When the last school bell rings, most kids cheer for summer! But many parents are left scrambling to find childcare options. Whether you choose a formal child-care center, family day care or hire an older student to help run your kids to summer camps, here are some tips to ensure that your kids have the best and the safest summer!
- Do some research. Ask other parents about caregivers they know and trust. When evaluating childcare or family day care centers, you can visit okdhs.org/childcare to review a center’s licensing, their “Reaching for the Stars” rating and a history of inspections and complaints. If you’re considering hiring an older student, ask for references and inquire about their driving history if they will be providing rides.
- Visit childcare facilities and ask questions before you decide. Find out about adult to child ratios, group size, caregiver qualifications, turnover and accreditation. Look around to see how the staff interacts with the children. Watch for caregivers down on the floor playing or holding little ones who need some extra care – that’s a good sign that the children are getting a healthy dose of interaction and love.
- Do a policy check. Ask questions about discipline, television, feeding, naps, field trips and the sick-child policy. Consider asking what their policies are on limiting one-on-one adult/child interactions and whether their staff has received training on recognizing and responding to child abuse. Ray of Hope can provide the Stewards of Children training to childcare facilities that would like to add this training to their caregivers’ knowledge base. If you’re hiring a caregiver or nanny, you can help set those guidelines, so don’t be afraid to speak up now about your expectations.
- Stay involved. Pop in at unexpected times to see how your child’s day is going. Offer to bring snacks or help with other projects when you’re able. Volunteer to read a book or join in special events, like field trips, birthdays or holidays.
- Most importantly, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right about a facility, person or situation, you should investigate other options.
If you have older kids, you might be wondering when is the right time to let them stay home alone during the summer months or when to let an older sibling help babysit while parents are working. Most experts recommend that beginning at the age of eleven or twelve, kids can begin staying alone for a couple of hours at a time. Talk to your kids to gauge their comfort level. While this is one situation where truly, a parent knows best, here are some things to consider.
- How does your child handle basic responsibilities, like homework or chores? How do they manage unexpected situations?
- Does your child know what to do in case of a fire, medical emergency or stranger at the door? Do they know what to do when there’s a tornado or a power outage? Can they call 911 and accurately give a telephone number and address to emergency personnel? Make sure they know at least two escape routes out of the home.
- Does your child know how to administer basic first aid for minor cuts, scrapes or burns? Do they know what constitutes a minor injury vs. one that might require medical attention?
- Does your child know how to reach you case of an emergency or when they have questions? Is there another family member, neighbor or friend who can be reached if you’re unavailable?
Be sure to establish some ground rules like, if friends are allowed to visit when parents are away from home. Or, are kids allowed to use the microwave, the oven or stove? Talk about Internet and TV rules. Talking through exceptions and what to do in unexpected situations can put both yours and your child’s mind at ease.
Remember that children and families are all unique and what works for another family might not be right for your family. Whether a child care facility, day camp or venturing into the independent teen years, some careful research, ground rules and planning can ensure your summer is spent with minimal worry!