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BLOG: Working with Coronavirus - Sue's experience

Registered for almost 20 years as a Childminder, I currently work with a total of 15 children, from aged 1 to 8 years old. I have a total of 10 children in early years, 2 in Reception, one in Year 2 and 2 in Year 3. My daughter who is 20 years old is my Ofsted Registered Assistant, we service two schools, and three of the children attend other early years settings.

I have six keyworker families, of which 4 children are attending the setting at the moment.

Arriving and leaving at the setting

Children wash their hands on arrival, before and after snacks and lunch, after activities, after sneezing and before going home. When washing hands, paper towels are provided for hand drying to replace hand towels.

Work surfaces, all laminated floor areas and door handles are cleaned before we start our day (before the children arrive) and we have designated work surfaces in the kitchen for food preparation for the children.

All laminated floor areas where children enter the premises are washed with diluted detergent before children arrive and once the last child has arrived, thereby hoping to eliminate any virus which may have been present on footwear.

Remember to socially distance from the front door using the 2 metre rule, so I will stand back within the hallway to provide additional social distance. I am still doing handovers and a time of around five minutes should be sufficient to inform parents of their child’s day. I then can give further information as a follow up on WhatsApp. Children will be released from the setting once this hand over is complete, and parents are expected to leave promptly.

If a parent is already at the front door at drop off or pick up, other parents arriving at the setting are expected to wait in their car until such a time as they can access the property without socially compromising the 2 metre distance. This has sometimes meant that parents are advised of staggered drop off/collection times. If siblings are bought with parents to collect their children from me, they are asked to wait in the car for the duration of pick-up. Once further advice follows and I am aware of exact numbers of children potentially attending from 1 June, I will adjust this accordingly.

Using home made resources such as laminated number lines which can be easily cleaned after play

Toys and resources

With toys, children are requested not to bring toys from home and we took the decision to remove all soft toys from the setting. We’ve limited which toys are out in the setting and while all the toys are now washed more frequently, we have removed the toys and resources that are hardest to clean.

Additionally, resources and toys are used for extended play rather than adding more for the children to play. More use of working together with the children to extend their play with limited resources, using their imagination and keeping them interested and focussed to learn.

Baking activities were curtailed at the beginning of lockdown, and are being slowly reintroduced but kept to simple activities which do not involve children touching baking ingredients with their hands.

Our larger table is being utilised to split our children into two groups, with my assistant working with one group in one room, and I can work with the other in a separate room. This may help with social distancing for some parts of our day and reduce the possibility of potential transmission of the virus.

Meal and snack times

At lunch time we ensure that the table has a designated cloth for snack/meal times and the table is cleaned before and after use. Depending on the number of children attending after 1st June, we might introduce staggered meal time ‘sittings’ to ensure each child can sit at the table and have a reasonable space between them.

Parents have been requested to refrain from bringing packed lunches in fabric lunch bags, and to bring wrapped labelled food in a hard plastic container, which I have provided.  The containers will be decanted and food placed in the fridge or a large cardboard hamper style box. Parents’ containers are then washed and returned to their child’s backpack ready for taking home.

Small world toys such as small number stones and frogs for counting can all be easily washed in a bowl at the end of the day.

Hygiene and PPE

Of course, there is increased hand washing for myself and my Assistant. Hand sanitisers are placed in the kitchen, cloakroom and in rooms where there are no wash basins. Teaching children hand washing techniques, washing hands more often and ensuring parents continue with this good practice at home, all within the government guidelines has been of utmost importance.

We use disposable gloves as well, when preparing food or doing nappy changes, which are thrown away after each use.

To help protect the setting from any infections, parents are expected to collect their children immediately if a rise in temperature is detected or they become poorly.

Risk assessment

All of these measures have come about from risk assessing the spaces in which we play, as well as our daily routines; how we currently go about these and the risk of potential spread of infection and the control measures needed to be taken to minimise this risk.

Outside play in the garden is encouraged as much as possible, with use of imaginary play rather than using equipment. We’ve been looking at the clouds for shapes, making potions with petals and water, and using stones to make patterns, for example.

Family in the household

My husband and son are continuing to go to work each day, where appropriate measures are taken to ensure their own safety. I have suggested to parents to drop off and collect their children after my husband and son leave the house for work, and collect their children before they arrive home. By doing this, we’re reducing the number of people the children are coming into contact with.

This floating activity can, with careful planning, be enjoyed by the children outdoors.

Mental health and wellbeing

For the children and families I have been keeping conversations simple but engaging. I talk with parents to know how much each of their children know and understand about the ongoing situation. Some of the children cannot understand why we aren’t allowed to go outside and see our friends and family. It’s been easier to reinforce some of these simple messages through stories, which children find it easier to relate to and help them make more sense of the changes.

Ensuring children feel empowered to be able to discuss concerns helps their mental wellbeing. Discussing the situation and understanding it from a parent’s perspective helps with my own mental wellbeing, and encouraging the parents to have open conversations to share their own fears and concerns has been helpful. This is a brand new situation we find ourselves in and everyone is working the best way they can and the best way they know. Understanding, empathy and kindness needs to be shown to adults as well as children.

I have found WhatsApp invaluable for keeping in touch with the parents, and with children too via video chat. Every parent is on the group WhatsApp and I check in every day, even if its only to say ‘hi’ and ‘how is everyone doing’. Not everyone is active on the chat, but some parents will message me their replies through a private message, whilst others will simply read my messages, which is good to know they have seen what I have said and know I am there for support and to talk if they feel the need.

