We sat down with the Miami-based creator of itavi to understand what makes this childcare service so different and what parents can expect:
By Michelle Payer
WHAT IS itavi?
Itavi is an acronym for “it takes a village,” because there was a point in time where families lived close together and watched children, but as dynamics started to shift they needed childcare. We are setting a different tone in what childcare expectations and standards look like and what they should be and providing a service that differentiates what is on the market. Our goal is to ensure our child is always better than when we entered their space; if the child is better, the parents are better, the hotel is better and we’re better – it’s a circle. We have five pillars that incorporate arts & crafts, reading, movement, physical and cultural; we do yoga; there’s a wellness aspect. In this programming we stay away from Legos and Slime; we feel children have seen this all the time. We stay away from electronics and we encourage children to stay away from iPhones and movies; we know they get a lot of that already. These children have tremendous life experiences; we meet them at their level and inspire them based on what they already know. Then we change the program quarterly to keep it fresh and keep our team engaged.
WHAT DOES AN itavi SESSION AT ACQUALINA LOOK LIKE?
Part of the programming is a sustainability aspect – we might read a book about Miami’s marine life, we might incorporate an arts and crafts cutting and gluing activity (motor skills) to go back to the theme of the book. Some children may never have experienced Miami before, so we might incorporate salsa dancing as part of the exercise pillar. With parents’ permission, we might do outdoor activities with curated programming in designated safe spaces, which never includes the pool, as our goal is that everyone stays safe, take them to the on-property restaurant and then back to the room where they’re engaged in an activity. Children might create a passport and learn about different countries’ animals, foods, sayings: more than just what’s in our backyard. It’s important to know we created the itavi program to touch base on all the different “beings” of a child and curate this. If a child has been traveling and there’s a time difference, it’s important to help the child become centered again.
WHY DID YOU CREATE itavi?
With independent services in different cities, you would still have to navigate through 100 different applicants to find someone to care for your child. It’s rolling the dice and there’s no accountability. I always thought, “If I do this, I need to be accountable for who I’m connecting to your child” so I took an entire year to strategize and build itavi. I’ve worked with leading industry childcare educators, pediatricians to understand motor skills and incorporated my own experience of traveling with children and navigating childcare as a whole. The intention is to offer a better service where accountability, resolve and experience-building leads to trust and sets a standard. Wherever itavi is, you know what the foundation and expectation look like. At the core it’s the intentions and accountability. If I can walk away and the child says, “that was so much fun, I want Susan to come back,” the parent will benefit and won’t feel guilty for leaving, the child will have a great experience and the hotel will have trusted childcare.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The service can be booked anytime day or night for up to three children with a four-hour minimum at $260, and we can coordinate sessions for children from multiple families who are traveling together. We know all about the children from the online intake form the parents have filled out; it tells us the childrens’ allergies, schedules, birthdays, emergency contact, feeding times and more, then we verify all that information by phone. Our childcare professionals meet the parents in the lobby 15-minutes before a session starts and parents know exactly who they’re meeting from the digital ID badge we’ve sent. We want the families to know who is coming and a little background about that childcare professional. We offer white glove service and provide parents with a direct contact so they’re not in a queue.
WHO ARE YOUR itavi CHILDCARE PROFESSIONALS?
Each itavi childcare professional has undergone extensive background checks, has two-plus years of childcare experience, first aid and CPR certification, and much more. Our multi-lingual professionals speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Each is trained in the itavi method, then has monthly training with a childcare professional training educator and is offered classes, including positive behavioral outcomes in challenging situations – for example if a child jetlagged or travel-weary. We have Montessori teachers with us at nights and on weekends. We have pediatric registered nurses who have experience with babies, as we care for children as young as three months. We work with children with different needs; we might have children on the spectrum and have childcare professionals with that background and understanding. We’re here to set the standard for childcare professionals. If the person watching your most prized possession is growing, developing and flourishing, that’s what is going to happen with your child: someone who is at their best is bringing their best to your child.