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15 Tips for Picking the Perfect Summer Program

15 Tips for Picking Your Child’s Perfect Summer Program

I can’t believe I am already typing this post… where has the time gone?  I swear it was just Christmas.  However, I will admit, after the amount of rain we have had this winter, I am ready and willing to welcome the summer.  School is almost out, which means it is time to pick a summer childcare program for your kiddos.  This always seems easier than it is.  There is so much to consider when picking a perfect summer program for your child.  I decided, as a previous director of a child development center, I would put my experience and knowledge to work and give you my best tips for picking the perfect summer program.  Here are my 15 Tips for Picking Your Child’s Perfect Summer Program:

1.  Program or Facility Licensing

Is the facility you are enrolling your child in licensed by the State?  This is important, because the State ensures things are being conducted the way they are being presented to you.  The State also verifies certifications, background checks, and ensures that the program or facility is following the required rules.

It is important to note that each state is different and so it is important for you to understand the laws for your state.  For example, in my state, a program running three months or less does not have to be licensed.  This means nobody is checking on the facility to ensure it is safe, if the instructors are qualified or background checked, or that child to teacher ratios are being followed.  Does this mean you shouldn’t enroll your child?  No, but it should be another item of consideration.

Another thing to consider is if the summer program’s location has required fire and health inspections. Again, depending on your state, often licensed programs are required to have fire and sanitation inspections every year.

2.  Background Checks

Is everyone working at the program required to be background checked?  Does this include parent helpers, volunteers, janitors, and maintenance workers?  Or is it only those who directly work with your child?

3.  Staff Certifications

What type of certifications are required of the staff (including volunteers)?  Are staff required to have their food handler’s card?  What type of education is required to run the program?  Is any continued education required to maintain their position?

4.  CPR/First Aid

Is CPR/First Aid training a requirement?  Does each staff member have to have CPR/First Aid training?  Does this include parent helpers or volunteers?  If so, what type of training does this include… infant, child/adult or just one or the other?

5.  Costs & Payments

Nobody wants to put a price on their child, but the reality is it takes money to run a program and you generally (there are always exceptions) need to pay for your child to attend.  So, are you able to afford it?  If so, how do you pay for it?  Are their payment due dates?  Does the cost need to be paid all up front?  Are there incentives to pay ahead or in a lump sum?

These are important questions, because you don’t want to lose your spot due to a lack of knowledge, nor do you want to rack up late fees for not knowing the due dates.  I always recommend asking about discounts.  Worst case scenario is they say no… however, they could say yes and save you some money!

5.  Snacks and Meals

Who is responsible for providing the snacks and lunches?  If the program provides any, what type of food is it?  Is it an additional cost?  What times are the snacks provided and when do the children usually eat lunch?

These may seem like silly questions, but if your child is used to eating every two hours and the program has a bigger gap, it is something to consider.  Maybe you still enroll, but work with the program director to ensure your child has access to snacks if they get hungry.

6.  Child to Adult Ratios

What is the child to adult ratio?  Does this ratio account for volunteers?  Are there times during the day that the ratio can change?

It is important to note that ratios are mandated for licensed programs by the state that I live in.  For example, for infants we had 1 adult to 4 infants.  You could always have more adults to the 4 infants, but never more infants to the 1 adult.  Also, the ratios changed if age groups were mixed or if children were sleeping during nap times.

No matter where you live or what your state requires, it is best to know and understand how the program works so you know what type of care your child is receiving as well as what you are paying for.

7.  Age Groups

Will my child be placed in a group according to age or will it be based on something else?  What is the age span of the kids in the program?  Are there times that the groups are mixed together?  If so, for what length of time?

8.  Discipline

What form of discipline does the program practice?  As the parent, do you agree and support this type of discipline?  Does your child need any extra type of care when it comes to disciplining?  If so, this would be an incredibly important topic to discuss with the program director prior to enrolling.

9.  Schedule & Closure Dates

Are there days that the program will be closed?  Are you being charged for those closure dates?  Also, what time of day does the program open and what time does the program close?

