The kids enjoying lunch together at the hotel.
(Image: Khanyi Magubane)
For mums and dads who find it difficult to juggle a career and parenthood, places like the Baby Hotel, which offers 24-hour quality child care, provide a vital support system.
In addition to offering a full-time nursery school and overnight facilities, it gives mums the chance to drop off their children for a few hours so they can do some shopping, fit in a gym session or perhaps get a beauty treatment.
For a child to stay overnight at the hotel parents are charged R500 (US$66), which includes the child’s dinner, a bath, overnight monitoring and breakfast.
A weekend stay, which starts on Friday afternoon and lasts until Sunday morning, costs parents R950 ($126).
The word “hotel” conjures up images of a fancy multi-storey building, but in reality the house-turned Baby Hotel looks no different from the other homes along the street it’s in, except for a board near the front gate advertising its services.
“Everyone who works here has a passion for kids,” says Cecile Cardier, manager of the hotel.
Cardier, a qualified early childhood development practitioner, sees to the day-to-day running of the child facility.
The spacious house is divided into sections including a TV room, a library that doubles as a playroom, a kitchen/eating room, and bathrooms fitted with special baby baths as well as sleeping rooms for the children.
The children are supervised by seven experienced caregivers – all specifically trained according to the age group of child they look after.
This includes first-aid training, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as well as emergency situations involving a baby or toddler.
“There are various ways of handling the two [baby and toddler] for instance, you would conduct mouth to mouth CRP differently on a young baby than you would on an older toddler,” says Cardier.
Different strokes for different folks
The hotel prides itself on its ability to offer parents a variety of services that cater to their needs.
The most popular service offered at the Baby Hotel is the daycare facility, open Mondays to Fridays from 7am to 6pm.
The “time out” facility is also popular and caters for parents who have an errand to run but can’t take their young one along, or mums who want to get their hair done, or maybe take a much-needed afternoon nap away from a niggling baby.
Cardier says this service is also growing in popularity as parents can choose a half- or full-day package to suit their needs. “This particular service is mostly used by mums who have nannies, but they are sick and unable to come to work or are on leave. This works on an ad hoc basis.”
The after-hours facility is not only for children permanently enrolled in the day-care facility, but also for any other child needing evening supervision.
This service is mostly used by parents who have an evening function but don’t have a babysitter at home to take care of the children while they are away.
“Sometimes you find that some of the working mothers are from Durban or Cape Town, and they are working in Johannesburg where they don’t have the support of family and friends. That’s where we come in,” explains Cardier.
“It is a reality of our times that both parents work, and we find more and more women in high profile positions, who are often required to do a fair amount of travelling,” reads the hotel’s website.
According to Cardier, parents don’t usually use the hotel for an extended period of time.
The longest stay at the hotel has been four days. The mother of the child, a single parent, was away on a business conference at the time.
Another unique service that the Baby Hotel offers is the opportunity for only children – who spend a lot of time alone – to interact with other children. Cardier explains that parents bring their children along to the facility for this purpose from time to time.
“When children who don’t attend our day-care centre arrive, some are excited to be with other children, while others will shy away and only interact with the caregiver,” she says.
Stimulating child growth
A typical day at the Baby Hotel includes loads of fun activities for the children, especially for those between 18 and 36 months.
The day’s programme starts at 8am with breakfast, which lasts about 30 minutes.
Next is a series of exercises aimed developing the child’s fine motor skills and coordination – these include building puzzles and making simple beaded necklaces.
Sensory play, another of the day’s activities, encourages children to use and develop their sense of touch, hearing, smell, sight and taste.
“The use of sensory materials provides opportunities for self-directed and guided play to encourage a variety of different skills to develop,” according to an early childhood development website, Play Activities.
The Baby Hotel encourages children to experiment with different textures and “get dirty”.
“It’s important that kids learn to get dirty, it’s an important part of growing up,” says Cardier.
Sensory play activities at the hotel include making mud in the sandpit, breaking eggshells, playing with jelly and shaving cream.
“Through the manipulation of materials such as pouring, moulding, lifting, carrying and sorting, children will improve their fine and gross motor skills,” Play Activities goes on to say.
To ensure parents are kept up to date, each child has a record book at the hotel, which notes what they eat and drink and the frequency thereof. The record book also details the number of times nappies are changed (for the younger children) as well as sleeping and waking up times.
As to why establishments like the Baby Hotel are necessary, especially in the cities where parents find themselves torn between home and career demands, Cardier is adamant that they provide a necessary service.
“We are an important support system to families. We allow couples ‘mummy and daddy’ time.”
“Too often parents, out of love, pay too much attention to the children and forget each other and this can contribute to the breakdown of a relationship, so it’s important for parents to make time for each other,” says Cardier.