I work full-time, what am I going to do with my kids over summer break?

Creating a summer schedule can help families manage the transition with planned vacation time as well as some academic activities to prevent the summer slide.

It’s that time of year again – class plays and award ceremonies that signal the end of a school year. The kids are excited and can’t wait for the adventures of summer to begin. However, parents who work often struggle with summer break. Creating a summer schedule can help families manage the transition with planned vacation time as well as some academic activities to prevent the summer slide.

Depending on the child’s age and the family situation, the changes can be large or small. Younger children who attend daycare after school often attend the same daycare for the entire day during the summer. If the family has a live-in nanny, the changes may not be too dramatic – just more nanny supervised time. But what about older children? There are many different options for childcare and these are all available during the summer months. There are, of course, pros and cons to every potential solution. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Maintain the Status Quo. If the family already has a full-time nanny or other available full-time childcare such as a relative or friend, then everyone’s schedule can be adjusted to account for the lack of school as the children stay home. Keeping the same childcare allows children to stay in an environment they know and with people they already trust. To create a summer schedule, the nanny or childcare provider can plan outings specific to the interests of the children. Special diets or exercise routines can be maintained or expanded. If the parents want the child to engage in workbook or reading activities to continue academically, the daily schedule can dedicate time to these activities.

Going from part-time to full-time is a significant increase in responsibility for the nanny or childcare provider. There should be back and forth discussions to ensure that expectations are clearly communicated, and compensation is increased appropriately. If there are going to be vacations and other times when the summer schedule may change, these events should also be discussed in advance.

2. Daycare. Most communities have multiple daycare options and run summer programs. Good daycare programs have scheduled activities that differ daily, often with field trips that are not included in school year programs. Children are generally grouped by age and the number of adults supervising children is usually regulated. Lunch is included and often breakfast is an option. Although summer daycare programs may not include academics such as reading or math, the social aspect helps children mature and learn to function in a group setting. Daycares are usually open longer hours and provide parents varying drop off and pick up times.

Day camps

3. Day camps. Many different organizations – including sports associations, scouting, and churches – offer summer day camp programs. Day camps are generally a week-long and may last for part of the day or all day. Parents can enroll children in camps with activities that are particularly interesting to the children such as sports camp, drama camp, or music camp. There are even some academic day camps that focus on STEM, coding, and creative writing.

Summer camps can help children learn new skills and examine different interests. Camps encourage friendships through the buddy system and provide age-appropriate levels of autonomy, so a child develops independence. However, most day camps do not run all summer and may not supervise the child during a full workday. To manage these gaps, a child may attend soccer camp one week and scout camp the next. After camp care is often covered by neighbors or family members as parents are generally responsible for getting the child to and from the camp.

4. Hire a Summer Nanny. If the family does not have a full-time nanny or family members who can watch the children, hiring a summer nanny may be an option. While babysitters are responsible for the physical safety and well-being of the children under their care, nannies should have invested in childcare training so they can create a daily schedule that provides engagement as well as intellectual, social, physical, and emotional development. Summer nannies can work in the family’s home to create age-appropriate learning environments, provide nutritious snacks and lunches, and lead fun, fitness activities. If you are thinking about hiring a nanny, check out this free resource, The Ultimate Guide on How to Hire a Nanny.

The Ultimate Guide to Hire a Nanny

Every family is unique, and these are not the only options for summer childcare. Although the best solution for your family may be one of the above, a combination of family support, daycare, day camps, and paid childcare can provide quality care. For example, if you are thinking about hiring a summer nanny and have a close friend in the same situation, you may want to hire a single full-time nanny and have her watch both children. Or maybe, the child goes to summer camps for specific weeks, visits family for a couple of weeks and spends the rest of the time in daycare. Decide what your goals are for summer care, research the options available in your area, and discuss the options with older children to determine the best fit for your family.

Summer Food Fun for Kids

Summer is a wonderful time to be creative with food for kids of all ages and to get them to try new things.

fruit on bagel halves

We all have our favorite summer foods – meat on the grill, fresh corn on the cob, berries and other fresh fruits. Summer is also a wonderful time to be creative with food for kids of all ages and to get them to try new things. From trips to the farmer’s market to harvesting a backyard garden, there are a ton of ways to introduce children to the variety of nutritious foods available in the summer. The next time you are in the fruit and vegetable section, let the children pick out a new food to try. Here are some other age appropriate activities to help children learn about food and nutrition.

