“School’s out for summer!” (*Queue Alice Cooper). Now, right about now, your kids are probably over the moon; but if you’re a parent, your head may be swimming thinking about the dollars you’re going to have to shell out for summer camp and various other activities to keep your children occupied and safe over the summer months. Luckily, finding affordable or free childcare options for the summer doesn’t have to be as out of reach as you may think.
YMCA – If you’ve ever visited your local YMCA, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to this organization than renting rooms. They’ve transformed much of their programming to make it more family friendly. Many offer full-day and/or half-day camps with a variety of different activities. Sticker prices for full-day camps can range from $200-$500 per week, depending on your city and the type of camp (specialized and shorter-term camps can run a little lower).
The good news here is that the YMCA almost always has discounts for parents who enroll more than one child (AKA sibling discount) or are members. Most YMCAs’ also have financial assistance grants or scholarships to assist low-income families.
Check out www.ymca.net to find information about summer camps in your area.
Summer programming at your local school – More and more public schools are offering free summer programming to provide safe alternative options for children and to also help prevent “summer learning loss” – that period of time during the summer months when educators believe that students begin to lose math and reading skills.
Check your local school district page for information about summer programming. Keep in mind that registration in these camps are often on a first-come, first-served basis.
Check out your local Parks and Recreation department – Leslie Knope would definitely agree that your local Parks and Rec. department is a great resource for free to low-cost neighborhood programming. Activities typically center around outdoor, physical activities, that promote wellness.
For more information, visit your city’s Parks and Recreation Department website.
Vacation Bible Schools – It depends, of course, on your religious affiliation, but local churches traditionally offer free community Vacation Bible School to children in their neighborhoods (snacks and transportation often provided).
Hours of the camp may vary and they don’t always cover the entire length of the summer, but it can be a great way to keep your children engaged during the day.
Do a summer nanny share – The average cost/hour for a nanny is $16 but can certainly be more depending on the level of education and experience of the provider. Consider partnering with another family to do a nanny share where you split the costs for a few weeks or the entire summer.
Here’s to a safe, productive, and engaging summer for you and your family!
Contributor: Christina Merriweather