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Find Child Care Help That's Right for Your Family

6 Options That Are Flexible and Affordable

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Even if you can't bear to be apart from your kids for one minute, there will come a day when you need child care help. From everyday options to temporary solutions in the summer, get child care help that fits your budget and your schedule.

1. Search for a Mom's Day Out

Girl baking in kitchen
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A Mom's Day Out program gives you flexible, affordable child care help all year long. Sessions usually coincide with a typical school year but you can enroll your child at any time, even mid-month.

In the summer, the session usually starts in May and ends in July. Many accept babies as young as 6 weeks old and in the summer some take children up to age 8.

Choose a Mom's Day Out that works with your schedule and budget. Most offer about four hours of care each day during the week and give you the option of enrolling your child for one day or the whole week, whichever works best for you.

2. Join a Babysitting Cooperative

Turn to other parents for child care help. A babysitting co-op is a network of parents who swap babysitting time with each other. No money ever changes hands.

The rules of babysitting co-ops vary by group. Some groups have a coordinator who manages the babysitting time among members. They might set a cap on how many families can join at a time, make potential members undergo background checks or have bylaws that require a minimum participation level to remain active. Others are more casual.

Can't find a babysitting co-op in your area? Start your own co-op.

3. Enlist Family Members

Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents can be great babysitters. You should weigh the pros and cons of using family members as babysitters so you know exactly what to expect.

Family members should also be aware of what enlisting them as a babysitter will mean. Discussing everything from payment to discipline preferences will make your babysitting arrangement work for everyone. You don't want to be accused of taking advantage of them and they don't want to be accused of not living up to your child care standards.

4. Hire a Babysitter

Babysitters range from grown ups you meet at church to the teenager down the street. Their rates vary based on experience, how many kids you have and the time of day you need a sitter.

During the summer, high school and college students have more time to watch your kids. But they're always looking for babysitting opportunities throughout the year as well, which makes them a good alternative to higher priced child care options.

Once you evaluate your own child care needs, you'll be able to give a babysitter a good idea of when she should be available. If this conflicts with her schedule, you'll know right away rather than finding out hours before you need her.

5. Look for a Nanny or Au Pair Temporarily

If the cost of having a nanny or au pair is too high for your budget or you only need child care help for a few months, look for a nanny or au pair on a temporary basis. These child care providers may be in between jobs or only have downtime in the summer before they're to report to a new family.

Nannies and au pairs aren't babysitters. Their primary responsibility is to take care of your children in every way -- from meal prep to reading books to them at bedtime. They also perform light housekeeping for the kids, such as making their beds and washing their clothes. They're not maids, though, and won't clean up after you.

Nannies work full or part time, living in your home or not. Au pairs are always full time and live in your home.

6. Explore Camps

Day camp is a budget-friendly summer camp option, which allows your child to spend a few hours out of your home. Many day camps are only offered for a short amount of time so a day camp isn't always the best choice for long-term summer child care.

Overnight camps offer a combination of sessions, depending on the type of camp. There are even summer camps that offer programs for months at a time, if you think you and your kids could manage being separated that long.
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