Brilliant Kate, co-owner of Spotty Herberts, a shop for children on Queen Street, gives us her very personal recommendations for after school childcare…
After a long and wonderfully warm summer holiday, days with nothing to do, days full of tiring fun, drifting daydreams, a brush with boredom and no plans for weeks it is, alas, time to go back to school/work.
School (and work) tend to get in the way of fun and freedom don’t you think? A busy, engaging, enlightening day at school is no doubt massively enjoyable but you can’t beat a bit of adventure, silliness, a sense of freedom, your choice of activity, a little danger even. Where do you send your kids when school is done but work is keeping you late?
Two – very different yet quite alike – Bath businesses specialising in child care who are pretty darn good at nurturing, developing and thoroughly enjoying children of school age are firm favourites of our Spotty Herberts; Swainswick Explorers and Super Pirates.
Swainswick Explorers, based in Upper Swainswick, offer after school care, a preschool club and many holiday events. Run by husband and wife, Edward and Rachel at their family home in Swainswick since 2002, Swainswick Explorers offer children some seriously fun opportunities. Expect a little risk, plenty of adventure, clear boundaries and masses of free time to play outside.
The huge family garden at their house where the children spend a lot of their time has evolved over the years. There’s a DIY Adventure Park complete with Blacksmith Forge, a home-made hot tub with a view of the valley you’d pay big bucks for and a fleet of things with wheels to bomb about in.
Our kids have enjoyed both their ‘adventure days’ and ‘home days’, but secretly love the ‘home days’ best I think.
A Home Day is just that. Up to 30+ kids get to spend the whole day at Rachel and Edwards house doing pretty much anything they fancy! Our eldest usually settles in the kitchen cooking endless batches of flap-jacks and organising the hot chocolate for break times, all done in the family kitchen in the AGA with a big posse joining in.
Our son flits from lego, marbles, cards and flapjack inside to football, blacksmithing, banging nails and sawing in the scrap workshop and a session in the tub.
They come home happy, tired, well fed and full of stories.
You can even travel further afield. Our youngest, 9, has just returned from a week in Germany with a group of seven boys and two Swainswick Leaders. Five days of cycling, lake swimming, exploring and camping away from home. He wore the same clothes all week, flew home in soggy swim shorts and a filthy t-shirt and brought half the forest floor home in his suitcase. With reports of ‘the best chips in the world’, fleeing from swans, red squirrel sightings and making the best friends ever I don’t think I have ever seen him as happy!
If you’re looking for after school or holiday clubs who are fantastic for traditional unplugged fun and adventure, then I urge you to try Swainswick Explorers.
You must of heard of the Super Pirates?
These guys, head pirate Jason Prentice and his crew, run parties, events, attend weddings, festivals, hold dance workshops, go crazy with the Bath Carnival, host play sessions around the city and run after school and holiday clubs in several venues in and around Bath. Super Pirates indeed!
Jason is a man with a plan: ‘to be the biggest name in children’s events, to inspire kids to be awesome, to be a brown belt in JiuJitsu.’ He’s a total natural. He’s the kind of guy who kids can sniff out immediately, the one who can’t help but entertain, get down to their level, lark about, have fun. And he loves his Nanna!
I first met the pirates at a party my son attended around 5 years ago. As I sat at the edge of the hall watching the loud rumpus unfold I have to admit I did wonder ‘what on earth is all this?’ The party consisted, almost entirely, of Jason filling a barrel with small children, emptying the barrel and refilling. Then there was the dragging around of said screaming children on the end of a rope, some crazy ball games, hide and seek, some piggy back battles and then back to barrel filling and occasional rolling. Jason did not stop. The kids absolutely loved it. I was sold.
Jason has a carefully selected team of pirates who specialise in child care as well as dance, nursery care, drama and mental health, all of course fully qualified to care for young children. They encourage exploration and are all about letting kids do the outrageous things they’re not allowed to do at home!
We’ve experienced parties, play sessions and the holiday clubs, all come very highly recommended. One of my favourite memories of my son is returning to collect him from their holiday club and finding him stripped down bare-chested, covered in soapy suds on a massive tarpaulin giggling, grappling with enormous space hoppers. I stood and watched him for some time and quite fancied joining in. Not the bare-chested bit though.
Find Kate and an entire shop-full of children’s treasures on 5 Queen Street, Bath, BA1 1HE