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5 Summer Care Options: Weighing the Cost, the Schedule and the Fun

Katie Bugbee
Ingram Publishing

Ingram Publishing


Summer is quickly approaching, and if you have school-aged kids, you are probably thinking about how to handle the two to three months they’ll be bouncing off the walls at home. Whether you’re home with them or working all day, you will want to provide them with fun ways to exert their energy, learn new skills and create memories. But at what price?

Below are five summer child care options, organized by cost, but varying in the complexity and parental involvement (And for memorable summer activity ideas, go here.)

1. Parent Co-op: Free

This takes some coordination. First, you need five parents who can take one day off a week, for the entire summer (nine to 10 vacation days). Then, those parents need to be willing to care for five or more kids (including their own) for the entire day. Each weekday, all families’ kids get dropped at one host’s house where the kids get to have a camp-like experience, full of friends and fun planned activities. Parents can arrange to pack lunches, if host provides two midday snacks.

Pros: Completely free

Cons: Five or more kids might be too much for one parent to handle all day; it takes work to set up and plan around sick kids or each family’s vacation schedule.

2. Summer Nanny: $$

A lot of college students and teachers will be looking for rewarding summer jobs this season. This is perfect for working parents who want a sense of security, knowing their kids are being cared for on their terms. You can work with the nanny to challenge the children with summer reading and school skills, so they don’t fall behind. You can also find someone who would help coach your children in certain sports and skills, relieving the costs of activities and camp. Be sure to look for a nanny who is open to hosting friends and creating fun-filled days, so kids have a memorable summer.

Pros: You can go to work even if a child is sick. Nanny taxes for summer sitters are more affordable given the short time frame and child care tax credit. (Learn the post-tax nanny salary in your ZIP code.)

Cons: Kids won’t have a camp experience unless you pay for that, too, or ask your nanny to create daily playtime with friends.

3. Day Camp: $$

Who doesn’t want to swim, play games, learn sports, create crafts and meet new friends all summer long? Day camp options include specialty camp and more general interest camp. Most run between one week and four weeks long, giving you the flexibility to let your kids focus on different interests, or hang out with different friends.

Pros: Can be full of so many enriching activities you wouldn’t be able to teach yourself; can introduce kids to new friends; eligible for child care tax credit.

Cons: Can end earlier than your workday. If pickup is a challenge, you will need to find a camp with extended hours or someone to care for your child until you get home.

4. Camp/Activities + Sitter: $$$

With so many camp and activity options, you can book a child for hour-long lessons on certain days, or just a few weeks of camp, while having some downtime at home, as well.

Pros: No concerns about camp pick-up and drop-off; can schedule as many or as few activities for the kids, while still not worrying about sick days.

Cons: Most expensive option if kids are at home.

5. Overnight Camp: $$$

Combine the joy of day camp with the thrill of sleepover parties and you have “sleep-away camp.” Many camps take kids starting at age 7 and last a minimum of two weeks. Activities can include hiking, canoeing, ropes courses, sports, and crafts. Cabins often also give kids chores and responsibilities. Kids are (for the most part) disconnected from phones and iPads, leaving them to focus on playing and being active. Alumni often rave about their “camp-friends,” forming very close, long-lasting friendships.

Pros: You don’t have to worry about child care for as long as the children are away. Plus, you can take advantage of some kid-free weekends!

Cons: You might miss the kids more than you think; homesickness is a concern for many families, yet usually passes; cost is often high.

Katie Bugbee is the Senior Managing Editor and Global Parenting Expert at Care.com, the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care. A busy working mother, she’s an established expert on many parenting dilemmas – from appeasing picky eaters, to finding the perfect babysitter – and has contributed to the likes of Parenting Magazine, Babble, Working Mother, Huffington Post and Newsday. Katie’s background includes editorial roles at Nick Jr. Family Magazine, Seventeen, TheKnot.com, The Nest Magazine, WholeLiving.com and BobVila.com. She holds a BA from Boston College and lives in Massachusetts with her family.

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