I share ideas, links and activities on here for parents to make their own ‘go to’ library of things to do for and with their children, and, in turn, I have invited parents to share what they have been doing with their children over the lockdown. I have received some lovely photos and videos. Some have made a boat from cardboard boxes, painting on pebbles in the garden, baking, painting bedrooms, making rainbow pictures, making letters of their name from twigs, and we have even had a new baby brother born on the very first day of lockdown (a new addition to Sweet Peas too!). I have an ‘in-touch’ time with families where we call via video chat and the children in my setting can talk to their little friends who are home with their families; this works really well and keeps spirits up.

I have shared tried and tested activities and ideas, as well as links to virtual zoos, and virtual story times to a new Facebook Group set up specifically for lockdown, inviting friends, parents and childminders to join the group in order to access and use as they wish.

Paperwork and key changes

Each parent is being asked to ensure I have correct and up to date contact details for emergency contacts, and to ensure these contacts are not friends/relatives who may be shielding or in a vulnerable category.

Starting points for each of the children will be re-assessed on their returns, with next steps and appropriate assessments made as to my own planning for their onward learning and development, all to be evaluated with discussions with parents as to what the children have enjoyed/achieved in their time at home during lockdown.

I access online CPD in areas on Coronavirus which may be of benefit to myself and to my parents. Many of these are free, including EY smart.

Ensure moving forward that Contracts are valid, and if necessary, new contracts are drawn up to reflect the new working practices which will potentially need to be adopted in our ‘New Normal’.

Do you feel safe?

Yes, I feel I have taken necessary changes for the four children who have attended since 2nd April and I feel confident with the forthcoming changes I have planned to make. I will further discuss changes I feel necessary as and when they arise as I continue to listen to and read guidance.

The future

I am currently preparing for the return of more children from the 1st June. If parents are not returning to work on the 1st June, or are unsure about sending their child back to the setting, I am discussing this with them and come to an agreed way forward to enable their space to be retained. This is continued as an ongoing discussion between each parent and I am working with parents to understand how their hours may look moving forward. It may be necessary to give options of alternative days of care if parents have been working from home. Flexibility on our part as childminders is key at this time if it is an option within ratios.

Consideration is currently under review of children who attend one other pre-school setting as well as my setting for childcare. With three children in my setting attending one other setting, and therefore mixing with a larger number of children as well as more adults at these settings, it could potentially mean that in one week these 3 children could mix with up to 45 more children (based on 15 children attending the other pre-school settings). This could result in a greater exposure for all the children who attend my setting as well as my own family and something I am continuing to think about and assess before 1st June.

Consideration is also required for collection of school children, as two children in my care are due to return to Reception from 1st June, and from two different schools. The exposure these two children will have to other children at these two different schools will, again, present potentially a bigger risk to the other children in my care, and to my own family.

Overall, I have felt nervous at times as we have put our trust in parents to respect lockdown rules but I would say to others thinking about opening to go with your gut feel, open when you feel it's right to do so and you are confident in the measures you have implemented to not only keep the children safe at your setting, but your own family too.

It has to be a continuous working partnership with parents so keep talking and communicate your own thoughts and concerns as well as listening to those from your parents, showing flexibility and understanding as everyone’s needs moving forward may vary.

Children will always be at the heart of my setting, and when my three keyworker children returned, it was as though the world was just the same. The virus doesn’t change the love and affection I have for my role, and for these little people. If anything it has made me more determined to get it right, and whilst listening to, reading and acting on the guidance and the science, to never forget who I am, where I take my inspiration from, and what is important to me and to my children and their families.

Remember, continue to be the amazing practitioners we all are and never underestimate the important role we all play in nurturing our future young adults.

Find more support on the PACEY Coronavirus spotlight.

Lisa D'Auria
Thank you so much for sharing your story, it really helps when you are preparing your home/setting to open. I wish you all the best as your number increase.
19/06/2020 13:04:48

Zarina Zaheer
So insightful. Thank you for sharing. I am opening up on Monday (15th June), I am very anxious and your story has really helped. Thankyou
11/06/2020 21:10:42

Thank you so much for your ideas and information I’ll definitely incorporate some of it in my risk assessment that I was dreading starting. This has helped me get my head clear and ready for the 1st.
Thank you Sue
24/05/2020 19:25:29

Elizabeth Bergelin
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and practises. This will be very useful when I reopen and I hope to implement some of your ideas. Well done, you sound like a fantastic childminder.
19/05/2020 15:58:34

Shetha Shaw
How do you deal with the arrival and collection of a non walker?
19/05/2020 09:57:24

Lynne Conlon
Wow thank you so much for all of this information. I am in a very similar situation to you and I am very concerned about the wrap around care I’ve been asked to give. I am worried about car journeys to and from school?
Eagerly await your update regarding 1st June.
Many, many thanks.
19/05/2020 08:36:28

Anne Shiner
Very interesting, useful and reassuring insight. Thank you
16/05/2020 15:02:05

Kirsten Harrison
Thank you for sharing.
It’s good to see how others have managed throughout. I have not had any children since the 20th March, love ideas on starting points as the children will have changed so much. It is going to be like starting again.
Stay safe.
@Kirsten’s House
16/05/2020 10:19:16

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