We asked working Minnesota parents in MPR's Public Insight Network what they do with their kids when school lets out for the summer.
It can be a challenging time because of schedule changes, transportation needs and extra expenses for camps. Below are some tips we compiled based on parents' responses.
• Plan ahead. Many camps fill up, and finding the camps that fit your kids' needs (and that are logistically possible) can take time. Families also should try to plan ahead for extra expenses they might have during the summer months to pay for child care.
• A lot of camps offer financial assistance for families, and the income requirements vary depending on which camp and it can depend on demand at some private camps. Explore options ahead of time to improve your chances.
• Narrow down the choices. Sure, there are hundreds of summer camps to choose from, but the ones your kids are interested in aren't ideal in terms of location, transportation or cost. Make a good compromise.
• Take advantage of tax breaks. Summer child care expenses usually qualify for the federal child and dependent care credit.
• Carpool. School's out and so are the school buses. Most summer programs don't include transportation, so it's a great time to split transportation duties with other families.
• Plan some downtime. University of Minnesota researcher Bill Doherty says children thrive on it. Share a family meal rather than making your kid eat dinner in the car on the way to his or her next activity. And don't feel guilty for not filling your child's summer schedule with enrichment programs. "It's OK to have less of a schedule and less pressure," he said.
• Check out child care programs through school districts and local parks and recreation departments. Many of them are designed to accommodate working parents' schedules. They also cost less than a lot of private summer camps.
• Consider sending your children to a school on a year-round schedule. Breaks are distributed throughout the year instead of in one summer chunk, and many schools on such schedules offer child care during breaks (for a fee).
• Ask for flexibility at work. Summer is supposed to be relaxing, so if you can afford to cut back your hours and your job lets you, maybe this is a good time to do it.