Advice Needed: What to Do: Babysitter or Summer Camp?

Updated on April 22, 2008
J.H. asks from Kankakee, IL
27 answers

This is my dilemna......... I work, just like a lot of other mom's. During the school year is pretty easy - this summer is going to be tough.
Do I sent my kids to the Day Camp or do I find a sitter to watch them for 8 hours?
I have been weighing the pros and cons, but does anyone possibly have a pro or a con that I may have overlooked?
The Day Camp would probably keep them more active, healthier meals, and they would be with a lot of kids. It is a bit more expensive.
With an at home babysitter, things would be familiar, they have their friends to play with and if they are tired or don't feel well they can lay down in their own beds.
I'm torn.
Addition: My daughter is 5 and my son is 9.

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S.O.

answers from Chicago on

I don't have experience with this as a parent since my son is barely over a year but I DO have experience with this as a child being sent by my parent to summer camp.

My mother was a single working mom and she sent me to camp every summer and I LOVED it! In fact, it is some of my fondest memories of my childhood. This way I was never bored, got to experience new things, take little day trips, swim, etc. Plus, I went back to the same camp every year and maintained relationships with my "summer" friends that were sepearate from my "school" friends.

I went to camp from about 6 until I was 12.

Best of luck to you.

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G.T.

answers from Chicago on

If you can find a good day camp, it's worth the investment--now for them to engage in fun, pre-planned activities supervised by adults and later on for the memories they'll have. They can always play outside after they come home; that is, if they're not too tired. Day camp has a wonderful way of wearing them out with a full day of activities.

Good luck!

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L.R.

answers from Chicago on

Day camp is fabulous for kids. I sent mine to Chicago Park District camps, which were inexpensive but very active programs. They're not perfect, but they keep the kids interested and moving. They provide a much more stimulating atmosphere for kids. Just be ready for them to come home very tired and dirty, especially until they get used to the schedule. Those are GOOD things! Part of being a kids that too many kids miss today.

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L.S.

answers from Chicago on

My daughter's friend goes to camp every summer and she is separated from her younger sister all the time and doesn't get to play with the neighborhood kids either. Camp might be nice for a few weeks for a change of pace but for the whole summer I think it is too much. The kids are outside so much and get exhausted. I'm not saying camp isn't good, they are good and fun for a limited time. Try to find a good babysitter in your neighborhood and send your kids to a few weeks of camp for fun.

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E.H.

answers from Chicago on

Have you considered a mixture of the two? Our park district's day camp allows you to register in 2-week increments. That allows you to send them to day-camp for part of the summer and hire a babysitter for the rest. You get the best of both worlds :)

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I.H.

answers from Chicago on

I also work full-time and have to figure out what to do with my boys in the summer. They are 6 and 9. All the people who suggest doing part-time this and part-time that don't realize how difficult that is when you work full-time. I have found that some YMCAs have great day camp programs, depending on where you live. Some daycare centers have great summer programs, too. We've had so many problems finding dependable home babysitters this year, that I can't really recommend them at this point. They can really flake out. That doesn't happen with an established program.

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M.B.

answers from Chicago on

My sister puts her 2 kids in summer camp (they will be 8 and 10 at the time) for 3 days a week and she has a friend or family member watch them for the other 2 days. This helps her save money on day camp.

Maybe you could find a day camp for 3 days (M-W-F) and a sitter for the other 2 days.

Just an idea.

M.

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A.B.

answers from Chicago on

Hi J.

I am actually in the same position... All I can say is that everyone is telling me to do the summer camp. My daughter is 2 1/2 and it is breaking my heart that I am putting her in summer camp all day for three days a week.
(I work only three days a week) But everyone is telling me that she will love it and will get the benefit of being around other kids, eating better, learing and being more dependent. So I am going with everyones advice... Not sure if I helped you, but I thought I would let you know you are not alone.

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J.B.

answers from Chicago on

I have a bit of a different take on this - I would send them to a daycamp because there are multiple adults to hold eachother accountable. We had our son at a sitter during the day for about a month, and I started thinking she might be a bit loopy - she posted fake adds to see if I would respond to them, and even left her daughter sleeping on the couch upstairs to go downstairs for a minute (the little girl was 2 I think.) Things like that made me pull my son out of there and take him back to the group center I had him at. There are several adults keeping an eye on him, and there's no chance for one of the adults to be negligent, because someone would see (there are also giant windows outside the rooms so you can see what's going on at any time.) Although he does get a few more colds, and I'll be moving him before potty-training because I don't like the lack of privacy in most daycare center bathrooms, it's better than leaving him with someone I don't trust. He had a great at-home sitter whose prices were reasonable, but she's currently pregnant, so as soon as she's feeling up to it, we'll move him back there. I hope this helps. Just make sure if you find a sitter, that you find someone you're completely comfortable with, and I'd suggest nanny-cams. I know it sounds paranoid, but there's no such thing as too cautious with your kids.

