There are a ton of recommendations for preventing the spread of disease, but most of them aren’t practical or attainable for family childcare. Check out these safe practices for family childcare providers for illness prevention.
Safe practices for illness prevention in family childcare
Okay ya’ll, I’m sick of seeing guidance for daycare to prevent exposure to germs and none of it makes any sense for daycare in general, but especially not for home daycare providers. We can’t change our shirts every time we comfort a child, there aren’t that many shirts in my house.
We can’t meet parents at the curb with a thermometer and assess health 6 feet from the vehicle because our other kids are in the house. Who would be watching them?
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Many providers have asked me what I’m doing to stay safe. I’ve been combing the CDC and WHO websites for information, watching all recommendations from the president, governor and my city officials. In addition, I’m looking for guidance from DHS and checking recommendations from the health department. Heeding all warmings, studying best practices and ramping up what I usually do, so here’s my procedure and hopefully it will help you!
This is nothing new, it’s what we always do. In flu season, on the daily. They are best practices, but we have to ramp it up even more right now to stay safe and keep our kids safe. We don’t need a bunch of ridiculous recommendations like keep kids 6 feet apart by using yarn or masking tape to show them. These are toddlers, they would just be licking the same piece of tape.
Notice to parents
The first thing is to let your parents know what you’re doing. I made a note for the door, you can print it and use it yourself if you like.
And sent out a mass text that said:
Due to the current situation with COVID-19, we are going to be implementing a few changes. Since the recommendations are gatherings of 10 or less and there are already 9 of us in here (my husband and I and 7 daycare kids) we will be doing porch drop off and pick up from now until further notice. The kid’s health will be screened upon arrival and they will be taken to wash their hands. If you see any signs of illness, especially a cough or fever, or if anyone in your home has symptoms, please do not bring children to care. We have to be extra careful at this time. Thank you for your understanding.
Now the parents are on board with what we are doing and the door is marked with signage to remind them. It also helps with other people who might want to come to the door. If anyone tries to enter here, they will get a karate chop to the kidneys. Obviously, parents could come in if they need to or safety personnel could enter, but no other persons are permitted to enter.
When my kids come, there are only 3 still coming, I look them over and make sure they don’t appear to be ill. Parents wait at the end of the porch and I open the door and welcome the kids in. Once all of them are here, I finish the health screening. You may want to screen yours before entering but I look them over and make a judgement. You can hear a cough or see if a child feels under the weather. You can see if they have a fever most of the time.
I line them all up and take their temperature. I don’t have an infrared thermometer, I’m desperately trying to get one, so this process takes a while because I take it, spray with disinfectant, and then it has to sit there for one minute before I wipe it off for it to actually disinfect. Check your cleaners, different ones take different times. I look them over again and listen for coughs and ask them how they feel. After nap in the afternoon, the kids eat snack and then we do it again. Fevers will spike while sleeping sometimes.
If anyone is ill and I missed it, I call for immediate pick up. No one can stay sick, no matter what right now.
This is the same procedure I do to my husband on the porch before he can come in each evening. I also have him take off his shoes in case he tracked anything from work. If an authorized person came here, I would do these same procedures.
Some providers take temps of their parents every day. I don’t want to be that close to anyone and I’m trusting them to tell me if someone in the home is sick. Sometimes you have parents you can’t trust that way, so make a judgement call.
Each child already was washing hands before every meal, after the potty and when we came in from outside, but I added one upon arrival. As soon as they say their goodbyes, I send them to the bathroom to wash hands. That way they can’t bring anything in on their hands. Maybe they went and got donuts before or whatever.
Handwashing is the biggest way to prevent the spread of any illness. So, do it well and do it often.
Obviously, we were already doing a ton of this anyway. Food preparation and serving surfaces had to be disinfected before meals and cooking and bathrooms after using.
First, let’s talk about what we’re using. Anything you are using around children should be food safe. Why? Because kids put things in their mouths, so if the product says it has to be rinsed off or washed off, it’s not really safe to be using. Check your Lysol, that’s actually not approved by DHS in Oklahoma because of that. The only thing we are supposed to be using ever is bleach solution.
I’m allergic to bleach so I have a special waiver from DHS to use other products as long as they say kills 99.9% germs, viruses, whatever.
You cannot make adequate bleach solution with spashless bleach or scented bleach. You must use plain regular bleach that is at least 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. You mix 1 ½ tsp in a quart size spray bottle, not more, not less. You must mix fresh solution daily or it’s not still effective. Bleach solution needs to be left on surfaces for 2 minutes, so if you are spraying on and wiping it right off, it’s not doing the job.
For safety it needs to say food safe, it needs to kill 99.9% of germs, and it is best if it’s spray. If you have to hand wipe every surface, it’s going to take you so much longer to get the job done. For me, scented products make me super sick, so I avoid that too. And think about it, even if scents don’t bother you, you’re going to be spraying A LOT of this stuff and it might bother your kids.
I don’t recommend you make a homemade solution besides bleach. You have to be very careful in doing that. You have to make sure your alcohol or other ingredient is the correct one. For instance, DHS sent me a recipe to make homemade disinfectant. Take 70% alcohol and mix it with water. The CDC website tells us that the mixture has to be at least 70% alcohol to be effective.
So, if we mix 70% alcohol with water…it’s not 70% alcohol. When I emailed her to tell her it wasn’t an effective recipe she didn’t respond. I get a lot of that. But shouldn’t DHS be researching before they share recipes? I sure think so!
Now, each day when the kids leave, I disinfect the whole place to get it ready and safe for them the next day and to protect my family. Here’s what I do.