I would highly suggest getting a calendar of the closure dates so you can be sure you have them marked on your family calendar.  It is also important to know how early you can drop your child off and how late you can pick them up.  Some programs will charge a late fee if you don’t pick up your child by a certain time.  You also don’t want to repeatedly frustrate the staff by being late, because that means they don’t get to go home on time.  Ain’t nobody happy when that happens!

10.  Education vs. Playschool & Screen Time

Is it an educational program or is it more of a play school environment?  Is there screen time allowed?  If so, for how long?

At my facility, we did not have any screen time allowed other than the day before a holiday, which was a special treat.  We usually had some type of party with treats and fun holiday focused activities and then we would maybe watch a movie.  This only applied to the older children, not the babies.  However, screen time on a day to day basis was not allowed.

This means you need to decide what you are looking for in a program.  Is screen time okay with you?

11.  Facility Safety

Is the program you are enrolling your child in a safe building and is it an adequate environment?  Do they have appropriate toys and an outside area for your child?  Are there enough bathrooms and do they have the appropriate supplies needed to run a program?

These are all questions to consider when selecting your child’s summer program.  Some of these may seem obvious, but you might be surprised when looking for your child’s perfect summer program.

12.  Parent Responsibility

As the parent, do you have any additional responsibilities to the summer program?  Do you have to volunteer a certain number of hours while your child is enrolled?  Are you required to provide snacks based on a rotating snack calendar?  Will you be expected to help with field trips?

I can’t stress this enough… it is very important to know and understand your side of the agreement when you enroll your child in a program.  The more you know and understand, the less likely there will be an issue down the road.

13.  Supplies

Are you responsible for buying supplies (art supplies, paper, glue, pencils, markers, etc.) for your child to attend?  If so, when do they need to be purchased?

14.  Field Trips & Transportation

Will there be any field trips?  If so, what type of transportation will be provided?  What type of supervision will be on the field trip?  Are there additional costs for the field trip?

15.  Does your Child Like it?

I know this seems like a silly question to consider, but I cannot stress how important it truly is.  Your child is going to be spending a lot of time at this summer program, and if they don’t like it, I highly doubt it is going to work… no matter how perfect the program is!

I realize the above list seems long and overwhelming, but it’s a big deal leaving your child in someone else’s care.  It is important for you and your child to feel comfortable, and that you know your child is being left in a safe and loving environment.  Knowledge is power!

Cheers to summer!

15 Tips for Picking Your Child's Perfect Summer Program
s to Help a Grieving Friend - Dreams and Caffeine

10 Tips to Help a Grieving Friend

Good morning and welcome to today’s post on 10 Tips to Help a Grieving Friend.  It was the anniversary of my mother’s passing recently and it really got me thinking of my loss and how it has truly changed me and my life.  My mother passed about a month after I got engaged (luckily, she knew and supported my future husband and our relationship).  Since her passing, I have had so many life changing moments that I would have loved to share with her… getting married, battling infertility, IUI & IVF/FET, getting pregnant, having a baby, and then having a second child.  There are days that I look at my children and they just crack me up… and I think of my mom and how much she would have adored my kiddos.

As you can tell from the above paragraph, I am able to talk and write about my mother and her passing in a much more positive light.  That has not always been the case, especially when I first lost her.  Digging deep and going back to those first moments, I can’t help but remember the pain (it actually physically hurt my heart) and the anger.  The pure exhaustion and heartbreak I felt from seeing my dad, sisters, and nieces & nephews go through this truly painful experience.  So, as the old saying goes, I thought I would turn lemons into lemonade and put my experience to good use to hopefully help someone else who might be experiencing loss.

