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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Greg and Karin Brown send sons Ben, 9, and Ian, 7, to a baby sitter in the summer when they are off from school.

Choosing summer child care

– Remember the arctic months we called winter? Sure you do.

And do you recall all those brutally cold, snow-up-to-here early mornings when you found out there was no school that day, which meant while the kids celebrated, you, dear parent, joined thousands just like you in a collective panicked gasp: “Uh oh, who’s gonna watch them while we’re at work?”

Guess what, folks? Soon, schools will close for the summer, and that familiar predicament returns and will linger into August: Who’s gonna watch the kids while you’re at work?

As it turns out, there are several options of who will tend to your children. It could be family members, baby sitters, day-care centers and various camps.

A recent survey of United States families from the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker noted the average per-child cost of summer care, including camps, is $601. Affluent families, defined in the survey as those with a minimum household income of $100,000, will spend nearly double – $1,116.

For the Brown brothers – Ben, 9, and Ian, 7 – their first day of summer vacation away from St. Peter’s Lutheran School begins June 7, a Saturday.

The following Monday, Greg and Karin Brown put into motion their summer solution.

“We have a baby sitter,” Karin says. “We have known her since Ian was a baby.”

But the sitter also doubles as the boys’ swim coach, so when it’s time to practice, they go along. It’s the perfect scenario, says Karin, who works in the Parkview health network.

If only others could slide into summer as easily.

“I have people from the kids’ school calling me this late in the game,” Karin says. “One of Ian’s little friends’ mom is calling me and saying, ‘What are you doing with the kids?’ … And she’s panicking. It’s like a grapevine among parents.”

Eight-year-old Vinny Bottoms and 5-year-old sister Katy will not only be in familiar surroundings this summer, but they will also be with a familiar caretaker.

“The lady who runs the child care down at (St. John the Baptist Catholic) school watches them at her house during the summers, so we really lucked out with that,” father Dwayne Bottoms says. “We just transition them over to her house, and we maintain the same schedule for work for (wife) Michele and I. We’re really fortunate that we’re able to do that.”

Michele Bottoms drops off the kids about 7:45 a.m. before she goes to her job as a finance manager for Vera Bradley while Dwayne, an accountant for a cleaning firm, picks them up between 4 and 5 p.m.

“It’s not too bad,” Dwayne says of the routine. “It’s a lot more laid back. They can go out and burn energy all day. It’s just an easier-going lifestyle for them. As for my wife and I, it really stays about the same. We’re still dropping them off, going to work; and after work, we’ve got the ballgames and the activities that we try to do in the evening as a family.”

Olivia and Andy Warner prefer Cedar Creek Child Care for daughter Campbell, 7, and son Kellen, 5.

While Kellen stays primarily with the preschool crowd, Campbell will keep busy with numerous day trips provided.

“They have a great schedule for the kids, and they take them swimming and things like that,” Olivia Warner says. “It’s something the kids look forward to, and they’re playing with their friends, anyway. It works out pretty well. … I’m also starting to look for some summer camps for her, and looking at some ‘Y programs that they have.”

Dawn Clay and her husband, Brent, already have the camp scene scoped out for their 10-year-old son, Joseph. Their 2-year-old son Christian, who will spend his summer afternoons at Peace Montessori School, will have to wait.

“We have actually done a lot of local summer camps,” Dawn says. “My favorite, by far we’ve done and what we’d love to do every year is this Franke Park Day Camp.”

Beginning June 16, the camp has two separate programs – one for children ages 4 and 5, and another for kids 6 through 11. Each session, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., is $90.

“I can’t say enough good things about that camp,” Dawn says.

But there are other camps she and Brent are considering for Joseph. Science Central has a camp.

The YMCA has a camp. The Children’s Zoo has a camp. There are even sports camps.

“As far as expense, the most we’ve ever paid is $136 for the week,” she adds.