In 2020 every setting has been faced with a situation no one could have predicted. The Coronavirus pandemic has meant childcare providers have had to adapt with little warning in order to pave a new normal. In the beginning, many were anxious about implementing changes - anything new doesn’t just affect the providers’ approach to work but it also affects the children and the families using their services. Changes had to be practical, but still hold that important element of a personal touch.
Since lockdown began we have been listening with interest about the changes settings have had to make; what they have struggled with, and what aspects of these new ways of working they will be keeping even once infection rates drop. It’s been a tough time for the childcare sector, but we have been impressed with the innovative ways of working that have been utilised by both lone childminders and large group settings alike.
Great ideas in practice
- Doorstep drop off and collections: To reduce the number of people entering a setting ‘doorstep’ policies were implemented and/or added to existing health and safety policies. This means children can be dropped off safely but without the parents/carers needing to come into the building.
- Virtual tours of the setting: Summertime is usually a big time of change in the sector, with children moving on and new children looking to start. Providers had to find ways to support new families in terms of visits and taster sessions while sticking to the Government guidelines. Virtual tours were introduced - videos were sent to prospective families giving them a tour of the environment and explaining a bit about their staff and ethos.
Pebbles Childcare give a tour around their setting
- Garden visits: Understandably, most families wanted more than a video, they wanted to see their child in the setting and to get a feel for it themselves. So settings started garden visits in pop up gazebos, with a choice of toys during quiet spells. Chairs well apart and everything carried out from a social distance.
- Handwashing stations: Providers needed to implement rigorous routines for handwashing across all age bands. Outdoor hand washing stations were established with children reminded to wash their hands before entering the setting and upon leaving to go home. Children learned to sing happy birthday twice while washing hands, or learned new songs to support their hand washing techniques.
Lourdes has her handwashing area outside for parents and children to use
- Story and music videos: Childminders and key workers were regularly sending videos to the children who couldn’t attend so that there remained a connection. Some children remained home for a long time and childcare providers were keen to keep them involved.
- Cleaning routines: Settings have always adopted good hygiene practices but Coronavirus took this to new levels. Providers had to find a good cleaning routine that kept everyone safe. For some, this meant drastically reducing the number of resources and rotating toys. For some, it meant closing an hour earlier to allow for this extra cleaning. Most settings have reduced their soft furnishings to make the cleaning process easier.
- Outdoor play: Some settings have taken their days into the garden so that inside the setting doesn’t need to be used as much, if at all. Pop up tents, shades, undercover areas, gazebos and cabins have all been utilised to use the garden in all weather conditions. Others have restricted their settings to fewer rooms being used.
Lorraine has an outdoor shade so the children can be outside whatever the weather
- Reduced/no school runs: some settings have limited or stopped school runs or decided to become under 5 settings for the time being as it reduces the potential for bubbles to mix.
- Outdoor storage: Providers added extra outdoor storage for bags, wellies, coats, and lunches to be kept in to reduce what was coming inside.
- Technology: Settings have increased their use of technology as a means of staying connected but without the additional risk of paperwork coming forwards and backwards. Social media, childcare software, apps and WhatsApp have all been used more widely since Coronavirus.
You can read more about members’ experiences in our practitioner examples in our Coronavirus spotlight area.
Here to stay?
A lot has changed in the sector and settings have had no choice but to adapt quickly to a new way of working. How have practitioners found this? Are there any new changes which they hope to keep long after the threat of Coronavirus reduces?
It’s been a period of reflection for many and Coronavirus has given settings the opportunities to go forth with new ideas which might not have previously been possible. It’s clear some will never return to the old normal.
For many, they have found door stop drop-offs and collections very useful and effective. Some believe it speeds up the process of arriving and leaving, and doesn’t unsettle the children so much. It also leaves more space indoors and generally maintains a calmer approach to the process.
Others will carry on using technology to their advantage – having found it to be a big time-saver as well as being safer at the moment. Photos, daily updates, accidents, contracts and invoices are all accessible remotely now, and many feel this online approach is the way forward. It provides a cost-effective way of reducing the hours spent doing diaries and invoices, not mentioning the benefit of parents being able to see photos of special moments as they happen. PACEY members can get a free 30 day trial of the online software, Kinderly Together.
Some have adopted a forest school approach to their setting which will stay long after Coronavirus. Practitioners have been embracing the great outdoors, open spaces and their gardens during these uncertain times. Naps, toileting, playtime and meals are all easily carried out in the garden and there are lots of benefits to this approach.
Many settings have come to feel they have too many toys and resources, and have scaled right back and use a toy rotation system. Research has shown that children are more focused and open to using their imagination with fewer toys to play with - too many toys out at once can overwhelm children to the point that they don’t play with anything. Less can certainly be more in these situations.
A new era
Childcare providers should applaud themselves for the way they have adapted to a new normal and made it work for them. Change can often be a daunting process, no less so when it arrives without warning. Coronavirus has changed so many perspectives and settings have used the time to implement new ideas and routines. Some have said that the pandemic has given them the push they needed to make changes to their setting - sometimes looking for the positives in a situation like this the best way forward.