Safely back to school: Daycare and Pre-School

Posted at 3:35 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 10:17:56-04

BOISE, Idaho — Most parents would agree: Children thrive on routine. But what happens when a pandemic presses pause on playtime?

Daycares and preschools around the country are adapting to this new normal, in an effort to ensure safety and sanitation amid concerns of spreading COVID-19.

Many parents don't have the option of staying home with their young children, leaving them to count on daycare staff to take extra precautions. Most facilities are requiring masks upon entry, and many are checking temperatures at the door.

"We are bleaching our toys every other day rather than once a week," Owl's Nest Daycare and Preschool director Melissa Henault said. “If [a child shows] any sort of symptom at all, we’re sending them home, or we’re sending them to the doctor to be tested. We are not messing around with this at all."

Many facilities, like Owl's Nest in Meridian, are changing up classroom activities to cut down on the spread of germs. That means young kids are missing out on sharing toys with classmates and some sensory play.

"Children’s lives, in some ways, have been far more disrupted than adults," Dr. Jim Polo said. "Keep in mind that social disconnection from kids causes some challenges, too, so keeping kids out of school indefinitely for the sake of avoiding infection is also not so good."

With decades of experience in child psychiatry, Dr. Polo recommends parents explain what's going on in an age-appropriate way.

"Explain to them that right now we’re going through a period of time that this virus is all around us, so we’re taking extra precautions to include things like making sure that we stay away distance-wise from other people, as well as wearing masks, and of course, keeping our hands clean and following general good hygiene principles," Dr. Polo explained. "Kids will understand that."

At the Owl's Nest, teachers have turned it into an opportunity to learn.

"We kind of make it a germ lesson rather than just kind of freaking them out with the COVID topic," Henault said. "So teaching them how germs spread, what they look like; we’ve been doing science experiments, showing them how much the germs stay on your hands, how you have to wash them."

And with heightened stress at home, Dr. Polo says it's not just adults experiencing anxiety. Children may also feel anxious, but have trouble putting their thoughts into words.

"It’s really important to talk to them, but also to let them talk," Dr. Polo said.