Guest blog by Judy L. Francis, Communications and Marketing Associate, Child Care Aware® of America.
Summer is a beautiful season to spend extra quality time with the family, whether you’re planting flowers in the garden, going for a swim at your local pool, or flying across the country together to your favorite vacation spot. But keeping children productive throughout summer vacation can seem like a difficult task. Research tells us that children who don’t engage in educational activities during summer vacation experience something called summer learning loss. According to the National Summer Learning Association, learning loss during the summer months can set children back nearly two months on their grade-level mathematical computation skills and low-income children can lose more than two months in reading achievement.
Children’s health can also suffer during the summer holiday. Unhealthy eating habits and inactivity can put children at a risk of weight gain and obesity. Unfortunately for most parents, the office doesn’t close when the weather gets warm. But there is a solution – a quality child care environment can keep children active and learning all summer long.
So for many families, the last months leading up to summer vacation mean a desperate search for a safe and educational setting where their child can spend 8- 10 hours a day. Get a jump on this year’s search and put your mind at ease early with these helpful tips below for finding quality summer child care.
One of the easiest and most common ways parents find care is through word of mouth. Ask trusted friends and family members with children for their recommendations. Most people are happy to share their experiences and will give you their honest feedback on any persons or programs they’ve used. If your social circle has a lack of quality recommendations, you may want to place a call to the Child Care Aware toll-free hotline. A program of Child Care Aware® of America, Child Care Aware® helps families locate child care programs in their communities by referring them to their local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R). Your local CCR&R will be able to connect you to a quality, licensed child care provider in your area.
What to look for
As with any search for child care, your priority will be the quality of the environment where your child will spend so much of their time. Schedule a time to stop by and see the school in action before you enroll. Make sure there is an adequate ratio of teachers to children. The lower the ratio, the more individual attention your child is likely to receive. Pay attention to how the adults interact with the children. Are they engaged and stimulated, or do the children look bored? Ask about the teachers’ qualifications. The more training and education they have in child development, the better they will be able to understand your child’s needs and help them learn.
If the program is summer-only and you are unable to visit an active center before enrollment, try to speak to the program director over the phone where you can discuss things like program accreditation, teacher turnover, average group size, and other important details.
Another option you may want to consider is enrolling your child in a summer camp. Local day camps can be active and engaging learning environments, and are often a great way to get your child more involved in a specific interest or hobby. Day camp costs may also count as an expense towards the child care and depend care tax credit, saving you money on your tax bill at the end of the year.
Have a Back-up Plan
Once you’ve chosen the best option for your family, don’t forget about a back-up care plan. Even the most reliable child care providers may be unavailable in the case of an emergency, or may want to take time off during the summer months for their own vacations. Check with your provider to make sure you’re well aware of any time-off they plan to take, and take steps to make other arrangements in advance.
With a little planning, summer child care doesn’t have to be an annual burden. Summertime should be carefree, but that doesn’t mean pressing pause on your child’s healthy development. Do you have tips for creating a summer care plan? Share them in the comments.