check museums, animal shelters, youth music programs, community theater, nature centers, YMCA, 4H, scout programs, zoos, gymnasiums, sports and aquatic centers for camps, activities, clubs and classes. Look for volunteer opportunities for older children: nursing homes, local, Humane Society. Churches run vacation Bible school and summer activities.
–When do you need childcare? Now create a master schedule of both parents’ work hours and kids’ activity calendars. Note times of sports practice, music lessons, day camp, VBS and activities you signed up for. Take advantage of these resources to cover times you’re both at work.
– -What? What resources do you need to manage summer childcare? Here’s a list.
—safe, well-maintained home
—safe neighbors kids can get help from
—access to a parent–via text, phone or email–for emergencies. If they’re always interrupting, it’s a sign they’re not be ready to be alone.
—outside time, not endless indoor screen time. Make sure they get it and require caregivers do likewise.
—Safe games they can enjoy at home: wading pool, badminton net, balls, bikes.
—Strictly enforced rules and safety regulations.
Not only are these tips budget-friendly, they help children learn accountability.