School holidays, particularly the six weeks over the summer, often cause a great deal of stress when it comes to finding childcare. While day nurseries for younger children tend to remain open, and so remove the problem, looking after older school-age children can be problematic.

How do you balance your child’s need for a break and some proper R&R with your need to be at work? How do you keep your child or children entertained and not let the feel short-changed whilst you toil away? It’s not a simple issue to resolve, but here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Schedule your holiday to match your children’s

It sounds obvious, but you (and your partner, if possible) need to scrutinise every holiday day available and try to take days off when the children are out of school. Clearly this isn’t always going to be possible but if you can take as much holiday when the children are off as possible, then this should go some way to helping bridge the gap. Think about the whole year and consider when you might be able to take advantage of other help, such as holiday camps (see below). These don’t often tend to operate over half terms so it might be that you save your holiday for times when you won’t have other suitable cover. However you juggle it, think long-term and plan ahead. If your school hasn’t published holiday dates when you need them then don’t be shy about asking for them – they are usually available at least a year in advance.

Ask for Unpaid parental leave

If it’s financially viable, you might want to consider taking Unpaid parental leave. This is a type of leave that everyone with children under 18 is entitled to. You need to agree it in advance with your employer and they have the right to decline. You can find out more about the details of Unpaid parental leave from the website.

See if friends or relatives can help

If you’re lucky enough to have friends or relatives that can help out, then this is the time to ask. Luckily you should know when your children will be off some time in advance, so you can strike up the conversation early to assess whether or not they are willing or able to help. The upside of this option is that it’s likely to cost you little or nothing apart from goodwill, and the children will have a home-from-home environment to enjoy themselves. The obvious downside is that you don’t want to take people for granted, so it may be that this is only a viable option for a few days here and there.

Find a holiday childminder, nanny or baby-sitter

It may be possible to find a childcare professional who has room in the holidays to look after your child. If it’s a childminder then your child would go to their setting, and fall in with their routine. You can find out more about choosing a quality childminder in our article on the subject.

If you choose to employ a holiday nanny or baby-sitter then you need to consider all the ramifications of taking on an employee. You can find out more details about employing a nanny in our article. If you do decide to take on a holiday nanny then they might even come away on holiday with you to help look after the children, if that is something you’re interested in.

Find a holiday camp

One of the most popular solutions to the holiday childcare problem is a holiday camp. These should be OFSTED regulated in England (see your location’s governing body for elsewhere in the UK) and often take place in private schools that are empty in the holidays, or other large venues.

The advantage of a good holiday camp is that your child will be with children of similar age and should be well occupied with age-appropriate activities such as crafts, sports and drama. You may need to provide a packed lunch and snacks for them to take. Good holiday camps do tend to get booked up early, so again it pays to plan ahead. National chains include Barracudas – see our directory for more local options.

You might consider asking around friends to see if they are using a particular camp, and try to book your children in the same days so they can go with someone they know.

Keep thinking ahead

To sum up, it pays to plan ahead when thinking about childcare in the holidays. Consider a range of options, and mix and match to suit your circumstances. Hopefully you’ll manage to find a solution that keeps everyone happy and enables you to get some well-earned rest!