Home    |   Educator Resources   |   COVID-19 Resources & Information   |   10 Tips for Physical Distancing with Young Children

10 Tips for Physical Distancing with Young Children

Jun 25, 2020    |   COVID-19 Resources & Information

Young children thrive in environments that include routine and predictability, and might struggle to adjust to the new child care program guidelines made necessary to maintain health during the pandemic. The concept of physical distancing is especially difficult as children are excited to see their friends and have a limited understanding of COVID-19 as a whole.

Keeping children physically distanced from their peers is also a struggle for educators and care providers facing multiple adjustments to their schedule, curriculum, and classroom layout. In this article, we share 10 quick and easy tips to help you navigate the challenges of following licensing guidelines for physically distancing young children. (PIN 20-06-CCP includes licensing guidelines and regulations for COVID-19, specifically physical distancing.)

10 Quick Tips

1. Talk to children about physical distancing. In order for children to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, they must be engaged in conversations reminding them that maintaining space will prevent the spread of germs. Children are more likely to follow directions when they understand the reasoning behind them. This also helps children to feel more comfortable and involved in the many changes that are occurring.

If you’re not sure how to start these conversations, there are several great songs and videos on Youtube that explain physical distancing that might be  helpful to share with children, or even with their parents:

2. Break up into smaller groups. Licensing requires group sizes no larger than 10, which means that educators will have to get creative when organizing the classroom and schedule. Some options to try include:

  • Keeping half of the children indoors  while the other half are outdoors,

  • Taking some children on a walk while the others play outside, or

  • Dividing your yard or classroom into areas for smaller groups of children.

Whatever you decide works best for your program, you’ll want to make sure that you are adhering to the standards set in place by licensing. To help you stay on track, take a look at the chart from PIN 20-06-CCP, provided below:

3. Use rugs, squares, shelving and other physical objects to help children see boundaries. The idea of keeping a “6-foot-distance” might be confusing for young children. It will feel abstract, and difficult for them to adhere to. To help remind children during outdoor play, you might consider using carpet squares, rugs, or blankets for children to stay on so that they can see clear, physical guidelines about how to keep a safe distance.

4. Spread out cots or mats for napping. Licensing requires that all sleeping children adhere to the 6-foot guidelines, but there is some flexibility in how to organize this. For example, children’s nap mats or cots can be placed head to toe to keep a safe distance. You’ll need to avoid putting two children’s faces right next to each other so that they have a safe distance while they sleep.

5. Make separate bags for toys and materials and personal items. Many early learning programs have created individualized cubbies or bags of toys for children to avoid spreading materials. Children can have bags with their own legos, magna-tiles, crayons, or other things that they enjoy playing with. Ensure that children keep a safe distance from peers while using their own materials to avoid sharing. Of course, with young children, it is likely that they will share toys and materials. When this happens, ensure that the materials are properly sanitized before returning them to the child’s belongings.

6. Spread out during mealtimes and eliminate family style meals. While family style meals are usually a great way to enjoy meals as a community, these will need to be put on hold to avoid germ-sharing. While children eat, they should sit at tables  spaced apart from their peers, rather than sitting right next to each other. This will help to encourage a safe distance, and also eliminate the possibility of sharing or touching each other’s foods.

7. Switch to single-use silverware, plates, and other items to avoid spreading germs. To avoid spreading germs, limit the use of silverware, plates or other items that will need to be washed. Using items that can be thrown away will help to avoid unnecessary contact with germs.

8. Stay patient and be prepared to give frequent reminders. It is important to remember that these new routines will take time for you and the children to adjust to! So patience and flexibility are key. Be prepared to give children reminders on a regular basis. Including a smile and cheerful tone of voice with reminders will have a positive impact on the children, and on you!

9. Get Outside. Being outside in the fresh air is one of the best and easiest ways to keep yourselves and the children safe. In the open air, children are less likely to breathe in each other’s germs and have more space to move around. A few fun ideas for socially distanced outdoor activities are listed below:

  • Simon Says: An easy game for children to play while standing a safe distance from each other

  • Sidewalk chalk: Draw out safe, socially-distanced squares on the chalk where children can sit, spaced apart from their peers, and draw with chalk. Put together small baskets, labeled with each child’s name, of individual pieces chalk for use.

  • Outdoor dance party: While children stand distanced from their peers (maybe in chalk outlined areas), turn on some music and encourage kids to dance it out!

10. Praise, praise, praise. Young children are confused and overwhelmed by all of these new changes, so it is important to offer praise on a regular basis when they are following the new rules or making efforts to keep a safe distance. Rather than shaming children when they forget what to do, focus on reinforcing good behavior by praising them when they do it right!

Related Articles & Posts

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This