Child Care During a Pandemic: We adapt, we learn.
When news of a global pandemic forced all of us around the world to make significant changes to our daily routines, never did we imagine this would continue for such an extended period of time.
As a global child-care operator, we scrambled to listen, learn and understand how each country, city, region and local authority would be handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The greatest challenges were the different rules and regulations from each local authority and trying to make sense of all the media noise. For nearly three months, 80% of our locations around the world were mandated to close. For those that remained open, immediate measures were implemented in order to continue operating safely.
Pandemic or no pandemic, your child’s health and safety is our priority.
We asked Linh Thach, Supervisor of Learning Jungle Vaughan South to share her experience and takeaways.
Back in April (during the lockdown), the Ministry of Education in Ontario, Canada selected Learning Jungle Newmarket as 1 of 4 child care providers to support frontline workers in York Region. Linh Thach generously stepped up to supervise the team. She was eager to get back to work but also knew things would be ‘different’.
Increasing cleaning and sanitization
With new directives from Public Health officials, our Operations team quickly took action to ensure educators were trained on new facility standards, procedures and protocols to operate safely.
Any objects that could not be sanitized after each use were removed from the classroom. This included teddy bears, play dough, sandboxes, art on the walls and many other items normally present in our educational, play-based classrooms. However, as Linh noted “We found that it didn’t really change our program. We still had lots of indoor and outdoor activities, and the children found creative ways to play and learn.”
Throughout the day, surfaces, toys and high-touch areas were cleaned frequently. Children’s temperatures were checked again at lunch and handwashing was more frequent. “It was more work but knowing the facility was clean made caring for the children easier,” Linh says.
Once the children left for the day, the cycle began again, getting ready for the next day.
Maintaining a quality learning experience
Strict rules in the frontline facility included only six children to a room. The same staff and children were kept together whenever possible. During lunch, children were separated on far sides of the table while still enjoying casual conversation and giggles during their meal.
Washable educational materials and play-based set-ups were readily available for children. Activities that previously involved the sharing of materials, such as paints, were separated. In the past, we encouraged children to share paint containers. In a COVID-19 environment, each child receives their own individual paint pans.
Outdoor play continued twice a day allowing children to run around the open play areas to exercise their muscles and release energy. Teaching children to share now extends to practising patience and waiting their turn to use the playground, ride bikes, or play with toys they normally would have played with together.
“Before Covid, we loved to have new parents visit us during the day so they could see our child care in action,” says Linh. Today, Learning Jungle tours for new parents are now conducted after-hours and it is mandatory for all visitors to wear a mask and gloves.
As the day wraps up, personal items are gathered to go home with the children. Once again, “It’s more work for both parents and staff, but it’s a safety measure to keep our facilities safe for everyone.”
Welcoming the new normal
Today, all our facilities have reopened in North America and Singapore, and protocols implemented during the lockdown have become the new norm.
Families continue to be greeted outside our facilities, foreheads are scanned with a non-contact thermometer and each family must pass the COVID-19 screening questions. Only children are permitted into the facility after the screening.
“We’ve adapted and learned.” Linh adds.
“Looking back, working during the lockdown was to our benefit. The frontline team at Learning Jungle Newmarket included educators from various locations in Ontario. They have been able to share their expertise with their home facilities, making the transition easier for parents, children and educators.
“Ironically, it was the children that helped to make the ‘new normal’ easier– they are resilient and just want to learn.”
“The frontline team at Newmarket have been able to share their expertise with their home facilities, making the transition easier for parents, children and educators.”
Pandemic Top Takeaways
- A safe facility makes caring for the children easy.
- When educators are at ease, the children are at ease.
- Removing toys from the classroom hasn’t changed our learning program. It’s how we interact and play with the children that counts.
- Children live in the present moment and remind us that learning is fun regardless of the pandemic.
- Spending time with friends always puts a smile on a child’s face.
- Children are resilient.
- Extra safety measures and protocols are worth the reward of keeping our families safe.
COVID-19 "ABCs" in Singapore
In Singapore, COVID-19 “ABCs” (Safe Access, Safe Behaviour and Safe Classrooms) have been implemented. Examples of ABCs include carrying out temperature screening and health checks three times a day (i.e. during arrival, in the afternoon and just before dismissal). All staff are required to have COVID-19 testing prior to returning to school and clear lines of demarcation within both the school common areas and each class are followed to ensure children maintain social distancing.