When I was in first grade, I caught hepatitis from a drinking fountain. I had to miss school for nearly 30 days. Let's face it—keeping our kids safe means keeping them healthy too.
I once heard that church nurseries should be the cleanest rooms in the church. And I would have to agree with that. We want to pass on love and God's Word to the future generations. But we don't want to pass on sickness and disease.
One of the primary struggles that children's ministries face is training volunteers to deal with safety issues regarding cleanliness. Consistency for volunteer workers from week to week is difficult. To overcome this, it is vital to have a point person in charge of the nursery who will establish sanitation guidelines and communicate them with all volunteers. Training is essential. And written guidelines should be posted and shared regularly with staff and parents.
So where can you start to ensure a clean nursery in your church?
I have looked at a considerable number of policies that have varying guidelines regarding when children should stay home. Of the policies I looked at, not one had any such warnings about workers. The same rules should apply. In essence, the following should be posted and communicated:
Please refrain from working in the nursery if you are sick. Being sick includes, but is not limited to, the following symptoms:
- Body temperature over 100 degrees
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Undiagnosed rash
- Constant runny nose; yellow or green nasal discharge
- Wet cough that has a discharge
- Generally tired, pale, irritable or restless
For the safety of all children and workers, if a worker or a child is sick, please do not enter the nursery area.
Kids love to crawl. Therefore our floors should be spotless. This means any kind of spill or discharge should be cleaned up immediately with an approved, non-toxic cleaner that is always out of the reach of children.
Further, a regular cleaning is required. Some churches have a small steam cleaner they clean the carpets with on a weekly basis. You may not do that at home, but when you've got dozens of children playing on the floor, this extra step is like preventive medicine.
Toys, Surfaces, and Covers
All surfaces that have been touched by a child should be cleaned. This means changing tables, toys, crib rails, everything. Again, this should be done with an authorized purchased cleaning or bleach solution. These areas should be cleaned constantly. A single toy might be touched and mouthed dozens of times each day. Have sanitizing wipes on hand at all times. Changing tables, toilets, swings, mats, trays and chairs should be cleaned after every use. In addition, sheets and blankets should not be used by more than one child. Therefore, extra sets of clean linens should always be on hand.
Not only should children always wash their hands after restroom use, but workers should as well. If there is a sink in the room, warm water, disinfectant soap and/or hand cleaner, and clean towels should be used by workers after every diaper change, nose wipe, or any other cleaning function. You may even want to consider sanitized, disposable gloves. Guidelines should be posted. Further, eating of food by workers is not recommended in the same area where the children are.
Garbage and Soiled Items
All garbage and disposable items should be placed in a covered, lined trash can. Diapers that are soiled should be placed inside another plastic bag and tied up and placed inside the covered waste can. Always keep such cans out of the reach of children, and the cans should be emptied after each session. Remember, always wash your hands according to the guidelines after handling diapers and garbage.
Communication is Key
Never grow weary of sharing proper procedures and reminding workers of their responsibility to practice them. Always have someone in charge that will be diligent in keeping continual safe and sanitary practices in place, regardless of how many volunteers you use. If you are still not sure what to include in your policy, check with your state childcare guidelines and follow them.