Here are my 10 Tips to Help a Grieving Friend…

  1. Send texts or emails to let your friend know that you are thinking of them and that if there is anything you can do, just let you know.  This may seem impersonal, but I promise you, during this time they may be only able to handle a text.  And know that they may not respond, but when all is said and done, they’ll remember.
    *Facebook – avoid public communication unless they have initiated it.  This is a very personal situation and should be dealt with as such.
  2. Send a card and let your friend know that you are there and supporting them every step of the way.  When the dust settles, they will have the card there to remind them of your support.
  3. Bring food… and by this, I mean prepare a meal and drop it off.  Don’t bother them with conversations, questions or socializing unless they initiate it.
  4. Drop off groceries.  Their house is probably empty because they haven’t been able to or don’t want to go to the grocery store.  So, bring things like milk, butter, laundry soap, dish soap, etc.
  5. Bring snacks (donuts, coffee, candy, chips, etc.)I remember when my mom was passing our entire family was there and everyone was in a zombie state.  No one was really eating, but some family friends had dropped off bags full of candy and snacks, making it easy to walk by the table and grab a handful and eat it.  I don’t remember what it tasted like or if I even liked it, but it kept me and my family fueled.
  6. Offer to run errands.  Unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop for our pain or loss and the bills still must be paid.
  7. Be a good LISTENER.  If your friend does want to talk, just listen and be supportive.  Don’t make it about you… it’s their pain and their loss.
  8. Don’t make statements that are annoying… like “everything happens for a reason,” “they are in a better place now,” or “at least they are not in pain or suffering anymore.”  While these all might be true and your friend might agree… they probably don’t want to hear it.  When I lost my mom, I wanted to tell people who said phrases like this to quit talking.  Though I agreed, I still hurt from my loss and didn’t want to hear it.
  9. Let them cry, be angry, vent their anger, rationalize, etc.
  10. Be patient.  It is going to take time for your friend to heal and during that time there will be good days and there will most definitely be bad days.  Just be there and support them in any way you can.

At the time, it won’t seem like they noticed your support, but I promise you they did.  When I lost my mom suddenly and unexpectedly, I can tell you exactly who was there for me and who was not.  I can also tell you who was helpful and supportive and who was not.  Please realize that what we’re going through you cannot fix, take away the pain, or speed up the process.  You can only be our supportive friend… which means a lot.

Also know that at the end of the experience we grow and learn that the pain from our loss never really goes away, but it does get easier with time.  And even with time something will happen, a family gathering, or your kiddos might do something that your loved one would have loved, or the holidays roll around and it reminds you of your loss and your heart and soul rips open to the same anguish you felt the very moment your loved one passed.  To say time heals is a joke… it just simply numbs the daily pain to make life manageable.

So, dear friends, I hope you find this sad, but honest information helpful, and please remember that everyone deals with loss differently.  In the end, just be sure they know you’re there for them and willing and ready to support them in any way you can.

To the Mom I lost way too early… you may be gone, but never forgotten!

Cheers to healing!

I know now that we never get over great loses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.


5 Ways to Say Goodbye to the Binky - Dreams and Caffeine

5 Ways to Say Goodbye to the Binky

It’s a sad, sad, day my friends.  The binky must go.  My little girl chipped about a quarter of her front tooth while playing with one of her friends.  I made an appointment with a pediatric dentist to have her tooth evaluated and see if any further action was needed.  Luckily, it appears no major damage to the tooth occurred.  The dentist did ask if she still used a pacifier and I explained that she only uses one at nap time and bed time.  He then suggested that we discontinue the pacifier to prevent an overbite.  I may have cried a little bit on the inside when I heard those words because it’s just one more thing to remind me that my little girl is growing up.  I swear, I have no idea where the time goes.

I have decided to take this week and just start talking with her about getting rid of her binkies because she is such a big girl and big girls don’t need them.  So far she has been pretty receptive to the conversations.  Then next weekend we are going to select one of the suggestions from below…

Ways to Say Goodbye to the Binky

  • Take away the binky cold turkey
  • Have a big girl/boy party – tie the binky to some helium balloons and the child lets them go and the balloons carry the binky away
  • Build-a-Bear Workshop – have the child do the build-a-bear workshop and put their binky inside the bear
  • Have the child gift their binky to a newborn baby of a family member or friend because they are a big kid now and don’t need a binky anymore
  • The child gets a toy in exchange for their binky

I will follow up next week with the option I chose and how it went.  Fingers crossed, I’m hoping it goes well!


