17 Sep 10 Critical Questions about Val d'Isere Childcare Answered
Getting the balance of childcare and ski time right is an endless battle. The all important factor is knowing that your children are happy whatever they're doing. So we spoke to Tina Eliades who runs Jelly and Ice cream, a private nanny service in Val d'Isere. Tina answers the all important childcare questions that are sure to make the difference between happy snow bunnies and abominable snow babies.
1. In your opinion what are the key elements of great childcare on a ski holiday?
- Flexibility: Having the peace of mind that should you (the parents) be stuck on a ski lift 45mins after the nanny is due to leave, the nanny won't be waiting at the door when you make it back with her coat on. And if you fancy an extra glass of Rose at après or an extra hour in the sunshine, it's knowing that your little ones are in safe hands and your nanny will be getting the children's tea on the go.
- Knowledge of the resort: This is so useful to a family. Having confidence that your chosen nanny knows all of the best hiding places in resort, where all of the ski schools meet, where that little restaurant is that serves a good kids lunch without worrying that the child is up and down to the loo, the prices of the local activities, where they could source a last minute rain cover for the pushchair... And if she doesn't know, she has the resources to quickly find out.
- A nanny suited to the client's personal needs: At Jelly and Icecream, a lot of time goes into matching the right nanny to the client. There may be a new mother, anxious with a 3 month old because she has never handed her baby over to anybody before. By placing a strong and confident nanny able to reassure a mother that her baby couldn't be in safer hands, we can settle the mother's peace of mind. A good relationship and communication between the nanny and the parents are key to having a successful set up with the family.
- Experience: Having a nanny that knows the tricks of the trade to get your two year old to keep their gloves on while it's bitter cold; they know how many layers your child should be wearing; they have knowledge of where the nearest loo is at ALL times when a child is caught short in all of their ski gear! For many families, it is a new experience bringing a child on a ski holiday and they can sometimes overlook some of the essential things whilst organising to get everybody out of the door in the morning. Having a nanny relieves the guilt of thinking that you should have applied the second lot of sun cream before ski school and are they hydrated? Have they been outside for too long? Why do all local mothers use humidifiers in the baby's rooms at night? Small things that can change your whole experience of a ski holiday so that everyone can relax.
2. How does childcare on a ski holiday differ from a normal holiday?
The health and safety risks are increased on a ski holiday just down to the environment. A nanny is trained to be vigilant from everything from the signs of frostbite, hyperthermia and having open fire places in chalets to unearthed French electrics. Knowledge and understanding about the altitude and the affects it can have on babies and young children is vital. A live-in nanny in the UK would never have to come across some of these things?
3. What can a parent do to ensure it goes smoothly before they come out to resort?
It is always useful to have prepared parents. By packing and bringing as much with them as possible. Restrictions are always an issue while travelling so pre-booking hire equipment can make life stress free. Do your research. Have a look at the weather report. Many parents bring lots of heavy jumpers for the little ones but manage not to pack any t-shirts!
4. How does childcare vary in resort? What is the difference between what the crèche offers and your private nanny service? Are there any other options?
The crèche in resort is run by French people. They are qualified and also experienced but if your 5 year old child speaks English then this puts everybody at a disadvantage. You can pay for a meal to be included and it is based on half or full days. There are other nannying services which are fantastic in terms of care but they are not always as flexible as a private nanny. For example, you have to drop off and collect your child at fixed times: 9am-5pm. This often has to be prebooked as placements cannot be guaranteed in resort if you change your mind. Parents can expect to see their children separated when siblings would sometimes like to be kept together. The Office du Tourisme does have a list of local babysitters. Some do speak English. Having a private nanny offers the family a tailored service to their individual needs. Children don't operate like clockwork and the nanny works around this with ease.
5. How do you ensure the children have interaction with other kids if you're operating privately?
Our nannies get told each week what each other's age groups and sexes are. That way they can arrange to do nanny dates. This can vary from twice a day, to twice in the week dependant on the family's routine. They might arrange a trip to the soft play, a big sledging session or meet up at the top of the mountain for a ‘hot chocolate' date.
6. What kind of activities do you do?
Our nannies are extremely creative. We theme the peak weeks, so half term was 'Fairytales'. We had nannies in competition building life-size castles out of recycling, newspapers and tin foil. We do love getting the children outside. So ice-skating, building snowmen, swimming, sledging are all typical snowy afternoons. We love using the best resource around town and it's free - SNOW! You'll see the children using food colouring and spray bottles decorating the snow and making snow ball targets. It's a very complex and invigorating programme the nannies devise for the children dependant on their personalities, ages and the parents' routine.
7. What equipment / clothes etc do you expect parents to provide?
Parents will need to bring all clothing for the child and spare gloves, hats, scarves are always super useful. The nannies will provide a bag of toys and crafts. But parents will still need to bring with them that favourite blue bear. We don't provide the ski equipment but we are happy to advise where to get the kids kitted out or to hire some plastic skis that strap onto their ski boots just so they don't feel left out while their big brother is skiing down the town's red runs. We can also provide hire equipment like sterilisers, cosy toes, baby monitors, potties, baby baths, push chairs and sledges.
8. What clothes / equipment would you like parents to provide? Sunglasses? Sun cream? Snow boots? Gloves?
Parents will need to provide all personal items for the child like sun cream for health and safety. Sunglasses, waterproof boots, layers of clothing and lot and lots of socks are a must. A sun hat is always useful in the sunnier months too. Some normal and waterproof gloves are essential along with a good jacket and salopettes. A small backpack is always handy too to pop a small bottle of water in with some treats to leave with the ski school too.
9. How do you manage it when a child is unhappy about being left behind?
Lots of children do suffer from separation anxiety. This is common but our nannies have lots of distraction techniques to apply and have lots of experience in dealing with upset children. A child in our eyes is never left behind. They will always have much more fun than the parents anyway!
10. Any thoughts on dealing with dietary requirements?
We take this very seriously. We have experience with everything from gluten and dairy free children to severe allergies to nuts. Each child's needs are carefully gone over directly with the nanny at the initial client meeting. This means that no information can ever be lost in-between. Often parents will pre-prepare the meals for the children, give the nanny a lunch-float to go to restaurants or a shopping list and prepare nutritious meals which are child friendly. We try to stay away from the treats but they are on holiday and occasionally we will treat them to a hot chocolate! The parents just need to advise the nanny of what their dietary requirements are and can act accordingly as well as liaise with staff in the accommodation to work together.
If you would like further details or pricing information from Jelly and Icecream, you can direct your enquiries via Le Chardon's concierge team (if you're staying with us) or directly to Tina at firstname.lastname@example.org Visit www.jellyandice-cream.com for further information.