TORONTO -- When child care centres in Ontario resume operation on Friday, the experience for children will be remarkably different.

Caregivers will be required to screen for COVID-19 symptoms, wear masks and prevent children from sharing toys with one another.

The Ontario’s ministry of education released a set of operational guidelines for the province's 5,400 daycare centres and has promised fines of up to $3,000 per child, per day if a facility is caught breaking rules designed to keep children and staff safe. 

Arriving at the daycare

When families arrive at the child care facility, they'll be greeted by caregivers, who will wait behind a plexiglass barrier and will wear personal protective equipment, which could include surgical masks and face shields. 

Everyone, from children, staff and child care providers will be screened before entering the facility, which could include a daily temperature check. 

Staff would be required to keep a daily log of arrival and departure times and screen results as well as contact information to help with contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. 

Entering the daycare facility

Guidance documents provided by the ministry say childcare operators should limit all non-essential visitors to the facility and parents should not be allowed to go beyond the screening area and into the building. 

To ensure physical distancing between groups of children, caregivers are being told to stagger entrance times or designate a door for each child and alternate between children entering the facility.

Parents are also being told to limit their child's personal belongings – including backpacks, clothing and other non-essential items – which would eliminate a parent's need to enter the daycare. 

Inside the facility

Once inside, children will be separated into groups of 10, including caregivers, and will have to stay with that group both inside and outside for the remainder of the day. They will not be allowed to mix with other groups. 

While caregivers are being told to maintain a "welcoming and caring environment" for children, they will also be expected to keep groups of children separated as much as possible including during mealtime and playtime. 

The province says daycare operators should also designate toys for each room, disinfect shared equipment or toys between children and avoid using plush toys which can't be easily disinfected. 

During meals, children will be required to practice physical distancing and will not be allowed to share food, utensils or any other items such as a serving spoons or salt shakers. 

During naptime cots or resting mats should be separated to maintain physical distancing requirements and if that isn't possible children should sleep "head to toe or toe to toe."

Staff are also being advised by the province to hold as many activities outside and to avoid any singing activities indoors. 

Interaction with caregivers

Infants and toddlers will still be allowed to have a high degree of physical interaction with caregivers.

For example, daycare staff will be allowed to hold milk bottles for infants who are unable to grip the bottle on their own and change diapers and clean children who are unable to do so themselves. 

Caregivers will also be allowed to hold infants and toddlers, as long as they use a blanket or cloth as a barrier between themselves and the child. 

What happens if a child is sick

The province says anyone with mild symptoms of COVID-19 – even symptoms that resemble a cold – should stay away from a child care centre, including staff, parents and children. 

While children will be monitored for typical symptoms of the virus – fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, headache, and a general feeling of being unwell – they will also be watched for atypical symptoms including abdominal pain, conjunctivitis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rash. 

If a child falls ill while still at the daycare, staff will have to isolate them from the rest of their group, the child may be required to wear a mask if they're above the age of two, and a parent will be called immediately.

Any item a sick child or staff member interacted with during the day would need to be cleaned and stored in a sealed container for a minimum of a week. 

Premier Doug Ford said on Tuesday that a single case of COVID-19 would be enough to shut down an entire room or facility for cleaning and proper contact tracing. Ford also said parents will ultimately make the final decision as to whether a child should be swabbed for the virus. 

Cleaning of facility

At the end of the day, after children have been picked up, daycare operators will be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting the entire facility and will have to keep a log of the work. 

The province says frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, water fountain knobs, light switches, toilet and faucet handles, electronic devices and tabletops, should be cleaned and disinfected twice a day.