Health and Safety Measures
Child care settings can do the following to reduce the number of different interactions people have in a day:
- Reduce the time or mixing of age groups for the first and last half hour of the day.
- Limit the number of visitors to those providing care or supporting a child.
- Stagger pick-up and drop-off times, as well as break and snack/meal times.
- For larger facilities that have more than one care program, consider having smaller groups where possible. Staff scheduling should be arranged for staff to remain in the same group.
Child care settings have enough space to support physical distancing. There is no need to reduce the number of children attending care at any given time.
Adults should practice physical distancing whenever possible.
- When interacting with adults, staff and other adults should reduce close, prolonged, face-to-face interactions. If physical distance can’t be maintained, a mask should be worn.
- When interacting with children, staff and other adults should minimize unnecessary physical contact. Adults may choose to wear a mask when interacting closely with children, recognizing the importance of facial expressions and movements on children’s learning and development.
Children are not expected to practice physical distancing. Contact between children is important to their emotional, physical and developmental needs. Child care settings should seek to reduce physical contact between children by:
- Using all of the space available
- Organizing more activities that encourage individual play
- Encouraging children to keep their hands to themselves
Cleaning hands regularly (called hand hygiene) helps reduce the spread of illness, including COVID-19. This can be washing hands with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
Child care settings should provide regular opportunities for staff and children to clean their hands, including:
- Before and after eating
- After using the toilet and/or changing diapers
- Before and after using shared toys or supplies (e.g. playground equipment, sand, etc.)
This includes daily cleaning of the child care space, with frequently touched surfaces (e.g. door knobs, light switches, toilet handles, etc.) cleaned twice a day. At least one of these cleanings should occur during hours of operation.
Surfaces should also be cleaned whenever they are visibly dirty.
Consider limiting the use of frequently-touched items that cannot be easily cleaned:
- Toys, manipulatives, and other items that are not easily cleaned (e.g. sand, foam, playdough, etc.) can continue being used if hand hygiene is practiced before and after use.
- There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted via paper, books, or other paper-based products, and low risk of transmission for laminated or glossy paper-based products and items with plastic covers.
- Ask parents/caregivers to only bring comfort items (e.g. stuffed animals, blankets) if they are cleaned and laundered weekly and are not shared between children.
For sleeping items:
- Clean and disinfect cots, sleeping mats and cribs weekly if dedicated to a single child or between use if shared between multiple children. Clean and disinfect when visibly soiled. Clean and disinfect changing stations after each use.
- Bedding that touches a child’s skin should be cleaned weekly if dedicated to a single child or between use if shared between multiple children.
- Keep each child’s bedding separate, and consider storing in individually labeled bins, cubbies, or bags. Cots and mats should be labeled for each child.
In settings with mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, ensure they are working properly.
In homes or settings without HVAC systems, try to increase air ventilation by opening windows when the weather allows. Even if a window is only open a crack, it helps.
Non-medical masks and face coverings (masks) provide some protection to the wearer and to those around them.
Children may wear a mask based on personal or family choice. Infants under two years of age should not wear masks as it may make it difficult for them to breathe. Child care staff should supervise and support children to ensure safe and proper use if masks are worn.
Staff and other adults should wear a mask when indoors and interacting with other adults except when:
- They can consistently maintain physical distance, or
- There is a barrier in place, or
- Eating and drinking
Masks may only provide limited protective value for adult-child interactions in child care settings, as there are multiple effective health and safety measures in place and young children are less likely to be infected. Child care staff and other adults may choose to wear a mask indoors when engaging in prolonged, close interaction with children. Careful consideration should be given to the potential impact of mask wearing on visual cueing and non-verbal communication with children, as these interactions play an important role in learning and development.
Masks are not needed for interactions between household members. Masks are not needed when urgent actions are required to support child safety.
Masks should not be used in place of other health and safety measures in child care, like physical distancing.
Additional information on mask use is available from the BCCDC
Child care settings should continue to implement existing food safety practices. FOODSAFE
Level 1 covers important food safety and worker safety information. It is a helpful resource for those seeking education and training on food safety practices.
In addition to existing food safety practices:
- Ensure food contact surfaces are sanitized or disinfected before and after use with cleaners approved for food service.
- Ensure reusable utensils, dishware, and glasses are cleaned and sanitized after each use.
- Children and staff can bring and use their own reusable food and drink containers.
- Food and beverages should not be shared.
Child care settings can continue to accept food donations and the delivery of meal programs, breakfast clubs, and other food access initiatives.
With so much happening and uncertainty in daily life, it’s normal for staff, children and parents to feel worried or overwhelmed. It’s important for everyone to look after their mental health and well-being during COVID-19.
Child Health BC is a provincial organization supporting children’s health. Visit their website
for a list of mental health resources for parents and caregivers, children and staff. There are also resources on the mental well-being
page of the BCCDC website.
Child care settings run by a school and/or school district may be required to follow their school's health and safety plans that meet the requirements set by the Ministry of Education. Operators should work with the school administrator to determine what health and safety measures are best suited for their unique circumstance, based on the Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools and the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings. What health and safety measures are best suited may vary depending on the age of children in care and the types of activities that children typically do in that setting. More information about the health and safety measures in place in K-12 schools is available here.
Child care settings that are not run by the school (independent operators) should follow the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings.
Child care staff and other adults should wear masks when they are indoors and interacting with other adults, unless:
- They can consistently maintain physical distance,
- There is a barrier in place (like plexiglass or a desk divider), or
- They are eating or drinking.
Child care staff and other adults can choose to wear a mask when they are closely interacting with children, but don't need to. More information is available in the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings.
Staff and other adults, including practicum students, volunteers and parents, can work with different groups of children and/or at multiple sites; however, efforts should be made to limit the number of staff and other adults who interact with different people throughout the day, including multiple groups of children.
Staff, students and volunteers should always follow health and safety measures, like practicing physical distancing and frequent hand hygiene.
Children can sing at child care without additional health and safety measures.
Adults can also sing, however they should ensure physical distancing is practiced and that masks are worn when singing.
Child care supports the learning, health and development of children. The Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings was developed to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading, while making sure that the activities and interactions that support children's health and development that normally occur in child care settings could continue.
The impacts of COVID-19 on children's health and development, including the health and safety measures in child care, and the broader public health measures, are not yet fully understood.
We do know that many children and families are struggling with feeling worried or overwhelmed, with so much uncertainty in daily life. It's important for everyone to look after their mental health and well-being during COVID-19. Child Health BC is a provincial organization supporting children's health. Visit the Child Health BC website for a list of mental health resources for parents and caregivers, children, and staff. There are also resources on the mental well-being page of the BCCDC website.