Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): childminder services guidance

Published: 10 Jul 2020
Last updated: 9 Jul 2020 - see all updates

Non-statutory guidance to support childminding settings to operate safely from Phase 3 onwards.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): childminder services guidance
Physical distancing measures

Physical distancing measures

These are practical measures to minimise the risk of infection and transmission in childminding settings.

Childminders should ensure that they are familiar with:

Hand hygiene

Childminders should implement arrangements for enhanced hand and respiratory hygiene by adults and children in the childminding setting. Where possible, disposable paper towels or kitchen roll should be used.  Where this is not practical, individual towels must be available for each child, and these must be laundered each day. There are a range of resources available from the NHS to encourage children with hand washing.

There is also a video to demonstrate the correct way to wash your hands from NES. NES is the education and training body for NHS Scotland.

Hand gel is not recommended for children when soap and water is available. Hand gel should not be used by children under 12 months.

During this period childminders may wish to have a supply of hand gel available at the entrance to their home for themselves and for older children and parents or carers, assistants, and any other adults in the setting.

Other things to consider to enhance hand and respiratory hygiene practices in the childminder setting are:

  • handwashing should be encouraged before and after any activity, such as mealtimes, and outdoor play
  • ensure that handwashing is accessible for children, for example by providing footstools next to the sink
  • ensure all adults and children wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds frequently
  • if children have trouble washing their hands properly, childminders should assist
  • supervise  children if there is any doubt that they are able to wash their hands properly
  • encourage children (depending on their ability to understand) not to touch their face, to use a tissue or elbow to cough or sneeze, and to use bins for tissue waste

Physical distancing

The Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC states that it is not appropriate for young children or for some children with additional support needs to maintain the models of physical distancing that would be suitable for older children in a school setting, either practically or in terms of child development. It is not desirable or possible to implement strict physical distancing between young children or between a young child and their childminder, or the childminder’s own children.

It is important for children to feel secure, and receive warmth and physical contact that is appropriate to their needs, in particular when they are receiving personal care. Childminders and assistants will need to be close to the children, particularly young children and should feel confident in this. In consultation with families, childminders should consider reducing risks in other ways, by limiting access to their home for parents or carers where possible.

Individual physical distancing applies to adults from different households in the setting, including between a childminder and their assistant, if they are not from the childminder’s own household, parents or carers, and any other adults who may attend the setting. In addition, adults who reside in the childminder setting and are not an assistant should physically distance from adults and children from different households in the childminding setting, where possible. The latest physical distancing advice should be checked regularly for updates.

It is important that children’s needs are the deciding factor in these arrangements. While adults from different households should practice physical distancing, this is not always possible  - for example, when young children are passed between adults at drop-off and pick-up times. Where close contact between two adults occurs, the childminder or assistant should ensure that they thoroughly wash their hands after contact and consider wearing a face covering.

Childminders and parents or carers should agree staggered drop off and collection times to minimise contact between families wherever possible.

Larger childminder settings – caring for children in small cohorts

When large childminder settings are caring for more than 8 children at any one time, they should establish cohorts of children who will work together throughout each session. These cohorts, of up to 8 children, should be cared for in line with Care Inspectorate staffing ratios, while taking into account individual children’s needs. These cohorts should work with the same childminder or assistant, where practicable, throughout the session. Cohorts of children should remain consistent as far as is possible. Childminders must consider this when planning their operating model.

In practice we understand that there are times when another childminder or assistant may need to provide cover for children of other cohorts. However, this should be for limited periods and physical distancing between adults from different households must be maintained. Childminders and assistants should ensure hygiene practices are carried out if they are caring for different cohorts of children. Depending on the delivery model and attendance pattern of children a childminder or assistant may care for more than one cohort of children over the week.

Children who require additional support should be cared for in line with their personal plan which should be kept under review as public health measures evolve.

