How to recruit online childcare during a pandemic.

The nanny debate used to be simple: live-in or live-out? Now the Covid pandemic has spawned a third option: the virtual nanny who operates remotely by video conference. A growing number of online childcare agencies responded to the issues of family life in lockdown by launching virtual nanny services.

As school bubbles close, working from home fast looms (again) and daycare becomes more complicated, finding a nanny in 2020 is no walk in the park. Virtual nannying, to the horror of some and the relief of many, is now a consideration. More and more parents, nervous about having a nanny in and out of the home due to social distancing guidelines, are considering virtual childcare to entertain children for short periods of time.

Picture Credit: Unsplash/ Kelly Sikkema

What is virtual nannying?


The virtual caregiver will entertain and supervise children remotely via phone, laptop or tablet using video chat technology such as Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts or WhatsApp. ‘There are several activities nannies can do with children virtually, such as science experiments, choreographed dance, help with school packs, reading together, online video games, pretend cooking show, charades and thinking games,’ says Moira Walsh from Fulham Nannies. ‘Virtual nannying is not a replacement for physical care, and families and nannies considering this route should still view safety as their top priority.’ Such a service has obvious limitations – for starters, a remote nanny can’t change a baby’s nappy – but the offering will buy working parents a few moments of peace.

Who offers a virtual nanny service?



Virtual Nanny



Does your child need a morale boost? Virtual Nanny is made up of a lively group of young actors and creatives who will entertain children remotely in their workshops. From musical theatre and creative writing to no bake baking and stories from around the world, the options are stimulating. Founder Elizabeth Rackow, (also CEO of After School Nannies) believes that online childcare will be one of the new discoveries that will stick around long beyond the days of Covid. ‘We have always been driven by our passionate belief in the value of out of school childcare provision,’ she says. ‘At this time of isolation and social distancing we are striving to connect children with vibrant, creative online mentors to offer engaging, enriching and empowering extra-curricular childcare based on the creative arts.’

Childcare.co.uk



Following a survey of 3,000 parents working from home, Childcare.co.uk launched a virtual nanny service in 2020 to help struggling parents during social distancing and isolation. The online social networking platform for parents, childcare providers and private tutors has over 2m users nationwide and is the largest online community for parents in the UK. ‘As I’m sure we all know, the coronavirus situation is something which has impacted almost every family across the UK, and as parents struggle to juggle working from home, with keeping their children busy and learning, we knew there was something we could do to help. That’s why we decided to speak to parents and find out just how they felt about working from home, and the results, although they supported our thesis, were actually quite shocking. To see such a large proportion of parents struggling, we knew we had to do more – hence the launch of our virtual nanny service. I hope it’s as successful as our virtual tuition initiative.’


Koru Kids



This London-based childcare start-up usually matches parents with flexible childcare to fill the after-school gap. During the pandemic, Koru Kids is supporting nannies to provide virtual childcare via video calling software. Koru Kids ran a virtual nannying trial to see what worked best; ‘Families and nannies reported great results, nannies were overwhelmingly able to engage the kids for the full length of the session with parents able to get on with their work, chores or take a much needed break. Both the kids and their nannies were pleased to see each other again and we believe that these relationships are more important than ever in supporting them emotionally during this time.’


What To Consider When Employing A Virtual Nanny



Safety
For safeguarding reasons, parents must remain in the house while online sessions take place. A virtual nanny cannot physically supervise or protect a child from harm.

References
While a virtual nanny is not physically in your house, she or he is still spending time with your child. Ensure the virtual nanny is DBS- and reference-checked.

Good internet connection
Ensure there is a strong phone connection and that both parties know what to do if the line is disconnected. Where possible, use an iPad or computer with Zoom where parents can set up a regular link meeting for ease of use.

Lighting
Key to any video conferencing, whatever age the participants, is good lighting. Position your child’s computer so that natural light shines on their face, rather than behind them.



Technical understanding
Don’t expect a young toddler to respond well to online instructions! The virtual nanny service works better for children (3+) who have had more exposure to screen times and online games.

Expectations
Consider, what do you expect your child to achieve from these online sessions? Is the aim intellectual or social stimulation? It may be learning phonics, practising chess or just inventive online fun. Clarify expectations at the beginning.

Communicate with your child
Explain to the child that the virtual nanny is in charge during the session and that you won’t be back until the end of the call.

Be prepared
Be ready to spend a few minutes the first time to set up. Gather any of the materials (or the all-important snacks) in advance of the online call. It will buy you more time once logged on.

By Annabel Jack
October 2020

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Annabel Jack

Contributing Editor

Annabel is a regular contributor to The GWG, with a taste for finest in food, fashion and interiors.

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