Ratios, Masks, and Social Distancing

Information for following COVID-19 mask and social distancing guidance
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The ratios for centers and family child care programs have returned to what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no longer restrictions on group size or mixing, however, keeping groups separate is the best way to ensure a program is able to continue operating in the event of a positive case of COVID-19.

Additionally, there is no longer a social distancing requirement. There are social distancing recommendations when masks are not being worn. Please see below.

Masks and Protective Wear

There is new guidance for mask wearing and social distancing in child care programs.


  • Masks are required indoors for everyone in an early learning program, even people who are fully vaccinated. This includes staff, children, and parents.
  • When masks are not worn indoors (while eating, drinking, and sleeping), six feet of social distancing is recommended.


  • Masks are required for staff, children, or parents when outdoors and physically distancing is not feasible, except when eating or drinking
  • Six feet of social distancing between staff and children when outdoors is recommended. 

The L.A. County Department of Public Health has created signs to post in your program to let staff, families, and visitors know that masks are still required indoors.

These signs are available in multiple languages.

Mask Guidance:

Photo courtesy of Esperanza Melo
Photo courtesy of Esperanza Melo


  • Site must provide face coverings for staff.
  • All staff must wear surgical grade masks or higher-level protection (KN-95 or N-95 respirator mask). Cloth masks are no longer acceptable.
  • A clean mask or face coverings should be worn each day. 


The required mask type should be well-fitted to your face with a nose wire

  • Staff should change clothes whenever bodily secretions land on the fabric. Staff can wear nursing scrubs, aprons, or extra clothing on top of their regular clothes.


  • Infants and toddlers: Children under 24 months old should not wear face coverings.
  • Preschoolers: Children who are 24 months through 8 years old should wear face coverings indoors. Teachers should supervise children to make sure they can breathe safely and avoid choking or suffocation. It is recommended, but not required, that children wear upgraded, non-cloth masks.
  • Children with breathing problems should not wear cloth face coverings.


  • Families must wear masks when inside the program.
Best Practices


  • When mask wearing, exaggerate facial expressions with eyes and body gestures.
  • Create buttons with pictures of the teachers’ and assistants’ smiling faces for them to wear.
  • Invite staff to design their own protective wear.

Children and families

  • Encourage children 24 months to five years old to wear face coverings—be positive!
  • Help children decorate extra face coverings. For example, they could decorate their mask to look like their favorite book character or favorite animal. They can use the decorated mask as their persona for dramatic play.
  • Use gentle approaches and positive re-direction to reinforce mask wearing, such as “Remember to hide your nose!” and “Wearing a mask makes you a superhero!”
  • Be positive with parents/caregivers and children about mask wearing.
Ideas for Your Program

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Bulletin board about masks

Social Distancing

There is updated guidance on social distancing in child care. Programs are recommended to maintain social distancing when masks are not being worn. 


  • It is recommended to keep 6 feet of distance between children and staff when unmasked during eating, drinking, and sleeping.


  • It is recommended to keep 3 feet of social distancing between children and staff when unmasked while outdoors. 


Think about how to include children putting on and taking off masks in the transition between inside and outside activities.

Best Practices

Program set-up

  • Organize the spaces where children eat, drink, and sleep to put six feet between children.
  • Use your outdoor space as much as possible for children’s work and play.
  • For outdoor activities, use colorful and fun items as floor markers spaced 3 feet apart, so children know where to sit or stand.
  • Use gentle approaches and positive redirection to reinforce physical distancing, such as, “Show me your airplane arms!”
  • Children with special healthcare needs continue to be at higher risk. Consult with their parents to identify risks and develop protective strategies. These may include modifications in programming, special training for you and staff, or other steps.

Staff Area Set-up

The recommendation is to allow at least six feet between staff when eating or drinking. You can:

  • Stagger break or meal times to reduce occupancy in break rooms or areas
  • Place tables six feet apart and ensure six feet between seats by:
    • Removing or taping off seats to reduce occupancy,
    • Placing markings on floors to ensure distancing, and
    • Arranging seating in a way that minimizes face-to face contact.

Post signs informing staff of the risk of COVID-19 due to shared mealtimes and breaks.

Marked floor to show where to stand
Courtesy of Tuvia School

Preschool classroom set-up

  • Let children decorate and personalize their workstations.
  • Place outdoor crates made from safe and durable materials 6 feet apart. Each child can use one crate for pretend play (i.e. cars, trucks, trains).

Infant/toddler classroom set-up

  • Set up stations or individual containers of materials for infants to manipulate and play with independently.
  • Give infants and toddlers individual plastic storage bins of toys and manipulatives. Let them reach into the bins to explore and find toys.
  • For shared items: Clean and disinfect all manipulatives, sandbox toys, play surfaces and indoor and outdoor learning equipment between each child playing with them.
Toddler activity station
Courtesty of Mylo Family Child Care
Ideas for Your Program

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