Children are likely to spend less time inside and more time playing outside creches, once early learning and day-care centres begin reopening tomorrow.
Creches have remained shut since March due to Covid-19 restrictions - but almost 1,700 centres throughout the country are expected to commence reopening this week. However, many will make changes to protect staff, children, families and help limit the spread of the virus.
Early Childhood Ireland CEO Teresa Heeney said reopening this week provides creches with an opportunity to adjust and embrace new methods.
She says many will embrace outdoor play as they adapt to new pressures brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.
"Usually about 1,800 services are open in the summer providing full day care. The latest figures show 85pc of those will open," she said.
"Everything we hear from public health guidance for all of us, adults and children, is to be outside as much as possible - and for all kinds of reasons this is much better for kids.
"There are health benefits because there is more physical activity and far less stress when they are outside."
How these centres cope over the next eight weeks will determine how other creches will return later in the year. She believes another 2,800 centres, which traditionally operate in conjunction with the traditional school year, will return in September if it is financially viable for them to do so.
Changes to people's living circumstances due to the crisis and school holidays mean most creches only expect to be at 50pc capacity when they reopen this week. However, Heeney anticipates this number will rise because she expects to see growth in confidence in the sector and its ability to adapt.
"When children are being changed and so on, our staff have to wear aprons and gloves anyway, so a lot of the health measures seen elsewhere can be quite normal for us. For parents, it will look like enhanced procedures but procedures they are already quite familiar with and hopefully then they will have the confidence to come back.
"We believe it is important to closely monitor what is happening in these first eight weeks because how this period goes will have implications for the other 2,800 due to open at the end of August."
A €75m support package has been made available to help businesses cope with additional cost around training, learning resources, and hygiene products.
Creche owner Sharon Skehill, in Abbeyknockmoy, Co Galway, said there will be a greater emphasis on outdoor play as her Willows Preschool and Newtown Kid Club returns this week. She has made some changes to help children and parents who are on site spend more time outside.
"We have had to make very few changes but the main noticeable one is that handovers will now happen outside. People used to come to the door and ring the bell but now the kids will be brought to one of the outdoor spaces instead. Outdoor play will be a greater part of what we do and that's an opportunity to embrace."
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