Top tips for outings with another bubble in England

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 four childminders from England, to find out how they’ve been successfully, and safely, meeting another bubble for socially distanced fun out and about in their local areas.

Location, location, location

Outside spaces are definitely the preferred venue for most practitioners at the moment. What do you have access to within close proximity to your setting? A beach, woodland, nature reserve, field, forest, or even just an open patch of grass, all make an ideal spot for exploration and a picnic lunch.

“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. We tend to meet locally and then walk to where we are going.” Sharon, Childminder in Derbyshire

“Indoor groups are still a no-no for me. I need to make sure that I am 100% confident I can keep my children safe before I will go back to inside meetings. At the moment we are fortunate with the weather, which makes playing, and eating outdoors easy.” Sue, Childminder in Cambridgeshire

Parent partnerships

Never has partnership working with your parents been more important. 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. There is also the opportunity for the parents to talk amongst themselves, discuss any concerns, and for me to reassure them of the processes I will have in place.” Sarah, Childminder in Harrow

“I get parental permissions to ensure everyone is comfortable with the proposed outing” Sharon

“Whilst there is no pressure for all children to join in, parents are informed well in advance of our plan, and, if they are not comfortable with their child participating, we will offer this on an alternative day.” Sue

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. This includes making sure you have the right tools with you to support good hygiene while out and about. Don't forget to read the guidance on the use of playground and outdoor equipment.

 “We manage it by going to places that are well known to us. We all take hand sanitiser, anti-bac wipes, travel potty, first aid kit, and picnic and blanket.” Sharon

“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

“I provided each of the children in my care with a plastic lunchbox, which can be easily wiped down and cleaned, and is bought in and out of my setting each day. This makes picnic lunches easy to do, as we simply pack up the boxes and off we go!

Keeping the children occupied, under adult supervision, is a good way to minimise any possible frustrations on the day. Planning to include a nature hunt, for example, is a good way to keep them busy and feed their minds! I make our trips a limited time, normally no more than an hour or so, as this also helps.” Sue

“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

Preparing the children

It’s important to support children in an age appropriate way to learn about how they can keep themselves and others safe. If you have already had discussions around what coronavirus is, and the things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and happy, then this will simply be an extension of this learning.

 “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. When they are playing with dolls and role play scenarios like ‘Mummy is unwell’, we talk about what would happen if their parents did get sick, and who we could call to look after us, such as our Grandparents, or members of our extended family.” Janette

 “The children walk close to their carer and have learnt to stay in their bubble with the other children cared for by their childminder. They understand the reasons why. If they become too close to each other we remind them to not stand too near, or to come and stand near their carer. The younger ones we distract or move away.

“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

“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

“We speak about ‘the bug’ and how we don’t want to make our friends ill, and that the best way to avoid this is to keep our distance. Every time we go out we reinforce the message with the children, so that they understand we can all enjoy each other’s company, but at arm’s length. In the beginning it was weird to see the children playing apart, but they were fine. I think it’s us projecting our own disappointment onto them that makes it difficult.”  Sarah

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

“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

“It’s strange times for us all, but let’s not project our fears onto the children. They are always super excited to see their friends, especially the younger ones. Encourage them to be safe, but try really hard not to stress them out.” Sarah

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

Training (including transitions and hand washing) on CEY Smart