At this point in the summer, moms and families are either well settled into a summertime rhythm or fed up with patchwork childcare and the day camp hustle. The bored versus busy debate, (that is, the pros and cons of scheduling a kid’s summer with camp and activities or letting them come up with their own fun) is alive and well. There are as many viewpoints on the matter as there are ways to keep ‘em busy (or not). We wanted to ask a few local Vancouver moms for their thoughts on summertime scheduling, and how they stay sane and keep it together during the long, not-so-lazy days of summer.
Traci Costa, founder of www.peeakaboobeans.com, mom of two girls (12 and 7)
Heydy Lopez, legal administrative assistant and founder/editor of www.raisingjayandabel.com, mom of two boys (9 and 19 months)
Connie Peters, founder of www.modernmama.com, mom of three girls (12, 10 and 7)
Meera Bennett, lawyer and director of communications at Devon’s Drawer www.devonsdrawer.com, mom of one son (5) and one daughter (14 months)
Top left: Traci; top right:Heydy; bottom left: Connie; bottom right: Meera
Do you think your kids are better off bored or busy in the summer?
Traci: ‘Let kids get bored! We over-schedule our kids so much these days that when they get the chance to be bored, minds wander, creativity is sparked and wonderful games and activities are created as a result. When kids are bored in groups, leadership, cooperation and imagination skills are exercised, setting them up for success in adulthood.’
Heydy: ‘I personally believe that my children are better off busy during the summer rather than being bored. I have two very active boys who need to let out their energy. Keeping them busy with activities makes their day go faster and it makes it easier for us to put them to sleep.’
Connie: ‘I believe in a combination. I like my girls to have some camps and activities plus family travel to keep them busy, and yet, I like them to have days when they are bored so that they have to use their imaginations to come up with ways to occupy themselves.’
Meera: ‘I think it is a balance. I generally prefer bored over busy as I think kids get creative and learn to entertain themselves if they aren’t over scheduled. My son plays on his own at home and has a very rich inner world. Our bushes outside are basically trampled because they double as castles, forts and caves. However I also give my son the opportunity to do a few fun activities of his choosing.’
If/when you keep your kids busy, what are your go to options?
Traci: ‘When we let kids loose on the playground without instruction they are free to make that playground into whatever they want. A pirate ship, a castle or an underwater world become the backdrop for their games. By taking them outside and letting kids run around and be active, we give them the opportunity to see the world as a playground.’
Heydy: ‘Since I work outside of the home, I unfortunately cannot spend as much time with Jayden or Abel. As I have weekends free, I tend to set up family outings that we can all enjoy, such as swimming, BBQing, going to the park and going for walks. I enroll my older son in a couple day camps so that he can meet new friends and make new experiences.’
Connie: ‘Keeping the girls busy means I put them in a few summer camps each, at least one. We also do a few short getaways every summer. We love short family road trips around BC or Washington. When we are home, I encourage the girls to plan play dates with school friends at least once per week, and we also have neighbourhood kids the girls see almost daily.’
Meera: ‘As above, I prefer bored over busy. However there are also lots of great things for kids to do in the city. We do one activity every week or two. Chorus and Clouds has wonderful classes. Collage Collage has great art classes. Circus Play Cafe is good for a rainy day. Both my kids adore the Eastside Family Place. I also like going out for coffee dates with friends (on my days off), and Le Marche St. George is the best place in the city in the summer to go with your kids. There’s some toys the kids can play with outside, and my son will spend hours playing in bushes around the cafe. My son also loves Granville Island, on a rainy day the kid pit is pretty much his favourite thing in the world. Science World is also a family favourite.
What is the current state of childcare in Vancouver?
Traci: ‘Depending on family situation, childcare usually looks like a parent, nanny or group daycare. Regardless, unstructured play and free time are always key factors for me. Getting outdoors and playing with other kids either in groups or through play dates is a great way to develop social skills and collaboration.’
Heydy: ‘Absolutely overwhelming. The demand is crazy, the prices are so competitive, and the waitlists are nuts! I currently do not have my children in daycare, as I have a family member taking care of them while I am at work. For me, having a family member watch my children at a discounted rate is what works best for us. I hope to enroll my youngest into a daycare, but it will be a few months before that happens.’
Connie: ‘Childcare is very expensive in Vancouver. It’s very limited and cost prohibitive for most families, unfortunately. You have to waitlist for 12-month-old care as soon as you find out you’re pregnant and then it’s still not guaranteed you’ll find a spot.’
Meera: ‘It depends on where you are located, and what kind of childcare you want (and how much you can pay). If you are okay having your kid in a family daycare, or can afford a nanny or nanny share, then there are a lot more options for childcare. We have always either had nannies or small home daycares. I have always found excellent care for our kids and we are still friends with everyone who has taken care of our kids. However I recognize that I am in a very privileged position, and can afford excellent childcare. I know it is very difficult to find a good daycare (I think I’ve been lucky) and it is virtually impossible to get into the more affordable city run daycare centres. I put my son on the waiting list for all the city run daycares when I was three months pregnant with him and we got an email when he was four and a half years old saying that they had room for him in the 3-5 year program. Obviously this was not helpful to us at all.’