Summer Childcare for Pre-teens/early Teens

Updated on July 02, 2013
M.J. asks from Sacramento, CA
20 answers

Wondering what people do for summer childcare for kids around 11-14 years old, before they're old enough to get summer jobs? Our son is 10 and is at KinderCare's school-aged summer program this summer. However, he's one of the oldest there and this just won't work next year, when he's about to enter junior high.

I work from home, but can't have him just playing video games all summer while I work (and I really work from home and can't entertain him). I really want him to socialize and do activities. I've looked around online for next summer's options and I'm not finding much.

What do people do with kids this age?

ETA: He has ADHD and food neophobia, among other conditions, so overnight camps are out. Overnight camps would be too difficult with all of his conditions. There would be medications to manage, special custom meals to make (as in, there are only two foods he will eat right now and they have to be prepared just so ... so bad even a therapist couldn't fix his food issues), severe behavior issues when medication isn't active, etc. These conditions don't affect his childcare needs during the day, but would be a big issue with overnight situations. I know overnight camps are popular with this age group, which is why I'm mentioning they're not a possibility.

Just a note that we also have a seven-year-old and I only work part-time. Love the ideas so far! I'm feeling like there are some options. Thanks to all who've responded.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all of the suggestions! I'm thinking the summer nanny idea may be the most feasible. The key would be keeping the kids out of the house so I can work, so it would take some planning. I have set hours from 8-12.

Our city's parks & rec does have a grand total of one pre-teen/early teen program but he'd need to be starting 7th grade to join that one and the hours are funky -- 10 am to 4 pm, which doesn't cover my needs (and I can't stop work to drive him there). Otherwise, he's stuck in the camps that are for little kids up through age 11. He hates being the oldest and most activities are geared for the younger campers. We did the city's school-aged program for years until they cut part-time care; full-time is just out of our budget, which is why we use KinderCare's school-aged program now.

Unfortunately, there is no YMCA or Boy's & Girl's Club in our suburb. I do appreciate the idea, though, because those both offer great programs in the cities where they're located.

Just sending him to friends' homes won't really work, either. His best friends have working parents, too (and are lucky to have local relatives providing free care) and I really need something completely structured.

Thanks again for the ideas!

Featured Answers


answers from Dover on

You may be able to find some camps that would occupy him. The local YMCAs usually have different activities each week. Local community colleges around here do too.

Is he involved in any sports or scouting type groups, if so, they tend to have stuff too.


You may be able to find some camps that would occupy him. The local YMCAs usually have different activities each week. Local community colleges around here do too.

Is he involved in any sports or scouting type groups, if so, they tend to have stuff too.



answers from Los Angeles on

By the looks of the responses, I did not have a typical childhood. By junior high I hung out with friends and my siblings all summer.

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answers from Chicago on

I would totally do a college student nanny for the summer. Try to find one that's majoring in Education, especially Special Ed, or one that is going for Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Nursing. All would tend to have the special touch and understanding needed for a kid like yours.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

The working parents I know either do a LOT of day camps, and/or they hire a high school/college student to "nanny" (which really means driving the kids around, to the pool, the skating rink, water park, friends' houses, etc.)
Are you near Sacramento State, or another university? Many colleges have sports, arts, science, computer and academic camps during the summer.
If you join a pool you can drop him off every day there for a few (or more) hours too. Between swimming, tennis, ping pong and the snack bar It's not uncommon for kids to spend most of the day at our pool.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My Sister, 18, born with Downs Syndrome, just returned from her FIRST EVER sleep away camp! She had a blast. She too, has many medical issues.
Some camps for children with disabilities have a Dr on staff and trained nurses, lifeguards, Certified Teacher, etc.... To cater to kids, young and old, who need a little extra love...
My local Zoo has a Safari Camp,there's Skateboard camp, The YMCA, look at Private School camps offered to the public during the summers. Lego camps, could you join the local swim club for 110 days? Enough to wear them both out so you can work and then watching video games for 2 hours doesn't seem all that bad. Maybe even take babysitting courses, or be the local dog walker???

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My kids just play with their friends. I work outside the home so they have to make their plans, call for approval and then go to their friends or have their friends over.

If they want to get outside the neighborhood they have to wait till I get home and I drive them.

All my kids have ADHD, the 14 year old with PDD is a picky eater as well. Not sure what that has to do with anything... My poor kids have to spend the school year structured, in control. I would never do that to them in the summer.
I have yet to find a camp that wasn't more than happy to deal with the kids meds. When you look at all the crazy diets the "normal" kids have I doubt a special diet is all that unique.

Andy has the most bizarre sleeping needs, it actually gets on our nerves at times, he has done week long camps and enjoyed them. I leave summer up to them, sometimes they want camps. Most of the time they want to veg with their friends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Let him hang out with friends. Sign him up for a summer sport. Get him on a swim team. At that age he should be pretty self-sufficient even if he does need to stay home w/you while you work?

So my advice, since sleepover camps are out, is to sign him up for a couple summer sports & then let him hang with friends.

