Young Boy and Woman Outside

Vacation and summer child care programs are usually for school-age children, although in some areas they are also available for preschool-age children. These programs provide various activities, such as arts and crafts, swimming, drama, and organized sports. Vacation and summer programs are often run by local parks and recreation departments, community organizations, and child care centers. A family child care provider may also be able to care for your school-age child during vacations.

Depending on the rules in your state, vacation and summer child care programs may or may not be required to be licensed. Licensing does not guarantee quality; however, it sets minimum standards and ensures that programs are monitored for compliance with these standards.

States have a child care search which can help you determine if the providers you are considering are licensed. You can search for detailed information about providers in your state and find more information about your state’s child care requirements by using the search feature of this website. Just click this link, See Your State's Resources, select your state under “Get Child Care Resources.” You will then see a variety of links to state specific information including “Inspection Reports” and “Child Care Regulations” information for your state.

If you are looking for a residential camp experience for an older child, some camps are accredited by the American Camp Association. You can find additional information about selecting a camp program and learn about camp accreditation here.

Tips for Choosing This Type of Care

Babysitter and Boy Outside

  • If vacation and summer child care programs are required to be licensed in your state, ask to see a copy of the program’s license, registration or certification, and inspection history.

  • Most states post inspection reports online. Use the See Your State's Resources feature on this website to see inspection reports of child care providers you are considering. These reports provide valuable information about the quality of child care programs. Check them before you select a program and regularly while your child is enrolled.

  • Ask how many adults and children are in each group of children.

  • Make sure that each staff person has received training on important health and safety topics such as first aid and CPR, giving children medication, and child development. Learn more about the 12 health and safety trainings that all adults caring for children should have.

  • Ask about the daily schedule, enrichment activities, and whether healthy meals and snack are provided.

  • Confirm that every adult working or volunteering in the program has had a comprehensive background check.

  • Get a copy of the program’s policies and contract. These documents should cover important topics, including hours of operation, rates, fees, field trip permission slips, and transportation agreements. Read more about recommended items that should be included in a child care contract.

  • Print a list of questions and things to look for that you can take with you when visiting summer programs.


This text has been adapted from content originally created by Child Care Aware of America Grant #90LH002 for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Child Care (OCC).