Valley Parents: Where Do Kids Go in the Summer? Working Parents Look for Child Care Options That Mesh With Busy Lives and Multiple Needs
Outdoor adventures, as well as day trips to regional attractions, are on the schedule for children enrolled in summer camps through Green Mountain Children's Center. The center has three campuses, one in Hartford, Lebanon and Claremont.
Photograph courtesy of Green Mountain Children's Center
Children at the Sunshine Camp in Hartford make friends and put the cares of school behind them. The summer program, run by the Green Mountain Children's Center, is one of many summer child care options available to working parents in the Upper Valley.
Photograph courtesy of Green Mountain Children's Center
Lisa Poirier, of Wilder, hands off a bag to Mason, 11, as he heads to baseball practice with his father Shawn on April 26. The Poiries are working parents who need to find summer child care options for all four of their children, ranging in age from 7-12.
Valley News - James M. Patterson
Jaden Poirier, 7, winds up to throw to his dad Shawn while playing catch outside the family home in Wilder with Mason, 11, left, Erin, 8, second from left, and Michael, 12, right, on April 26.
Valley News - James M. Patterson
When the temperatures rise and school lets out, working parents in the Upper Valley face the perennial challenge of finding places to send their youngsters for the summer months. It’s a juggling act that can test the managerial skills of even the most organized parents as they try to figure out where, when and how to afford child care options for children who may range in age from a few months to early teens.
Claremont-based Family School Connections Program director Cathy Paradis said arranging for transportation can prove troublesome for many parents. Even if there are a host of summer child care options available, Paradis said, getting the kids to and from the programs during an average work day may require some creative thinking. Camp hours and cost can also be limitations.
“There are enough summer options for school-aged children,” Paradis said. It’s the finely printed details that cause headaches for some parents.
“(For example) a problem is transportation. A lot of programs don’t provide that, which kind of defeats the purpose,” Paradis said.
Dartmouth College Childcare Project assistant coordinator Cindy Binzen agreed that there are a slew of summer child care options. But details such as financial assistance and where families live relative to camp locations can disrupt a family’s routine.
“As far as camps go, there are a few things that are limiting,” Binzen said. “The schedules are not the same as peoples’ work hours.” She added that camp programs are not licensed, so families that normally receive financial assistance for child care wouldn’t receive funds for summer camp fees.
Although lining up child care options during the summer may not be completely stress-free, there are options out there for families with children of all ages.
Into the Wild
For families on both sides of the Connecticut River, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee holds week-long programs for children pre-kindergarten to eighth grade from the day school lets out until the bell rings again in the fall.
Children can be enrolled in the VINS nature camp program for one week or more and have the opportunity to participate in hiking, swimming, archery, art-related activities, and more. VINS runs sessions in Quechee, Lebanon, Woodstock, Hanover and White River Junction throughout the summer. Prices per week, depending on the program, range from $175 to $310, according to the VINS website.
“We have been doing this program for years and our camp counselors are highly skilled for nature camp and for child education,” said marketing manager Mary Davidson Graham.
Sticking with the outdoor adventure theme, Montshire Museum of Science, based in Norwich, also offers week-long outdoor day camps for children entering preschool to eighth grade.
Montshire’s science educator and program manager Amy VanderKooi said the museum offers two different programs; one geared toward nature and environmental science and the other geared toward physical science. Tuition ranges from $170 to $330 per week, depending on the program.
“The camps provide a setting for children to explore and investigate,” VanderKooi said.
Montshire Museum also offers extended child care options for parents whose work hours don’t run parallel to camp hours. The VINS program also offers an early arrival options, but won’t offer extended afternoon hours this summer, Davidson Graham said.
In addition, Montshire offers aquatics programs in Hanover around Storrs Pond Recreation Area for campers to learn about ponds and streams, and animal and plant inhabitants.
Put the Show on the Road
Although some families look solely for week-long camps to engage their little ones, others search for longer-term programs that provide child care for the majority of the summer months.
Green Mountain Children’s Center has three campuses, one in Claremont, Hartford and Lebanon. In Hartford and Claremont, they offer eight and 10-week traveling summer programs for children in first through fifth grade.
GMCC site director Tricia Minard said both the Hartford and Claremont based campuses “give children many different experiences over the summer.”
“We want to give them the best possible experience if they have to spend their summer with us,” Minard said, adding that children in the program travel to attractions such as Whale’s Tale Waterpark in Lincoln, N.H. and to Fisher Cats games in Manchester.
Although the 10-week program in Hartford, Camp Sunshine, is full for this summer, the Camp Energy program in Claremont still has spots available for its eight-week program, which runs from the end of June through the middle of August and costs $134 per week. GMCC also offers a down-scaled traveling summer program for newborn to preschool-aged children.
Lisa Poirier, of Wilder, has already enrolled three of her four children in Camp Sunshine for this summer. Poirier said she has sent all of her children to the program in the past and said its flexible schedule, from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., paired with its traveling itinerary fits her family’s needs.
“I’m a working mom, so I don’t get to spend the summer with my kids doing fun things, so the camp does it for me,” Poirier said. “They get a lot of opportunities that I probably wouldn’t be able to do for them. You can only do so much in a one-week summer vacation.”
Arranging child care for her sixth-grade son — who timed out of Green Mountain’s program this summer — presents more of a challenge.
“It’s really tricky. The problem is piecing a lot of things together. It’s definitely a challenge,” Poirier said, noting many camps for older children only run half-day programs and the week-long camps are costly.
In addition to multi-week summer camps, Claremont Parks and Recreation offers a full-day, five-week summer camp program geared toward children age 9-12.
Programming superintendent Justin Martin said from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. children can participate in activities such as hiking, swimming and kayaking, and take part in trips to Water Country in Portsmouth, N.H. and to the Dartmouth ropes course in Hanover, to name a few.
“At first it was interesting because kayaking with 9-year-olds wasn’t easy, but after they go once or twice they really start to like it,” Martin said. “It’s really great to see kids liking something in the outdoors in this day and age. That’s really important.”
Although Martin is still firming up camp details for this summer, he said the program runs from the end of June to the beginning of August and costs around $100 per week, per child.
The Carter Community Building Association in Lebanon holds multiple summer camp programs for children ages 2-11. Parents can enroll children in either all nine weeks, running from June 17 to August 12, or select individual weeks, CCBA preschool director Eileen Urquhart said. Children are placed in programs according to age and participate in indoor and outdoor activities such as water play, fitness games and sporting events.
“We have member and non-member rates. They are affordable, I feel, compared to other camps in the area,” Urquhart said, adding the prices per week range from $120 to $190 for full-day sessions.
Both the Claremont Parks and Recreation program and the CCBA programs for children ages 4-11 offer early drop-off and late pick-up options to assist parents who work outside the scheduled camp hours.
Lisa Perfierld, of Canaan, chose a slightly different option for child care, sending her daughter to an individual’s home for a more privatized experience. She said there are only three to four children in the program, which allows for more flexibility.
“Every kid is on their own schedule. For example, (my daughter) is on the same nap schedule that I would have her on at home,” Perfierld said, adding she pays $27 a day for child care services.
Although many parents would much rather stay home and spend the summer with their children, they face the basic reality of needing child care services while they earn a living. West Lebanon resident Courtney Farrell summed it up when she said, “I work, so I don’t have a choice.” She sends two of her three children to La Petite Creche, a childcare center in Hanover.
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com.