As a company submerged in the world of child care, we know how vital child care providers are to our economy. Child care is essential for working parents. Additionally, students who attend high quality child care facilities early in life develop stronger skills, are less likely to require special education classes, and are more likely to earn higher wages and have fewer interactions with the justice system as adults.
With an ongoing pandemic and an upcoming election, what does that mean for the future of child care?The answer relies on Millennials and Gen Z.
Millennials make up roughly 35% of the workforce, which makes their generation the largest generation in the U.S. labor force (source). Gen Z, while up and coming into the workforce, is reported as the hardest hit for job loss before and during the pandemic (source). The child care industry should look to these two generations to understand where the industry is headed.
Where do the younger generation’s priorities lie?
According to Next100 and GenForward, 81 percent of young adults (in these two generations) believe that access to affordable, high-quality child care is an important issue.
72 percent of respondents said that the lack of high-quality child care programs and their cost is a barrier to achieving their professional goals.
This data is confirmed by the United States Census Bureau, which finds that one in five of working adults said they are not working is because COVID-19 disrupted their child care arrangements.
Of those not working, women ages 25-44 are almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to child care demands.
Millennials have also been slower to establish households than previous generations have been. They tend to get married and have children later in life. However, Millennials now make up the majority of annual U.S. births. If this trend continues into Gen Z, Millennials and Gen Z will be a topic of the child care industry for years to come.
With younger generations coming out of college and into the workforce with increasing student loan debt and rising rent prices, it stands to reason that the cost of child care would be a large factor in an employment decision.
How could the election affect the future of child care?
Child care is a topic that transcends party lines. Young Democrats, Republicans and Independents all agree that child care is important. 86 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents identified child care as an important issue.
A whopping 92 percent of those surveyed from Care.com indicated that child care is a topic they feel should get more attention from the government as a result of the pandemic. 71 percent of families say that child care policies will impact how they vote in the upcoming election.
Younger generations are coming into the workforce and creating families in massive numbers. This means that Millennials and Gen Z’s employment decisions will be dependent on the child care industry for the foreseeable future. With COVID-19 and job loss among this demographic, cost and accessibility will be huge issues for those re-joining the workforce. These groups are now having families, so it’s no surprise that they will demand more affordable and accessible care. In an upcoming election year, the future of child care will be a hot topic with one of the largest groups of voting age.
COVID-19 is known for being dangerous because it is primarily spread through respiratory droplets. However, it is also possible to catch the virus from certain surfaces. It can live on plastic from a few hours to a few days. That is why it is imperative that every teacher know the safest ways to clean toys and which toys to leave out of the classroom. Smartcare has compiled a list of helpful tips from the CDC specifically for childcare workers.
Any toy that has been placed in a child’s mouth or contaminated by body secretions or excretions should be set aside until it can be properly cleaned by someone wearing gloves. They should follow these steps:
Clean with water and detergent
Sanitize with EPA-registered disinfectant
Air dry the toy
Each of the toys should be kept to a specific classroom. Toys should not be passed to a different group before being washed and sanitized.
Unfortunately, you cannot wash books. However, the CDC has deemed books not a high risk for transmitting the virus. Your classrooms should be completely fine to have as many books as you wish.
Fabric toys such as stuffed animals are fine to keep in the classroom as long as they are not passed between the kids. It is best for each child to have their own fabric toy that they keep through the entirety of the day.
Once a child has used a toy, they should not share it until it has been properly washed. The toy needs to be kept in a container of soapy water. This way the teachers are aware which toys have been used. This container must be kept out of reach of children for a risk of drowning.
Lastly, any toy that you feel cannot be fully cleaned and sanitized should not be used.
Kids are never too young to begin learning about diversity. Little minds are sponges to what they see and hear. There is no better time than now to fill your classroom with books that teach the value of diversity. Here are some books about diversity along with their Amazon links:
Smartcare believes strongly that education in general and childcare in particular are entering a “new normal”. What this means is that many of the common practices in place before COVID-19 will need to be replaced with practices better suited to current challenges.
One of the first things that we think the student will change is the check-in process.
In the pre-COVID era, the process typically involved a parent entering a common space like a lobby, interacting with a fingerprint scanner to authenticate themselves, and then handing off a child to a staff member.
Before COVID, Smartcare modernized this process with the use of touchless QR codes, and while removing a fingerprint scanner dramatically reduces contact points, we think the process can be better.
