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To help you prepare to re-open your nursery when the authorities say it is safe to do so, our early years expert Sharron Fogarty has put together a guide on ‘arrivals and handovers’ and other routines.

Advice for nurseries to help prepare an arrival and settling in procedure whilst keeping children them safe and happy.

We know that young children thrive on feeling safe and secure. Having reliable, predictable routines make an important contribution to supporting these feelings of security.

As you prepare to open when the authorities give the go ahead, some of those routines that children have been used to will need to change, in order to reflect your responsibility to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection in your nursery.

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Risk assessments.

Any operating decisions made will need to be based on robust risk assessments. You should not deviate from government guidance and you will need to be able to back up and justify how you have continued to keep children safe.

 

When children arrive.

Current social distancing rules mean that you should not be allowing any adults who are not part of your staff into the main body of the nursery. This means that parents bringing their children to a nursery will need to do a ‘entrance handover’.

An arrival or hand over policy is good practice and many nurseries will already have this in place, however these will need to be updated as things have changed due to social distancing measures.

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Suggestions for managing a smooth handover.

 

  • Parents should talk to children in advance about what to expect.

 

  • Operate a system of staggered start and finish times to avoid to many people at any one time.

 

  • Only one parent to bring their child. Ideally this will always be the same adult, but practically this might not be possible for every family, so some flexibility over this is needed. Grandparents, friends or other relatives who might have previously brought or collected the child should not now be doing so unless they live with the child. If a parent requests that a non-household adult brings or collects the child, you should direct them to the government rules on social distancing.

 

  • No one exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms should bring a child to a setting and no symptomatic children should be brought. You may want to ask parents to sign a declaration every time their child attends nursery.

 

  • Be welcoming – talk to the child and invite them to move away from their parent and enter the nursery independently.

 

  • With babies or where children are experiencing separation anxiety it may not be possible to operate a distanced handover. However, staff should ‘work with parents and carers to consider how best to manage dropping off their children while maintaining physical distancing’. However, I believe that for these children the emotional benefit of a hand-to-hand or arm-to-arm transfer might outweigh the small risk of possible virus transmission from such a short encounter.

 

  • Alternatively, a buggy or car seat could be considered if you are not comfortable with the parent passing the child to you directly as long as this does not cause the child undue distress. How this is handled will be determined by your knowledge of the child and your risk assessment, though bear in mind that even previously well settled children may now demonstrate anxiety and reluctance to leave their parent.

 

  • Children should not bring any non-essential items into your house. Limit belongings to necessary supplies such as food (if not supplied by the nursery) nappies, comforters and a clean change of clothes, perhaps to be kept at the setting, in easily cleanable or wipeable bags or containers where possible. Avoid cloth and canvas bags. If you normally provide nappies or other supplies you can continue to do so, and if not, this is something you could consider offering if you want to reduce what is brought to the setting.

 

  • There is no guidance currently that suggests that children should change clothes on arrival, but some nurseries are putting this in place, however I would suggest how this will be managed to ensure a smooth handover, especially n the first few weeks when children return. Also having a pair of shoes kept at nursery for children to wear when they arrive is a good idea.

 

  • Have a designated place for the child’s belongings, including shoes; outside of the main nursery classrooms, perhaps in the foyer areas. Make this part of their new home to nursery routine. They will find it reassuring and it will aid their sense of belonging.

 

Mealtimes and snacks.

 

  • If you normally provide food for the children in your nursery, you will continue to ensure all usual hygiene practices are in place. In addition, you will need to ensure that drinking cups, cutlery and crockery are not shared and that children do not help themselves to food from a communal plate, in order to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

 

  • If children normally bring food from home, ask for this to be supplied in containers that can be wiped. Ideally the food items should be things that the child can manage to open and eat without help.

 

  • As before, risk assess and decide what works best for you and your nursery as there are no rules about which option you choose, or which method is better than the other.

 

  • Children should ideally sit alongside rather than facing each other and where possible they should be a distance apart, to reduce the risk of transmission as they are in more prolonged contact whilst stationery and eating compared to playing which is more dynamic.

 

 

Nap times.

 

  • Children should already be using clean, individual bedding for sleeping, so no changes are needed in this respect.

 

  • Sleeping children should be distanced from one another.

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New families.

 

  • It is not practical to allow prospective clients to visit your nursery, including any private space such as your garden, due to social distancing rules, so you will need to take a different approach.

 

  • Hold meetings via online platforms such as Zoom or video chat services.

 

Final word of advice.

As a nursery provider you will be used to having to be flexible and think creatively and now is no different. Use your common sense where government guidance is not clear. Think what is reasonable and practical. Risk assess and base any decisions on this, in line with the available guidance, legislation and the needs of the children you care for. 

Kinderly have an excellent webinar on supporting children through transitions, delivered by Early Years Consultant, Maureen Hunt.

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