Cost Effective Options for After School Care

Published on Monday, 05 December 2016
Last updated on Monday, 16 November 2020

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Struggling to find before and after school care for your primary school aged kids? Join the club! As we keep hearing in the media, spaces in these exclusive little clubs are rare as hen's teeth and seem to be the exclusive domain of parents with exceptional organisational abilities and enough sense to put their child on a wait list when they are 18 months old.

One option is to think outside the box and look at hiring an older student, friend or neighbour to help with the after school pick up and child minding in the hours between when school finishes for the day and when you can get home from work. These cost effective options may require a little more organisation than formal after school care programs but the affordability and flexibility make them options well worth exploring.

Reliable teenager

If you have friends with teenage kids or know some teenagers in your neighbourhood this can be an excellent option. Hiring a babysitter is often more cost effective than using a nanny and, if they are local, then there is good chance they can be flexible if you are running late or need an extra day here or there. Read our comprehensive overview on babysitting.

The key is to find a RELIABLE teenager and one who seems generally interested and enthusiastic about being with your children. If you are struggling to figure out how to enquire about their reliability and punctuality without sounding rude (!) then make sure you use our Babysitter Checklist when you meet to discuss the arrangement and how it will work.

An important point to keep in mind when thinking about using an older school aged kid for babysitting is whether they will be able to make it up to your child's school in good time after the bell rings. If not you'll have to arrange a designated area in the playground where your child waits.

Another thing to keep in mind is that teenagers often have little or no experience with kids so you will need to be explicit with your instructions, what you want done with homework and school bags, what snacks should be given, what the TV/computer policy is after school and so on.

Consider doing a test run while you are home to make sure your babysitter can find everything, knows how to handle the kids and to make sure the dynamic works out.

After school care co-op

This option is FREE but will require a bit of investigating and networking to get up and running. Care Co-ops work really well in families with a parent working part time or in a flexible job and involve kid sharing with participating families on a set day each week. The way it works is you split the week up around each participating family's work commitments and divide the child minding responsibilities to match up. One carer/parent takes the kids for set days per week in either house or to the park and the other days are taken care of by the other parent. This arrangement works really well when the kids are of similar ages and share interests as they will be spending a fair amount of time with each other.

It can be tricky trying to find families with complementary work/care arrangements and you may need to be imaginative in how you access your school community. Ask if you can advertise in the school newsletter or look at any social media channels managed by your school. You could also talk to your class teacher about emailing the parents or sending home a note with the kids.

If you like the idea of your child hanging out with other kids after school then another option is to pay another parent to mind your child after school. This arrangement works well if you can't regularly reciprocate in a care co-op or if your work commitments change. Again it will work best if the children are of similar ages and share interests so that the work for the carer is more one of supervising homework and play, rather than wrangling fighting kids.

Older relatives/neighbours

If you are lucky enough to have an energetic family member or involved neighbour who you think might be up to the job of after school care then why not ask about it? Remember school aged kids are a totally different ball game to infants and toddlers and require supervision and company above everything.

If you know the person well then there is no real need to conduct a formal interview however it would be worthwhile giving them a tour of your home and explaining how the after school routine plays out and what you prefer in terms of homework, after school snacks, TV watching and so on.

Remember older relatives and neighbours may not have as much energy as younger babysitters so you may want to use this type of care in tandem with a formal after school program or some after school activities. It's also worth checking in regularly to make sure the responsibilities aren't becoming too much. For some great tips read our article on how to successfully use grandparents for care.

Whichever option or combination of options you prefer be sure to be organised and start your planning early. Many of these scenarios require a bit of groundwork and may take some time to get off the ground. You'll also need to consider what to do during holidays.

A helpful first step is to map out your working week and your child's school week along with any extra curricular activities they participate in. Having a visual reference for which days you require care and whether it needs to be at home or elsewhere will help you configure your care arrangements. Remember also that things change and the right arrangement this year might not work next year or even next week so be willing to reassess as necessary.

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