Should you send your child to day care or day camp this summer? Here’s why it’s so hard to decide

5 reasons why this important decision is so stressful right now.

should you send your child to day care this summer

Across the country, parents are trying to plan for a summer without widely-available childcare, camps or park programs, relying on a patchwork of guidelines and local regulations to guide decisions about everything from childcare to summer camp to play dates.

As of this writing, not every state has allowed childcare providers to reopen yet, and not every state has made a decision yet about whether or not to allow day camps and other summer programs to open. Meanwhile, interpretations of the guidelines for safely reopening day cares, day camps and schools also vary widely from state to state.

Until there's a vaccine or until the coronavirus is brought under control, unfortunately, there's no such thing as a risk-free environment. In a poll of over 500 epidemiologists published this week in the New York Times, only 30% say they'd send their children to school, camp or day care this summer. Meanwhile, 4 in 10 parents recently polled say they're not comfortable sending their children back to school until there's a vaccine. That day is still far off.

All of this is extremely stressful for working parents trying to make a plan for our kids' care this summer—since the issue of how working parents are going to return to their jobs without school, camp or childcare has somehow not been made a national priority.


Understandably, many parents are desperately looking for an expert answer to the question of whether or not it's safe to put our kids into daycare or day camp this summer.

There is no one expert-backed answer to the question "when will it be safe to send my child to daycare or camp." Here's why that much-needed answer is so hard to find.

1. There's no such thing as "zero-risk."

Epidemiologists identify the risk factors for coronavirus transmission in terms of "time, space, people, place." The ideal combination for lowering risk is a short amount of time, with more space between fewer people in a larger place. As Dr. Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, puts it for ProPublica, "Always choose outdoors over indoor, always choose masking over not masking and always choose more space for fewer people over a smaller space."

Safety guidelines for childcare providers and camp programs are dependent on the state and the provider to enforce as best they can, but it's impossible to guarantee that no child or staffer will get sick. As author and economist Emily Oster notes in her helpful pandemic risk-assessment guide for parents, "No decision is guaranteed to stop anyone from getting sick, and no decision will doom you...We have to accept some uncertainty to move forward."

2. Childcare and day camp are not considered low-risk environments by experts.

By definition, childcare is an environment where children and adults from all over the neighborhood gather together for hours at a time, and are often indoors by necessity. Plus, as we all know, little kids are just not great about maintaining social distance. So much for "time, space, people, place." It's easy to see why viruses found an easy foothold in daycares and schools, long before the coronavirus pandemic.

That said, there's a lot that can be done to minimize the risk of virus transmission, and childcare providers, camps and schools are doing everything they possibly can to provide the safest possible environment for our kids, from ramping up testing, distancing and disinfecting practices to requiring staff to wear masks to lowering enrollment and putting alternating schedules in place.

The CDC's guidelines for safely reopening childcare facilities, which are very similar to the guidelines for camps and schools, suggest daily temperature checks along with frequent cleaning, separating children's belongings, dividing children into small cohorts, lowering capacity and making sure staffers wear masks, among other recommendations. Following these guidelines will likely be a strain for many providers, but look for a childcare provider that is doing everything they can to minimize exposure.

As experts point out, keeping kids safe and healthy while in daycare will depend on more than just childcare providers following strict guidelines—parents will also need to participate actively in keeping their childcare facility safe, by communicating with their provider, maintaining healthy best practices at home and most importantly, by keeping kids home if anyone in the family is sick or exposed to the virus.

Child Care Aware of America, a national resource and advocacy organization for childcare providers, is maintaining a state-by-state list of local regulations for childcare providers, as well as updates on where childcare facilities are allowed to open and where they're not.

The Hunt Institute, a nonprofit education policy research organization, also maintains a detailed list of childcare closings, reopenings and regulations by state. Guidelines and regulations for childcare providers reopening this summer will vary from state to state, so be sure to understand what's considered "safe" where you live.

3. Risk level depends on where you live.

Like everything else related to decisions about when, where and what to reopen, the decision about how and when to allow childcare and day camps to reopen depends entirely on where you live. States are making decisions on a regional basis, based on local virus transmission rates, hospital capacity, contact tracing capacity and testing capacity. In fact, the number one rule to live by (and make decisions by) right now, according to public health experts, is to keep track of overall trends in testing and positive cases where you live.

Meanwhile, care providers and camp directors are making decisions on the basis of what their budgets, staffs and facilities will allow, especially as they try to put into place the CDC's guidelines, which in many cases call for some pretty big changes—way behind just getting the kids to wash their hands more frequently.

If you happen to live in an area where case counts are low and well-run childcare programs are plentiful, you stand a much better chance of being able to safely send your child to camp or childcare this summer, if your family's particular situation allows.

