As an Early Years Consultant I have been asked a lot recently about how to get back to normal within settings. The thing is there is now a new normal and what seems like a minefield of things to consider before young children get back to attending the setting. Many settings have been open all through this pandemic for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. The Government guidance Planning Guide for Early Years and Childcare Settings sets out a comprehensive list of things to consider such as:
All activities should be risk assessed and changed or amended accordingly
Cleaning and hygiene
Manage hand washing regularly, clean surfaces frequently including door handles, equipment, toilets and sinks and common use areas
Use physical distancing where possible; think about how to use the area with small groups of children. Perhaps move the furniture around to provide area dividers and remove some toys or furniture to make more space.
Physical distancing between groups
Snack time and lunch time needs to be well thought out as to where to sit the children and that the sharing of resources is reduced. Which group will use which area at what time? Can resources be cleaned effectively in between use from group to group?
Handwashing and respiratory hygiene
Get children to wash their hands correctly, use hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes, have plenty of disposable tissues with lidded bins.
Ensure cleaning of surfaces, toys and equipment, toilets and sinks, door handles and light switches happens continually throughout the day. Deep clean setting each session.
Reducing face-to-face contact with and between parents and carers
Drop off and pick up times may need to be revised to ensure safety of other users, hand overs at the end of the day could be done online to minimise face to face contact, consider the needs of the child in settling in again after a possible long break. The children are the priority and may need time to adapt to new routines and adjust to the ‘new normal’.
The feedback I am receiving is that most children have adjusted pretty well and are enjoying helping with cleaning routines and seeing their friends again. Some may be anxious if a family member has been unwell or anxious about the current situation and need more reassurance. Some useful advice for practitioners and child minders can be found here:
Anne Rodgers – Early Years Consultant – I have worked in early years for 36 years and have owned my own chain of nurseries, taught EYPS and CACHE students, written books and articles on early years topics and currently offer help and support to settings including putting on training courses for staff CPD