SHANGHAI -- Amidst the gleeful giggles of his grandson, who was engrossed in playful activities close by, Shanghai resident Feng let out a sigh of profound relief.
With qualified caregivers looking after his grandson in the "baby house," Feng could proceed with other important works. "While my little grandson is under proper care, I can conveniently attend classes at the senior university or read books and newspapers at the library," he said.
"Baby house," a homonym for "hold me" in the Shanghai dialect, aims to provide convenient and temporary childcare services for families with children aged one to three.
In 2022, China had approximately 32 million infants and toddlers aged under three, with over one-third of them coming from families seeking childcare arrangements. In metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, over two-thirds of families have a demand for childcare arrangements, according to data from the National Health Commission.
In Shanghai, "baby houses" were launched as a pilot project in 2022. The city plans to expand the facilities to all 16 districts this year, adding no less than 3,200 community childcare spots.
These centers are usually located within communities, making them easily accessible to parents. With colorful and spacious interiors resembling kindergartens, such facilities offer children engaging activities and designated spaces tailored to various developmental needs.
"The baby houses are 'embedded' within the scope of residents' daily lives," said Yu Wenjun, director of the Jiangning Road subdistrict office in Shanghai.
The subdistrict, with around 900 infants and toddlers aged under three, has five "baby houses." Since last year, the subdistrict has been offering three-hour reservation-based childcare services every weekday in the morning and afternoon.
Inside one of the "baby houses" in the subdistrict, the children's play zone features soft cushions, with separate rooms designed for different activities, such as crawling and balancing exercises. Enhancing the enchanting charm for kids, the corridor comes alive with vibrant magnetic and graffiti walls, as well as colorful tactile panels.
The "baby house" currently has two caregivers and two childminders, all certified, along with a health worker.
Chen Chen, a local parent, said that parents have set up online chat groups and often bring their children together to the childcare facility.
"When children of similar age gather, they adapt faster and create a familiar environment, which is helpful for their growth," Chen said.
Between 2021 and 2025, Shanghai plans to achieve a childcare coverage rate of no less than 85 percent for its more than 200 subdistricts and communities.
According to Yang Hanjia, who runs a baby house in the Jiangning Road subdistrict, they are tasked with nurturing the "most tender group."
"We hold ourselves to the highest standards when dealing with this group. Even though it's temporary care, we hope to help them grow with our love and ability," Yang said.