This article has been written by OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Childminders, Chloe Webster & Bridgit Brown, from Pebbles Childcare. As a home-based childcare provision, we are not…
Life After Lockdown – A Childminders Experience
This article has been written by Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ Childminders, Chloe Webster & Bridgit Brown, from Pebbles Childcare, who share their experience re-opening their childcare setting after lockdown.
Like many practitioners across the country preparing to re-open after lockdown, we were naturally apprehensive – could we keep the children safe? Would the children return happily after such a long period of absence? What will our practice look like with new guidelines, routines and practices in place?
These were all thoughts that went through our head as we prepared to re-open the setting to all children after closing at the beginning of the lockdown.
However, within 20 minutes of the children returning on June 1st, those worries subsided totally.
Re-opening after lockdown
We were prepared, and the children were prepared. Each child that returned as soon as we re-opened (some didn’t return immediately, but now we have all of the children back doing their normal sessions) had an initial settling in session alongside one parent prior to re-joining so that they were able to familiarise themselves with the setting, the new handwashing routines (we transformed our mud kitchen into a handwashing station for children and parents to use as they accessed the setting from the garden / outdoor space) and were each sent a video tour of the setting to watch at home before they returned.
One of the most striking things we have taken from this whole experience, is how resilient our children are.
Despite our youngest child being only 15 months old when we closed, all of our children returned to the setting and routines with ease and confidence, and we were just overjoyed by this.
In terms of the changes to our practice as a result of the guidance, there were countless adaptations suggested within the guidance document, but we reminded ourselves that it was exactly that, guidance. It is not statutory, and so we used our own professional judgement, sought advice from other childminders who had remained open for key workers and as they commented ‘we didn’t have any of this guidance’ and so we struck what we believe is a balance between our own professional judgement and the Government guidance for Early Years.
Our sessions are predominantly based outside, with children accessing through the back gate. We have increased handwashing and hygiene routines, and the children just view this as part of their normal day to day routine. We have continued with water play (just adding soapy water to it) and we have controversially also continued to use sand – children wash their hands before and after use, and sand is discarded and replenished at the end of every session.
We are in a lucky position that as a home-based childcare setting we operate in small groups of six daily – we adapted our service slightly and stopped providing after-school care to prevent unnecessary mixing of our daily ‘bubbles’.
Based near a busy town centre, we made the decision and sought feedback from our parents in order to continue to use the vehicle to take the children out daily, to more remote places where it is easier to social distance as our local beaches and parks can get busy very quickly.
When travelling in the vehicle, children wash their hands before entering the vehicle, sit in their designated car seats and our over 3’s wear a mask (this is optional but all of our children are happy to wear them) and both adults also wear masks for the journey, with windows open and we all wash our hands again once we’ve reached our destination, and the same routine on the way back.
Once the vehicle has been used for the day, the entire inside of the vehicle and car seats are disinfected before it’s next use.
We have resorted to using more plastic / wipeable resources to enable children to still have access to key resources, but also allows us time to clean and disinfect them at the end of each day.
We also still allow the children to use dressing up clothes. Again, these are taken away and washed at the end of every session. Social distancing is impossible and not expected of the under 5’s, and in our opinion, they are no more at risk by still being able to play imaginatively with these additional props and resources.
Each child now has their own labelled pencil case full of writing materials to prevent them swapping and using multiple resources that are hard to clean and this has been working exceptionally well and the children love the ownership of their own resources.
If we do need to use the playroom, the sofa is covered with a sheet which is washed at the end of every day and replaced, as are the children’s cot sheets and blankets for those children that nap with us.
We have additionally made adjustments to our settling procedures for new children due to start the setting in September and initially postponed these sessions to a later date to enable us to adequately support our returning children back into the setting safely and securely.
As such, we have now scheduled in settling in sessions for children on an individual basis during times in which their interaction with our current cohort are limited (sleep times and during times when other children can be kept inside for the duration of the session), which will take place outdoors and with only one parent present for shorter periods (prior to independent settling in sessions with the children).
Aside from additional handwashing and cleaning routines, our practice and provision are very much the same and we attribute the children’s seamless return to this fact. Whilst we were initially worried about the impact guidelines and absence would have, these concerns were unfounded and the setting operates just as it always has and the children are happy, content and have access to the most wonderful learning opportunities.
Often as practitioners we can be guilty of doubting ourselves and our practice, but our advice would be to adapt the same principles of your practice to life post-lockdown – you know your children / families best, you know how to keep them safe, and so use your common sense in terms of cleaning, hygiene and reducing the risk of cross-infection and don’t be bogged down by what everyone else is doing.
You, your setting and your children are all unique.
What works for us might not work for you, but as long as your children are learning within a safe, secure, clean and inviting environment with supportive and knowledgeable practitioners alongside them, you can’t go far wrong.
Chloe and Bridgit are Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ Childminders in Worthing, West Sussex, offering a professional and individual service for families and their children aged 0-8 years. To see more articles from Pebbles Childcare, visit Your Stories.
Want to tell your story?
If you are a childminder, primary school teacher, nursery teacher or early years professional, get in touch with us to share your lockdown or re-opening experiences and help other like-minded individuals see how you have adapted your approach and learning environment during these uncertain times.