Things My Mother Taught Me - Dreams and Caffeine

Things My Mother Taught Me

Things my mother taught me… words that I have been hesitant to write about.  My mother was an amazing woman and mother.  She did a wonderful job (alongside my dad) until I went off to college, then our relationship started to change.  We slowly shifted from a mother-daughter relationship to a mother-daughter friendship.  Of course, she was always my mother first, but the addition of friendship was fantastic.

Unfortunately, right after I got engaged, she unexpectedly passed away… hence the hesitation to write an article about her.  Though I’m finally beginning to feel that there has been enough healing to write about my mother… my best friend, I still struggle with my loss.  At the same time, I want to celebrate her.  So here’s to you Mom… Things My Mother Taught Me!

Life is too short to stay angry, mad, sad, or unhappy
Of course, it’s okay to feel these emotions, it’s just not worth getting stuck on them.  She always said life is too short to waste it and not enjoy it!  So, make amends, cry and let it out, write it down, then let it all go!

Life is too much fun to waste it on alcohol or drugs
My mother was never a drinker nor did she ever do drugs.  She always enjoyed her life and said she didn’t want to miss it or not remember it because she was intoxicated.  So, skip the alcohol and drugs and go have some fun.  Of course, that is not to say she didn’t enjoy a nice cold margarita every now and then.

Take care of your obligations
Pay your debts on time and take care of your responsibilities.  She said that if you couldn’t be responsible for yourself, you would never be able to take care of yourself, let alone anyone else, and would always struggle in life.

You should always be modest, which doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable.  It just means you’re advertising your style, not your body.

Saving yourself for marriage
Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?  A statement I heard literally from the time I learned about the birds and the bees well into adulthood.  Though not the most elegant statement, my mother felt very strongly about it.  She said that living together and having intimate relationships with your partner was meant for after the I do’s, not before.  She also said every time you are intimate with someone you give a small piece of yourself to them that you will never get back.  A lot of this didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now that I am a married woman with children, I FINALLY GET IT!  Thank you mom!

Marriage and children are life’s most precious gifts
My parents would have been married 55 years if she had made it to their anniversary the year she passed away.  She always said that marriage and children are the toughest jobs you can ever have in life, but the benefits far outweigh the hard work.  She said to always make sure your husband is your best friend.  Always love him… though you don’t always have to like him.  And teach your children to have loving relationships with family and friends.

Take care of your family… always say I love you!
Don’t forget to show your husband and children that you love them.  Take care of them, nurture them, and don’t forget to snuggle, cuddle, and kiss them.  Make sure to say I love you frequently and when parting… you never know when it will be your last time to say it.

Take pride in homemaking… it is a life skill
Have a clean and tidy home and keep it and your family organized.  It will allow you to enjoy life more and be less stressed.  I definitely have not perfected this one!

Don’t lie
This was very black and white in our house growing up.  Lying just causes more problems than the truth ever will cause.  So don’t do it.  That’s not to say telling the truth is always easy or there won’t be consequences for your actions… she just thought it was easier than trying to make up a lie, make it believable, and then keep the lie (or lies, because one lie is never enough) up.

Be kind… even to those that are not kind to you
It doesn’t matter how others act; it only matters how you act.  Life is rarely fair and you have no idea what storm God has asked someone else to walk through… so be kind.

Follow your dreams
Dreams are part of making life tons of fun.  The desire to accomplish something or do something you enjoy is a wonderful thing and it builds character.

Always say your prayers and give thanks to God for all of your blessings!
I don’t think an explanation is required here 😉

Alright ladies and gentlemen, thank you for stopping by!  I hope you enjoyed my challenging, but rewarding post today.  Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know things your mother taught you. Happy Tuesday!