The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the childcare industry spans further than decreases in revenue and struggles with staff hiring and retention. The pandemic has also had a direct effect on the growth and development of our children.
53% of centers surveyed in our 2021 Childcare Benchmark Report had to temporarily close during the pandemic and over half are still implementing various health and safety measures on-site. All these new COVID policies and procedures have added to the burden on educators and directors as they need to motor children differently and train their staff accordingly.
95% of centers reported they still provide additional sanitation measures in their classrooms.”
Impacts of COVID-19 on early childhood development
Children born during the pandemic are showing a significant reduction in many vital skillsets and abilities compared to those born before due to the lack of social interaction they have experienced. Educators are taking on the role of getting these children up to speed with their environment and preparing them for future academic and social successes.
When comparing childhood cognitive scores from 2020-2021 compared to 2011-2019, developmental psychologists found that children born during the pandemic demonstrated reduced verbal, motor, and cognitive abilities compared to children born prior. This is not unexpected, as many young children were purposefully kept away from others during the past 2 years. Going forward, it will be vital for parents, caregivers, and childcare professionals to ensure support for the ‘pandemic children’ and provide them with access to additional resources and opportunities to help speed along their development.
Covid-19’s impact on the childcare center
The pandemic has driven systemic changes to the health and safety operations of early childhood programs. It has increased our awareness of cleaning, disinfecting, and the importance of handwashing. This is a positive change as it will likely reduce the amount of sickness occurring in childcare centers in the future. While childcare centers were very clean and sanitary places before the pandemic, they are up to a whole new level now and this is a way that centers can differentiate themselves from their competitors while staff members can feel safe coming to work each day.
The pandemic also re-emphasized the importance of planning and preparation, and we would certainly encourage more programs to capture those lessons learned over the past two years. Many of the challenges faced during the pandemic, such as early dismissals or prolonged closures, can also be faced during a natural disaster or public emergency. The benefits of having pre-existing (and tested) plans for these scenarios should be more apparent now than ever.
Another side-effect of COVID was that programs greatly restricted the number of people allowed inside their premises. This greatly enhances classroom security resulting in fewer thefts and break-ins. Caregivers can be more sure than ever that their children are safe in this regard.
Reflecting on the challenges faced in early childhood care over the past two years, you should feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in both yourself and your staff. Throughout the pandemic, we saw early childhood professionals step up and navigate this global crisis head-on. It was truly inspiring. We know it does not stop here: there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure children are properly cared for and educated in order to grow and succeed in the future.
As the data from the 2021 Childcare Benchmark Report shows, enrollment is looking up for many programs and the majority of centers have returned to in-person learning. While we hope the worst of the pandemic is behind us, there will no doubt be many new challenges for early childhood care professionals in this new normal.