I walk out and get the mail. I spray the handle of the box down, wait the one minute and then get the mail and respray to protect my mail carrier. Then I come up on the porch and spray it down and the outside of the storm door. Then go in and spray the inside and the outside and inside of the doorknob. I spray the front window sill and all of the wall around it and the light fixture because the kids hang on that window looking out at who’s here.
Then I walk around the rooms the kids use and spray all the door handles, light fixtures and the wall about hand height for them because they are always running their hands all over the walls. I go down the hall to the changing area doing that and spray down the changing area and bathroom area. Everything in the bathroom gets a soaking, soap dispenser, paper towel, toilet, sink doors, everything. I close that up and head to the kitchen dining room.
I spray all of the walls at kid level, the seats, floor, table, countertops, etc. in there. I grab the back door and give the knobs a squirt on those as well. Then out the door and spray the play equipment if we played on it that day. The weather’s been yucky some days.
Then to the playroom. I dump out any baskets of toys and spray down the room at hand level, really heavy in this room including light switches and door knobs. Then the toys get a good soaking. I leave them laying out and close the door when I leave. The kids pick the clean toys up in the morning.
Disinfecting throughout the day
Besides the regular disinfecting of the changing area and eating/cooking areas before and after each use, I spray the door knobs after each child enters or exits for the day, the area where they sit down to take off their shoes where they took steps when they came in, anything that I see get sneezed on our mouthed, and anything else I see them lick or sneeze on.
Reduce the number of toys and put away what can’t be sanitized
This process is far easier if you reduce the number of toys you have out right now and put away anything that can’t be sanitized. Kids only need a handful of things to play with and you can save your sanity by being minimalist right now. They can play with stuffed animals later. It’s fine.
The CDC has recommended wearing masks to cut down on the transfer of germs, and you can do that if you think it’s the right thing. But think about how scary we would look to kids if we were wearing masks.
Kids use our faces for cues and if they can’t see them, it’s pretty unsettling for them. Making them wear masks might be scary too. We want to make it through this illness still intact mentally. So if you do want to use masks, just please think it through. You will know what’s best for your situation.
Let’s talk about the use of hand sanitizer. Studies have shown that hand washing is more effective than using hand sanitizer. We have sinks in our homes, so hand sanitizer seems silly if no other grown ups are in the house. Now for kids, I don’t recommend that at all ever. It’s not a safe substance to put in your mouth so it shouldn’t be on kids’ hands. Just my opinion. I guess you could have some on the porch for people to use, I don’t know, but for me, it’s a no go.
Teach kids proper hygiene
Show kids how to cough and sneeze in their batwing (elbow) or inside their shirt even. It keeps your germs to yourself. Grover can help. Also teach them to wipe their noses, throw away the tissue and wash their hands. Show them how to rub the soap around and sing the ABCs BEFORE they wash off that soap. If they just squirt it on and rinse it off, it’s not doing the job.
This one is great. Our governor told us to stay open and help keep Oklahoma going but practice social distancing with the kids. I thought this was pretty funny. If you have a home daycare, you do too. So that doesn’t need explaining.
If you have a large home and are one of the very few people who still have more than 10 people in the house, you can have your assistant in one room with part of the kids and you in the other with the rest. This way the germ pool is smaller. You have to keep separated all day every day though for that to work.
The CDC guidelines that state the same person who diapers and helps in the potty can’t cook the food won’t work for most of us, so just practice good hand washing and go on about your life. We can’t choose between changing diapers and feeding. That’s not humane.
How to Not Get Sick in Family Childcare
It’s hard to stay well in family childcare on the regular much less during a time of crisis. The extra stress breaks our bodies down and the extra work wears us out. Plus, we have kids sneezing in our eyes and coughing in our mouths. It is allergy season too after all. We have to take care of ourselves even more than ever right now.
Foods to keep you healthy
Sugar is a big reason people get sick. Every time you eat white sugar, your immunities are down for 8 hours afterwards. I don’t know about you but I’m a sweet stress eater. I have to have sugar right now or I’m going to cut someone. (not really, just a joke) But it does help keep the nerves at bay. I have to try my hardest not to be doing it constantly.
Another health killer is junk food like fast food and fried foods. Those things can also be comforting, so just try to keep a balance and make sure you are still drinking plenty of water and getting fruits and veggies every day. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and other foods add probiotics to your body that help fight off the harmful bacteria you might encounter, so add some of those to your diet too.
I swear by my vitamins. I take them daily and any time in the past when I haven’t, I always get sick. I take a good quality whole food multivitamin (yes, they are expensive, but being sick costs a lot too) and vitamin C every day to keep from catching everything the kids get on me. It works for me.
I would recommend everyone be taking vitamin C right now, even if it’s just because it helps with allergy symptoms. It sure can’t hurt.
We will get through this
If you think of something I haven’t covered, please let me know and I’ll be glad to add any value to the article I can.
If you need guidance on keeping sick kids out of daycare, check this article.
If you feel like there’s no care for childcare providers, that we’ve been asked to serve but not supported, you’re not alone. I feel that way too, but there are a few helps for childcare providers and if you’re unsure if you should stay open or not, there’s help for providers with resources here too.
We are not alone, we have each other. And be encouraged because this is not how our story ends. You are a hero for caring for children during a scary time. You are serving on the front lines. You are valuable and you are worth more. I’m so grateful for what you are doing and the care you’re putting into doing it. Family childcare is such a unique and wonderful gift to the world. The job you do matters and so do you.
Thank you for being awesome, it’s going to be okay, we will get through this. It won’t last forever. Virtual touch free hugs for you!
For more help with stopping the spread, check this out.
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