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With spring breaks starting soon, parents all over Canada and the US are looking for ways to not only keep their kids entertained, but also, to find an affordable childcare alternative that won’t break the bank.
It’s no shock that with the increasing inflation happening everywhere, childcare costs have gone up too. Heck, one spring break day camp near me is $900 for just half days. Sure, it’s a mountain biking day camp, but you still have to bring your own bikes and food. That’s just insane. Heck, that’s almost a full month of rent for just 20 hours of care. i don’t know about you, but that’s WAAAAY out of my budget, and with most people still living paycheck to paycheck, day camps like these are just completely unrealistic. Especially for multi-children families. While the average day camp isn’t quite as expensive, most will still run you at least a couple hundred dollars per child.
So what are the options?
Well, since a majority of households in the US no longer have a stay-at-home parent, you sometimes have to get creative with your thinking. Being in touch with your neighborhood, community, and other parents from your child’s school can make all the difference.
Check out your local library
If you’ve read any of my articles before, there’s a good chance you know what a huge library advocate I am. (After all, that is what I went to college for). Local libraries are a great 0ption, as many of them have free programs that go far beyond just the stereotypical storytime. Many libraries now have programs like crafting, lego, tech, or science clubs, heck, some even have yoga programs!
Not sure where all the libraries close to you are? Go here and search by zip code, city, or state.
Pretty much anywhere you go, you can find a teen who will happily do childcare. Not only is it more cost-effective, but it’s also teaching teenagers valuable skills and giving them a source of income. In most states, there isn’t a minimum legal age for babysitting, however, it’s recommended that kids be at least 12 years old.
Feeling a little uncertain? I personally started babysitting when I was 12 years old. (Literally, the day I turned 12, I was babysitting a 6-month old). Honestly, I was a mix of a babysitter, mothers helper, and nanny from grade 8 until after I graduated college, and it was a great source of income, and most of the kids I was watching were already comfortable with me as they were the kids of my mom’s friends. If any of your friends have teens, or there are any in your neighborhood, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.
Makeshift play date camp
Okay, so you’re probably like, “What the heck is a playdate camp, Chloe?!” Well, chances are, you know other parents who are in a similar boat. They may all have full-time jobs, little exposable income, no extra time off, and a great need for childcare. So, make a make-shift play-date camp.
Instead of each family having a parent take a full day week off of work. Rotate your schedules, and coordinate so you each have one day off, and each day of the week, the kids will go to a different home and have a day-long play date. I don’t recommend doing it with more than 5 kids or so, because, well, that can be overwhelming. By rotating the schedule, though, and having the kids all spend a day at a different house, you’re all chipping in equally, and it can be a completely free daycare alternative.
P.S. the nice thing about having 3-5 kids is that they’re more likely to keep each other entertained.
Friends and family
Have friends and family close by? See if they may be able to help and watch your kids, even if only for a day or two. Since the kids will also have a week off straight, maybe Grandma and Grandpa would enjoy watching them for the week. As long as there within a half day’s drive, this could be a great option that won’t break the bank and give your kids lots of new exciting stories to come home with.
While they’re some great ideas, they may just not be possible. Here are a few other options that may just do the trick.
- Work from Home – If you have a job that will allow you to work from home, even if only on some days, try talking to your boss and seeing if you can do the week completely from home. Just make sure you find things to keep your kids entertained while you’re working.
- Bring Your Kids to Work Day – Obviously, this won’t work for every parent and every job, but if you work somewhere where it may be possible, it could be a great option.
- Call in your Sick/Vacation Days – I’d say this is more a last resort option, unless you have paid vacation days, but if worst comes to worst, call in sick. It’s not a great option, as there’s a good chance you’ll lose whatever income you would have made that day. If it’s just one or two days though, it may be a solution.
- Make a Trade – Have a valuable skill, or business? Offer to make a trade. Maybe it’s you make a bunch of freezer meals for a neighbor, or you help your friend deep clean their house, or maybe even help your parent’s finally tackle that giant basement or attic project or set up the garden for spring, or maybe you help someone get their website or business off the ground. If you can offer something to someone for helping, do it, and it doesn’t have to cost you money.
You have options.
Remember, no matter what this spring break throws at you, you are not alone. It can be hard to ask for help, (trust me, I know), but sometimes, it is your best option. In times like this, you sometimes have to rely on those in your support system. Just make sure you are not taking advantage.
So, what are you doing for childcare this spring break? Would any of the suggestions above work for you? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
About Chloe Morgan
Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her cute dog, Rhea.