Whether you’re looking for summer daycare for your kids while you work or you just want some fun new activities for your child while school’s out, you already know that filling your child’s vacation days is no walk in the park.
In some areas of the country, parents count on their kids attending a traditional multi-week sleepaway camp every summer. However, if camp isn’t in the cards for your family this year, Leah Ingram of Suddenlyfrugal.com says there are still plenty of creative—and often much cheaper—ways to keep your kids supervised and active this summer.
Create a day camp patchwork: Enroll your child in one or two “wow-factor” day camps that really excite him or her—such as kayaking, surfing, or the arts—even if they’re a little costly. Ingram, also the author of Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less, suggests filling the rest of your summer weeks with less-expensive day camps offered through your parks department, community college, YMCA or Boys & Girls Clubs.
Join forces with other parents: Share the services—and cost—of a nanny or college student with camp experience or education credits to fill. Plan to rotate headquarters from one house to another. Depending on how many kids are involved, the nanny/student could even take the kids on day trips to the pool, zoo, or children’s museum. If any of the parents have flexible work schedules, Ingram says they could supervise the kids’ group once a week in lieu of paying for the nanny share.
Hire a teenager: Younger babysitters (early high-school age) work best for half-day or part-time sitting opportunities; a full-time schedule might be too challenging for them. This may be your least expensive option, but you’ll probably need to help the sitter come up with ideas for activities and outings.
Get them working or volunteering: If your kids are tweens or teens, Ingram notes that summer is the ideal time for them to get a little work experience. And if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you and your ball of hormones would probably appreciate a break from each other. Can your teen lifeguard at the local pool? Become an assistant camp counselor? Volunteer at the Humane Society? Work on your library’s summer reading program? Some great places for your tween/teen to look for work/ volunteer shifts are through your house of worship, your local school, or websites like waystohelp.org.