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Avoid snow day scrambles

Prepare for school closures by putting a plan in place

Snowy winter mornings in the Hudson Valley may be magical in beauty but juggling on-the-spot childcare during school snow days and holidays can be a trick.

Rather than scrambling at arrival of an unexpected school closure or scheduled school holiday, follow these tips on how to manage your kids when they're at home on a typical school day, scheduled or not.

Put a plan in place. When it comes to canceled school days, a ready plan is critical, especially for working parents. Be prepared by creating a go-to list of designated people that can pick-up your child at school in the event of an early dismissal or emergency. Talk with people you know who can be called on in moment's notice, perhaps a trusted family member, stay-at-home friend, retired colleague, parent in your child's school, or close friend.
It's also important to pay attention to the forecast. Knowing when inclement is on the way and likely to cause school closures allows parents to plan for childcare and fun activities on those days.

One local physician and single mother of three said covering for coworkers when they need it can go a long way in setting up the reverse when you need it for last-minute events, like a school snow day. For instance, if a coworker has planned vacation or personal time, volunteer to cover for her during that time, possibly with the agreement that your coworker will return favor on a snow day or other school closure.

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This physician's well-thought plan for sudden school closures includes bringing her kids to a private babysitter, having one child's daycare take on the other school-aged sibling, and offering another parent a free babysitting night in exchange for watching her children so she can get to work. If the roads aren't in ideal driving condition, she takes them to a neighbor's house to prevent exposing them to hazardous road conditions.

Keep kids entertained at home and in the neighborhood. Erin Burton of Rosendale has materials on hand for five-to-six at-home arts-and-crafts projects for her son to complete in case they find themselves snowed in. She also holds cooking lessons in the kitchen with her three-year-old son, where they cook new foods together.

When it is safe to travel on the roads, Burton and her son enjoy local restaurants for lunches or dinners or try new restaurants in nearby towns. She also plans playdates with friends when there is a scheduled day off from school, including warmer weather outdoor fun, like going for walks on the rail trail, taking their bikes out, and packing picnics.

Burton likes to check the local library's schedule of events, too, for special events during school holidays. And, when they're available, she takes advantage of swimming, local farm visits, apple-picking, and kid-friendly art shows. 

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Battle boredom. With five kids at home, Poughkeepsie native Alicia Yates avoids snow-day boredom with do-it-yourself projects.

"I actually have a jar full of popsicle sticks with ideas written on them so that when the kids say there's nothing to do or they start misbehaving (I) can send them to the jar to pick a stick and find an idea," said Yates. "They're color-coded as physical activities, games, crafts, etc."

Yates also keeps a stash of yogurt drinks, protein balls, and fruit on hand for all-day munching.

"I try to always make sure I have snacks planned and accessible because when they're home all day, they seem to always want to eat nonstop," she said. 

Don't let snow days and school closures leave you in a childcare challenge. Get ready for unexpected schedule shifts by putting alternate plans in place. 

Becky Mills is a writer and mother to a four-year-old fighting Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.