The hidden cost of minding grandchildren has been revealed

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

When grandparents are called on to look after grandchildren while parents work ,it is often a win-win for everyone. Parents pay little or nothing for the daycare, and grandparents and children who get to spend time together.

But there is a hidden cost of minding grandchildren in your own home – the inevitable damage the little tearaways do to the house.

UK building company David Wilson Homes recently surveyed 1001 grandparent households – those who are looking after children aged between one and nine. It showed the average annual cost of damage per room per grandchild was a staggering $AU160.

It will come as no surprise that the most common form of damage was spilt food and drink on carpets and soft furnishings (65.49 per cent), followed by drawing and painting on walls (14.64 per cent) and broken ornaments (6.63 per cent).

And although uncommon occurrences, there were instances of far more severe damages that will amount to a hefty bill – notably ten cases of smashed television screens, eight cases of broken windows, six cases of broken beds and one case of a murdered pet fish.

In terms of where the damage takes place, the living room suffers the most with 30.20 per cent of reported incidents, followed by the garden in second (16.84 per cent) and the kitchen in third (11.99 per cent).

While cases of damages caused in garages were rare (1.37 per cent), this was the location for the highest average cost of damages, coming in at an eye-watering $357. 

And it turns out, boisterous boys cost almost 20 per cent more than girls, with the average repair cost per room for the former being $33 greater.

The worst age group for damage and expense was four to six years of age.

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Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson for parent company Barratt Homes said: "The research was just a bit of fun, but it does highlight the hidden cost to grandparents from looking after their grandchildren. Parents are well used to crayons being scrawled on walls and windows being broken with balls, but as grandparents increasingly help out with childcare so their homes are taking a knock once again."

One grandmother interviewed by Stuff, who regularly looks after her grandchildren, is not surprised by the survey. She says she has had plenty of spills on the carpet, vases broken and damage to blinds.

"Sometimes they get over excited, especially when there's more than one of them in the house," she says. "But I never put stuff away in my home. It stays where it is, because I believe the children need to learn how to behave when they are other people's houses.

"After a while they get to know (the boundaries). I don't put safety locks on cupboard doors to stop them jamming their fingers, because they need to learn how to open and close doors.

"Now, if they sit in front of the TV with a snack or a drink, they know to put down a placement or a coaster, and when they have finished they take their plates away and wash up."

The grandmother does have some bugbears however: "They like to play hide and seek and get into all those places where you don't want them, like under the bed, in the wardrobes or even the pantry. And I'm not too pleased when they use the bed as a trampoline."

- Stuff