We think the best practice in the new normal will look something like this:
Families will queue in socially distanced location such as the family’s car in a drop-off line in front of the school.
Either the parent or the student’s teacher will complete a pre-drop-off health-check. The CDC has provided guidance and we anticipate that guidance will evolve over time. At this time, those guidelines include:
Temperature checks for fevers over 100.4 degrees.
Signs of illness including coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, extreme fussiness, nausea
Technology can automate validating the health-check to ensure it meets regulatory requirements and the school’s own preferences. A child who poses a risk to others never enters the facility, and so that staff and parents have the peace of mind that their child is a in a safe environment.
The student’s teacher can take custody of the child in a well-ventilated, socially-separated space such as directly from the child’s car in a drop-off line, and escort the child directly to a classroom. From here, the child will stay with classmates and remain isolated from other classes in the school, minimizing contact points along the way. This ensures separation from other students in other classes.
Within a school, classes should be kept as separate as possible. Where common areas must be shared, to the extent possible, those areas should be used by only one class at a time and disinfected between uses. All areas and toys should be disinfected regularly.
Where the above procedure isn’t possible, we recommend the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and barriers to minimize the exposure to staff and families.
Smartcare has functionality to support the new normal in your center and our team of customer success managers can help you update your procedures for the new normal. We have a report to help you track health checks and our teacher app allows for touchless check-in wherever its best suited for you to do so. You should expect improvements from us over the summer as we get more feedback.
We are committed to be your technology partner as we navigate into the new normal together.
Running a daycare facility efficiently poses many challenges. With current events putting an extra emphasis on the cleanliness and well-being of everyone and everything we come in contact with, it may seem more overwhelming than ever. Providing the best possible environment for children means keeping the classroom safe, clean, organized, and germ-free. Cleanliness is so much more than just vacuuming, putting toys away, and taking out the garbage at the end of the day. Creating or updating your cleaning checklist is an easy way to keep things running like a fine-tuned machine. So, where do you start when it’s time to implement a new cleaning plan?
Organization is key
There are endless amounts of cleaning tasks to tackle when it comes to keeping your childcare center clean and free of germs and viruses. The best way to stay on top of it is to keep things organized. Create a list that divides cleaning duties up into categories and figure out which tasks need to be done continuously, every day, once a week, once a month, and what tasks need to be done with the help of professionals. A specific cleaning schedule will not only help you stay on top of everything that needs to be done but will divide up the work and help you prioritize the important things first.
Make Cleaning Lists Easily Accessible
Make sure that the staff and those responsible for cleaning duties can easily access the list and check things off as they go. Posting an updated cleaning checklist in a designated spot will ensure tasks are not only getting completed but that the same things aren’t getting cleaned multiple times when it’s not needed.
These are ongoing tasks that should be done throughout the day. This list will include things that need to be cleaned before and after each use.
Clean and disinfect all diaper changing tables and potty chairs. Make sure they are free from any bodily fluids before and after each use.
Use hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes after each diaper change or trash is emptied.
Empty trash receptacles and diaper pails before they are full.
Toilet seats and handles should be wiped down with bleach or disinfectant after each use.
Keep play area surfaces wiped down after each activity.
Food prep stations, and countertops need to be disinfected before and after food is prepared.
Dishes must be washed after each use. Do not leave unwashed dishes in the sink to pile up.
Sinks must be clear and free of food and debris.
Tables, highchairs, and all other seating and surfaces need to be wiped down before and after snack time.
Make sure toys that are not being used are picked up and stored away. Toys that have been chewed on or are dirty should be put away out of reach for cleaning. Spray toys or soak in a sanitizing solution at the end of the day.
Making a daily cleaning schedule will help staff stay on task and make it easier to divide up the cleaning duties. These are the things that need to be cleaned daily; some more than once a day.
Wipe and spray down toys at the end of each day and return them to their designated spot.
Clean up and organize all art and craft supplies.
Check mats, linens, and sleeping pads for soil and wash after each use.
Clean and sanitize kitchen equipment, sinks, and countertops.
Sweep and mop your daycare center’s floors and vacuum all rugs and soft surfaces.
Disinfect doorknobs, cabinets, and light switches as well as all phones and computers.
Clean bathrooms by scrubbing toilets with bleach. Disinfect all countertops, sinks, and surfaces at the end of each day.
Wash all linens before returning them to beds or changing tables.
