5 Ways COVID-19 Has Changed Child Care Forever

As we all know, COVID-19 has had a big impact on everything in our lives. We have had to quickly make many adjustments in order to sustain ourselves until this is all over.

While no one knows for sure exactly when things will go back to normal, what we consider ‘normal’ will likely not look exactly the same as pre-pandemic times. As the months have gone by and we have adapted to new tools and processes, we have gotten used to the new way of doing things.

In the 2020 Child Care Benchmark Report, child care providers indicated that there are several ways that the sector will likely be impacted even after COVID-19 is over. Below are the key findings from the report about how the pandemic has permanently changed child care.

Click here to download the full report!

1. Programming Will Be Offered On-Site and At Home

In the report, 39% of providers told us that they were exploring remote learning opportunities. These included video calls at-home activities and busy bags/activity kits.

Of these respondents, 38% intend on continuing to offer these services even after the pandemic ends.

remote learning child care

Chart courtesy of the 2020 Child Care Benchmark Report

Child care has always been a partnership between parents and child care providers, with the goal of providing a great experience and education for children. Providing resources to continue learning at home will help strengthen this relationship and make families happier with a center’s services.

2. ‘Screen Time’ Will Be More Accepted

There has been a long-standing debate of what an acceptable amount of screen time is for young children. During COVID-19, many parents have increased their tolerance for screen time in order to connect with family, friends and as we have learned, their child care as well. Notably, 76% of providers offering remote learning support have done so through video chat lessons.

child care remote learning techniques

Chart courtesy of the 2020 Child Care Benchmark Report

What we have learned through this process is that the question might not be about how long screen time should be, but what the screen time should consist of. A key takeaway from our conversation with providers is that remote learning for childcare should not look the same as remote learning for older children. The interactive component that involves parents is key to success here! 

Opinions of passive screen time like watching a TV show might not change, but connecting with teachers will likely continue playing a role to keep children learning at home.

3. Video Tours Will Be More Common

A great tour is one of the most important decision-making factors for parents when selecting a child care provider, which has been one of the biggest challenges for new families during the pandemic. Many centers have adapted by offering virtual tours via Zoom or pre-recorded videos.

As I have found in my own experience finding child care, video tours have been very helpful in choosing where to send my child during the pandemic. More than that, however, they have also offered great flexibility to see facilities around my working schedule and my daughter’s napping and eating schedules — no booking the afternoon off or getting ready for the car necessary! And now that centers are getting accustomed to connecting online, this may be a great differentiator for a center to offer more flexibility for busy parents once the pandemic is over.

See our article on hosting a great virtual tour for more ideas!

4. Scheduling Will Be More Flexible

In 2020, occupancy rates have decreased by 33%.

2020 child care occupancy rate

Chart courtesy of the 2020 Child Care Benchmark Report

While some of this was due to lockdowns or lower teacher-student ratios, 33% of children are also being kept at home as a precaution even if they are allowed to return. 

With parents making accommodations to have their children at home more than in the past, new routines are in place now that may continue after the pandemic if employers maintain flexible accommodations for working from home or adjusted hours. This means that providers may need to adjust their hours or enrollment requirements accordingly.

5. Keeping Strong Connections Will Be Even More Important

Year over year, customer satisfaction has remained the #1 organizational priority for child care businesses.

child care 2020 organizational priorities

Chart courtesy of the 2020 Child Care Benchmark Report

As we have learned, things can change at a moment’s notice, so having parents’ trust and understanding of the value you provide is crucial. The world may be changing, but helping parents provide the best upbringing for their children will remain the same — it might just look a little different.

Notably, since families aren’t allowed inside anymore, digital communication becomes even more important. Parents want to know what is going on behind closed doors with their children, and providing messages and updates throughout the day will give them peace of mind (i.e. keep them satisfied!).

To see more stats about the state of child care, see the 2020 Child Care Benchmark Report!

Michael Keshen

Michael is the Content Manager at HiMama, with over 7 years of online content publishing experience. He is the current editor in chief for HiMama's early childhood education blog and ECE Weekly newsletter. When not developing content for early childhood professionals, he can usually be found out and about with his wife and daughter exploring all that Toronto has to offer, or playing music with his karaoke band.

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