Even the best childcare arrangements fall through once in a while. For expat parents, who usually do not have a large network of family and friends close by, filling childcare gaps can be a real concern. If the unexpected occurs, and it usually does, you will need a set of fall back options. Here are a few suggestions.
Many of Prague’s English speaking and bilingual nurseries offer drop-in services. Drop-in sessions are between one and four hours and often include lessons, games or group play. BFresh in Prague 6 offers four hour nursery sessions; by-the-hour babysitting (8:00-16:00), and two hour after-school sessions (16:00-18:00). An after-school session or child-minding costs 150 CZK per hour, and a four hour preschool session is 300 CZK. Piccolino in Prague 9 focuses on teaching social and behavioral skills, and offers drop-in sessions in and out of school hours. Activities include games, fairy-tales and outdoor play. A full day of drop-in care costs 650 CZK, a half day 400 CZK.
If your child is three or above, supervised indoor playgrounds, or Dětský Koutek, are another option. With prices ranging between 25 and 50 CZK per hour, they are affordable, and most minders speak English. Indoor playgrounds tend to be located in commercial districts, and are useful for parents who have a nearby meeting or errands to run. On your first visit you will need to register, providing your child’s name, age, address and a mobile number at which you can be contacted. Obchodní Dům Kotva (Prague 1), on náměstí Republiky has a playground on the third floor that is run and stocked by Bambule Toy Shop, with climbing frames, mats, Legos, slides, ball-pools and trains. Children can be left for a maximum of three hours, and the price is 35 CZK per hour. Crčche Letnanek in Obchodní Centrum Letnany (Prague 9) has an open-plan playground with themed play areas, murals, climbing frames, ball-pools, trucks, bikes and cartoons. The minders run daily activities and competitions for the children including theater, singing, treasure hunts and dancing; activities tend to peak at 3 pm. The crčche is open 10:00-21:00, and costs 25 CZK per hour. Ordinarily children must be aged 3-12 to be left, though younger children are accepted when the crčche is quiet. Space is provided for buggies and shopping carts.
Metropole Zličin, in Prague 5 has a sea-themed indoor playground with climbing wall, ball-pool, play kitchen and garage, computers and Playstations. They always have an English-speaking staff member available, and will take children under three if they are potty-trained. However, the playground is split-level and may not be suitable for very young children. Sixty minutes costs 44 CZK, however, if you bring a receipt from the mall’s branch of Interspa for 500 CZK or more your child can play for free.
Hiring a babysitter tends to be more expensive per-hour than out-of-home care, but if you want to keep your children´s routine stable or need to be away from home at night; sitters are the best option. Babysitters in the Czech Republic are usually university students so many speak some English. There are two options for finding a babysitter: Using an agency or finding one on your own. Babysitting agencies have the advantage of reliability, as they will find a replacement if your sitter becomes ill or unavailable, they pre-screen sitters and are insured. Most Prague agencies have English-speaking babysitters on their books, and many can also provide Russian, French or German-speaking minders. On the downside, agency sitters tend to be more expensive than freelancers, charging between 100 and 180 CZK per hour. Some agencies also charge a hefty joining or ‘finding´ fee. If you have more than two children, your child is ill, your child does not speak Czech or if you stay out past ten o´clock at night you may also face surcharges, bringing up the price by 50 or 100 CZK.
One of the most established agencies in Prague is Klara Agency. Klara´s sitters are happy to pick up children from school and bring them to after-school activities, they will cook, sit at hotels and the company provides cleaning and gardening services. However, the finding fee is large (2600 CZK) and sitters can only be booked for three hours or more. The per-hour rate for Prague starts at 140 CZK. We have been hearing good things about Baby-Agency, which encourages parents to meet prospective sitters beforehand (and will send sitters to the family home for an interview), provides 24-hour services, and has a monthly invoice system for clients who have signed a contract. The hourly rate starts at 155 CZK. For children suffering from health problems, Chuvicka.cz provides minders who are trained nurses. Fees start at 150 CZK per hour for a minimum of three hours, with surcharges for nighttime care and care of more than one child. For a full directory of agencies please go to our listings section.
For a freelance babysitter you can expect to pay between 90 and 140 CZK per hour. The Expats Childcare forums often contain postings by babysitters and tips on good sitters. You can either browse our public forum or join the private family group, a useful resource which is free of charge (CLICK HERE to register). You may also want to look at the listserve for members of the International Women´s Association of Prague and any of the Prague family forums. As these forum discussions will tell you, a creative approach helps when searching for a sitter. Parents have found sitters through contacts at their child’s nursery or school, poaching minders from supervised playgrounds, or by putting notices in universities that teach their family’s native language.
With the summer holidays approaching many working parents will be looking for a way to keep their kids occupied during the day once term ends. A number of English-speaking or bilingual summer schools are available in Prague. Although prices are fairly high, most summer schools promise trips, outdoor play, competitions and a range of activities. B Fresh Summer Camp, run by native English speakers, has a maximum class-size of 12 children aged between 6 and 10. Activities include arts and crafts, dance and music, yoga, treasure hunts and games. Classes run 9:00-16:00 and the price for five days is 3900 CZK.
KinderGarten LLC (select the ‘Summer in KinderGarten´ link) runs a play and learning day-school. Weeks are themed, for instance ‘Pirates´ or ‘Around the World´, and children are taken on a trip each week. The school runs 8:00- 18:00, in fortnightly sessions, between 29th June and 28th of August. The price for two weeks is 6950 CZK. The Modre Nebe Summer Programme allows parents flexibility, charging by the month, by the day or by the hour. Minders speak English, Czech and French, and children aged 1 to 7 are accepted. Activities include art, outdoor play and games. The program runs July to August, 8:00-16:00, costing 4000 CZK for a week, 1000 CZK for a day or 200 CZK for an hour.