It is a new concept to our family, holiday childcare. Apart from one brief experience whilst on holiday in Antigua, (where I felt so guilty leaving Charlie, who was two at the time, that I ran back to pick him up after 20 minutes!) we have always kept both boys with us whilst on holiday, occasionally taking it in turns to have some time out.
My husband and I were therefore apprehensive about using the childcare at Mark Warner’s Lakitira Beach Resort. I’m not ashamed to say that we are very particular when it comes to childcare, I know most parents are. We changed Charlie’s nursery setting three times until we found a nursery with staff and facilities to meet our high standards!
Before flying to Greece, we spoke to Charlie about kids club. We discussed the fun activities he would take part in and the friends he would make. When he said he didn’t want to go we didn’t make a big deal out of it. We had booked both boys in for a week of afternoon sessions 2.30 – 5.30pm. Charlie’s sessions were included in the cost of his holiday and so we were going to leave it up to him whether he wished to go or not. Harry was a couple of weeks under the age of two, so we had paid £180 for his six afternoon sessions. (Due to higher staff ratios there is a charge for infants between the ages of 4 months and 2 years).
Our first impression of the childcare provision was from the kids club meeting, shortly after we arrived at the resort. Lauren the Childcare Manager talked us through the different age groups, described the fun daily activities each group would enjoy and explained the security policy of having to sign kids in and out of kids club using a password.
Lauren obviously did a great job in promoting the kids club because Charlie was immediately asking if he could put on his PJ’s and join in the fun at ‘Movie Night’. We were of course delighted that he had quickly changed his mind and went back to our room to get both boys dressed and packed for their first evening at kids club.
Harry joined the Toddler Club (for infants 1-2 years old). Charlie was in a different building in the Mini Club (for 3 – 5 year olds). Both kids clubs took place in large bright open plan rooms, spilt up into different areas – chill out areas with bean bags for watching movies, a reading corner, arts and crafts area etc. Both rooms were clean and comfortable, similar to nursery settings in the UK, only with rows of infant sized camp beds and travel cots.
Friendly (and qualified) British nannies welcomed us at both of the kids clubs. Over the course of the week we got to know our boys key workers, Chantelle, Shannon & Kayleigh, quite well and both Charlie and Harry were happy being left in their care.
Via filling in a detailed form, childcare staff were fully aware of every child’s routine, dietary requirements, favourite toys, comforters etc. We were required to sign our boys in and out of kids club, there was also space on the form to write where you were going to be in case of an emergency. This reassured us knowing that the childcare staff could find us easily in the restaurant/around the pool etc, should they need to.
I think Mark Warner undersell their evening childcare. Referred to on their website as a ‘evening listening service’ I had visions of children being left in their hotel rooms with nannies listening in via telephones. A service which we would not have felt comfortable using.
The evening listening service is in fact evening childcare. Infants are allowed to be dropped off asleep or awake. If parents are unable to settle them in bed (but the child is happy being left), the nannies will sit and watch movies with them before reading a book and attempting to settle on a camp bed or travel cot. (The photo below shows the camp beds at Mini Club, for 3 years+. The baby room was much darker. It had the same camp beds and lots of travel cots too)
I’ll be honest, our first impression of the evening childcare service in the baby room was a chaotic one! Babies were struggling to settle as it was a new environment for them. Parents were looking completely harassed at the thought of missing the opportunity to enjoy a child-free romantic dinner! The only people present who did not look stressed were the childcare staff. From experience they knew that the first night was always the worst night with babies being in an unfamiliar environment. From the second night the atmosphere was much calmer, most babies were asleep before parents left, exhausted from a fun day in the sun:)
Harry attended the evening kids club on six out of the seven nights. On several occasions he fell asleep in his push chair on the walk to the kids club. Other times he sat and watched a movie before being placed in a travel cot to sleep. Both of my boys sleep 7pm – 7am at home. Whilst on holiday they were sometimes going to sleep at 9.30pm, it didn’t concern us though as they were sleeping in until late. (Helped by the thick black out curtains in our room – hurrah!)
Charlie, with the other 3 – 5 year olds, enjoyed watching a movie in his PJ’s during evening kids club before snuggling into a fleecy blanket on a camp bed. He quickly became accustomed to arranging all of his teddies on his bed when he arrived at kids club, before joining his buddies on the bean bags to enjoy a popular Disney/Pixar movie. We barely got a backward glance from him as we said our goodbyes!
The evening child care at Lakitira was available from 7.30pm – 11pm. The resort also offered a babysitting service for parents who preferred their child watched over in their own room or wished to leave the resort to enjoy dining in the nearby village. We didn’t use the babysitting service but apparently it is very popular and you need to book.
As Charlie had so much fun at his first evening kids club, he woke up the next morning pestering us to return. When we explained that we were going to the beach as a family and then he was going to join his friends in the afternoon his reply was “Mummy, Daddy we can go to the beach together tomorrow.” Charming!
After his first afternoon in kids club Charlie referred to it as ‘Awesome Club’ which clearly shows how much he loved it! Over the course of a week, Charlie and Harry enjoyed splashing around in the pool with their new kids club friends, wave jumping, making arts and crafts, having their faces painted, building sand castles and playing ball games. Charlie also went kayaking and sailing which he is still raving about today! (If the weather had cooperated, he also would have tried windsurfing on child sized boards and taken part in a kids intro tennis session).