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T.E.

answers from Chicago on

Hi Jayne:

I wanted to respond to you because I am a former teacher and this summer I will be doing a princess camp at my store location in Plainfield. It is going to be the 2nd to last week of July and then again in August the second week. You could always have them do activities as well as a sitter at home that way they would be able to play with frends as well as do some things and not watch tv all day. If you are interested the camp will be Mon-Fri from 9-1pm they will do a craft everyday have a snack as well as manners, stories and work on a little routine to show the moms and a big dress up tea party on the last day. they will need to bring a lunch but if you want you can email me and I can tell you more about it I am sure your 5 year old daughter would love it and I know that the park districts do things during the summer like fun classes as well that way they would not be at camp but would still do some fun stuff with other kids. Good luck in your decision.

T.
[email protected]____.com is my email.

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W.S.

answers from Chicago on

hi J.,

As an adult of a career mom, I can share with you that I loved the summers because my Mom would hire a high school girl to come over to care for me and my younger brother (this is many yrs ago when a working Mom was also the exception).

We could sleep in, be in our own neighborhood, play with our own neighborhood friends etc. We lived close to places we could walk to or ride bikes together like parks, library etc. And our sitter would walk us to 'vacation bible school' at church, so we definitely found activities to do and other kids to be with.

During the school year we had to get up very early and be dropped off at a sitter's home - which was a great place too, I just remember as a kid enjoying that feeling of truly having the summer 'off' in that way.

just my 2 cents, good luck to you :-)

W.

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J.M.

answers from Chicago on

It all really depends on their age. Over the age of 5 I would send them to Camp. Under the age of 5 I would probably choose to find them a babysitter or a home daycare.

Good Luck!
J.

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J.R.

answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,

I went thru this every summer when I was working. Now that I am home though, finances dont really allow for a summer camp program though it would be great to be able to get them out of the house (read: out of my hair) for a few days a week during the summer. having a 16 mo and 3 mo old, our activity time is limited due to nap schedules and such.

Anywho, as a single mom for many years, my finances were limited for full time care. I found that a summer camp kept them well occupied and their summer wasnt wasted. Depending on how old your kids are, I would look into Campfire USA for a local camp. It was by far the most economical way for me to manage working and still get full time care for them.

They go on field trips and do LOTS of fun stuff. Every friday they had a camp fire lunch and roasted hot dogs on the fire - they had NO TV, no toys from home or supplied.. they kept busy in the outdoors, fishing, playing, etc.

Keep in mind.. this sort of thing is 'roughing it' a bit. the bathrooms that were available were not like you'd find in a daycare facility... there was a risk of poison ivy, which is to be expected playing outdoors in a forest preserve type setting, but they teach the kids what to look for, and make every effort to remove brush, etc that is poison ivy. I can say thru experience, that my kids were actually CLEANER at the end of the day, then they ever were in a daycare... (i recall one time picking up my daughters from Kindercare, and there is my kid, eating an apple, and the juice running down her arm revealed exactly how dirty her body was... I was horrified that nobody made her wash her hands before eating an apple! or any food for that matter)

anyway, if you can find an age appropriate camp thru campfire USA, I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anybody. our local camp was Camp KataKani - the kids still talk about the camp counselors there :)

Good luck!

EDIT: with the daycamp you will likely have to pack them a lunch - though the one i went thru provided lunch on friday and snacks daily for the afternoon group.

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S.E.

answers from Chicago on

I would say day camp. Many more activities for you children and there is no chance of getting that call saying I can't watch your children today..

Good Luck

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M.W.

answers from Chicago on

follow your heart, it's hard separating from your children when their young.Camps are wonderful but it's always best to have your children at home where their comfortable and you're comfortable. God Bless...

N.C.

answers from Rockford on

Hi J....as an at home daycare provider, I had to respond. Either option is a good one. You are right that summer camp would keep them very active and they would make a lot of new friends ( I try to find short term day camps for my kids in summer for a change of scenery!) And you are also right that daycare is a good choice too in that they would have a lot more one on one interaction and love. As far as what they eat, if it is a licensed daycare, we follow guidelines set up by the state on what we feed the kids and, at least in my home, it is always healthy. (that's not to say we don't have treats and popsicles too!)

Your choice depends on the age of your children and if they would be comfortable being more independent (camp) or need a little more TLC. Also, if you do camp, make sure you know the ratio of adults to kids, ages, and activities planned to know if you are comfortable w/ what they may do. (such as swimming or other field trips.) And you may find that a lot of home daycares do lots of fun stuf too. We swim every day (in baby pools...but still fun) and have picnics, finger paint w/ pudding, have theme days and just stay very busy! So, talk to your kids and see what might make them happy, if they are old enough to make that kind of decision. Good luck!

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A.R.

answers from Chicago on

Summer Camp! They get to run around for hours. They get to make new friends. They make things. They learn new songs. They go on fun field trips that they come home and tell you about. But best of all, they don't take naps, so they are usually tired when they get home. Not much energy left for misbehaving or arguing. Summer Camp!

