Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

Whether it's a fun summer camp at a farm or increasing childcare, now's the time to make plans for long days of no school.

Have you finalized what you will do with the kids this summer or are you still making plans?

Summer options for children include: go to summer camp; continue the year-round childcare/daycare they already have; hire a nanny, au pair or babysitter; join a swim club with a babysitter; spend time with grandparents; or swap childcare with friends.

Which one of these ideas or combination works best for your family will depend on your child’s personality, your work schedule, and your budget. Here is a list of helpful suggestions to make this process a bit easier:

Assess your needs

Decide how much time you need or want your child in camp/childcare. Do you work full time? Is your job or your partner’s job flexible? Do you need childcare every day? All day? Half day? All summer? Part of the summer?

Decide how much you can afford to pay for summer childcare/camp.

Does your child already attend a daycare or school that has a summer program? Do you need something close to home or work? Will you drive your child if necessary or can you carpool? Is he/she ready to be outside of the home for childcare yet? Do you have family nearby that can help?

Are you looking for an opportunity for your child to interact with other kids? Lots of structure or minimal structure? For your child to explore a special interest such as art, swimming, or sailing? Does you child have special needs that factor into the decision?

Do some research

Once you have answered these questions, you may know your answer or have the necessary guidelines for conducting research:

Continue Existing Childcare / Daycare: Your child may already be at a daycare or have a nanny/au pair, and extending this option for the summer may be an easy solution. Some schools offer summer camps. Although the summer program will differ from the school year, your child may welcome a familiar setting (and familiar faces, in many cases). Alternatively, some parents prefer giving their kids (and themselves) a change in scenery by the time summer rolls around. You will know what is best for your child.

Find an Au Pair: The primary advantage of having an au pair is that your child (and you) have the opportunity to learn about another culture. Since the au pair will be living in your home, you can pick the childcare hours that work best for you. Often the au pair starts in early June and stays until mid-September. Other considerations include accommodating an extra person living in your home, the application process, and the cost of program fees and stipend. If you want an au pair for the summer you need to fill out an application and select one by April or May (depending on when you need them to arrive in June).

Summer Nanny/Babysitter: College students are often available in the summer for part- or full-time babysitting. And if you and your children love the sitter, hopefully they are available to stay on as an occasional babysitter during the school year. Check out local colleges and universities to see if they have a job board to post your request. Brown University has great online job board to search for babysitters or post a request. Another place to look is Ask your friends and neighbors for referrals. Some of my friends share a sitter, either alternating days or hiring a babysitter to watch the children from 2 to 3 families at one time at a designated home. This can work well–both in terms of keeping costs down and creating a social experience for your child that may be less intimidating than camp or other outside childcare settings.

Babysitting Coop: If your childcare needs are flexible, you may want to start a babysitting coop where a group of families agree to a set of rules and use a point system to track time in exchange for money to watch one another’s children. Read more about how to start your own coop on the BPN message board or NNCC website.

Pool Clubs: Although the summer swim clubs require children to have parental supervision, you can send a babysitter along to care for your kids or share carpooling and child watching with friends. These clubs often have a mix of structured activities like swim and tennis lessons as well arts and crafts and lots of opportunities for unstructured playtime.

Camps: Camps seem to run for a week (5 days) at a time. I have yet to find one that offers the à la carte option I was hoping for. If you find one, let me know. Some camps run half-day, others follow a typical school schedule (9-3), while others offer extended day options. Some camps provide discounts if you sign up for multiple weeks or if you enroll more than one child; some even offer financial aid.

Search the Kidoinfo list of camps to see the variety of camps in Rhode Island–everything from nature, arts and crafts, and theater to a combination of programs. Start looking early as some camps begin their registration process in January.

Before you choose a camp, make sure you've got satisfactory answers to the following questions:

It also may be helpful to visit the camp in person. Compare all the camps you visited and/or researched and consider which camp seems like the best fit you and your child.

Read more on GoLocalProv. Every week I share tips on how families can make the most of their family time – including helpful hints that make parenting easier and connecting you to great local happenings.

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