Checking Out Childcare, while on vacation

Yes, vacationing changes when a baby comes along — but most resorts offer a full complement of possibilities for child care, including nurseries, day time and evening babysitters, and programs for young children. To ensure a positive experience, parents will want to check out each program just as they would investigate a child care provider at home, and think carefully about what would work best for their little one.

Elizabeth Skypeck knows the ins and outs of caring for young children on vacation: she manages the TREASURES Child Care Center at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont, recently recognized as #1 in North America for its family programs by Ski magazine readers. Skypeck says, “Good resort childcare shares many of the same quality indicators as a regular program: a safe and welcoming environment, developmentally appropriate materials and activities, and nurturing, professionally trained caregivers.” She advises parents to look for a program at a resort that is licensed by the state in which it operates. This assures that the program meets minimum guidelines for staff training, adult-to-child ratios, and fire safety, and that the program is inspected yearly.

Skypeck suggests that parents call and interview the resort facility just as they would a regular child care provider or babysitter. She offers the following suggestions:

—What is the ratio of caregivers in the room to children?
—Who in the building is trained in CPR and first aid?
—Are there written procedures for finding parents in case of emergencies, such as if the child becomes ill?
—How are sick children handled?
—How are allergies or other needs handled?
—What is the policy on outdoor time?
—Is there a pick-up and drop-off procedure, and is it secure to ensure that only the parent or a person designated by the parent can claim the child?
—Is there a half-day rate?

Skypeck also encourages parents to check out the facility upon arrival at the resort, including diapering and food preparation areas. This may be a quiet time to ask any remaining questions.

Morning drop-offs at vacation child care — just like drop offs at home — may be hectic. “When parents come in to drop off their child, I like to remind them that a unique feature of resort child care is that it is always the ‘first day of school’,” says Skypeck. “No matter how happy the child may be about attending child care at home, parents should remember that at the resort they will be entering a strange setting filled with new kids and grownups and a different routine. Allowing a little extra time for an unrushed goodbye may help the child settle in more easily.”

For a worry-free drop off:
—Fill out any registration forms in advance.
—Find out ahead of time what you need to provide. Usually, diapering supplies, extra clothing and a favorite blankie or pacifier are standard. Label everything with your child’s name.
—Prepare your child for this adventure. With toddlers, briefly describe the center and the routine. Reassure them that you’ll be back at a given time (use easily understood concepts, like ‘right after lunch,’ or ‘after naptime’).

Parents are usually encouraged to share information about their child with the resort child care staff, so that the caregivers are able to get to know the child more quickly. With both infants and toddlers, it can be helpful to write down their basic routine and what their preferences are with toys and activities. Skypeck notes, “It’s especially important with toddlers to let the center know their words for favorite things.” At Smugglers’, “binky”, she reports, has meant anything from a pacifier to a grandma!”

Ask about the best way to check on a child. Some resorts have one-way viewing windows or cameras so that parents can look in on a child without disturbing the group. Another option would be to call the front desk of the facility and ask how the child is doing. In Skypeck’s experience, most children who cry when their parents say goodbye settle down to play after a few minutes of cuddling with a caregiver. And having done their homework to ensure a good experience for their child, parents can relax and fully enjoy their time on the mountain, or under a swaying palm tree.