Publication: The Times Of India - Chennai; Date:2008 Aug 07; Section:Times City; Page Number 2

When the mother is away, CHILD’S AT PLAY


Daycare Centres In City Offer Babysitting Services With Entertainment Spots, Reading Rooms, And Colourful Games Thrown In


Karthika Gopalakrishnan | TNN

HOME SWEET HOME: Children playing at Hansel & Gretel, an indoor games centre in T Nagar


Chennai: Working parents, especially those who lack a support system as far as childcare is concerned, now have a number of options to choose from. Today, day care centres offer not only babysitting services but are also entertainment spots filled with colourful games, reading rooms and spaces for activity. They even double up as after-school hangouts for a lot of children. Eight-year-old Aryan Naik, for instance, is dropped off by his school van at Baby’s Day Out, an air-conditioned centre on Chamiers Road. Children can be found sipping a drink and munching on a complimentary snack, like French fries, at the video gallery in the basement. Though one of the most expensive play areas in the city, Aryan’s parents are not complaining since he is happy spending his time here.

   “I settled on this place after looking at several options. All the other centres that I considered shut by 6:30 pm. So, he would have had to sit alone with the watchman for half-an-hour. Here, I don’t have to worry about being 10 minutes late since they’re open till 11 pm,” says his mother Vyjayanthi, who works at a children’s club in Mylapore. Since the family hails from Mumbai and does not speak Tamil, they found it difficult to find a babysitter who speaks Hindi. With staff members at Baby’s Day Out helping Aryan finish his homework as well, it is one less thing for his mother to worry about. At Hansel & Gretel, an indoor games centre located in T Nagar, the shopping capital of the city, parents can drop children off for an hourly fee of Rs 75 while they check out a few stores in the area. “I am coming back here after three years so we have a lot of shopping to do. I plan to bring my children, Lakshmi (9) and Varsha (1), here when I go shopping,” says Priya, an NRI based in Germany.

   Vidya Varadarajan, who opened the centre in May earlier this year, says such places are ideal for parents who are running out of entertainment spots for their children. “We lived in the US for 15 years and there were a lot of places, like parks, where children could play. But when we moved back here, there were no such options. In fact, we ended up going to a play area of 10x5 feet at a hotel every week,” she says.

   Taking the concept of childcare one step further, Kanchana Paati, which has branches across the city, is modelled along the lines of a grandmother’s home. “Any woman would naturally prefer her children are dropped off at her mother’s place. We have developed the concept of kour centre around this theme,” says Preetha Suri, its managing director, said.

   Infants as young as three months old are taken in. They are toilet trained while older children are taught to use the spoon and eat on their own. “My children, Advait and Bhavna who are a year-and-a-half, are here from 10 am to 3 pm every day. They were very scared of strangers but are more sociable now. We don’t speak Tamil at home but they’ve picked it up here. They have also learnt to sit in one place and eat their food,” says Dr Keerthi, a neuropsychologist at Apollo Hospital.

   How comfortable are parents with dropping off their children at such centres? “Such places are very common abroad, even if the concept is relatively new in the city,” says Priya. Many of the centres also have doctors on call, which is reassuring for the parents. “We offer a comprehensive range of services including medical care; we have tie-ups with hospitals like the Child’s Trust Hospital,” says Preetha.