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The children’s nursery in mid Norfolk that has stayed open to support key workers

PUBLISHED: 12:53 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:53 07 May 2020

Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps

Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps

Archant

The team at a mid-Norfolk nursery, one of a handful in its town which have stayed open, say they have had to overhaul the way they work to keep children safe.

Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps
Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps

Gemma Hewett and Donna Nevill, who opened Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham eight years ago, made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers.

On the evening that lockdown was announced, the duo spent seven hours working on a plan which would mean they could stay open and “give back to the community”.

Miss Hewett, the centre’s manager and owner, said: “Right at the beginning when lockdown was announced, we knew that we wanted to stay open. It was our first instinct.

“We have 140 children who are in our care, and the first thing we did was message all the parents to ask if they were key workers and needed a space for their children.

Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps
Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps

“We have parents who are police officers, medical researchers, carers and supermarket workers. Because we are here and have stayed open they can now go to work and help in the battle against the virus.”

When the managers initially told staff they wanted to remain open, some chose to self-isolate at home, while others opted to carry on.

“It was always a choice for our staff”, Miss Hewett said. “A few of them decided they wanted to carry on working and they have been looking after the children.

“I am so proud of them, they know they’re risking their own health but they’re determined to look after the children and give back to the community. They don’t think anything of it.”

Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps
Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps

Everything from cleaning routines to pick up and drop off at the nursery has changed since lockdown began on March 23.

But one thing the nursery has struggled with is social distancing.

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Miss Hewett said: “You cannot social distance with nursery children, it is impossible and wouldn’t be good for them.

Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps
Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps

“We would usually have parents drop off their children inside the building and chat with them for five minutes but now we have changed this so less people come into the building. We are also cleaning surfaces constantly.”

The team at Little Footsteps are also helping parents whose children are at home during the pandemic and have sent out 140 care packages, containing crayons and craft materials.

Survival tips for parents during lockdown

Miss Hewett has put together her top tips for parents looking after their kids at home.

Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps
Little Footsteps Childcare in Dereham made the decision to remain open during the coronavirus crisis to provide care to children of key workers. Picture: Little Footsteps

• Keep a routine: Meal and snack times help. She suggests breakfast from 7am to 8am, fruit snack at 10am, lunch from 12pm to 1pm, fruit snack from 2pm to 3pm and tea from 4.30pm to 5.30pm.

• Set challenges: Make sure you praise every achievement, including getting dressed, doing teeth, eating nicely and playing independently with stickers.

• Keep busy: Children like to be engaged. You can find ideas online, there are so many simple but effective ideas around.

• Chill: It’s okay to have a film afternoon or a pyjama day.

• Breathe: Count to five when children push your buttons and test your limits.

• Have fun: Even the most mundane tasks can be fun, such as throwing the dirty socks in the washing machine and racing to tidy away toys.

• Adult time is important too: Keep to usual bedtimes so you can have a sit down and a cuppa before you go to bed yourselves.


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