COVID-19 Best Practices for Early Childhood Education (ECE)
This page will help keep early childhood education (ECE) professionals informed on best practices for keeping children, staff and families safe and healthy as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) recognizes helping young children to be comfortable wearing face masks and to keep face masks on may be challenging. It is important to help children feel more secure wearing a face mask when around other children and adults.
The CDC COVID resource pages are recommended as the primary source of up-to-date and accurate information. As recommendations regarding the mitigation of COVID-19 continue to evolve, child care providers are urged to stay up-to-date on the most recent CDC Guidance for Operating Child Care.
Best Practices and Resources for Child Care Providers:
- Most children are used to wearing and seeing people in masks. Predictable and consistent routines around mask wearing can help young children feel comfortable and know what to expect. Treat mask wearing as an emerging skill. Support children in learning to wear a mask consistently to be healthy and safe by showing children how to wear their mask so it fits securely over their mouth and nose. Give positive feedback to children for their efforts and keep it playful!
- Find more ideas in Helping Children Understand Emotions When Wearing Masks:
- Social stories may also be helpful. Children love to read stories that include their pictures and photos of people they know. You can even make your own social story with photos of adults and children in your program. You can also use this Wearing Masks story from the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations. Also available in Spanish.
- CDC’s Your Guide to Masks: The CDC has much more detail to their guidance regarding wearing of masks. They discuss the following about masks: How to select, How to wear, How to clean and dry, How to store.
- Resources for Masks for Children: To help support families, and the Early Intervention and early childhood education community, a list of resources to help support and teach young children about wearing a face mask.
- Face Coverings Required flyer: Programs who would like to can print and display this flyer at your ECE program (OCDEL)
- Action Learning Network: Tips for Helping Kids Wear Masks
- Face Masks in Head Start and Child Care Programs– tip sheet for answers to frequently asked questions about wearing masks in Head Start and child care settings
- Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities: A Toolkit for Helping Your Child Wear a Mask During COVID-19
Resources for Use with Children
- Sesame Street in Communities: All About Mask
- Sesame Street in Communities (videos): A New Kind of Picnic and Hooper’s Store Reopens
- Action Learning Network: How to Wear a Mask Like a Health Hero
- Greetings While Social Distancing: This colorful greeting board uses expressive photos of children to demonstrate ways to greet each other while maintaining social distancing. In English and Spanish, the examples included are air hug, elbow bump and thumbs up
The CDC COVID resource pages are recommended as the primary source of up-to-date and accurate information. As recommendations regarding the mitigation of COVID-19 continue to evolve, child care providers are urged to stay up-to-date on the most recent CDC Guidance for Operating Child Care
Best Practices for Child Care Providers:
- Improving ventilation is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy that can reduce the number of virus particles in the air. Healthy indoor air reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19. Ventilation is an extremely important because we know the Delta Variant transmits very easily indoors. Ventilation can reduce the likelihood of spreading disease in all group care settings.
- Bringing fresh outdoor air into a building or home helps keep virus particles from concentrating inside. This can be done by safely opening multiple doors and windows, using child-safe fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows, and making changes to the HVAC or air filtration systems.
- Do not use ionizers because ionization of the air aggravates respiratory conditions such as asthma.
- If your child care center or family child care home does not have an HVAC system or lacks extra filtration, consider using a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaner. HEPA cleaners trap particles that people exhale when breathing, talking, singing, coughing, and sneezing.
- When choosing a HEPA cleaner, select one that is the right size for the room(s). One way to do this is to select a HEPA fan system with a Clean Air Delivery that meets or exceeds the square footage of the room in which it will be used. See EPA’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home for more information.
- Key questions to ask about HVAC Systems and Ventilation:
- Does our HVAC system have a filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher to filter pollutants (e.g., pesticides, wildfire smoke) or harmful particles (e.g., COVID-19) from the air? If not, can this system accommodate such a filter?
- Does our HVAC system meet the goal of exchanging the air in the room at least five times an hour? If not, are there ways to improve the air exchange?
- Do we need to improve our mechanical or natural HVAC ventilation systems?
- Do we need to change or supplement our ventilation systems with exhaust fans, portable fans, portable air cleaners, or new filters?
- Outside is a safer choice than inside. Outdoor activities should be prioritized. When possible, physically active play should be done outside. Maintain cohorts if feasible in outdoor play spaces.
Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation Resources
- Tips for Working with a Ventilation Consultant
- CDC Strategies for Improving Ventilation in Facilities
- CDC Strategies for Improving Ventilation in Homes
- CDC Ventilation in Buildings and FAQs
- Outside Time and Beyond: How to Include Outdoor Learning and Play in Your Daily Classroom or Family Child Care Routine