Guide to Pandemic Pods

Wondering how to set up a pandemic pod, learning pod or play pod? Pods can offer much needed structure, socialization, and educational help when in-person school is limited, or provide an alternative to day care, during COVID-19.

Here's a step-by-step guide with pod best practices, average pod sitter pay rates, and helpful tips for parents and pod sitters.

Step 1: Forming your podStep 2: Finding your pod sitterStep 3: Best practices for running your pod

What is a pod?

With many schools across the U.S. not reopening full-time for the school year, families have started to form “pods” to fill the gaps in child supervision, education, enrichment, and socialization. A “play pod,” “learning pod,” or “pandemic pod” typically consists of a group of 3-6 children who gather regularly to learn and play as an adult facilitates and supervises the group.

Pandemic pods are being formed for a variety of needs—as a supplement to distance learning for elementary school children, as a potentially safer alternative to day care or preschool for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and as a microschool with a certified teacher to replace traditional school.

Step 1: Forming your pod

Start by forming a small group with like-minded families who have children of similar ages and ideally attend the same school and live nearby. It is crucial that all families are aligned on expectations for conduct within their pod as well as outside of the pod.

Many families choose to formalize their pod member rules into a written “pod agreement” that outlines the group's expectations for health, safety, education, logistics, and finances—for example whether or not daily temperature checks should be required, disclosure of the people they have been around, and what they will do if someone in the pod contracts COVID-19. The CDC has helpful tips, guidelines, and printables for schools and child care.

Pod agreements typically address topics including:
  • Where will the pod meet?
  • Who will provide the supplies?
  • What safety precautions will each family take?
  • What safety precautions will the sitter take?
  • What safety precautions will the children be expected to follow?
  • What curriculum do we expect the sitter to cover?
  • What other responsibilities will the sitter have?
  • What are we willing to pay?
  • How will we manage disagreements between families?
  • How will we address conflict between children?
  • How will we provide and receive feedback from the pod sitter?
  • What happens if a child is absent? Will the family still pay?
  • What happens if the pod sitter is absent?
  • Does our pod structure align with CDC and local licensing ordinances?
  • Is there a leader of the pod who will coordinate schedules, payment, required insurance and communication?

Step 2: Finding your pod sitter

First, determine what you are looking for in a pod sitter and how much you're willing to pay. If your pod is academically focused, you may want a sitter with a teacher or tutor background and credentials, which will come with a higher pay rate. You can also expect to pay more per child if your children are very young or if there are fewer children in your pod.

Next, use a child care site like UrbanSitter to find your pod sitter. UrbanSitter makes it easy to find background-checked, qualified candidates with new tools including COVID-19 related screening questions and advanced search filters for type of teaching experience.

Podding Up With UrbanSitter

$10-15/hr per child
$10-15/hr per child
Average rate for pod sitter
20 sitters
20 sitters
Average # of applicants for pod sitter jobs on UrbanSitter
# of sitters that offer tutoring or homework help on UrbanSitter

Tips for pod sitter job descriptions:

  • Be clear on the number of children and families, length of commitment, hours, location and rate
  • Detail the job responsibilities and expectations
  • Share ages and grade levels of the children
  • Disclose any learning disabilities or special circumstances
  • Share information about the curriculum that will be covered and/or any expectations around the sitter creating the curriculum
  • Indicate what type of interaction, if any, the children will have with their primary school (video classes, assignments from teachers, online tools, etc.)
  • Describe the learning space and supplies that will be provided
  • Explain if parents or other adults will be in the home during pod hours
  • Disclose COVID-19 requirements and commitments to safety

Sample pod sitter job description post:

Our group of three families is looking for a tutor to help our three first graders 5 days a week in a “pod”. All three kids are well-behaved and get along. Note: One child has mild dyslexia, so experience with that is a plus! The kids are distance learning with their curriculum from Washington Elementary School.

All of our families live in the same neighborhood and we'll set up a learning space in my backyard. You'll be provided with all supplies and a picnic table. Each child will have a tablet with wifi. My husband and I will be home but we will stay inside of our office while you're here. Parents will drop off their kids at 9 am and pick them up at 3 pm.

COVID testing & safety: We'll ask you to follow CDC guidelines and check your temperature every morning before coming. We'll also pay for your regular testing and add you to our UrbanSitter family plan for test & symptom monitoring.

Step 3: Best practices for running your pod

Pods are unique child care situations that require different, but not difficult maintenance. Here are a few key tips for success:

Establish structure. Work with the pod sitter to come up with a schedule and routine that is approved and adhered to by all families.

Give the pod enough space. It can be disruptive when parents come and go from the learning or child care area. It's important to ensure your children are trusting and respectful of the pod sitter, and children's behavior often changes when their parent enters the scene.

Invest in safety tools. Consider purchases that make maintaining safety easier such as a quick-read, no-touch thermometer for checking temperatures.

Schedule regular check-ins with your pod sitter to talk about how things are going, what needs to be adjusted, and to give and receive feedback. Be sure to coordinate in advance with the other pod families about how and when feedback will be shared to ensure the pod sitter isn't receiving conflicting feedback from the different families.

Provide school supplies and regularly replenish as needed. Also, don't forget about household supplies such as tissues, toilet paper, and disinfecting wipes.

Check regularly that you are complying with your state and county's COVID-19 and child care licensing policies.

Ready to set up your play or learning pod?