I have been a childminder for nearly 18 years and one of my daughters works with me as my assistant. When the lockdown was first announced I felt very mixed. What would I do financially? When would we open again? Then it was confirmed that we could look after children of key workers.
I contacted all the parents to ask them to confirm their status I.e. were they considered as key workers? About two thirds came into that category but the majority took the decision that they could manage to keep the children at home as their partners were able to work from home. However, I had two families who would need to continue the care due to the nature of their jobs and this meant that I had one early years child and two school age children to whom I offered wraparound care. I was also asked to look after another school age child that normally attended another childminder who was having to shield.
This left me with another mix of emotions - how would I deal with this in my setting? How would this impact on my family? What risks would this present? However the overriding feeling was that I was in a position to offer a bit of normality for the children. (My added worry was that one of the parents was working directly with Covid 19 patients in intensive care).
Social distancing at drop off and pick up
I continued to operate a door step drop off and collection. Where possible the parents stand two metres from the door and the children walk to them. For the young one, the parent bring their own buggy (which we store outside of the house) and I have put the child into the buggy ready for collection.
Social distancing within the setting
I think that it is a reality that it is near impossible to social distance from a 1 year old! However, I make every effort to reduce close face-to-face contact e.g. sat her on my knee with her back to me; facing away when picking her up; and placing the high chair further away from others. We have also spent lots of time outside - thankfully the weather has been on our side so far! For the older children it is easier, I have encouraged them to sit further apart which they have been quite good at this as they are having to do it at school.
This was quite a concern for us but after a lot of consideration we realised that good hygiene is something that is part of our daily routines already so only needed a few tweaks. We introduced hand washing on entry as well as all the usual times and make it more fun by asking Alexa to do a timer for the 20 seconds. I also bought rolls of paper towels for hand drying as these could be put straight in the bin.
We use throws and blankets on the furniture because it means these can be washed regularly and add another layer of protection. We leave coats, bags and shoes near the door and at nappy change we use a washable changing mat, wash hands (mine and the child’s) before touching the child as well as the usual normal nappy change routines!
Lots of ‘wiping down’ at regular intervals during the day such as door handles and equipment used is a must.
Activities and toys
We have avoided use of reusable play dough and we have removed the majority of soft toys. We only have a couple out that can be easily washed and have been selecting a choice of toys that can be washed or wiped clean. However, on the whole we have continued with most activities – just with the added vigilance to avoid contamination and potential viral spread.
My husband has been working from home and my youngest daughter finished sixth form when schools closed so there have been more of us in the household too. We have all had to adjust and make allowances with regards to space, time and noise levels, but by working together we have got a new routine which works for my family and the setting.
Overall it has been a positive time, it has made us reflect more on what we do and also offered opportunities to change what we do as well as opening up more communication with parents and working with them even more closely. I have found that the information from PACEY and our LA has been great has helped keep us sane.
The lockdown has hit us all without exception and actually being able to continue childminding, albeit on a much smaller basis, has given us a bit of normality and ultimately provided a ray of sunshine to break some of the anxiety and boredom that has affected many of us during this time. My family have been very supportive too and everyone helps with the regular cleaning and wiping down!
As a childminder I risk assess all the time so once we accepted the continual underlying worry of the Coronavirus threat and incorporated it into our normal routines we have managed to stay positive.
On reflection I think the overriding message is Keep Calm and Carry On doing what we do best - being a childminder!
Find more support on the PACEY Coronavirus spotlight.