Toddlers like to play with food and it teaches them fine motor skills. So, it’s fun to transform eating healthy a craft project. Cut various fruits and vegetables into different shapes and let the children create art on their plate. You can use various things for the base – try bagels which can bet cut and laid out to form a “snake” and decorated with cream cheese, peanut butter, fruit, seeds, and nuts. Then, take a picture to show off their work! While creating and after it’s complete – let the kids dive in a try the various parts of their art project!

Preschool children can create their own shapes, letters, and numbers from various fruits and vegetables. Grab the cookie cutters (the metal kind are best) and make stars from pineapple slices and hearts from watermelon. Use wooden skewers and create ‘stick people’ or kabobs from apple slices, carrot sticks, and cherry tomatoes. When grilling, let the kids pick the vegetables that will be grilled with the meat so they each have their own personalized veggie side. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables they picked out.

Older children usually love smoothies. Have a selection of fruits and vegetables available. Encourage the children to try new combinations and analyze the ingredients with respect to nutrients to develop healthier smoothies that they love to drink. Carrot juice may sound funny to kids but when mixed with bananas and strawberries, it can add some healthy nutrients to the natural sugars in the fruit. Not all smoothies have to be sweet and full of fruit. Encourage the use of vegetables such spinach and kale to increase the nutritional value and expose the children to different tastes.

4th of july themes popsicles

Everyone loves dessert and summer is the best time for frozen goodies! Home-made ice cream is always a huge hit and each person can add their own toppings. You can also make your own yogurt pops with berries or nuts. Fresh lemonade can be frozen as well as low sugar grape juice. Let them freeze and enjoy a special cold treat on a hot summer day.

8 Classic Games to Play with Kids this Summer

Here are 8 favorite summer games and activities that will make you remember the old days while making new memories for children.

Do you remember all the fun you had playing games as a child? Maybe you lived in a neighborhood where all the kids rode bikes together or went to the community pool. Maybe you built a lemonade stand or just watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons. Those days were fun and of course, we’d like to create the same type of memories with our children or the children in our care. Here are 8 favorite summer games and activities that will make you remember the old days while making new memories for children.

1. Hide and Seek. This game is great for all ages because you can ‘hide’ in plain sight or behind a curtain for toddlers and preschoolers with challenging hiding places like in cabinets or closets for older children. Make sure children can’t get stuck or hurt in hiding places. You can even play a version in the pool, known as Marco Polo. Just have one person close their eyes, say, “Marco” and all players have to respond with, “Polo”. The sightless seeker listens for players to swim towards and tag.

2. Capture the Flag. For younger children, it’s a simple game of hiding the flag and having the children find it. Older children can be divided into teams and can strategize how to protect their flag while seeking their opponents. For middle schoolers and older kids, a taser tag element can be added so that opponents are knocked out of the game.

Fly a Kite with Your Kids (and Teach Them a Bit of Engineering)3. Kite Flying. Kites are also fun for all ages – from putting them together to getting them in the air. Younger children can be awed by helping a kite get launched or being able to hold the string as it flutters above. High school-aged children may try kite blading – using a kite with inline skates or a skateboard.

4. Climbing. Children often begin climbing in the house on furniture, but many also enjoy climbing outdoors. Climbing can be as simple as a toddler walking on a fallen log or scaling a tree in a nearby park – with close supervision of course. For older children who are interested in advance techniques with helmets, harnesses, and ropes, there are often professionally lead high rope obstacle courses nearby. These courses may include free climbing, self-belayed, or lead climbing depending on the type of climbing.

family playing a board game5. Board Games. Everyone seems to have their favorite board game. There are many to choose from and they run the gamut of ages from toddler through adult. Younger children can play simple board games and matching card games. They don’t really strategize, so simple games of chance are best. Older children have more critical thinking skills and generally enjoy games that require strategic thinking over simple games of chance.

6. Water Games. Water fun can take many forms – playing in a kiddie pool, running and jumping through a sprinkler, and swimming in a pool or lake. Always have an adult to supervise children in the pool. Even if they know how to swim, they can get in trouble. Whether it’s creating a slip and slide, a game of water balloons or shooting water guns, kids love to cool off in the summer.

7. Bikes and Go-Karts. Summer is a great time for tricycles, training wheels, and the freedom of riding a bike. Whether it’s riding around the neighborhood or going on nature trails, children will enjoy getting out. Younger children may enjoy riding around the neighborhood or a short ride on a bike trail. Older children may enjoy longer rides with stops at favorite places like the ice cream store. Instead of riding a bike, older children may be more interested in using the summer to build go-karts and have a few races to see which design works best.

