TIP SHEET

Preparing Children for Temperature Checks

Students may need to have their temperatures checked as they arrive at school buildings or other public spaces, including childcare centers, doctors’ offices, and recreation facilities. Here are tips to prepare for this new process.

  • Make a plan, so children know what to expect. You can discuss the purpose of the temperature checks and act out the process with toys or dolls. Prepare a simple verbal or visual schedule and positive reinforcements, like earning a sticker, in order to provide structure. This might sound like, “FIRST, wait in line, NEXT temperature check, THEN sticker,” or you can use first/then cards. To learn more about first/then cards, visit: http://bit.ly/nycfirst-then. For more information on using schedules, check out this video from the NYC Department of Education: https://vimeo.com/409818189. The planning process can help if children feel nervous or anxious in the moment.
     
  • Practice. Rehearse temperature checks to normalize the experience. If possible, use different types of thermometers or find out what type of device the school or venue will be using. If a thermometer is not available, use a similarly shaped object to simulate the experience. You also can use Google Images to find pictures of thermometers and temperature checks to visually prepare. Try search terms such as “COVID-19 temperature check” or “Types of thermometers.”
     
  • Do a walkthrough.A rehearsal in the actual setting could be particularly helpful for schools or other places that will be visited regularly. The hands on experience of being in the physical environment, such as the school arrival door, and having the temperature checked can help the child set expectations, establish a routine, and ease anxiety.
     
  • Plan activities. There may be long lines for temperature checks. Objects like stress balls, play-doh, a favorite toy, or a video on a phone or device can be helpful while waiting, especially for those who experience overstimulation or anxiety in crowds. To give them a sense of control, allow children to choose what they would like to bring.
     
  • Check early, check often. If access to a thermometer is possible, establishing an at home routine of temperature checks before leaving home not only assists in normalizing the experience, but also provides a sense of the child’s typical temperature. This helps to identify when their temperature is elevated and when they should stay home. Have a discussion with a pediatrician and school professionals about the temperature thresholds for staying home from school or seeking medical attention. Staying home at the first sign of illness helps to stop the spread of COVID-19.
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