The UV Cube for Home Child Care–An option for sterilizing toys, masks, and other small items!
Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW
I want to share this story with you–not to push or promote a product, but because I love that in addition to having a practical purpose, this is also a story about community support and the full-circle impact of the child-family-caregiver relationship.
When you run a home daycare, the stress and worry associated with keeping everyone safe and healthy doesn’t end at 5pm when the last of your littles is picked up for the day. In addition to the daily thoughts and concerns (Did I apply enough sunscreen? What shall we have for lunch? Are they drinking enough water? Is that a new bug bite?), much of the preparation and planning occurs “after hours”. Once again, health and safety are never far from thought—general home maintenance, yard upkeep, vehicle safety checks, toy repairs, grocery purchases, meal planning, cleaning, thinking about outings and activities, setting up your space to inspire and nurture exploration, learning, and growth…phew! As you know, the list is endless.
Now, with COVID-19 lurking in the community, this stress and worry has been amplified to induce a hyper-vigilance—not only in constant screening for signs and symptoms of illness, but in cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing. This is true for both home child care and larger centre-based care. Striving to meet Ministry of Education and Public Health guidelines, lots of research has been done, and many new policies and procedures have been put in place.
For the Independent Professional Caregiver, this has fallen squarely on your shoulders. When to clean, what to clean, how to clean, what to use, where to buy it, how much does it cost, is it safe–so many valid questions—most of which will only be answered in time, through trial and error. What works for your family, your home, and your business may or may not work for others.
So how can you support your fellow caregiver and the general business of home child care? By sharing information and ideas. What have you tried? How has it worked? What do you like about it?
Recently, CCPRN member Gwenäelle shared with me a new addition to her home daycare: The UV Cube. This innovative bit of technology sterilizes items (think toys, re-usable masks, cell phones, and more!) using ultraviolet light.
Assembled by the Woodroofe High School Robotics Club, the UV Cube credit goes to FIRST Team 1305 for researching and designing the prototype meant for use in small businesses and organizations. FRIST Team 1305 is a competitive student robotics team (STUDENTS!!) from North Bay. Currently, they have two models being used in the North Bay Regional Health Centre (in the emergency and intensive care departments)—so cool. Once they had the design worked out, FIRST Team 1305 shipped out free kits to student groups wanting to build one (or more) for their own community—again, so cool.
When the Woodroofe HS Robotics Club was looking for a recipient for one of their assembled UV Cubes, one student and his mom, thought about their former caregiver Gwenäelle. A little pause here to acknowledge how awesome and influential their relationship with Gwen must have been in order to think of her so many years later. Knowing that she runs her own home daycare and also volunteers to coordinate a community playgroup, they thought that Gwen would make an ideal recipient.
Gwen’s UV Cube, provided and assembled by the Woodroffe High School Robotics Club, included on top are the instructions and safety warnings.
The UV Cube ready to go–filled with cell phones, wooden toys, felt pieces, and other hard to clean items.
Although the initial “Build a UV Sterilizer Cart to Help Your Community” project is now closed, FIRST Team 1305 has published the DIY Build Instructions, Part Lists, Safety Warnings, Operating Instructions, and more—with the idea that “it could be made by any clever teenager as a home project during the quarantine, and the parts are all obtainable locally or online.” (Anyone have a teenager or two to spare?). A quick look at the parts list (6 items only for prototype #2) says that the materials cost would be around $370.
So, the big question—how does it work? It’s easy-peasy. You pop in your items, close the panel, plug it in and turn it on. Looking for a scientific explanation? Here’s what FIRST Team 1305 has to say: “It is a known fact that UV sterilization has been found to be extremely effective and can kill over 99% of viruses, bacteria, and fungi in an extremely short amount of time. This UV Cube has been designed and tested by members FIRST Team 1305 to fill the current need during the COVID-19 pandemic to sterilize personal protective equipment and personal Items.” While not yet approved by any regulatory agency the UV Cube’s purpose is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 by sterilizing items quicker than simply letting them “sit”. You can read up on the nitty-gritty here: https://www.team1305.org/diy-uv-sterilizer-cart.
Operating Instructions recommend that items are sterilized for 20 minutes to be sure “all bacteria, viruses, molds, and other pathogens are killed.”– Gwenäelle runs her unit for 30 minutes to be extra-safe.
What goes in her UV Cube you ask?
- Wooden toys
- Felt pieces
- Her cell phone
- Baby dolls
- Other hard to clean items
It’s a fair-sized cart (although small and light enough for her to move around) but since all surfaces need access to the UV light, you can’t stack items on top of each other. Although it certainly doesn’t replace the general household/daycare cleaning and disinfecting required to keep COVID-19 at bay, it definitely makes it easier and quicker for those harder to clean toys and/or items used daily. As Gwenäelle notes, allowing the children access to felt stories and soft toys and being able to put them back into circulation the next day is very valuable—both for the caregiver and the children. She has used her unit several times in a day, but never when the children are there. It is an electrical appliance with a fragile UV bulb, and it can be harmful to look at the UV light directly so she takes all precautions and only uses it once the children have left.
Is it the perfect home daycare solution to cleaning and disinfection? No, of course not. Is it helpful? Gwen says for her, yes– it is, and so we share the idea with you.
Maybe you will want to learn more about UV sterilization, or about FIRST Team 1305 in general. Maybe you will research and source out a ready-made version or maybe you are like me and have a teenager that you hope will get to work on building one for home and/or daycare use 😊.
Have you found a product you love or have you creatively adapted your home child care services to help meet the demands of living and working during the COVID-19 pandemic? If you have something you’d like to share please send me an email ([email protected]) and tell me all about it!