One of the obstacles to volunteering at school events is the fact that often school parents have a younger child who requires constant supervision. Having a toddler hanging off your skirt can be a major distraction if you are meant to be cooking sausages or running a market stall.
One solution is for event organisers to offer a free crèche so that younger siblings are supervised while their parents are volunteering at the event. There is a fine line between setting up the service so that more people can volunteer for your event, without the requirements of the crèche becoming overwhelming.
There are obviously major legal and logistical differences between setting up a formal crèche and offering a voluntary babysitting service for 60-120 minute periods, but regardless there are a number of important things to take into consideration.
Who will run it?
It is important that the person responsible for the crèche is responsible and organised. While they may not need to be a formally qualified child care provider, it would be beneficial if they had some experience or if they are already known to the children and families (such as a teacher or school parent).
Depending on the number of expected children, you may need two or more adults supervising the children at any one time, which would also be recommended in case one of the adults needs to leave the room, or accompany a child to the toilet etc. Because of this, it is wise to request pre-booking so you know how many children will be under your care at any one time.
If a volunteer(s) cannot be found from within the school community, consider hiring a professional for the day. Parents need to feel confident that their children will be well taken care of.
As long as there is an experienced adult in charge, consider asking older siblings or ex-students who have graduated and who are regular babysitters within the school community to assist on the day.
Where will you hold the crèche?
– a classroom (protected from weather, access to power, water and bathrooms, toys, limited access (safety), already set up for children.)
– in a tent or semi open area near the event itself (children can see their parents, watch the event and feel involved, however you would need to ensure that children do not wander off).
Consider the weather at the time of the event and if you will need access to sun/rain protection, heating or cooling.
What service should you offer?
Is your crèche only for volunteers during their specified shift? Will you allow an extra 20-30 minutes ‘free time’ so parents can look around the event and shop while their children are minded.
Will you have a maximum time limit for children?
Will you allow parents to leave snacks with their children?
Will you mind babies and change nappies?
How to set the area up
If you know in advance the ages of the children who will be using the service then you can prepare the area to accommodate their different needs.
You will need an area for construction and play (blocks, cars, dolls house) and a quiet corner for reading or colouring in.
If you have small babies, you will need space to park prams.
Consider a messy corner for painting, craft or play-do.
Will you have a TV or movie running, or music for dancing.
Safety and security
Even if this is a one-off event at a small school fundraiser, you will still need to have records of the children in your care.
Create a registration form which collects the following information:
Name and age of child
Name of parent, contact details
Contact details of an emergency contact
Time of drop off and pick up, where will the parent be during that time
Important information about the child: medical or health issues such as allergies.
Ensure that parents sign their children in and out of the crèche and have at least one adult with first aid training working in the crèche at all times.