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L.D.

answers from Chicago on

Not that it should all be about convenience, but having a sitter would be more convenient for you. Your kids will be home - no need for you to transport them to and from the Day Camp everyday. In my household, time is a most precious commodity! I'm guessing it probably is in yours too. Just another thing to consider. : )

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K.J.

answers from Chicago on

I like daycamp because it gives them tons of activities that I can't always do, it is a one time fee so you won't have to pay every week, and the kids have made friends and had experiences that will last a lifetime. I agree that if they are under 5, it might be better to get a sitter. But kids 5 and up will love it.

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K.S.

answers from Chicago on

Depends on their age and what can you really afford. Camps in general are a great way to keep them active in a world full of obesity and TV "worship"!
I like the idea of "part-time" camp 3 days a week, if you can find one.

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W.P.

answers from Chicago on

I would really keep in mind the individual personalities of your children as well. My kid loved day camp and is super social. Plus it can be really hard to find a sitter that doesn't let them watch tv all day. But if your child is more of a homebody they might not enjoy the constant stream of people and activities. Of course your children might be different from each other! Also, I don't know how old they are, but I would ask them what they think they might like. Camp can be lots of fun and it usually doesn't last all summer so you'd have to get a sitter for part of the time anyway. It's complicated.

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M.S.

answers from Chicago on

You didn't say how old your children were, but I would say send them to day camp. If you can afford it, the experiences and opportunities that they will have are valuable. From my own experiences in my life and with my children when you have a chance to have them involved in community it is good for them. They learn social skills. If you choose home because of finances (God knows that is sometimes why we do things) make sure that they have a schedule of events that will keep them active - pool, zoo, library, park, biking, hiking. Get creative! Let us know how it goes.

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G.H.

answers from Chicago on

the answer probably depends somewhat on he ages of your kids. Are they old enough to leave the home? Are they both outgoing kids that would be comfortable being with new kids and a strange surrounding? You have the answers honey. Good luck

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S.S.

answers from Chicago on

Daycamp. Hands up. If you can afford it. Unless there are a lot of children in the home daycare situation or you are very, very comfortable with the sitter kids are very happy with lots of other kids and if they are tired they are still encouraged to rest a bit, are also fed perhaps not at will but fairly often enough and they are supervised extremely well for the most part. While home appears to be the ideal situation as well as cost effective consider these things: it is easier for a babysitter to stay in and let them lay around and play video games, watch television, etc. and outside is a babysitter going to follow them around all over to make sure they are safe? Plus there are fewer and fewer children outside as they are all in daycamps these days! Plus check your tax guy, I believe you can write off a portion of childcare for the daycamp but not necessarily a babysitter unless they are certified with the state. For as short as summer turns out to really be I don't think it will hurt your children and they often turn out to have great experiences from this!

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S.D.

answers from Chicago on

J.,

I am not sure where you live but last year I used a website called www.sittercity.com and found a wonderful young teacher she was just finishing up her first year as a 5th grade teacher and she was fabulous. She kept my kids so buys all day everyday. It was nice because I was able to put them into sports camps - art classes etc. Things that would not have been possible if they were in day camp. It worked out well. She took them to Great America, the zoo, the movies on rainy days etc. I highly recommend brining in someone. I think when you interview them you can get a feel for if they are physically active etc. This one was a gem and very sport and that worked out great because I have 3 sons. My only suggestion is to try hard to get a teacher rather than saving a buck on a college kid because you never know what you will get with them. The teacher thing worked out great. Good Luck!

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J.C.

answers from Chicago on

J.,
I went to summer camp almost all summer, every summer, when I was growing up. We never stayed home with a babysitter, so I don’t have that experience to compare summer camp to...but given the choice, both then and now, I would go with summer camp. We did end up with sunburn, mosquito bites, poison ivy and stinging nettles now and then, but it was worth it. We did a lot of hiking and games (anyone remember “capture the flag”?), and I learned how to shoot archery, build benches/tables/etc in a campsite, cook over a campfire (not just hot dogs & marshmallows), and I can still handle a canoe and build a one-match fire. It was a day camp, but on Thursday nights we’d spend the night and then go to the Y in the morning to go swimming and rollerskating. That helped us get used to being away from home overnight...When we were older, there were a couple of summers we spent a month or so in a kids program at the community college taking a couple classes a day. One was calligraphy, another was an introduction to French – I don’t remember the others. So check around, there may be alternatives to camp you could take advantage of, too. In college I was a camp counselor at a “sleep away” camp which was a Christian camp, so we said grace before every meal and had a worship service every night. That would be another thing to look into, if church is important to you.
Based on what I’ve seen, I’d say your 9-year-old is certainly old enough to go to camp, but you might want to wait a year for your 5-year-old...although if her brother is at the same camp, having that familiar face there would probably be enough.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that not only did going to summer camp and other programs keep me busy, it also made me a more well-rounded individual.
Hope that helps –
J.

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T.G.

answers from Chicago on

My niece was in day camps all last summer for the first time, she was ten, and before that she had always had a sitter. I have to say she was totally worn out. I saw her at the zoo a couple of times with her camp and she looked exhausted. She said she was having a good time, but just wished she could relax little. My brother said she would just pass out when she would get home and didn't want to do much on the weekends.

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