4. Parents have to base decisions on their family's own particular risk level.

If someone in your household is immunocompromised or older, the likelihood of sending your child to camp this summer is probably going to be low—or close to zero. Likewise, if you are pregnant or the parent of a newborn infant, you are probably going to be cautious about sending your older children to daycare or camp this summer.

If this is the case, you're taking the position that's right for you. If you decide you're not ready, then that's what's right for your family. You know your family's particular situation best.

5. Parents also have to base decisions on their own risk tolerance.

You are the ultimate decision-maker for your family—and it's okay if you don't feel ready to take risks right now. In the absence of clear national health guidelines for the weirdest summer in decades, it's up to individuals to decide what feels right and safe for them.

If you live in an area where cases are low and declining, hospitalizations are low and declining, the public health system is stable and social distancing is taken seriously —and no one in your family belongs to an at-risk group—you might decide that sending your kids to day care or day camp this summer is a risk you are willing to take assuming your provider has taken every precaution they can.

The upshot: Whether it's safe to send your child to day care in your area will depend greatly on local transmission levels, and on how closely your childcare community can adhere to the guidelines that help minimize risk. You alone can decide for your family whether the risks are worth the benefits.

<p> Siobhan Adcock is the Experts Editor at Motherly and the author of two novels about motherhood, <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/" target="_blank">The Completionist</a> and <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/the-barter" target="_blank">The Barter</a>. Her writing has also appeared in Romper, Bustle, Ms., McSweeney's, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Chicago Review of Books and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. </p>

In This Article

    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


    Belly oil

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

    $58

    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

    $42

    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

    $28

    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

    $18

    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

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    The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

    Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

    CasarsaGuru / Getty

    After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

    As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

    Loose Leaf Paper

    Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.

    $4

    Personal Planner

    Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.

    $22

    #2 Pencils

    Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.

    $10.29

    Black Ink Pens

    Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.

    $4.47

    Highlighters in Different Colors

    Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.

    $9.99

    Big Pink Erasers

    The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.

    $.99

    New Headphones

    Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.

    $16.99

    Lined Notebooks

    Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.

    $3.19

    Three-Ring Binders

    Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.

    $16.95

    Locker Decorations

    Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.

    $14.99

    New Lunch Box

    Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.

    $12.99

    Upgraded Backpack

    It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.

    $31.96

    Colorful Markers

    Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.

    $3.49

    Reusable Water Bottle

    Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.

    $29.95

    Calculator

    Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

    $130.99
    Back to School Landing

    Mom relieves baby's gas like a pro in viral TikTok

    "How was he not floating around like a balloon?!" asked one commenter.

    @kaseybuscemi/TikTok

    We all know the struggles of having a gassy baby. It can be rough—for baby and for you! Since babies don't actually come out of the womb knowing how to pass their own gas without a little assistance, there are so many different techniques and tips out there to help your baby feel more comfortable when they're a little...flatulent.

    "Bicycle legs" is one common technique that can help get things moving for baby gas relief, and no one does it better than this mom on TikTok.

    Her video has more than 10 million likes, and it's not hard to see why—it's mesmerizing, informative, and, of course, downright hilarious!


    Her little baby has a wicked case of the toots and even mom cracks up by the end.

    Someone give this mom, @kaseybuscemi TikTok, a gold medal, because she just placed first in the Farting Your Baby Olympics. No joke. When I first learned about the "bicycle legs" technique (after my baby spit the gripe water right back at me and, I kid you not, laughed in my face while making direct eye contact), I felt awkward and had no idea what kind of rhythm was required to effectively fart my own baby.

    This mom? TOTAL PRO.

    The comments on this video are as funny and entertaining as you'd expect them to be, too:

    Never in my 30 years of living have I ever seen someone fart a baby. This is so cool.

    TWIST IT! PULL IT! BOP IT!

    *baby all grown up* "So what's a fun fact of yours?" "Oh 6 million people saw me fart."

    How was he not floating around like a balloon??

    Farting a baby is just as important as burping a baby!

    As far as the importance of farting a baby goes, yes, in case you're wondering, it is important. Some gassiness in babies is totally normal—just like with adults. Regular farting and burping are a sign of good gastrointestinal health, according to Healthline. In addition to bicycle legs, changing the baby's position, gently massaging the baby or bouncing the baby a little bit can also help alleviate trapped gas.

    Your baby could also be intaking a tad too much air from your nipple or the nipples of a bottle if they're extra gassy. If you're concerned about your own baby's gassiness, contact your pediatrician or healthcare provider for more information.

    If you're looking to master the bicycle legs technique, though, look no further than this video right here!

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