Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): childminder services guidance

Published: 30 Jul 2020
Last updated: 30 Jul 2020 - see all updates

Non-statutory guidance to support childminding settings to operate safely.

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:

  • ensure all adults and children wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds frequently
  •  In particular, handwashing should take place:
    • on arrival at the setting
    • before and after eating
    • after toileting
    • at regular intervals throughout the day
    • after outdoor play
  • ensure that handwashing is accessible for children, for example by providing footstools next to the sink
  • children should not share water in a communal bowl when washing hands
  • ensure that children dry hands thoroughly
  • 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.

Physical Distancing between adults in the setting

Physical distancing between adults remains a fundamental protective measure that should apply at all times. Individual physical distancing applies to the childminder and any assistant (unless part of the same household), parents, and any other adults who may attend the setting including any external contractors or delivery people. It is essential that all these groups are taken into consideration.

Adults in settings should stay 2 metres apart in line with physical distancing principles.

Where adults cannot keep 2 metres distance from other adults, and are interacting face-to-face with other adults for 15 minutes or more, face coverings should be worn. In other circumstances, adults should not need to wear face coverings.  Some children may need additional support/reassurance about the reasons for adults wearing face coverings. Face coverings should not be required for most children or adults (those clinically advised to wear a covering would be an exception). 

The wellbeing and needs of the child, should remain a focus of attention with a recognition that face coverings can limit communication, which young children often rely on with the ability to view faces and non-verbal cues being important to learn effectively. 

The use of face masks could have an impact for children with additional support needs (which includes any level of hearing loss). These impacts should be carefully considered as communication for these learners relies on the ability to see a person’s face clearly. This is also important for children who are acquiring English and who rely on visual cues to enable them to be included in learning.

However, staff wishing to wear face protection should be enabled to do so. Should the prevalence of the virus in the population start rising, nationally or in parts of Scotland, guidance may change to encourage the wearing of face coverings more routinely, as part of an enhanced system of approaches to reduce transmission.

larger childminding settings – minimising children’s contacts

Given the ongoing suppression of the virus, and updated scientific advice, management of children in consistent cohorts of 8 will no longer be required in larger childminder settings. This recognises the importance for children and families of access to childcare. However, this does not mean that settings should return to normal operation. It is still important to limit children’s contacts.

Contacts should be limited by managing children within groups. Consistency of groups is beneficial, and efforts should be made to keep children within the same groups for the duration of the day or session, where possible. This will reduce likelihood of direct transmission, to allow for more effective contact tracing through Test and Protect, and reduce the overall number who need to isolate in the event of a child becoming ill with COVID-19.

Larger childminding services should consider carefully how to apply the principles in this section to their settings to support childcare needs and to allow children to access a full range of experiences. It is important to emphasise that these are not all-or-nothing approaches, and will bring public health benefits even where used partially (for example if membership of groups stays consistent throughout the day, but changes across the week). Settings should apply proportionate, risk-based approaches to limiting contacts.

The approach taken to groups should be risk-based and adapted to the specific circumstances of the setting. Given the limited size of a childminding setting it may not be appropriate or necessary to operate in groups. Where used, the general approach should be to minimise the size of groups and keep them consistent where practically possible, taking into account the feasibility of doing this while delivering a rich experience for children, and meeting parents’ childcare needs.

Individual childminders should consider this guidance as a whole and the guidance for ELC settings and Out of School Care settings on minimising contact between groups of children, in determining their approach.  

Where groups are established they should work with the same childminder or assistant, where practicable, throughout the session.

In practice we understand that there are times when another childminder or assistant may need to provide cover for children of other groups. 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 groups of children. Depending on the delivery model and attendance pattern of children a childminder or assistant may care for more than one group 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.

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.

For children with additional support needs (ASN), childminders should work in partnership with parents, lead professionals, children and young people to establish what support and plans need to be put in place to meet their needs. Enhanced transitions may be considered for children with ASN, such as through visual representations and plans of physical distancing in their settings.

Childminders may wish to consider the following approaches:

  • a map could be displayed in the setting detailing entry/exit points and new circulation patterns, for use by adults and parents
  • social stories and videos shared with children in advance to explain what will be new, and what the day will be like
  • drawing on learning from the retail sector, clear signage and colour coding on walls and floors could be implemented prior to return to help with wayfinding
  • appropriate visuals will be particularly important for children. These will need to be clear and child friendly to enable them to be understood by as many children as possible taking account of any visual impairments children may have. These could include signs that display meaningful pictures or symbols. Any signage that involves direct interaction from children will need to be cleaned regularly and additional methods of communication should also be considered

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 groups 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)

The use of PPE by staff within childminding services 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  should be readily available and childminders and assistants should be trained on its use as appropriate.

No additional PPE measures are required for general use in school aged childcare settings. Childminders and assistants should continue to follow existing guidance on the use of PPE. Examples of this follow:

Staff carrying out intimate care should wear an apron and gloves. 

Staff should have access to disposable single use gloves for spillage of blood or other body fluids and disposing of dressings or equipment. Local infection control procedures that outline safety and protocols should be stringently followed. This includes procedures for the disposal of soiled items; laundering of any clothes, towels or linen; and cleaning equipment for children and young people, such as hoists and wheelchairs.

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.


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. Fire Safety should always be considered before any internal doors are held open This will help to increase the natural ventilation and will reduce physical contact with door handles.

First published: 30 Jul 2020 Last updated: 30 Jul 2020 -