Playdough and sand will be banned, one of the UK’s largest nursery chains says as it prepares to reopen

Camilla Turner
Toddlers subject to temperature checks on arrival at nursery

Playdough and sand are to be banned with toddlers subject to temperature checks on arrival, one of the UK’s largest nursery chains has said as it prepares to open next week.

Children will be taught in “small friendship groups” to minimise the risk of transmission, according to Marg Randles, the founder of Busy Bees which runs 378 nurseries in the UK and Ireland.

“We are going to be looking at reducing the group size and have children working in small friendship groups,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Hand washing and temperature checks will be taken in the morning and throughout the day.”

Asked whether there will be any activities that children will not be allowed to do, Ms Randles said that initially playdough, sand and water-based games will all be banned.  

“We have already started to think about how we can use those things safely and we have our academic team and our safety team looking at ways that we can introduce waterm” she said. “

We will absolutely make sure that it's safe if we introduce these things but we are not going to do that until we have been operating for a few weeks or a month so we can assess how things go.”

The Government has asked nurseries to re-open from June 1, and has published detailed guidelines about how to limit the transmission of Covid-19.

These include limiting class sizes to a maximum of 15 children, and removing soft furnishing and toys that cannot be easily washed.

Nursery bosses have previously warned that a crisis is looming, after one in six childcare providers have said they intend to permanently close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The sector was already “on its knees” before the outbreak of Covid-19 and is now being pushed over the edge, according to Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance which represents 14,000 nurseries and childminders.  

A survey of over 2,000 early years providers found that 15.5 per cent intend to remain permanently closed following lockdown.

The poll, conducted by the UK’s biggest online childcare platform childcare.co.uk, found that only half (50.6 per cent) planned to stay open, with the remaining third saying they had not yet decided either way.

Nurseries closed five weeks ago at the same time as schools to all but the children of key workers and the most vulnerable youngsters. But sector leaders say that a lack of demand even among these groups means that most have shut up shop entirely.