As a registered childminder working with children for more than 25 years and owner of White Rose Childcare, when the lockdown was announced and we found out we were having to close our premises, I have to admit I didn’t take the news well. I cried and was a wreck throughout the day.
However, the following day, after a very fretful night, I decided to come up with a plan to keep in touch with those little ones and provide a service to my amazing parents, who as myself, were going through difficult times.
Doubtfully, I wrote a letter to all my parents, not knowing how this information would reach them. My idea consisted in preparing resources for all my little ones and delivering them once a week with an activity planned for each day. The idea was to use stories, songs and circle time before doing some a craft, literacy and numeracy together using a zoom meeting each morning. I would use recycling materials, such as cardboard, wood and homemade playdough and reproduce an activity kit with personalised items, to interest the children.
To my amazement, every single family was on board. Children were uncertain the first couple of lessons, but were very quick to pick up the idea and they seem to absolutely love it as well as looking forward to seeing their friends every morning. Siblings were allowed to take part as well. It really brought a big smile to our faces, plus it seemed to have given all of us (including my assistants and I) a routine and something to look forward to each day during these bizarre and unprecedented times.
It was a success! The families feedback was amazing and I can confidently attribute this to the great ‘working in partnership’ with parents, listening to their queries, regularly emailing newsletters, WhatsApp group, zoom meetings and personal phone calls.
After about eight weeks, government guidelines started to relax and early years settings were able to reconsider reopening their premises from the beginning of June. As much as I wanted to reopen and go back to ‘normal’, I knew that would have been impossible and that I needed to work very hard in order to prove my families a considerable sense of security as well as my staff and own family.
These unprecedented times really tested our abilities to reinvent ourselves and showed how resilient we are as a setting. Early years are known for constantly moving things around, reorganising and improving the setting’s environment to provide the best outcome to the children. This is paramount for us practitioners.
With that in mind, we have implemented a huge number of changes and have adapted as much as we could. One of the key changes we made was to completely change how children and parents arrived at the setting. This included creating a rota for dropping off and picking up and changing the entrance to the side door, with a buzzer system to get in and out. Parents now come through the gate (making sure it is securely locked behind) and are asked to wash their hands and sanitise immediately. We have also stopped all toys and resources from home coming into the setting.
Transitioning the children back into the setting was another major aspect we wanted to consider as children would have been away for about ten weeks by the time they returned. We have had to adapt our activities and remove items such as soft toys, dressing up clothes, blankets and cushions. To help with the transition we have reminded parents of this, been open about every detail of change and asked that they told us about any changes they observed while the child was at home as well as their most recent interests so we could fully support them.
With moving everything outside as much as possible, rain or shine, this has meant we had to think about the use of spare clothes for varying weather. We decided that the best way to manage this was to ask parents to provide a range of clothes that could then remain at the setting until further notice. We can then make sure these are disinfected and washed appropriately without having to leave the setting.
Keeping a high level of communication between us and parents is really important and we made sure that parents were aware of all the changes. This includes our new cleaning routines and procedures, health and self-care changes including the use of PPE, information about how staff were coming to the setting (not using public transport), the CPD we have all done to prepare, the financial situation of the setting and making it clear that we were doing everything in our power to be as Covid-19 free as we could.
Once these new policies, risk assessments and new daily routines were in place, both, parents and staff felt happy to give it a go and I as the manager of the setting was incredibly pleased to announce that we would be reopening from the 1st June 2020.
I need to reiterate that none of these great permanent changes or would have even been possible without the help of the families we have the pleasure and honour to work with. They will continue to change and I am lucky enough that the parents were fully supported from the beginning of the isolation period and continue to do so unconditionally.
We are now back to having all the early years attending our big and fun garden. Children arrive with a smile and often say how much they missed me and that they cannot wait to come the next day after the end of each session. I feel very blessed and grateful, that I can continue to do what I feel I was put in this planet for and what I love to do the best!
One parent said: “M is so happy to be back with ‘Luli’. SO much work has been done to ensure the children are safe, happy and secure. What was most important for me as a parent was the children’s well-being and nothing too strange or different to work and get used to and this has definitely been achieved. Lourdes has kept us well informed of new procedures and is often communicating throughout, I haven’t had any worries about returning M back to the setting.”
About the author
Lourdes is an Ofsted registered Childminder with over 25 years’ experience in the sector as well as being an early years teacher with a BA (Hons) degree in Childcare development and working with families.
Read the experience of other provides in our Coronavirus spotlight.