Parents, What’s Your Coronavirus Child Care Plan?

What you should be doing now to prepare for possible daycare and preschool closures

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has everyone running to the store for disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and canned goods, but equally if not more important if you’re a parent is to figure out your child care plan. If the pandemic gets worse, daycares and preschools may temporarily close to prevent the spread of disease, leaving 46% of American families with children under 6 who rely on licensed group child care in the lurch.

This isn’t even an improbable scenario. Bright Horizons, one of the largest daycare providers in the US, has issued new policies to their families to limit the spread of Coronavirus, including a mandatory 14 day period where children must stay at home if family members travel to certain locations. Similar precautionary measures have been implemented by a number of daycares across the country based on recommendations made by the CDC.

Given the evolving situation, now is a great time to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Here are some recommendations and resources for what to do if you find yourself suddenly without child care.

Consider smaller group child care 

Because COVID-19 is transmitted by people being in close proximity to each other, the fewer people you’re in contact with, the better. While bigger child care centers may close temporarily as a precaution, smaller in-home providers with a handful of children are more likely to continue operating throughout the pandemic. You can search on Winnie for smaller capacity providers near you and even filter by ones that have immediate openings or allow for drop-ins. It’s useful to at least familiarize yourself with your options now and bookmark some places you might contact in a scenario where your child care center is closed.

Prepare your remote work plan

If your job allows for remote work, this can be a great option to enable you to continue doing some work while also caring for your kids at home. If you have a partner, consider working in shifts -- one of you takes care of the kids while the other works, and then you swap. If you don’t have a partner or your partner cannot work remotely, you may be able to team up with a nearby family and trade-off. 

Start teaching your child to play independently

Projects that will keep your toddler or preschooler entertained without your involvement are ideal for unlocking some free time. Independent play is really healthy for a child’s development and even babies as young as 12 months old can learn to play independently for periods of time. Open-ended toys like legos play kitchens, and crafts, where children can be creative and explore, are better to encourage this sort of play than a puzzle or something your child will quickly master. But like anything, practice makes perfect. Now is a good time to start with brief periods of independent play and work your way up.

Look into online learning resources

There’s a lot of chatter about transitioning to online schooling in the event of school closures, but traditional online schooling and edtech resources are designed for the K-12 age group, not babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. In fact, much of the learning that takes place during the early childhood years is about play and as well as with other children. That said, there are some great technology-based resources available for younger children that you may find useful to occupy part of your day. A few of our favorites include:

  • HOMER - reading app with programs to teach children as young as two reading fundamentals

  • Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit - transforms a tablet into a hands-on learning experience

  • Khan Kids - free app with original content, interactive activities, and educational content

  • Early Learning Academy - subscription-based online curriculum with topics like reading, math, and science

  • Fruit Punch Music - free kids music streaming app designed for toddlers and preschoolers 

  • Kids Listen - audio stories and podcasts for kids grouped by age