Mother playing with children in bedroom8. King or Queen of the Fort. Great for all ages, forts can be built indoors or outside. On rainy days, a fort can be created with blankets draped across the living room furniture. Outside, a tarp or tent can be used to create the fort. Costumes and props can be used to enhance the fantasy feeling. A play could be added to transform the fort into a movie set. For older children, designs can be drafted, and supplies provided to build a clubhouse using cardboard, a heavy-duty staple gun, and duct tape.

Summer is a great time to connect with children and have some genuine fun. Playing games with family and friends can make an ordinary summer day memorable. Use the summer as a time to play with your children or the children in your care. Hopefully, these games and other classics will be fun!

5 Water Safety Tips – Just in Time for Summer

Although this article doesn’t cover all aspects of being safe in the water, these tips can provide a safer, more enjoyable time at the river, lake, beach, or swimming pool.

Now that school is out for the summer, almost every day, my son asks if we can go to the beach or the pool. Since I also love the water, we go often but I’m always aware that drowning is the second most frequent cause of death for children up to age 14*.

To help keep my son safe in the water, I follow these 5 behaviors:

  1. Swim in designated areas with lifeguards
  2. Wear life jackets
  3. Do not get distracted or drink when supervising children
  4. Be a strong swimmer and teach children to swim
  5. Be aware of the weather (thunderstorms) and use sunscreen

Although this article doesn’t cover all aspects of being safe in the water, these tips can provide a safer, more enjoyable time at the river, lake, beach, or swimming pool.

children swimming with blow up rings1. Respect Life Guards and Aquatic Life. Whether at the beach, visiting a lake, or heading to our community pool, we always swim in designated areas with life guards. Lifeguards are employed on a 1:100 ratio and this is based on the expectation that parents or care givers will provide direct supervision of their children. Children under 10 years old must be accompanied and constantly supervised by a parent or care giver over 16 years of age.

It’s important to follow all lifeguard instructions as well as flag warnings. Different beaches and states have different colored flags and assigned meanings, so be sure to ask the lifeguard if you’re not sure what the flags signify. In general, red flags indicated the beach may be closed or there is a high hazard caused by surf or strong currents. Yellow flags indicate a moderate hazard and that waters may be rough and care should be taken if you are not a strong swimmer. Green means low hazard with calm conditions but be aware that currents will naturally push you down the shore. A purple flag indicates there is potentially dangerous marine life such as jellyfish which have been spotted in the area. Please leave animals alone including sea stars, sand dollars, and animals in sea shells. When handled by humans, even when handled gently, these delicate animals are often so severely injured, the interaction leads to their death.

2. Wear Life Jackets. It is important to Invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices or PFD’s which are also called life vests or life jackets. Since infants and children come in many sizes and shapes, the U.S. Coast Guard and personal flotation device (PFD) manufacturers urge that PFDs be tested immediately after purchase. Check the PFD for the proper weight range, comfortable fit, and especially a stable face-up position in water. You should test your PFD in a swimming pool and test it with the infant or child who will be wearing the PFD. To check for a good fit, pick the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. If the PFD fits right, the child’s chin and ears will not slip through. Some infants and children float best in one style of vest, while others will float better in another. To work as designed, a PFD must fit snugly on a child. Parents and care givers should remember that inflatable toys and rafts should not be used in place of life jackets.

asian girl in pool3. No Distractions or Alcohol. Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water including in the presence of lifeguards. Thus, it’s important to make sure at least one person is fully dedicated to watching children in the water. When tasked with this responsibility, you must keep focused and not get distracted. Cell phones should be put away, ear buds should be taken out or the speaker volume for music should be set to low. Conversations with others should allow for your focus to be on the children with your chair or standing position such that you can see the children at all times. If children are not wearing a life jacket, you should be in the water with the children, no more than arm’s length away. It’s easy to get distracted with a quick call or searching for a snack in a beach or pool bag but these can be the precious seconds or minutes when your attention is needed to save a child who needs helps in the water. Remember that you are responsible for the safety of children in your care, even if there are lifeguards. Adults often enjoy the summer time and water sports with alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and liquors. For everyone’s safety, avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, water skiing, and other water sports. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children as alcohol reduces balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.

woman swimming with child4. Know and Teach Swimming Skills. Teaching children to swim can be a fun activity for both adults and children. Children ages 2 to 4 years old are coordinated enough to begin learning to swim. Kids under 4 years old and who do not know how to swim should wear a life jacket, even in the pool. Kids over 4 years old should take swimming lessons. As children learn water skills, remember that they are not yet strong or independent swimmers and still require full supervision. Don’t assume that a child who knows how to swim isn’t at risk for drowning. All kids need to be supervised in the water, no matter what their swimming skills.