Walking around the resort during the day you regularly saw groups of kids and the childcare staff singing loudly and playing games:) The kids always had massive smiles on their faces. To keep all the kids together they were all asked to hold onto a long piece of fabric, as you can see on the photo above. It was an incredibly cute sight to see!
It was also common to see parents spying on their kids… Keen to know they were ok, but equally keen not to be seen for risk of child-free time being brought to an abrupt end by a clingy toddler! We saw parents hiding behind trees, walls… It was hilarious to see the lengths parents would go to to check in on their kids!
So did we feel guilty?!
Richard and I thought we would feel guilty dropping our boys off at childcare but we didn’t at all as they were both having such a fun time. Harry usually spent the first two hours of his three-hour afternoon session napping, (which would have prevented us from being able to participating in water sports). Charlie was having an absolute blast, meeting new friends, trying new sports and feeling very grown up and independent.
We also worried that we would be missing out on quality family time by putting our kids into afternoon sessions. Being completely honest it was quite the opposite. As we knew that we would have free time to do as we pleased from 2.30pm-5.30pm and then from 7.30 we really made the most of our family time together. Normally on holiday Richard and I, half jokingly (but very much half seriously!) play tag, snatching ten minutes of free time to enjoy a lap in the pool or read a chapter of a book. We didn’t need to play tag whilst in Greece:)
A regular day at Lakitira Beach Resort
It only took us a couple of days to get into a routine.. a late breakfast, a fun morning playing with the boys on the beach or around the pool, buffet lunch followed by a midday stroll to get Harry asleep in his push chair ready for kids club. About two hours into the kids clubs, after enjoying some water sports, I would be starting to miss the chatter from the boys but I would always resist picking them up until 5.30pm and then take them straight to kids tea. Both boys were always in good spirits during their dinner and Charlie could not wait to tell us about his day, the games he had played and the friends he had met.
Looking around kids tea it was very noticeable that families were engaged with one another. Yes parents still looked stressed, attempting to get picky eaters to have a few mouthfuls of food! However, families sat talking with one another and it was a pleasant change to not see kids being kept quiet and entertained by iPads. After kids tea we always had a quick dip in the paddling pool or play in the resort grounds before bath time, PJ’s and the return back to kids club for the 7.30pm movie.
The restaurant in the evening was a completely different atmosphere to that of the rather manic kids tea! We quietly chatted about our day, enjoying a very rare date night. We seldom get the chance to go out on a date night at home, 7 nights in a row is unheard of… we felt that we were living the dream!
To be honest, after the fourth night we had run out of things to talk about and we were missing our normal chatter and banter at the dining table so we invited Charlie to join us for dinner! We enjoyed a lovely evening, playing cards and board games which are normally impossible to play with an energetic toddler present! It was nice to have the choice of whether Charlie joined us for dinner or not, something we do not normally have. As we had such a lovely evening we asked him to join us again the following evening… he turned us down in favour of ‘Awesome Club’!
Final thoughts – Childcare at Mark Warner’s Lakitira Beach Resort
Both boys made some lovely friends at kids club and Charlie was quite smitten by his teachers. (We had tears at the airport when he was saying goodbye to one of his favourites!) It’s not surprising he was so smitten, the childcare staff were all young and fun. When we picked Charlie up from kids club we would often find him snuggling on a bean bag reading books with his teacher!
Although we were obviously grateful that the childcare staff were fun, we were also very impressed with how seriously they took their role in caring for the kids in their charge. Around the pool every toddler would be wearing a buoyancy aid, a full bathing suit covering shoulders and a sun hat. The staff had their eyes on the kids constantly. The staff ratios were also great – the Mini Club that Harry was in never had more than three kids to one member of staff. We never felt the need to worry about our boys, the staff thought of everything, including regularly reapplying sun cream, playing in the shade and ensuring kids were always drinking enough water in the hot sun.
The password system also reassured us as a parent. Not once did the childcare staff forget to ask us for our password, not even on the last day when they knew us well. (We saw this as very much a positive thing and not an annoyance).
At the end of the week we were invited to attend the kids club for a presentation. It was very sweet:) Each group sang a song with actions and each child given a certificate. Harry was presented with the ‘Colgate Award’ for having the brightest smile and Charlie received the ‘Prince Charming Award’ for charming all the nannies!
If I had to suggest improvements I would say the kids missed out on a kids mini disco, although I believe this is something offered during the peak season. The kids pool was also too chilly for swimming (we visited at the beginning of May) and took a while to get used to for paddling. (I have updated my recommended packing list to include kids wetsuits if travelling outside of the summer holidays).
So will we travel with Mark Warner Holidays again?
ABSOLUTELY! We have already been checking out their winter ski family holidays! Since having kids we had given up on the idea of relaxing and taking part in sports we enjoy whilst on holiday. Our holiday in Greece has made us realise that we can have it all – family time and adult only time. It is a perfect combination!
Need to know – Due to staff ratios kids under the age of two cost an extra £180 for half day sessions or £360 for full day sessions. Childcare for kids from age 2+ is included in the cost of the holiday. Top tip – It is cheaper to book childcare before leaving the UK rather than booking on an ad-hoc basis in the resort. Click here for more top tips for making the most of a Mark Warner summer holiday. Click here for our full review of the Lakitira Beach Resort.
Further information about Mark Warner childcare clubs and activities can be found on the Mark Warner website.
Disclosure – I stayed as a guest of Mark Warner at the Lakitira Beach Resort. All opinions and words are my own.
Copyright – All photos are copyright Travel Loving Family