~When he gets older, the summer before he starts HS, as well as the rest of the summers after he starts HS, you should think about signing him up for summer school...I did this as a teen, even though I didn't NEED summer school, it was an excellent way to get extra credits in early and made it so I graduated early, now your son wouldn't necessarily have to graduate early but taking credits during the summer will make it possible for him to have a seriously easy Senior year where he could take hardly any classes OR he could just take all kinds of fun electives!?!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hire a summer nanny to take him places.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Boy's and Girl's Club, they can go through their teen years.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

12 year olds will often volunteer at the Y and other summer day camps.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Since a 12 year old can legally babysit other kids it's rather silly for a child care center to even consider or offer child care for kids older than 10. It's really not very often you see them offer child care for an 11 year old. I do think most kids that age are home by themselves with some minimal assistance from a neighbor who is available if there is an emergency or by a friend or family member checking in.

I suggest you get ready for next summer starting now since it's highly unlikely you will be finding any centers or home providers who will take him.

I do suggest that you find out if there is a section on teen aides in your states child care regulations. If there is then find a center that will allow him to work as a teen aid. That way he's like a big brother to the younger kids and he can be useful to both the kids and the teachers.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Most daycamps and summer programs take kids that age and have special, separate, big-kid activities organized (even if it's just exactly the same set of activities as the younger kids but at a staggered time). DS's summer daycamp at our local rec center has kids up to 14ish, but they are grouped in 2-year intervals for most of the day, so 10 year olds aren't hanging out with a bunch of 5 year olds.

I'd look into a summer program/daycamp that isn't attached to a pre-school. The fact that it's KinderCare probably attracts a younger set (even for school aged programs). I don't know what parks and rec has available in Sacramento these days because we moved to Maryland two years ago, but I'm SURE there is SOMETHING.

As he gets even a bit older, many daycamps take tweens/young teens as "Junior Counselors" or something of that sort. You still pay and he's still in camp, but they get some more staff like responsibilities and don't feel like the old kids at camp.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Park District! We do camps there and they go to age 14. Usually 11-14 are the teen camps, and they go all day with before and aftercare. I agree that a teen should not be home playing video games all day. A structured camp is way, way better! They will be active and social, and not into trouble.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Day camps are a great option. Older neighborhood teens who you can pay to come over for a few hours each day are a good option too.

When I was in college, I nannied for a family like yours one summer. The older child was told that I wasn't there to watch him, I was there for the younger child. But in reality, I kept track of both of them, shuttled them to the pool, to friends' houses, planned activities, etc.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Check to see if there is a home daycare in town, where the "owner" can use a hand. My daughters daycare has kids that age and while the owner is "watching" them, they are helping her with the younger ones.

Or a stay at home mom that could use a moms helper- you could get off with out paying and she can, and get the help.

Check with the local hospital, maybe he can volunteer or volunteer at church. Or the local animal shelter.

Are there any park driven day camps?



answers from Cleveland on

it sounds like he has alot of issues, in our area there are actual ADHD camps they are day camps but run by therapists and other professionals and maybe college kids studing to work in the filed of special needs.

i have concerns that a high schooler wouldn't be able to provide enough structure and dicipline if needed, i would be careful of that.



answers from Portland on

I work from home and our 7 and 10 year olds are home with us. We break up the days with all kinds of things. They have some homework to do and piano practice, then they play with neighbors or planned play dates. They also manage to find all kinds of creative things to do. We also work a bit and then head out to a fun activity at least 3 days a week, for example carnivals, the lake for a picnic, boating with friends, ice skating. Then we work later to make up for it. We've done this for 2 years now and the kids love being home. I find that if I plan ahead and let them know what fun things are happening the next day, they go with it and enjoy. So, if I tell them we're reviewing some Spanish and then heading to the park, they are happy and expect that it's the plan.



answers from Los Angeles on

There are probably day camps that he could attend. Where I live, there are dozens of different camps run by the city. They have a general day camp that is only $20/day (8:00 - 1:00) or $40 per day (8:00 - 6:00). You can pick and choose your days however you want. I think a day camp might be a better setting, as you can send his lunch and snacks and give him his medication before and/or after as needed. Most camps can also administer simple medication (pills or a liquid med that they drink) if you give it to them along with instructions and a doctor's note. I send my son to camp with Benadryl and an Epipen in case of allergic reaction (foods) and they are able to do that with a signed doc's note (so far, no need...keeping my fingers crossed!).

If you have a YMCA nearby, they might also have some good camps and/or classes. Our public schools also offer summer programs for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon in July.

If you have a local community center, I would start there. There are seriously dozens of different camps at ours.



answers from Boston on

There are probably a million day camps in your area. I know that in mine, there is no shortage of day camps through age 13 or thereabouts, then the slightly older kids attend as CITs (counselors in training - you still pay but at a reduced rate because they help out), then 15 or 16+ can get hired as counselors. I know that in my area there are several general recreational day camps, sports camps, nature camps, and then camps for enrichment activities and arts (robotics, graphic design, theater, computer science, visual arts, etc.). It takes some coordination because some camps run for a week or two at a time, so you may have to string several different camps together to cover most of the summer. My two oldest are 15 and I work from home as well (and like you, really have to work when I'm here) but I have let them stay home for most of the past few summers. Some days they really are bored, but if their friends are around, they can usually keep busy. I would find out when his friends are going to be in camp or on vacation and plan his activity weeks to coincide with when his friends aren't around so that for at least a couple of weeks, he can just kick around with his friends and do nothing.



answers from New York on

Day camp. There have got to be some around.

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