The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is taking over life as we know it for the time being. Childcare services are being hit from all sides, from parents taking their children out for home care as they shelter in place to essential workers looking for places to put their kids while they work.
Childcare facilities face potential staff shortages as teachers and helpers may become infected and self-isolate, just at the time when parents who hold essential jobs need somewhere safe for their children to stay. Parents are struggling to manage caring for children while working from home.
From creating a sanitary facility to supporting continued learning at home, here are some tips for parents and childcare providers to get everyone through the COVID-19 challenge.
Explaining COVID-19 to Children
Children pick up everything from the adults around them. They know something is happening and are looking to you, their parents and teachers, to help them through this.
Address the issue calmly, according to the child’s age and ability to understand. Some helpful tips to do so are:
- Be honest, direct, accurate, and above all, brief. Don't overload small children with information.
- Ask questions to determine what the child understands.
- Help children clarify any fears they have.
- Realize routines have been interrupted, and be forgiving when things don’t go as planned.
If you are nervous and scared, children can tell. They need reassurance, as we all do, that things are being taken care of. As a childcare provider or parent, you may be surprised at what worries children. It may not be what you think.
Keep a dialogue open, so you address issues appropriately. The CDC stresses remaining calm and available to listen and talk. The agency also recommends avoiding any language that might sound like blaming others and lead to stigma.
If possible, reduce children’s exposure to media accounts of the pandemic, and be ready to explain that some things they see on the internet are not accurate.
Last but not least, emphasize proper handwashing techniques. Lead by example, take the time to help, and explain why each step is necessary to get rid of all the germs. Then, do your best to teach them not to touch their faces, although it’s difficult even for adults.
Maintaining a Sanitary Facility
COVID-19 enters through the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and eyes. When someone who has the virus comes into contact with various surfaces, virus particles may be left behind. A child or adult who then touches the surface may pick up the virus on their hands, then inadvertently catch the infection by touching their faces, in particular the mouth, nose, and eyes.
Since children are especially prone to touching their faces, it’s easy for germs to proliferate among a group.
While cleaning and disinfecting is a regular part of maintaining a childcare facility, that activity has taken on a new intensity. COVID-19 and other viruses are capable of living on hard surfaces for hours, if not days.
No new steps have been recommended in disinfecting routines. The emphasis is on maintaining those routines with particular care to frequently clean commonly-touched surfaces and washing hands.
In addition, prohibiting individuals from entering the school outside of operational staff or those with the legal right to enter lowers the chances of the virus entering the facility. If you do not already do so, you may wish to set up curbside drop-off and pick-up to prevent gatherings of people at the front of the building or in the lobby.
Screen everyone who enters, adult or child. If they have a temperature above 100.4 or higher, a cough, or shortness of breath, you may wish to deny that individual access until testing for the virus is shown to be negative.
Closing Your Facility and Offering Online Learning
You may find you must close your facility. Early, open communication is the best method to let your clients and workers know what is happening. Here is a template for a closure letter you can use to notify parents and workers.
Many public schools have shifted to online learning using various tools such as Google Classroom and Zoom. If you want to set up online learning, here is an article to get you started.
Emergency Childcare Resources
For parents, if your normal childcare situation is closed, you can search for emergency childcare sources in your city. One resource is Winnie.com, where you can search by city or zip code to find options near you. Also, this website shows which facilities may be closed.
If you prefer not to place your child in a group care situation, consider whether you and your caregiving partner can alternate shifts so that one of you is available to be with the children at all times. If that isn’t possible, ask a nearby family to arrange a care trade-off or locate a local babysitter.
At-Home Learning and Activities
If you find yourself at home with your children, either as the primary caregiver or balancing childcare with a remote job, there are many resources to help you educate and entertain your children.
One way to keep everyone happy and healthy is to establish a regular routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every night, and introduce a pattern of activities, snacks, meals, and naps throughout the day.
You don’t have to work with your child every minute. Now is a good time for them to learn to entertain themselves. As long as you are nearby, they will be happy.
For example, you can set up a color scavenger hunt using everyday items in your home. Or you can look for various shapes and quiz your kids whether something is larger or smaller, shorter or taller.
You Have Our Support
It's been over a century since a pandemic of this magnitude shut down the world. Even though flu epidemics have caused temporary issues in years past, none have been as widespread or severe as COVID-19.
The CDC and other governmental outlets are doing all they can to keep everyone abreast of the latest news. If you have any questions about adapting your EZChildTrack solution to a new routine at your facility, please don't hesitate to ask.