Working Parents and Summer Camp
During the school year, my son has aftercare five days a week after school. I do the drop off in the morning and my husband picks him up on the way home from work.
The summer? A whole different story. There are so many different types of camps and so many options to consider. If you haven’t sorted out your care coverage for the summer, I highly recommend you do it soon. Here in the DC Metro area, the best camps are filled months before school lets out and spaces are limited. We learned this lesson the hard way last year and the level of stress we incurred this time around is greatly decreased because we used that experience as a teachable moment.
Kids enjoy going to day camp whether both of their parents work or not...however, I’m going to focus on factors that households with both parents working full-time will want to consider when selecting a camp for their child.
- Your child(ren)’s age(s). For younger children, you’ll want to look for camps that offer on-site aftercare, especially if your child is not ready for riding a bus. Many do offer aftercare for an extra fee. From my observations, these fees are extremely reasonable and less expensive than if you hired a sitter for after camp. For older kids, do they swim on a swim team? If you belong to a swim club, ask around and see if there are any parents who could carpool and drop your child off at swim team and then you can pick them up after work and maybe enjoy a cool dip in the pool yourself.
- Speaking of fees. Make sure you take a look at what’s included in the fee. And more importantly, what’s not. Before and aftercare will no doubt be extra. However, when you’re comparing prices of day camps, find out what time the camp actually ends and aftercare begins. My advice is to look for aftercare that starts around 3:00pm or after. Aftercare, in most cases, tends to be a lot less structured. If camp ends at noon, your child may become bored with several hours of aftercare.
- Location, location, location. Ideally, you’ll find a camp near your neighborhood. Not only will your child be close to home, but it’s likely that they will also go to camp with familiar faces of friends from their neighborhood. However, you also want to consider commute time. Aftercare at day camps often run until about 6:00pm. Will you or your spouse be able to get their in time to pick up? If you’re risking a speeding ticket, you might want to consider a camp that is closer to either your office or your spouse’s. If you decide to go that route, try to reserve as many weeks as possible at the same camp so that way your child will establish friendships that they will be able to maintain all summer.
- Make sure to ask as many questions as possible. You don’t want to be distracted at work all day by worry that your child is unhappy or unsafe. Ask about their swimming policies...how are kids who are still developing swimming skills grouped together? A lot of camps will have the kids wear different colored wristbands indicating skill level. Also ask about water breaks, sunscreen application, and if there is medical staff on site.
- Finally, ask about communications policies. While it’s unlikely you’ll encounter a snow day during the summer, there can be unpredictable situations. Find out what they do in an event of a weather emergency, a power outage, or any other dangerous situation. You’ll want to know how they notify parents and what they do in the event that they have to evacuate before you can get to the camp to retrieve your child.
Summer camp is a great way for kids to spend the summer and for working parents to know they have a safe, fun atmosphere for their kids during the day. But it easily becomes one of the largest investments you’ll make all year. The prices of day camps vary widely and a lot of times (not all) the lower costs mean less experienced staff and less structure.