What is a co-op, and what does it have to do with child care during the summer? It’s something like a do-it-yourself summer camp! A co-op could be a group of homeschoolers, neighbors, church members, employees, or any group that shares similar interests. We are talking about summer co-ops that have to do with child care. This kind of co-op is basically a conglomeration (or co-operative) of parents who get together and share child care duties.
How Can You Start One?
First, you’ll want to decide what the co-op is all about. Are you going to integrate learning, projects, activities, or a combination of these? Is there a point besides just babysitting? Parents might be more inclined to commit if you have a plan in place for what the co-op will look like. However, it may be off-putting if you have every detail worked out – let parents contribute their input, too. The best approach is probably a loose outline or idea.
Next, you will need to start contacting parents in your area. You can start with close friends, then move into your child’s school directory if possible. Based on a 5-day work week, you will need at least ten families who are willing to commit to once a week care (with at least two adults present at each co-op). Invite parents via email, phone, letter, or whatever works best for you.
What Activities Should We Offer?
There are all kinds of activities you can offer during your summer co-op! Because of the time of year, outdoor activities are possible. You might find it works best to have a theme for each day (Monday is Art Day, Friday is All About Animals, Wednesday is Water Fun, etc.) Here are some ideas.
* Birds – Bird-watching, crafts, and art projects are just the beginning with bird-oriented activities. You could also visit an aviary, collect feathers, and go on hikes to watch birds in the wild. A field trip to a farm to look at chickens would be fun, or the kids could research how to care for a pet bird.
* Art – This is a broad and almost endless subject for activities! You can paint outside (try throwing washable balls at a big sheet of paper!) and use the hose to clean off. You could also plan a visit to a museum and create artwork inspired by what you observe. Use colored water to spray-paint the surface of sand in a sandbox, sculpt with clay, and create nature crafts like twig picture frames. There are so many ways you could do art with kids that you could incorporate it into all kinds of other activities.
* Water – Make sure that water play is safe; if some kids can’t swim, a trip to the pool could be disastrous. Instead, have a water day with hoses, sprinklers, wading pools, and, to help out parents, car-washing. If the cost of water is a concern, parents can pool their money to cover the cost of the water use.
* Picnics – Plan an outdoor meal or cookout, and then include games like Frisbee, badminton, horseshoes, and other move-about games.
* Parks – Groups of kids can have a great deal of fun at a state forest or park. You can take them all on a wildflower walk, or just let them play on the playground equipment and partake in the park’s resources (such as miniature golf, paddle boats, feeding water fowl, etc.).
Before you know it the summer will be over and you will have created many precious memories with your summer child care co-op.