Bed, board and Readybrekfast

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The Independent Online
IT MAY well serve Readybrek rather than the full English breakfast but the concept of the Children's Hotel has emerged as a vital helping hand for parents beset by the work practices of the 1990s.

The latest such establishment, a 16-bedroom hotel exclusively for children, opens in the village of Rastrick, West Yorkshire, in May, providing cuddly toys, fish fingers and bedtime stories - but definitely no parents.

Close Lea House is the third such hotel in England. It will operate as a department of the local Rastrick Preparatory and Nursery School, whose owner and head teacher Susan Vaughey is the woman behind the development.

At the start Close Lea House will offer its services to parents connected with the school but, as demand develops, it is expected to extend its facilities to a wider community.

Children up to the age of 11 will be allowed to stay overnight or even just until late evening. The rooms will have cuddly toys, the interior decor will include planes and trains and staff will work at the hotel on a 24-hour basis.

Alongside fish fingers, party food such as jelly and pizzas will also be on the menu. "We have a nutritious and balanced school lunch menu but we understand that at night there is nothing wrong with a little treat," said Mrs Vaughey.

"It will be the same as if you were going to dine out or have a hotel meal on holiday."

She expected the venture to prove popular with children. "It will be very exciting. It's somewhere for them to have independence and enjoy time away from home."

Mrs Vaughey believes such hotels are meeting the changing demands and requirements of parents. "Parents have different needs from the past. Employment takes them further away from home; they may have late-night meetings.

"They may also just want to get away for a weekend or for a holiday and not have any extended family with whom they can leave the kids."

It is a view endorsed by Joyce Deakin, co-director of Pippa Pop-ins, the pioneering overnight nursery and children's hotel in south-west London set up by her daughter, Pippa, which also puts up and looks after children if there is a family emergency or the parents are working late or simply need time out from their kids.

"There is a genuine need felt by parents today," said Mrs Deakin. "We have had a large number of people wanting to do something similar calling us for advice.

"It is especially important with this government, which is saying that everyone has to work. What happens to the children of the single mother? You can't give a child of eight a key to the house."