After School Child Care Options
Whether you’re a single, working parent or part of a two-working-parent household, the need for child care can be greatly reduced when your children reach school age. If you work full-time, however, the gap between the end of classes and your return home from work can create the need for at least part-time childcare throughout the week. Finding childcare for the after school gap isn’t always easy, but it is possible. Some of the options for after-school include:
- School-Based Programs – Many school districts offer after-school programs specifically to meet the needs of parents who work a traditional, nine-to-five schedule. These programs can be geared towards academics and tutoring, offer homework help, or simply provide your child a safe and secure place to play and socialize with her peers for a few hours after classes end. Check with your child’s school or the local board of education to determine what, if any, programs of this type are available in your area.
- Community Centers – Community centers like the YMCA often offer after-school childcare programs, with a wide scope of activities ranging from encouraging active play and fitness, arts and crafts or homework help. These programs are often included with the costs of membership, so they can provide kids with a safe place to spend time after school and family access to gym and fitness equipment, swimming classes and CPR instruction.
- Dedicated Neighborhood Outreach Centers – In larger cities, there are many programs created solely to provide kids in the neighborhood with after-school care. Many emphasize the importance of education and provide homework assistance and tutoring in addition to childcare and, depending upon the particular program in your area, may even be free or quite inexpensive.
- Extracurricular Activities – Sports, academic clubs and other extracurricular activities that have daily meetings or practice generally hold those sessions after school, which can provide your kids with the care that they need while also fostering an interest in a specific hobby. For older kids, this option can also help them avoid daycare centers and babysitters, which they may feel that they’re “too old” for.
- Daycare “Big Kid” Programs – Many daycare centers have programs that cater to school-aged kids, even providing bus services or other transportation from school to the center. These programs often tend to be play-based, may not offer homework assistance or tutoring, and may be met with vociferous protests from older kids, but they do keep kids in a safe environment until your workday ends.
- Private, In-Home Childcare – A full-time nanny may not be financially feasible if your children are gone for the bulk of the day, but a part-time nanny may be. This option can also help you establish a relationship with a nanny through the school year, who may be willing to work full-time during summer vacation and other school breaks.
- Childcare Exchanges – If you’re willing to provide childcare for friends and neighbors on weekends or other times that fit your schedule, you may find that a stay-at-home parent is open to the idea of a childcare exchange. Because you’re trading childcare services as your schedules allow, exchanges are often the most economical choice for cash-strapped families, as they don’t require you to pay any daycare or sitter fees.
- Extended Family Care – Families today are often separated from one another by significant distances, but if you’re lucky enough to have extended family nearby, you may find that they’re the ideal choice for after-school childcare. This arrangement will allow your kids to get in extra time with a favorite aunt or be spoiled by their grandma for a few hours, and will provide you with the peace of mind that comes with trusting their childcare provider completely.
- Teenage Babysitters – Some parents find that a teenager in the neighborhood is the perfect choice for the few hours between the end of the school day and their return home. If there’s a sitter in your neighborhood that occasionally looks after your children for a night out or other engagements, she may be just what you’re looking for after school as well.
The options available to your household will depend largely on your community and what’s offered there, so make sure to check local message boards and connect with other parents in your community to stay abreast of any changes and discover programs that you may not currently be aware of.
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