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Each month, you'll be able to get answers directly from experts covering a wide range of parenting topics. You'll also have a chance to share your own expert tips with other parents. Join the conversation!

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Boys and Summer Reading

by Jen Robinson

Following up on her summer reading Q&A, children's book enthusiast Jen Robinson is offering tips on getting boys into books. Ask her a question. Read and Comment »

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Planning for Summer Child Care

by Sheila Marcelo

Sheila Marcelo

Sheila Lirio Marcelo is the founder and CEO of Read more »

Sorry, Sheila Marcelo is no longer taking questions.

Summer will be here before you know it. Our little ones are counting down the days until school lets out (less than six weeks in many school districts!). When that happens, families will have to fill anywhere from eight to ten hours a day of child care. Summer isn't only a difficult time to plan and arrange child care, it's also the most expensive part of the year. 

The average family can spend up $7,000 per child during the summer months. That's half of their annual child care budget! I asked our members if they planned on cutting back for the summer. In this economy, it wasn't surprising to see that 75 percent planned to find money-saving alternatives this year.  

In the past, Ron (my husband) and I always put our boys into summer camps. But, this year, with the economic downturn, we've chatted about some other creative ways to cut costs while still making sure our 9-year-old son, Adam, enjoys his summer. For example, Adam would love to go to a baseball camp, but that quickly gets pricey. Our local town camp is a great alternative since it's more economical and many of his school friends would be there, too. Of course, with the local camp, we'd have to figure out after-camp babysitting... planning just never ends, does it? 

If you're thinking about your child care plans for the summer, I've put together some ideas to keep the season fun for your little ones, while staying friendly to your family's budget.

Enlist Backup Babysitters

We ran another poll within the last few weeks asking members what kind of child care they'll need for the summer. The biggest response? A babysitter.

Before you hire a sitter, make sure you check the market rate. With college students looking for work, babysitting rates may be lower than other times of year. This handy salary calculator can keep you up-to-date on the local babysitting rates.

In the summertime, schedules can get crazy between work and the kids' activities, so prepare a backup list of caregivers. Sitters get sick (or take vacation), so you'll need extra help.

If you can, try using friends or relatives. Maybe they won't be your primary babysitters, but just using them as alternates can save money. You'll just have to help them out in return.

Share Sitters  
Share the cost and split a summer sitter with a neighbor or two! This works great, especially if you're like my family and only have one child who needs a sitter. With the economy the way it is, most regular babysitters are used to these cost-saving arrangements, but you still want to be sure not to overload them with too many children. Try not to have them watch more than three kids under age 6, four kids under age 12, or more than five of any age.

Co-operation is key! 
Care exchanges or swaps are great for setting up playdates and saving some money.
They help parents connect with other families looking to share sitter services (for kids and pets). They're also an easy way to meet a family like yours and trade off babysitting shifts. However you set up an exchange, remember this--one day a week of free child care equals a 20 percent savings over the whole summer.

Summer Camp Savings  
Many families are concerned about summer camp's cost. There are low-cost alternatives, though. Day camps can be great money-saving alternatives to overnight camps. And church or community camps often attract a wide range of local children, are usually pretty affordable and have a ton of activities for kids of all ages.

School's Out, Education Isn't 
It's summer break for teachers too, you know. Many of them spend their summers as a
tutor to pay the bills. Instead of camp, why not hire one for a day each week to teach hobbies and skills? Make it fun for your kids so they don't think it's a chore--pick a subject they're already interested in and create playdates by inviting friends. They'll enjoy themselves and their brains won't go to mush (which makes moms like me happy).

I hope these tips have been helpful! Let me know what you're planning to do this summer. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help find answers that'll fit your family.

Sorry, Sheila Marcelo is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.


nicole writes...

Sheila, we've used the same sitter for occasional nights and weekends for two years. Should we have offered her a higher hourly rate by now? We currently pay her $15 per hr. for two kids in No. VA. Thanks.

Sheila? writes...

Nicole, good question. Northern Virginia is one of the most diverse areas of the United States, with living arrangements and incomes all over the scale, so it can be tough to figure out how much to pay for child care. I checked the babysitter pay calculator ( and it looks like your $15-per-hour is spot on.

However, since your sitter has been with your family for so long, it might be a good idea to give her a small raise to thank you and to show your appreciation. If your family can afford another dollar an hour, I’m sure your sitter would appreciate it! And it would only push you slightly above the median sitter salary for your area.

Thanks for the question!

Sophia writes...

Hi Sheila,
A couple of years ago I hired a 17 year-old highschool student who lived in our neighborhood to watch my then-10-year-old daughter. It worked out really well. The girl was old enough to drive (and she was a good driver)so she would take my daughter to the pool and other places. She was sort of like a big sister. I had no idea what to pay her. She had babysat for me before so I calculated a weekly salary based on what I was paying her as a babysitter. The first week that I paid her, her mother made her give me back some of the money because she thought it was too much. It was kind of embarrassing for both her and me! I am thinking about hiring another teenager this summer. What's your advice for how much I should pay a just-graduated 18 year-old for a month of child care this summer? Thanks for your help!

Sheila? writes...

I’m glad you were able to find a great sitter! Things seem like they just all fall into place when you have the right babysitter for your little ones.

When you’re trying to determine what to pay, age isn’t the only factor to consider. For example, some 18-year-olds have four years of babysitting experience, whereas a 22-year-old could have none. If your sitter is experienced and/or has certifications like first aid or CPR, you usually should pay a little more than the going rate, regardless of how old she is.

