CocoRio brings together artists, musicians and others and homeschooling kids and toddlers to promote a creative childcare approach.
Creative people have been hard hit by the pandemic. Parents are also struggling with childcare issues and homeschooling. A creative childcare agency has put two and two together and come up with a service which addresses the pandemic challenges of both.
CocoRio was incorporated in 2017 by Léa Henry to offer creative childcare, but did not launch properly until last January and almost immediately had to adapt to the new Covid scenario. Léa had been babysitting while studying for a degree in music and had started doing ‘musical babysitting’, writing songs and singing them to the children she babysat for. The families she worked for loved the idea. Léa met Corinna Bordoli while doing a master’s in arts and cultural management at King’s College. She had also been doing some babysitting on the side of her studies and had taken a similarly creative approach.
The two women decided they were onto something and set up CocoRio. They started by recruiting creatives, from dancers and musicians to puppeteers. They now have around 100 babysitters on their books and had been blown away by the applicants, who include West End performers and artists who have had national exhibitions. Many also speak several languages. With the advent of Covid and school challenges, they have taken on creatives with tutoring experience in subjects ranging from English to Science.
CocoRio originally focused on children aged zero to five, but they have recently been doing more work with school-aged children and young people up to the age of 15.
All the sitters are thoroughly vetted and DBS-checked and CocoRio takes care to match parents and sitters personally, talking to parents about what they need from a sitter. Once the initial chat has been done, parents can book sitters online directly which speeds up the process.
Before Covid, CocoRio had envisaged organising events with families and sitters and they have held a few online as well as parent chat groups and a virtual Christmas party.
They say that during Covid the feedback they are getting from parents is that creative sessions provide a huge boost to children’s confidence and motivation to learn. Corinna says: “Many of the parents who contact us mention that their children feel lonely or are spending too much time on screen, that they need something engaging and creative. It is hard for them to come up with a never-ending list of ideas and doing something different and creative keeps young people motivated and is good for their mental health.”
During Covid, parents have been able to choose between online sessions [at a cost of 20 pounds for 40 minutes] or in person sessions [at a cost of 25 pounds for an hour].
Corinna and Léa are hoping to build a scaleable app to make it easier for parents to book session and to spread beyond London. They hope that, after Covid, parents will continue to value the kind of creative input they bring.
Léa says it is a win win for all involved. The sitters get enormous satisfaction from doing something creative with kids during lockdown and helping them to learn; for parents it takes some stress off them; and for children it may ignite a lifelong passion.