Is a holiday playscheme for you? Our childcare expert answers your questions
Are you fretting about how to keep your kids entertained over the coming weeks? Ready for Ten childcare expert Catherine Cooper takes a look at holiday playschemes.
Whether you are a working parent or not, the summer holidays can sometimes seem very long. Liz Jarvis has already written about holiday clubs for while you are actually on holiday -- it is easy to forget your children can enjoy a kids' club while you are still at home! Local playschemes can be a brilliant place for your children to make new friends, have fun and learn new skills while you get on with your work, or simply enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.
Q: What kind of playschemes are available?
Playschemes are run by schools, councils, charities and private companies. Some will run sessions of a few hours at a time, others offer full daycare aimed at working parents. The best way to find out about playschemes local to you is to ask other mums - which ones have their kids been to and enjoyed? You can also try your local council and the library. The local sections of Netmums are also a good place to start and you can search by postcode at DirectGov's Childcare Finder.
Q: What sort of activities will my child be doing?
Activities vary widely but at a general playscheme you can expect a mix of arts and crafts, games, outdoor activities and sports. Many offer days out to local attractions once a week or so. There are also more specialised playschemes for children with particular interests such as football, tennis or drama -- try typing "Football holiday club" or similar into Google along with your local town.
Q: Sounds brilliant - is it expensive?
Some councils run play sessions for next to nothing while places on private playschemes can be upwards of £70 per day. Depending on where you live and the activities on offer, a typical daily cost is around £25 to £40. However most council and charity-run playschemes will offer subsidised places to low-earners and you can usually pay for playschemes with childcare vouchers and childcare tax credits. If you are based in London, charity Kids' City will offer free places on their playschemes if you volunteer as a play worker.
Q: What questions should I ask?
Ask about adult to child ratios -- the legal minimum for under-eights is 1:8 -- aged eight or more 1:10 is "recommended" rather than required. You may find some clubs offer less supervision than this!
Ask about activities, pick up and drop-off times and check these will fit in with your schedules -- some clubs are more flexible than others. Ask about emergency procedures and who will be looking after your child -- what kind of training have they had? Ask about lunch, snacks and drinks -- are they provided? What are they likely to be?
Q: My son has special needs. Can he attend a playscheme?
Many mainstream schemes can cater for children with special needs -- the best thing to do is ask. There are also playschemes especially for children with special needs all over the UK.
Do your children go to a holiday club? How does it work for you? Why not let us know.
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