5. Weather (Thunderstorms) and Use Sunscreen. When planning a day of fun on the water, it’s important to check the weather conditions and use sunscreen. Adverse weather includes a high heat index or thunderstorms as they may impact water activities. As a storm or thunderstorm approaches, pools and other activities should be stopped and the water evacuated when there is a threat of a lightning strike.

Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance for developing melanoma, or skin cancer later in life. Racking up more than five sunburns at any age also doubles the risk. Thus, it’s important to keep sunburns away by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB with an SPF 15 or higher. SPF stands for the sun protection factor and is an indication of sunscreen effectiveness at preventing sunburn. Infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun as their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. An infant’s skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair, and eyes and provides some sun protection. Therefore, babies are especially susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects.

boy on paddle boardFor older children, sunscreen should be applied generously 30 minutes before going outdoors so the skin has time to absorb it. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet. Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after the child swims or exercises. This also applies to waterproof and water-resistant products. Sunscreen should be reapplied per the directions but at least every 2 hours and as often as every 90 minutes for children who are more susceptible to sunburns.

Water play is an important part of summer fun, so enjoy the local pool or head to the beach! To learn more water safety tips, enroll in the Water Awareness course offered in the Basic Childcare program by Amslee Institute at AmsleeInstitute.com.


About the Author. Elizabeth Malson is a Certified Emergency First Responder Instructor and Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Elizabeth is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies and Sitters.

*Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. [cited 2017 June 24]. Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.

5 Ways to Reduce the Summer Slide

Summer learning loss, the summer slide, or summer setback is the when school age students return to school in the fall at lower levels of achievement than before the break.

School’s Out! School’s Out! Children love this chant and we are about to hear it a lot as we near the end of the school year. After all, summer is a time for sun, fun, and relaxation. In addition to planning vacations, have you thought about adding some structured learning?

Summer learning loss, the summer slide, or summer setback is when school-age students return to school in the fall at lower levels of achievement than before the break. The learning loss can be as much as 30% of their previous school-year achievements. Their skills – especially in reading and math – can regress. As a childcare provider or parent, what can you do to minimize the summer slide?

child reading a book1. Daily Reading. Reading is an important aspect of learning and the best way to keep up academic achievement. Set a goal to read at least one chapter book a week. Let the children pick out their own books so that they enjoy their time reading but encourage them to read about science, history, and other topics. For beginner readers, encourage them to read to you every night before bed and help them with challenging words. For older children, they should read on their own each day. You should take an interest in their readings by asking questions during dinner about what was read that day.

2. Incorporate math into everyday activities. Adding math to your conversations requires some though but once you get into it, the amount of math you can add to your day will surprise you. A young child learning numbers and shapes can read house numbers during a neighborhood walk. Children learning fractions can help with cooking by measuring the ingredients. Older children working with percentages can help figure out a tip at a restaurant or the cost of an item on sale.

child playing with puppet doll3. Structured Playtime. Help children use their imagination to create stories and plays. Younger children love making up stories and can use old boxes and crafts to create a stage. Older children may enjoy filming themselves in a movie or writing a short story. For older children, a summer project such as building a model airplane, coding a simple video game, or mapping constellations can be fun.

4. Local trips. Your local community may have some great attractions including parks, parades, fireworks, and museums. Take time to attend some of these community events. A trip to the local historical park helps young children understand their history and how their town evolved. On the 4th of July, talk about the history of how our country was founded and teach them about US flag etiquette. If you visit a museum, encourage the children to read about the exhibits and talk about what they see.

child on bike5. Make it fun. Incorporate learning into whatever activities you do as a family. If you are camping for the weekend, talk about how fire impacts the forest and why it’s important to pick up trash and keep the animals from eating human foods. If you enjoy bicycling, review a book on birds and trees and spend some time on a bike trail learning about how the ecosystem works together with rivers, plants, and animals. A summer thunderstorm creates the perfect opportunity to research and learn about weather phenomena.

On average, a child loses 1-2 months of learning during a summer without instruction. This academic regression can be reduced with some thought and planning while still keeping the summer relaxed and fun. Children in your care can stay active, involved, and learning all summer long.