As many daycares and preschools remain closed, parents are getting creative with childcare. If you’re considering creating a childcare pod, here’s what you need to know.
A “childcare pod” is when you join another family or two and share childcare responsibilities. Although a pod won’t completely mitigate your family’s risk of exposure to COVID-19, it’s definitely less than it would be in a preschool classroom.
Even if your daycare or preschool remains open, you might feel more comfortable with a pod because you can directly discuss and change safety precautions as needed.
List What You Want and Need
To get started, brainstorm with your partner and list your ideal childcare solution.
Here are some questions you might want to consider:
- Do you prefer a family with children around the same age as yours?
- What are your COVID-19 safety precautions for your children?
- Do you need part- or full-time care, or just an affordable solution while you’re at work?
Once you’ve got your list of ideals, narrow it down to the absolute essentials. Then, reach out to friends, local parenting groups, or on school message boards to find a family with similar needs.
Childcare Swap or Nanny Share?
When it comes to creating a childcare pod, you have two options: a childcare swap or a nanny share. Let’s look at the differences.
This is an ideal situation for those who don’t work full-time, but just need a break from nonstop childcare duties. It also gives your kids a chance to interact with others their own age, which many kids are craving right now.
How exactly does a swap work? Well, say you have two kids and you connect with another family with two kids. You can watch all four kids Monday and Wednesday, while the other family watches them Tuesday and Thursday.
It’s best to keep track of the childcare hours in a shared spreadsheet. Come up with whatever system works, such as a point system. For example, if you watch 5 kids for 4 hours, you can determine that’s 20 points. This way, you can ensure no parent ends up doing the majority of the childcare duties.
If both families work full-time, it’s best to explore a nanny share option.
This is where you hire one nanny to watch all the kids in the pod and all participating families split the nanny’s wages.
Make sure to create a detailed contract in advance, and spell out the financial obligation of hiring a shared nanny in a detail. For example, if the other family is on vacation or sick for a week, they’ll still have to pay their share of the nanny’s wages. You’re booking the nanny’s time, so she’ll receive the same salary every week.
You can find a nanny at Care.com or a local agency. Most agencies even offer a payroll service, eliminating the headache of dealing with taxes.
Once you’ve decided on a childcare swap or nanny share, you’ll want to discuss the logistics with your potential pod family. We suggest you do this on a video call, just to make sure everyone’s vision is aligned.
Here’s a general checklist to cover when interviewing pod families:
- Days and hours: Decide if you’ll need full- or part-time care.
- Location: Will the kids gather at your house, the other family’s house, or at the nanny’s house?
- Meals: Discuss whether each family will supply their child’s snacks and meals, or if the nanny will prepare them. Also, be sure to go over any dietary preferences or food allergies.
- Naps: If your child still naps, you’ll want to make sure there’s space for her Pack ‘n Play. Even if the kids don’t nap, it’s beneficial to incorporate some quiet time—you or the nanny will need the break!
- Materials: It’s important that the kids can engage in fun, creative, and educational activities. Decide if each family will provide these supplies, or if you’ll pitch in together to cover the costs.
- Screen time: Talk about screen time rules. It makes sense to include an hour of screen time if the children are in full-time care (trust us, the adult will need a break). However, it’s not necessary for half-days.
- First aid: Make sure all adults, including the nanny, are up to speed on CPR and First Aid requirements and procedures.
- COVID-19 safety: Do you want the nanny or other adults to wear masks at all times? What about the kids? Make sure everyone is up to speed on proper handwashing techniques, as well.
It will take a while to get everyone on the same page, but it’s worth the effort to make sure your pod is happy, healthy, and safe.
Have a Trial Period
If you’ve made it through the interview and logistical discussion, the next step is a trial period. We suggest starting with two weeks. That’s enough time to see if the kids get along, the setting is ideal, and that everyone’s comfortable with the safety protocol.
After the trial period, it’s fine to be honest and admit it’s not working. There’s no point continuing with a less-than-ideal arrangement.
Just keep in mind that if you cancel a pod, your family will need to do a two-week quarantine before forming another one.
It’s important to regularly communicate within your pod, even if everyone appears to be completely settled into a routine.
We suggest creating an email or text thread, a Facebook chat, or even a Trello board to discuss anything that comes up. These might include changes in nap times, new dietary requirements, ideas for art projects, recipes, or new developments with COVID-19.
Most importantly, don’t let any worries or concerns fester. You want your pod to thrive! That’s why communication is so essential.
A childcare pod is a great way to add some social dynamics to your child’s day, while simultaneously offering you a much-needed break. Find a family that fits, and then keep in touch regularly. As long as the kids are happy and safe, it’s working!