Free vacation care your kids will love

free vacation care

Note: This article was initially published in 2015. Given that the challenges for us mums remain the same, we thought it'd be fun to bring this idea into 2024 by updating it for you.

~ Beanstalk Mums Team

The school holidays are upon us once more. Is it just me, or are the terms getting shorter? I’m sure the last term only started a few weeks ago. Of course, it’s a relief to have a break from the regimented school routine, but for working mums, especially working single mums, life goes up another gear as we struggle to juggle the inescapable vacation care/work scenario.

There is no doubt that vacation care can be stressful. We race to get our children places at the right care, cajole them to actually go, and frantically crunch numbers to find the extra money to pay for it.

If this resonates with you, then why not consider setting up a VACATION CARE CLUB?

free vacation care

By this, I don’t mean inviting everyone’s kids to your house. Not at all. All you do is hook up with other mothers in the same situation as you and devise a simple plan whereby you look after each other’s children on certain dates during the school holidays.

It’s a win-win situation. You get free vacation care in return for looking after people’s children, your children get to hang out with kids from their class, and you may even make some new friends in the process.

Step 1: Ask other mums

A few weeks before the end of term, ask around other mums in your children’s year groups to see if they work. If they do, ask if they’d be interested in forming a vacation care club. Here, you all pitch in looking after each other’s children in the holidays. If they express an interest, grab their email address. Alternatively, draft an email and ask the teacher to send it out to all parents on your behalf.

Of course, never EVER forget about safety. Try to do background checks on all the prospective mums on your list. Also, make sure you're on the same page when it comes to childcare. I mean, it could become uncomfortable if everyone has the same parenting style and there's one mum who has stricter (or more lax) rules.

Step 2: Compile a list of interested mums

There are bound to be a few. An ideal number would be about 4-6. Too many, and it gets complicated. Plus, you could end up with too many kids on your doorstep. Remember, siblings need to be taken into the equation, too.

Step 3: Name your free vacation care group

You can give your new group a cool name if you like. The Havoc Free Holiday Club? Or The Vacation Vixens? Just a thought … you don’t have to!

vacation care

Step 4: Send out general instructions

Email the interested mums with general instructions as to how it works. I’d advise that you keep it as simple as possible. It’s not like a babysitting circle, which is ongoing and requires a number of rules. You just need a framework with set dates to get you through the holiday period. I’d suggest you ask them to send you a return email with:

  • Confirmation that they’d love to join this fabulous new group
  • The names and ages of their children
  • Their address and phone number
  • Details of their children’s health issues or allergies
  • Which days they NEED childcare and can PROVIDE child care

Step 5: Create a calendar

Print out a monthly calendar that encompasses the school holiday dates. Then in a quiet moment, maybe with a cuppa or glass of wine, work out who can look after whose children on what days. (You may like to use a calendar app you can share within the group. Google Calendar is free and completely collaborative.)

Try to be as fair as possible and make sure everyone's needs are met. But keep in mind that it may not always work out perfectly. Oh, and don't forget about yourself - it's important to ensure that your needs are met, too! Aim for fair treatment for everyone involved.

Step 6: Create a directory for your vacation care

Compile a list with the information you requested earlier i.e. member names, addresses, contact details, children’s names and ages and children’s allergies. You can even create cute ID cards for the kids for each mum to fill out.

Step 7: Seek confirmation

Then email all members with your details list and your online calendar. Ask them to confirm back to you if they’re happy with the dates you’ve suggested or if changes are required.

If you have someone who’s particularly difficult or wants more help than they’re prepared to give, don’t waste time with them. Tell them you have their hours covered and their help is no longer needed. Sorry, but this approach is meant to make life easier, not harder.

Step 8: Final email

Once everyone’s happy, send one final email with the finalised calendar and a few simple ‘rules’ so everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet. I’d suggest:

  • All children are to bring a packed lunch and water bottle when going to childcare
  • Confirm set drop-off/pick-up times (allowing those caring to make plans for the day)
  • Collect your child on time (Unless absolutely unavoidable)
  • Unacceptable behaviour from the child allows the caregiver to request an immediate pick-up
  • Do not send your child if he/she is ill or has nits, etc.

Step 9: Create a private group chat

With everyone on board, it's time to create a group chat. Yes, email is good, but a group chat makes life easier. It's more accessible for other mums since everyone has a smartphone, and most of us are connected to the internet through work. A group chat also creates a collaborative atmosphere, making it easier for people to brainstorm, pitch in their ideas, and react to messages.

Not decided yet on a platform for your vacation care club? Here's a list of video-calling apps you can check out. (Of course, ol' Facebook Messenger works just fine too.)

free vacation care

Summary: Free Vacation Care Your Kids Will Love

That’s it. Easy.  It should be fairly straightforward to organise, but this does depend on the mothers involved. And if it works, you already have a fully formed group ready for the next holiday period. Make sure you pass the organisational responsibility to another member – it’s only fair that everyone gets a turn! You can send the new organiser this blog with the list so they know what to do.

Hopefully, you’ll find that even if your new group doesn’t alleviate all your vacation care issues, it will ease some of the holiday pressure. You may even decide to take the group further and set up a babysitting circle. These require a little more planning since they’re ongoing, so more records need to be kept. I’d highly recommend one, though, for the simple reason that YOU CAN GET A NIGHT OUT. YAY.

I’ll leave you with warm wishes for a safe, reasonably relaxing and enjoyable school holiday. Good luck, mum!

Keep reading

Flower Decoractions Leaf Decoractions Plant Decoractions Branch Decoractions

Save. Share.

Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

Visit website

Further reading