Designing good summer program shows good child care

By JUDY LYDEN
Scripps Howard News Service
10-JUL-03

Summer programs in child care should be fun for kids, doable for parents, and fun for the adults who provide them.

Getting through a summer of hours outside, gallons of sunscreen, extraordinary exercise, picnic foods, water on the go, field trips on noisy buses, etc., can really take its toll on everyone, so cooperation is the name of the_game.

Designing a summer program for very young children should, by the very nature of good child care, consist of lots of extras and lots of new things. But rest, hydration and nutrition should always be in the forefront of every good-sense program.

Care is the first priority, but child care is a two-way street. With cooperation between parent and teacher, children will thrive; without it, they will suffer and learn to hate summer, and that's a shame.

Parents should help by making sure children who are ill and children who are tired get as much rest at home as possible if their summer school program is "on the go." Most parents are really wonderful about this, and early bedtimes help children get through a busy summer.

When parents don't help, it's a nightmare and amounts to poor parenting.

One child's behavior was absolutely out of character during a very long field trip. On a trip to see the restored village at a state park, two hours away, the child slept most of the bus ride.

Mom admitted that he had gotten to bed very late the night before and had to be dragged out of bed to get to school early enough to catch the bus.

One summer, a child was sent to school with a 102-degree fever. She went with us on one of our out-of-state field trips, and by the time we discovered she was really ill, we were a long way from home.

Parents should read everything connected to their children.

Often, parents lay important papers aside. And it's no wonder. We live in a very demanding and busy place. Child care is no different. But notes, parent boards, announcements placed on the doors, paperwork that is sent home and papers that are placed on individual cubbies are all aimed at distributing what parents need to know by when, so read everything.

Reading everything can have some unexpected rewards. I sent home a note recently a trip. I included three parts: schedule for the trip with leave and return hours, sign-up for a special cave tour and an "If you read this, sign it and return it for a chance at $10 off tuition." One of five parents returned it.

Reading everything means looking at children's work, as well. One of the things teachers notice is the neglect of some parents toward children's work. I remember one child who was thrilled he finally was able to draw a person. Mom casually looked through his papers and art work and, without a word, deposited them in the trash on the way out the door.

A trick to zeroing in on the demands of child care is to remember the expression "Stop, Look and Listen" every afternoon when entering the childcare gate. Stop what you are doing, look at what is posted and intended for busy parents and, finally, listen to both the child and the teacher.

Stop, look and listen takes only five minutes, and it just might be the best five minutes spent during the day.