These are things that can be done weekly. You can divide these tasks up to be done on a specific day. This will make an overall cleaning practice seem less substantial and ensure that they are accomplished thoroughly.
Clean and wash all soft toys, dress-up clothes, or special play items.
Wipe down and disinfect books and bookshelves.
Take everything out of cubbies and wipe inside and out with disinfectant wipes or spray.
Do a deep clean of art supply and craft areas.
Wipe down cribs and changing tables, thoroughly clean with bleach or disinfectant; making sure to get under the mats and pads.
Change out linens and wash and fold the old ones.
Do a deep clean of the center and all activity rooms. This should include dusting
hard-to-reach places as well as wiping down the walls.
Deep clean the bathrooms and be sure to get hard-to-reach places like behind the toilet and underneath the countertops. Spray and wipe down bathroom walls and stalls.
Deep clean the kitchen and food prep areas, including kitchen equipment and utensils. This should include a deep clean of the fridge and cabinets. Check all food and beverages for expiration. Throw out anything that is old or will not be used.
If your center uses a car or van for transportation, do a deep clean of the inside. Make sure to vacuum thoroughly. Wipe down all door and window handles as well as all surfaces inside the vehicle, including windows.
The things on this list should include areas that require regular maintenance. You can rotate these tasks to everyone on staff throughout the year, so the load is shared by all.
Check the plumbing and drains. Look for leaks or possible clogs.
Deep clean windows, blinds, and curtains.
Deep clean behind furniture; vacuum and dust baseboards and windowsills.
Deep clean shelves, closets, and all storage areas and containers. Be sure to take everything out and wipe down with disinfectant before reorganizing.
This list should include things that are best left to the professionals. Things that may require special equipment or need to be done during off-hours.
Deep clean carpets or upholstery a few times a year to ensure there is no buildup of bacteria in heavy traffic areas. This will also help to treat stains as well as prevent them from happening.
Clean air ducts to ensure air is free from mold and dust buildup.
Deep clean and polish hardwood floors
Deep clean bathrooms and kitchens. Extensively cleaning the grout will minimize the accumulation of germs, mildew and bacteria.
In addition to a safe and routine cleaning practice inside your center, it is crucial to let parents know what they can do when picking their kids up from daycare to help prevent the spread of germs.
Tips for Parents During Pickup
Keep hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in the car.
Wipe down backpacks and lunch boxes before getting into the car.
Discard of any old or uneaten lunch or snack items that cannot be kept.
Keep a separate bag for soiled or dirty items that are returning home with your child.
Having a regular cleaning routine is place will ensure that the children and parents that visit your center frequently stay healthy, happy, and germ-free. And that, in turn, will help to keep you business healthy as well!
Fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with the anxiety and stress will make you, your families and those around you stronger. Anxiety symptoms can include excessive worrying, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and difficulty concentrating.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations depending on their background, age or community. People who are high risk, considered essential employees or who have prior mental health conditions tend to respond to crisis stress more strongly.
Tips for coping with stress and anxiety
Take a break from watching, reading or listening to news stories about COVID-19. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting.
Take care of your mental and physical health with meditation, healthy meals and exercise.
Take time to engage in activities you enjoy.
Talk to people you trust about your concerns and fears. Share the facts about COVID-19 to understand the risks. This can make an outbreak less stressful.
Call your healthcare provider if your stress and anxiety gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
For parents and childcare providers
Children tend to react on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and childcare providers deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.
Be sure to watch for changes in behavior in a child. Not all children respond to stress in the same way. Some things to look out for may include excessive crying, returning behaviors they have previously outgrown, “acting out”, difficulty with attention and concentration or avoiding activities they previously enjoyed.
Here are some ideas to help support children:
Take time to talk about the COVID-19 outbreak.
Answer questions and share facts about the outbreak in a way the child can understand.
Reassure the child that they are safe and that it is okay to feel upset or scared.
Limit exposure to news coverage, including social media as children could misinterpret what they hear.
Keep up with a regular routine. If school is closed, set schedules for learning, relaxing and fun activities.
Be a role model for your children. Eat well, exercise, take breaks and stay connected with friends and family.
During these times, you need to take care of your mental health. Make your mental health a priority and don’t let anxiety and stress consume you. Be sure to reach out to a trained professional if your or your child’s stress and anxiety consumes you. Remember that you are not alone and this will pass.