Working parents know the conundrum they face when duty calls at the office but the babysitter or nanny has called in sick for the day – or the challenges they confront when carting a toddler along on errands.
Without family nearby and with both parents working, such dilemmas stymied Wendy Carpenter, a Los Altos native with two young boys, when her family relocated to Seattle.p>“There would be times I would get an assignment. You can’t exactly say ‘no’ – it’s your job,” Carpenter said of her job as a sports reporter. “I remember rescheduling a dentist appointment four times.”
Calling friends to fill in as babysitters made Carpenter cringe.
“If it’s not family, you feel like you’re imposing,” she said.
But that changed for Carpenter when she discovered a drop-in day-care facility in Seattle.
“This was a fantastic option,” she said.
So when she moved back to Los Altos earlier this year, Carpenter noted the lack of options available to parents in her hometown. With approximately 24 preschools in the area that offer limited hours of service and kindergarten programs that end at 11:30 a.m., she discovered a gaping hole in child-care provision.
With a background in day-care and child education, it was a community need Carpenter said she wanted to fill.
Carpenter queried friends via e-mail – Did they need a drop-in child-care facility? When would they use its services? What would be a fair price?
After finding a central location on Fremont Avenue between north and south Los Altos, with safe and ample parking, then traversing the city’s permits’ process, Carpenter opened Child’s Play in early October. Parents can schedule child-care hours online around doctor or hair appointments – any appointment where it would be difficult to keep a child entertained – or drop off children when emergencies arise.
The play space is inviting for any young child, with two separate areas designated for activities, one for quiet projects such as art, books and puzzles, and another for more spirited endeavors such as hide and seek, tumbling, a tool table (no real hammers involved here) and a play kitchenette/barbecue station.
“There’re enough things to do that they’re really happy,” Carpenter said. “And it’s light and airy.”
Carpenter said there are always two adults present to maintain an 8:1 ratio with children. All adults are qualified with child-care experience and early- childhood education units.
Fees start at $15 per hour for one child, $24 for two and $30 for three. Parents can purchase punch cards for discounted prices.
Business is slowly picking up as parents learn that Child’s Play is up and running.
“Moms are the best resource,” Carpenter said. “The moms we do have are so thankful.”
Child’s Play currently shares space with Hiruko at 987 Fremont Ave. at Loyola Corners, with limited operations 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, when Hiruko is closed. Child’s Play’s days and hours of operation are expected to expand when the martial-arts studio relocates to Palo Alto at the end of December.
“After that, I envision we would probably go to six days a week,” Carpenter said.
She is also toying with the idea of expanding the age group for child care – some clients have mentioned they’d like to be able leave older siblings at the facility. Services are limited to 2- to 6-year-olds currently.
“We might revise that,” she said. “It depends on the feedback. I want to benefit parents – I’m receptive to ideas.”
Carpenter said realtors and others who must work weekends, as well as parents who want to work out at the gym in the morning, are finding Child’s Play invaluable.
“Hopefully, it’s a need that people have that we can fill,” she said.
For more information, call 949-1337 or visit www.childsplaylosaltos.com.