Having said that, an 18-year-old is an adult and you should probably pay her the going market rate in your town. Check to see what that is. And good luck!

Maggie writes...

I'm interested in enrolling my sons in local day camps this summer. But what's the best way to evaluate them? Because they're not yet in session, I can't visit before signing up to assess the quality.

Sheila? writes...


Good question. The best way to check out day camps that aren’t in session are to check with friends or neighbors who have used them before or to try and schedule a brief interview with the camp director. While you won’t be able to see what the camp is like “in action,” doing a little background research can help determine if that particular camp is right for your child.

If you’re still not sure and it’s the first week of day camp, you can also see if it’s all right to visit while the camp is in session to get a better look at what it’s like and how the instructors work with the children on a daily basis.

Bob? writes...

The best way to evaluate a camp you can't visit is 1) call your local office of the American Camp Association. They accredit camps around the country and can give you some good ideas about the camp you might have in mind. To get the phone number of the ACA office nearest you, call their national office at 800-428-2267(CAMP). 2) Call the camp you are interested in and see if they have the name and phone # of a parent that has sent their child to the camp that would be willing to speak with you. Make sure the parent isn't someone who also works at the camp. Obviously the camp will give you the name of someone who has had a favorable experience with them, but as a parent you can still get some idea of how the camp is run.

DestinyN writes...

Uncertified child care providers can only watch 3 kids at any age. Unless they're in the same family and cared for in their home.

alysha writes...

if i want to be a babysitter right now and i know how to take care of kids wat will i have to do to get someones number online to see if they need a babysitter for there kids i have been looking but i cant find anything im 13 and i need a job for reasons and i need youre help?

Sheila? writes...

Alysha, our focus at are caregivers 17 years of age or older, for legal reasons. Since you’re young and new to babysitting, you may want to check out the American Red Cross, which offer local classes for 11 to 15-year-old sitters who are just getting started: check out their classes. The key thing is to get some early training to better understand with child care is all about and how you will need to handle emergency situations. Good luck!

Jeffrey writes...


We've got a lot of good adolescent and teen kids in our neighborhood who would love to spend time with our five- and six-six-year-old for pay. But how young is too young to be an appropriate caregiver?

Sheila? writes...

Jeffrey—thanks for writing! It’s really not age, so much as it is experience, certifications, and how you feel about the babysitter. Many times, you may find a younger sitter has just as much ability and experience as someone who’s older. And some 13 year olds may be more mature and responsible than 17 year olds. If it’s a younger sitter, I’d check with the sitter’s parents first to ask them about overall maturity, responsibility, and comfort level with children. You can also ask them to take the Red Cross’ babysitter safety training course. For any sitters you are considering hiring – even those you do know as neighbors or socially, ask other parents for references and always schedule a formal interview in advance of their first night of work. I also provide some interviewing tips on my blog at In addition, the hiring isn’t complete until you’ve also checked in unannounced just to make sure there is a fit for your family. And after all that, if you continue to feel comfortable leaving children in their care, it is likely they are old enough.

Maryanne writes...

What do you say to parents who look down there noses at those of us who have our kids in daycare? I had one mom say to me "We would never allow anyone else to take care of our children, " knowing full well that I had my daughter in daycare. I thouhgt that was incredibly insensitive. And, I must admit, set off a few pangs of guilt.

Sheila? writes...

As a parent who’s used day care centers for both of my boys, there is nothing to be ashamed of! As long as you’ve done your homework, checked with your local child care resource and referral agency (, made sure the day care is certified, and feel comfortable after interviewing the staff, you are all set. If your children are happy, you should be happy – that goes for any care arrangement, child care center or otherwise.

I've also had to deal with my fair share of statements from strangers -- it's never fun! In fact, I've even blogged about these rude comments before.

Jamie writes...

In our community, there is a wonderful Boys & Girls Club. When we first moved to the area, my husband, being a teacher, was able to get a job there in the educational department. Now, although he doesn't work there, we regularly volunteer and both of our children love to go the "The Club". They offer a great summer program for very little costs. And they also have great things going on during the school year as well. I think more parents should check out local organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club. They may be surprised at the results!

Syed writes...

Summer camps can be great for teaching your kids some good skills in their free time. During the recession times, the folks running summer camps would probably also be forced to lessen their prices in order to attract clients. So why not make use of such golden opportunity to teach your kids some good skills at reduced rates.

Joe writes...

I babysat for a family last summer and the single mother has asked me to babysit for her again this summer! There is one child to provide care for he is 7 years old and a wonderful child. However last year when I babysat for this family it was rough on me financially. The mother paid me $150 a week, I would work 7-4 and take the child to different activities. How should I tell the mother that I would like to babysit for her again but that I need to make more money? Would it be outrageous for me to ask her for $250 a week which is roughly only $5.50 an hour for the hours that I work? I don't want to make her suffer financially, however I can't afford to be under paid either.
Thank you in advance for your help,

Teens Camps writes...

Troubled teenagers have special needs and demands that can be only fulfilled under the guidance of skilled trainers and counselors in camps. Therapeutic summer camps prescribe high quality training programs and activities for developing essential life skills in kids. Parents can plan summer camp program for their youth during the summer vacations to make them interesting and vivacious. Teens summer from depression or stress can also join the short term and long term programs based on the needs.

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