What do working parents do with older kids during summer?

What should working parents do during the summer with young teens that are too old for day care but too young to get a job?

One of our commenters is trying to figure out what to do with her 14-year-old son this summer. She sent me this note:

“How about a topic about what to do with your kids this summer if you have a full-time job.  My son is 14.  Too old for day care, too young for a “real” job, and we live in the mountains where you have to be able to drive to get any where!  We do not even live in a subdivision.  I am sending him to camp for one week. (It’s all that I can afford!) What do you do with them for the other nine weeks?”

I called my mom to ask her what she did with us at that age. She worked full time at a large Baptist church in Decatur. We went to the church’s summer day camp when we were little. I started working as an assistant in the church’s daycare area when I was 15 and did that each summer until I went away to college.

At 14, she thinks I babysat for neighborhood families and also volunteered some at the church’s library shelving books.

I think your answer may be finding a day camp that needs assistant counselors, also known as counselors in training. They are probably not paid positions, but he’ll be with a group and he’ll be learning a skill where he could be paid next year.

I received a flyer in my water bill from Gwinnett County Parks saying they are looking for CIT volunteers. I know you don’t live in Gwinnett, but your local county parks and rec also may be looking. I also would check with your local YMCA and any large churches in your area. You probably would have to drop him off on your way to work and pick him up on your way home.

What do you guys think? What did you do during summers before you were officially old enough to work? What have you done with your 12- to-15 year olds during summers if you had to work? How old do they need to be to stay home every day alone during the summer?

62 comments Add your comment

new mom

March 17th, 2009
6:17 pm

OK, you guys are too smart–I was going for Jerry Orbach (so officially HB gets all the points, 1,263 total!) but honorable mention to lakerat and FCM for the other guy whom I’m embarrassed to have never heard of. I most certainly will not say those shows were before my time, that would not be nice! Now, was he on broadway too? Cause if not, he doesn’t count! :)

As far as the drive thru question, it was actually from one of the trivia nights we attended a few weeks ago, and I had remembered hearing it was Wendy’s from another foodtv show. Apparently theirs was the first ‘modern-day’ drive thru (whatever that means) so it may be a ‘depends on who you ask’ answer! So I’ll give everyone points for the other answers (except Mcdonalds, JJ, sorry!)

Anyone have a question ready for tomorrow?

new mom

March 17th, 2009
6:21 pm

OK, I’ve done some research, and James McArthur was on broadway too! So lakerat and FCM, you each get 398 points.

(Seriously, what were the chances that there were TWO broadway actors who were in both a Disney movie and a TV crime show? Who would have thought it?)

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 17th, 2009
6:29 pm

Hey Guys — I’ve added some new links and categories to our Blog Roll on the side of the page. Please check out the link under School News — It looks like the school nurses will be saved. I will link up the full news story as soon as capitol reporter James Salzer posts it!

Also please note the story on a possible therapy to help peanut allergies!

[...] Original post: What do working parents do with older kids during the summer … [...]


March 17th, 2009
8:08 pm

Thanks for all of the suggestions that everyone sent in to my question. We currently liven in Habersham county and after haveing living the last 20 years in Gwinnett, I can say that there is not a lot to do out here in the beautiful mountains for 14 year old boys to do while his mom works.

I like the working at camp but he is not responsible enough to take care of him self…much less others.

I was thinking of hiring a High School senior ( a MANNY a friend called him ) to go to the pool, play golf with.

Has anyone ever tried that?

new mom

March 17th, 2009
9:36 pm

Hi Zach’s mom,

I don’t have a 14 yr old yet, but having worked with teenagers for years, I might suggest that a great way for him to learn that responsibility is to find a place where he’s ‘forced’ to be responsible. Are you involved in a church, or have one nearby, where he could work with other youth over the summer? Perhaps he could volunteer working with some older elementary kids, maybe 4th-6th graders, in their VBS or camp? Maybe he’s not ready to be in charge, but if he’s in a position to help, it could foster some responsibilty. And a church program can usually place kids in age-appropriate positions, and not let them get over their heads. Another idea could be a local YMCA, where he might be able to help out.

And…I don’t know of anyone who has hired a ‘manny’, but I did read the book called ‘the manny’ a couple of years ago. It was a fun summer read ;)

new mom

March 17th, 2009
9:48 pm

I forgot to suggest, regarding the logistics (since you work full-time) that if he’s involved in a program that enlists many kids his age, there might be other kids’ parents or leaders who could transport him back and forth, possibly even pick him up and take him home. (I used to help with this in a previous church) Especially if they are receiving his help in a camp, they might be happy to help him get there. (I’d probably want to get to know those who drive him around, but at our current church, you can’t work in any program involving kids of any age without extensive background checks)

I hope these ideas help. Good luck!


March 18th, 2009
2:53 am

Sleepless night. My son was on his own since the summer he was 14. He mowed (and still does two) neighbor’s yards. It was a way for him to earn $$ and learn responsibility. Some days, he was tired at the end of the day, but still had time (and money) to have fun with friends. And, on the days that he did not have “a job”, he did stuff around the house. He also had football and wrestling workouts and we had to juggle the transportation. Luckily, there were parents willing to drop him off afterwards. Before I returned to work, there were many times I picked up and dropped off kids whose parents were working.

