Working through this uncertain, crazy, cruel Coronavirus pandemic has been a roller coaster of emotions for the practitioners and the families that attend our setting and has set new challenges and rewards along the way! Life has gone in a new direction and we feel passionate about reducing the stress and anxiety around children, so practitioners are conscious about being calm whilst also highlighting the necessity of hygiene such as an increased need for hand washing. We do this in a fun way, making up new words to songs that children love such as Baby Shark. This, along with role modelling, keeps the children engaged.
Monday 23rd March was when we were no longer available to offer childcare to most families, only to vulnerable children, any that had educational healthcare plans or children whose parents fell into the Key Worker category. This meant a big drop in how many children attended. It also presented itself with a few changes to practice. Although I understood the importance of these changes to keep all safe, I found some challenging. One of these was that parents were asked not to come into the setting, handing their children over to us at the main door and then collecting them from there at the end of their session with limited feedback from practitioners as a social distancing measure. I pride myself in how I work in partnership with parents and see it as a massive part of my job role. Although we have digital communications with families through our online learning app, speaking to parents and carers at the end of sessions is a valuable time to chat and build trusting relationships. This includes what their child has been learning and noticing any links to what they may have been doing in their own environments then agreeing next steps. Or discussing any concerns that may have risen from home or setting. Building these relationships are vital to help children develop better outcomes in many, many ways and it seemed a shame that these had been lost temporarily.
The children that attend now ask us constantly where their little friends are which is really emotional for us all as we all miss our little people enormously. Again, we understand the importance of why children could not attend settings, but we are all wondering when, or if, we would see them again. However, due to quieter spaces and reduced distractions, the children now have an opportunity to extend friendships with other children that they did not necessarily mix with before. These new friendships have been blossoming! They have been introducing each other to new ways of learning, listening to each other and making compromises and challenging different ways of thinking.
As practitioners we want to ensure that we keep in touch with the children and families so we are using our closed social media platforms such as Facebook to set learning challenges. This includes singing and dancing with us through videos, posting links to Yoga activities, through well-loved stories or going on stick hunts in their local communities. We also asked the children to create rainbows and put them in their windows. The response we have had from this has been incredible!! We have had daily messages, photos and videos back to us that show how families are engaging in these challenges.
We wanted to make sure the oldest children that are about to leave us to attend new school settings would get smooth transitions, and this is something we are still trying to work out how to do for the best. The future is so uncertain at this time but we are assuring all concerned with the setting that we can get through this crisis with lessons learnt about friendships, wider communities, kindness and love.