Many single mothers today find it difficult to arrange for dependable child care during the summer months. A common problem many encounter is not only finding safe child care, but also being able to find affordable options. Not only that, but no mother wants her children spending the entire summer without any kind of reading, educational experiences, or real mental stimulation. So how does a busy single mom find summer child care that is affordable, safe, and exciting/challenging for their children?

Many single mothers now take advantage of what many families usually do for vacationing purposes…home swapping. This isn’t the traditional home swapping experience, though. Single moms have begun networking with other mothers to exchange free child care and offer stimulating activities for each other’s children. In other words, they are using local support networks (check online for groups in your area) to find other single moms looking for child care, and they exchange schedule information. When you find a mother who is working when you are off and off when you are working, you can watch each other’s children at no cost. Make the experience more rewarding for your children by finding a mother willing to offer games and activities, as well as summer reading help, to your children, and then do the same for hers. You can even network with several different single moms to ensure that someone is always available. Be aware that many states have laws about how many unrelated children you can watch in your home at one time, so check online to see what your state’s in-home child care requirements are.

Next, consider taking advantage of library summer reading groups. While your local library is certainly not a child care facility and should not be used as one, they often offer programs that are hours long each day and require no parental supervision. If programs are not offered on a daily basis, you can use the days that they are offered to give your pocketbook a break from other child care options for a while, or to give the other single moms in your network a break from watching your children once or twice a week.

Next, consider sending your children to summer camp in order to provide them with safe, affordable child care. Before you dismiss the notion of pricey summer camp, consider your options. Quite often, church groups and even government and school programs offer highly discounted summer camp options. You can send your child to camp quite often for much less than daycare or a babysitter would cost, and you can rest assured that nutritious food, great activities, and new experiences will be available to your child all summer long. Don’t forget that included in camp costs are food, utilities, and minor health care needs. If you are nervous about the prospect of sending your child away for several weeks, many programs are only one week long. You can again use these camps to give yourself a break from usual summer child care costs. However, be aware that to get the best bargain, you will usually do better with summer-long camps. Don’t worry about your child missing home. They might get homesick at first, but most children are dying to go back to camp each summer!

Next, take a look at summer child care programs offered by local church organizations. Often, small churches will have unadvertised child care in the summer at extremely low costs. While you will have to call around to make sure you aren’t missing out, the effort will be well worth the money saved.

Next, take a look at community volunteering options for your children this summer. There are programs available in many counties that allow qualified children to tutor younger kids, offer mentoring, or receive valuable services. Often, these programs will take up the entire day and last throughout the summer. Not only is it free, but this summer child care option will ensure that your children receive a beneficial, rewarding experience, make new friends, and learn valuable lessons about the world around them. For more information, talk to someone from your local 4-H club organization, a Boys and Girls Club, a YMCA, or similar services. Even if they do not offer these programs, they can often refer you to organizations that do.

Next, check with colleges in your area to examine what day camp options are available. Almost all colleges offer low cost, one week day camps that specialize in specific areas of interest. One child can be in swimming classes, another can be in art classes, and yet another can be in karate classes, all in the same day. You can sign up for a new camp for your children each week to keep their minds engaged and their summer vacations full of new experiences. Do be careful to watch pricing, and note the different prices for classes as assigned by their level of demand. Also, when determining which programs to choose check to see whether or not meals and transportation are offered before making your final decision (some colleges even have busses that will pick up and drop off day camp participants).

Finally, consider using a combination of the above factors to ease your summer child care costs. Single mothers work hard but have to give a lot financially, and every dime saved can mean better living conditions, new clothing, emergency savings, a college fund, etc., for your children. Combine a single mom network, community outreach programs, low-cost camps, religious child care options, and library reading groups each week to meet your child care needs this summer without breaking the bank. With a little planning and networking, you may find that your child care costs will be dramatically reduced, or even completely erased.