Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Summer Spent in Childcare

Summer is a comin’ . . . despite the fact many of us are still donning coats, hats, and mittens mid-April!

With summer comes a slower pace for most, especially if you have school-age children. Those mornings sans book bags, signed homework folders, and forgotten lunch boxes are a welcomed relief for sure. Sleeping a little later, a relaxed breakfast around the kitchen table, and days spent at home really seem to define the season for families where one or more parents work from within the home. But for more and more parents who work outside the home, summer just means a shift in where to take the little ankle biters. Perhaps it’s Grandma’s, a childcare center, or a day camp. While things may not feel that different for the parent who still has to get everyone out of the house and dropped at respective locations for the day, for the children, things are different. Summer is always filled with childhood memories that stand the test of time.

For those of you who have your children in any type of childcare situation for the summer, here are a few summer tips from the perspective of not only a mother, child advocate, and certified parenting coach--but a former childcare center owner (who has quite a passion for the field, so hold on!):

1. Pay attention to the calendar of events. Chances are there are more than a handful of field trips and activities planned for your child. Nothing stinks more than being the kid whose mom always forgets to send a field trip shirt or bathing suit, or who is not wearing a crazy hat when everyone else is rocking one. To err is human . . . but to err every day is just lazy, and your child misses out. Don’t get me wrong--older children can bear more responsibility, but mamas, you’re driving the boat. Instill steps to organization so that special days aren’t missed. This also goes for paying attention to the times of those trips and activities (AND NAP TIME). Get your child there on time for an event. No kid likes being the one that the whole busload of children is waiting on. And no TEACHER loves it when a child comes in for the day AT NAPTIME when they just woke up at home. Super fun!

2. Don’t send electronic devices every day for your child’s entertainment. Can’t care if everyone else is doing it. I personally used to put a summer-wide ban on this in my center. We had ONE day each month when children could bring a “device.” I have watched first-hand how children collectively zone out and become so engrossed in those devices that they become aggressive and just plain nasty acting. Oh y’all, it broke my heart. But days we had UNO and Monopoly marathons complete with bowls of popcorn and Skittles? I was nearly brought to tears watching them work TOGETHER and interact, laugh, and PLAY! Send real toys, board games, books, and engaging items. Please heed this tip if nothing else!

3. PICK YOUR KIDS UP! I get it; an hour alone at the grocery store can feel as rewarding as a trip to the tropics when you have small children. By all means, if you have childcare secured, take advantage here and there to do what you need to do HERE and THERE. I know you’re paying for it, but you are paying to hold the spot for your child when you need to work, have a doctor’s appointment, etc. Leaving your child ‘til closing when you get off every day at 4:00--and bringing your child every. single. time. you have a day off--not cool! Especially in the summer, when you have time available that you wouldn’t normally have with your child. Do what you have to do to support your family, but these are your children. Be WITH them. Don’t miss precious opportunities!
4. Send extra clothes. For real. That isn’t just something caregivers say; they mean it. Stuff happens (a lot) when you’re working with children. Send those clothes in, and then send some more if your child ends up using them. Trust me. It’s a big deal.

5. Know who’s watching your children. Duh, right?! Nope. Had more than my share of parents who didn’t know the names of the teachers caring for their children, much less speak when dropping off/picking up each day. First of all, know where you’re sending your child, and make sure the center/camp is regulated in some way. There need to be checks and balances in place for everyone tending to children (this is a soap box issue for me, but I won’t get into it here). Second, know the teacher’s name, for goodness’ sake! This is just plain respect if nothing else. Please speak when you come in and out. Summer is hot. That teacher engaged in ways you haven’t begun to think about (times 40). She’s given hugs and kisses to children that aren’t hers, broken up arguments, stopped a fight over whose sand is whose, comforted hurt feelings, wiped hineys, cleaned noses, had 42 different conversations ranging from dinosaurs to the coveted yellow block in the block center, and sweated her butt off at the zoo while keeping up with all the little monkeys she brought with her. You can say hello.

Most of this comes down to putting yourself in the shoes of these caregivers and being sure that good communication is taking place both ways. Take full advantage of the time you have with your children, but when outside childcare is your only option, be sure that your child gets the maximum experience.

And by all means, do all that you can to teach your children to be a joy to whoever cares for them.


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