Annapolis mall offers free childcare to lure shoppers

(Photo: Suzanne Kennedy/ WJLA)

A new kid’s center at the mall in Annapolis is providing kids with iPads and parents with two hours of free childcare while they shop.

Westfield Family KidCare aims to give parents a break, and hopefully an opportunity to spend more money.

Sahteva Avata was taking advantage of the service Friday to do a little shopping without her 3-year-old in tow.

Her daughter was having fun at the drop-in childcare facility that opened this week. Children can play with iPads, among other things.

See photos of the childcare center

“Just to go in a store and not have someone tugging on me to leave… with the holidays, it will be great,” Avata said.

Annapolis is the first of Westfield's 50 U.S. malls to offer free childcare. Parents are required to scan their drivers license and leave a cell phone number in case of an emergency.

They also sign a waiver and a medical form. Safety stickers with their parents’ pictures are put on children’s backs and parents must show their drivers license to pick up their children at the end of their stay.

Mall management says it's a great tool to lure in shoppers.

“Knowing how much a sitter costs these days, you're talking 12, 15 dollars an hour. Two hours, that's 25-30 dollars in your pocket that now you can spend on that pair of shoes you've been looking at or that dress for your little girl,” said Christi Wallace.

On its second day, parents checked out the facility.

“I'm looking forward to using this facility...definitely,” said Amy Willmarth.

Children ages 3 to 9 can stay for a maximum of two hours per day. If it's successful, it may be expanded to other Westfield malls, including those located in Wheaton and Bethesda.