The government guidance for early years providers in England has changed, to minimise the need for smaller bubbles within settings. However, the recommendations for mixing with other bubbles remains the same. It's important to make sure you keep up to date with the latest industry guidance.
We caught up with childminders across England to get their top tips for successfully, and safely, meeting another bubble for socially distanced fun in their local area.
- Meet outdoors; outside spaces are the preferred venue for most practitioners at the moment.
“We have been to the local woods den building; to the stream having a paddle with wellies on (or bare feet), to a country park for a walk and picnic; on a scarecrow hunt and recently on a scavenger hunt to the local nature reserve.” Sharon, Childminder in Derbyshire
- Parental permissions; not all families are in the same situation, so communicating openly and honestly with parents about your plans is vital.
“I let the parents know on a weekly basis what’s happening the following week through a group chat we all have. They can openly reply if they don’t want their child to go somewhere or experience something, there is no judgment.” Sarah, Childminder in Harrow
- Stick to the familiar; now might not be the best time to explore places you’ve never been before, especially if you’re unaware of the facilities that will (or won’t) be available.
“We manage it by going to places that are well known to us.” Sharon
- Plan ahead; spontaneity is trickier in the current climate, with a little pre-planning recommended to ensure everyone is able to safely enjoy meeting up.
“We have found that activities like treasure hunts work really well to help keep the children in their bubbles. These friendly competitions ensure they want to work in their own group in order to win/complete a task, while still allowing them to see others.” Janette, Childminder in Hillingdon
- Come prepared; now more than ever, ensure that you have taken enough with you to cover all eventualities for your time outside. This could include toys and resources, as well as your ‘safety essentials’ such as hand sanitiser and wipes to clean any equipment.
“When we go out I take plenty of things to keep the children entertained and make sure we’re prepared for any scenario, such as balls, bats, tents, picnic blankets etc. Everything is washed as soon as we get home. I also always have baby wipes, small hand towels, hand sanitiser, anti bac (which the kids have started to call Aunty Bern) and masks, which we take out with us, even if we’re just going for a walk.” Sarah
- Picnic perfection; while the weather is good, all the providers we spoke to agree that picnics are one of the simplest, and safest, ways to have fun with friends outdoors.
“The children are happy to have picnics on their own blanket with their childminder – it’s the same as they’ve always done. They really enjoy seeing their friends and will chat to each other.” Sharon
- Talk to the children; it’s important to support children in an age appropriate way to learn about how they can keep themselves and others safe.
“The virus has been discussed with those children old enough to understand it in very simple terms. Therefore, the children know they can only mix in our bubble. Being able to see and chat to their friends is important, whilst being aware of keeping a safe distance.” Sue
- Play to support understanding; with many of the children in your care too young to fully understand Coronavirus, play is a fantastic opportunity to engage them with the topic.
“Role play has helped us understand what we need to do to stay safe, so if the children are playing shops, buses etc. we talk about why we take precautions to keep us safe, and what we need to do in those situations. I add props to support this, like hand wash bowls, sanitizer bottles and masks.” Janette
- Model behaviour; children learn from copying us, and watching how we behave. Show them how to have fun while staying safe.
“At first it felt a bit weird having to tell them to stay apart and not hug or hold hands with their friends at the other childminders, but they were fine. Children are a lot more resilient then adults. We tried not to be too ‘on edge’ about it all as didn’t want to make the children anxious or scared. We are relaxed when out, and the children are too.” Sharon
- Worth the work; despite the extra work that now goes in to a trip outside your setting, the practitioners we spoke to were unanimous about the benefits it had, both for them and the children.
“We have a strong community in Ely, and having outdoor get-togethers ensures that no one feels isolated.” Sue
Want to read more about the experiences of these practitioners? Visit the Coronavirus reopening toolkit area to read more about how Janette, Sarah, Sharon and Sue have been managing meet-ups.
Supporting you to stay safe
At times, keeping you and the children in your care safe can feel like a daunting task, but with the right preparation it doesn’t need to be. PACEY has a whole host of different resources in place to help you navigate the ‘new normal’;
Coronavirus FAQs for England
Covid-19 risk assessment
Real-life stories from other early years practitioners
Free training (including transitions and hand washing) on EY Smart