The sentiment at home was that if Mom & Dad were out working, he could pitch in around the house. He does his own laundry, and has done so since he was 12. He cleans his own bathroom, his bedroom and the gameroom. He uses them, he cleans them. One night per week, he is responsible for dinner. The lesson he learned was to keep busy and stay out of trouble, otherwise, additions were put on his list. The one thing he wanted to avoid was hard manual labor and weeding. Kids don’t learn responsibility and time management if the lesson is never taught.


March 19th, 2009
5:22 pm

Apparently Robby Benson (voice of Beast) was also on a cop on a show Det. Cliff Brady (unknown episodes)and on broadway. Donny Osmond is in College Road Trip, singing voice of Sheng (Mulan) and on broadway but I doubt he did a cop stint


March 27th, 2009
10:16 am

Be careful to stay within the guidelines of the law “Between the ages of 9 and 12, you can leave a child alone for up to two hours. Age 12 and up, no more than 12 hours at a time.” 9-12 counts as tween, but they are not allowed to be home alone more than TWO hours, and definitely not old enough to supervise younger children. I agree summer camps are expensive. I have a babysitter with reasonable rates that I drop my girls (6 & 10) off with every morning. She has children the same ages as mine, so they have somebody to play with, and she also takes them on little “field trips”. You can always try and find out if any of the teachers take on kids during the summer for some extra cash!

Erin Carpenter

April 21st, 2009
11:09 am

Check with your local YMCA, mine has a program that trains your kids to be a camp counselor. This way my son doesn’t feel like he is being “baby-sat” but he gets to do all the fun summer camp activities, added to this is that it will look good on a resume especially if he wants to become a full camp counselor when he is old enough. Good Luck!


June 29th, 2010
7:34 pm

I have four kids: 5, 6, 8, and 10 (two of each). I am a teacher so I am lucky enough to be at home with them during the summer. I still found the money (my tax refund) to pay for a summer camp that is 5 weeks long from 8 – 12 Mon – Fri. It was expensive though – $300 per kid. I think the kids need to get out and play, spend some time in the sun, and be around other kids. When they are home from 12 until bedtime (still a lot of unstructured hours), I have to keep them occupied.

We go the library every Monday. They each have age appropriate chores (two daily chores: one assigned for the week and they grab one additional chore out of a bunch of cards I have made up). They are all responsible for making their own bed and keeping their rooms clean.

My kids love to play on their Nintendo DS(s), watching TV, playing in the pool, and playing on the computer. In order to do any of these things in the afternoon, they have to do some school work for it. I know that if they don’t read over the summer, their reading levels drop and if they never practice doing math, then they forget what they learned and start the year with a deficit. Therefore, each kid (even my 5 year-old) reads for thirty minutes each day and then tells me about what they read. They also do a math page or two and a reading page with questions to answer. These things really don’t take them that long and sometimes they actually enjoy doing them. They know the rules and generally come into the room asking to do work so that they can go in the pool or watch TV or whatever. If they don’t feel like doing the work, that is their choice, but they don’t get to do any of the four covetted activities. Usually once one kid starts doing work, then all others follow suit. Peer pressure can be a fantastic thing!

Some of the chores I assign to my kids include: vacuuming, sweeping, dusting (my five year-old dusts the windowsills and blinds), using the hand vac to vacuum the car, windexing the car windows or the patio windows where the dogs scratch, feeding the dogs, swiffer sweeping the kitchen/laundry room, washing out the bathroom sinks, scrubbing the tub they use, wiping down the dining room table and kitchen counters after each meal, setting the table, putting the dog toys away, using Comet on the kitchen sink, getting all the trash out of the car, taking the trash and recycling outside and to the curb, using the hand vac on the couch (dog hair – yuck!), sweeping the entryway (lots of leaves just outside the front door). They don’t do it all in one day and there are four of them to divide things up by. I usually have to help out my five and six year old, but the older two can do things on their own. It’s great; the house stays clean and the kids stay busy. Two chores per day is all I ask. They have lots of time to have fun and play and we keep our house in tip-top shape. Everyone is responsible and the kids argue just a little less, because they have enough to do to fill their time.

I know I don’t have tweens just yet, but within a year or two I will. I am training them now for that time. Then I can run off and do a few errands while they do the things around the house that they need to. They will still have time to play and enjoy themselves and the structure of it all will already be in place. Being able to leave them in the house for an hour or two a day starts to build some independence and responsibility – obviously I wouldn’t leave the little ones, but in a couple of years I can leave the older two.

By the way, I also plan camping trips and trips to visit my parents at their cabin during the summer. We all stay mighty busy!!!

And for those single moms out there…I, too, am a single mom (by choice – I adopted my four kids). I am doing it all with a single parent salary – but I do have summers off. I am a lucky mom and all is working out well.