Larger childminder settings – minimising contact between cohorts of children

The aim of small group working in larger settings is to limit the number of close contacts for each child and childminder or assistant. This will reduce the risk of infection. Where possible, cohorts of children should avoid close interactions with other cohorts. There is evidence that risk of transmission is reduced with distance. Brief or transitory interactions such as passing in corridors or crossing play spaces to access other spaces are considered low risk. Cohorts of children should be supported to stay 2 metres apart whenever practicable and appropriate.

Consideration may be given to how to create areas within the setting and available outside space to reduce interactions between multiple cohorts of children. This could include use of loose furniture to create spaces within play and activity areas, or floor or ground markings. Childminders should consider removing unnecessary items from their settings to decrease the number of items that require cleaning. Use of available outdoor spaces should be maximised.

Childminders should consider if additional space is required for groups to transition between spaces (from indoors to outdoors or to the toilet) to minimise contact.

Communications and settling-in

Additional arrangements for sharing information between the childminder and the families should be agreed to ensure that clear lines of communication are available where face to face contact is being reduced. For example, video calls, voice calls, text messages, photographs or email. It is important that when childminder settings communicate that they also consider the General Data Protection regulations (GDPR) and consider updating their existing privacy policies where necessary. When face-to-face communication is preferred and suitable, ensure that physical distancing guidance is adhered to.

During this period, new children may be enrolled into the childminding setting. It is important to maintain physical distancing between adults. A childminder may wish to provide a virtual tour of their home to parents prior to the child attending. Wherever possible, children should be settling into the service in a garden area with the parent or carer away from other children. It is important that relationships are developed and the settling in period is the foundation of that trusting relationship between the family and childminder. The childminder should consider how best to introduce a new child into the setting with limited physical contact between adults wherever possible.

Use of outdoor space

Evidence shows that the use of the outdoors is good for our overall health and wellbeing and outdoor environments can limit transmission of the virus. Where childminders have access to a garden, they should try to use this space as much as possible across the day. Childminders should take the necessary precautions to protect children from the elements. This should include suitable clothing, head coverings and sunscreen. Advice on sun safety is available from the NHS.

Read the guidance to promote high quality learning and play experiences for children outdoors.

If outdoor equipment within the childminder setting is being used, larger childminder settings caring for more than 8 children at any one time should ensure that multiple cohorts do not use it simultaneously, as well as considering appropriate cleaning or suitable length of storage periods between groups of children using it.

Trips outside the childminding settings

Trips outside the home are permissible and encouraged providing they are in line with the latest general public guidance on physical distancing and travelling distances. Childminders should plan for children to enjoy active energetic play across the day and this may include making use of other areas near to the childminder’s home such as nearby green spaces, taking account of the most up to date physical distancing guidelines.

Outdoor play parks are now open. Childminders must follow the latest guidance on exercise and activity.

Recommendations for use of shared resources such as play areas and libraries where children are more likely to mix with others continue to be reviewed and therefore the latest advice should be checked regularly for any updates.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

For the latest guidance on the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please see the Health Protection Scotland website. The current guidance is that childminders do not need any additional PPE for caring for children. They should use the routine PPE required for personal care such as nappy changing or toileting children. This guidance should be read in conjunction with the existing guidance from Health Protection Scotland for infection prevention and control.

Hand hygiene is essential before and after all contact with a child receiving intimate or personal care, before putting on PPE, after removal of PPE and after cleaning equipment and the environment. Hands should be washed with soap and water.

The use of PPE by staff within childminder settings should continue to be based on a clear assessment of risk and need for an individual child or young person, such as personal care where staff come into contact with blood and body fluids. Following any risk assessment (individual or organisational), where the need for PPE has been identified it should be readily available and childminders and assistants should be trained on its use as appropriate.

The Care Inspectorate website has information about purchasing PPE.


To help prevent the spread of infection, wherever possible rooms children access should be well ventilated with windows opened to encourage a flow of fresh air in the environment. Where it is safe to do so, doors should also remain open within the home. This will help to increase the natural ventilation and will reduce physical contact with door handles.

First published: 10 Jul 2020 Last updated: 9 Jul 2020 -