Summer childcare for Chicago tweens

Tweens earned their name by embodying that awkward space between being a little kid and a teenager. That includes the space in between needing a babysitter and being able to stay at home unattended for long stretches.

During the school year, it’s not so much of an issue, but when school is not in session it is an entirely different story. Kids have absolutely zero interest in the idea of having a babysitter for the summer. In fact, they find the very idea down right offensive. (They are a pretty easily offended group, but this really gets their blood boiling.)

Trust your gut when it comes to whether or not they need supervision. If there’s a question in your mind as to whether or not your kids are old enough to stay home alone, then they’re not ready.

So what’s a parent to do about the dilemma of finding childcare for older children, especially when children need not just the safety patrol but also a chauffeur, tutor, entertainer, etc.?

There are a few options.

Think about hiring an au pair.

I love the idea of a caregiver who becomes part of the family.  I also love that there’s a lot of flexibility built into the schedule and that they can help with household tasks. Add to that the chance to expose the entire family to a new culture and language, and it’s a definite win-win. Different placement agencies vary, but I know that some like Cultural Care Au Pair put a big emphasis on the cultural exchange experience, which seems to me one of the greatest benefits.

The families I know who have been lucky enough to have an au pair have described the experience as wonderful.

Having an au pair, however, is a year-long option. If you’re like me and need more help in the summer than during the school year, there are still options.

A summer nanny can be just what you need (just don’t let your kids hear you use the term nanny).

Colleges are out for the summer. It is possible that you could round up a college student who will seem supercool to your kids and not only provide the fun factor but perhaps offer a little academic assistance as well.

Parents often only consider girls, but don’t limit yourself by gender. Chances are your son would be more than happy to hang out with a 19 year-old guy for the summer.

Summer camps run by the YMCA or local park districts can be lifesavers.

A friend sent her girls who would be in 8th and 6th grade to the suburban park district day camp. It ran more than eight hours a day and provided the care they needed. Best of all, the girls had a blast.

Many Ys and park districts still have space. There’s still time!

Finally, work your mom network and pool resources and kid time.

I know, you might not be super close with some of the moms and perhaps don’t feel entirely comfortable, but ask other moms to see what their situation is. Chances are, though, moms will be happy to pool resources and take turns hosting kids at their house on different days or driving to the pool.

With a bit of maneuvering, you can make sure that it’s a safe and fun summer for everyone.

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