Making a childcare bubble with another household

How you can get informal childcare for anyone under 14 from friends and family you do not live with.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This guidance was withdrawn on 19 July 2021. This page has been withdrawn because it’s no longer current. Read more about how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Applies to England

You no longer need a childcare bubble to provide informal childcare. You can now meet indoors in groups of up to 6 people, or more if everyone present is from 2 households.

You and your childcare bubble count as 2 separate households. This means that you and your childcare bubble cannot meet with another household indoors, unless there are fewer than 6 people in total or another exemption applies.

What a childcare bubble is

If you live in a household with anyone aged under 14, you can form a childcare bubble. This allows friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare. ‘Informal’ childcare means it is unregistered.

You can only form a childcare bubble if you meet certain eligibility rules. Not everyone can form a childcare bubble.

Childcare bubbles are different from support bubbles.

If providing informal childcare within a childcare bubble, you should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus, including washing your hands and opening windows to let in plenty of fresh air.

When providing childcare, it may not always be possible to maintain social distancing. You should still limit close contact as much as possible and take other precautions.

You should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus even if you feel well.

Who can make a childcare bubble

Not everybody can form a childcare bubble. It is against the law to form a childcare bubble if you are not eligible.

To form a childcare bubble, you must live in a household with a child under 14.

You can only have one childcare bubble with one other household at a time. This means no household can be part of more than one childcare bubble. For example, you cannot form a childcare bubble with multiple grandparents who do not live together.

All members of both households must agree to the childcare bubble arrangement. Children who live with a parent or someone with parental responsibility are not required to agree to the childcare bubble arrangement.

How childcare bubbles relate to support bubbles

A childcare bubble is different from a support bubble.

Being in a childcare bubble does not stop you from forming a support bubble if you are eligible. Your support and childcare bubbles do not have to be with the same household.

Unlike childcare bubbles, support bubbles count as 1 household in the 2 household rule. This means you can meet indoors with your childcare and support bubbles at the same time, as part of the 2 household rule.

There are no other types of bubble.

Changing a childcare bubble

Where possible, you should avoid changing your childcare bubble. This will help prevent spreading the virus between households.

You may change your childcare bubble if necessary – for example, if your circumstances or those of your existing childcare bubble change. You may change your childcare bubble provided that:

  • at least one person in the proposed new childcare bubble is under the age of 14

  • neither household is part of a separate childcare bubble which they intend to remain a part of

If you decide to change your childcare bubble, you should stop receiving or providing childcare for a minimum of 10 days from the last contact with members of the bubble. After the 10 days have passed, you can form a new childcare bubble.

If someone in your previous childcare bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus up to 2 days after members of the bubble last met, all members of the bubble should self-isolate for 10 days. You must not form a new bubble until you have completed your self-isolation, to prevent spreading coronavirus to others.

Children turning 14

The childcare bubble only continues while there is anyone aged under 14 within that bubble. A childcare bubble cannot be formed or continue if the only children in the bubble are aged 14 or over.

Once everyone in a household is aged 14 or above, the childcare bubble arrangement must stop.

If your child lives in more than one location

If you share custody of a child with someone you do not live with, the child can move freely between both parents’ households.

You do not need to form a support bubble or childcare bubble to do this.

Each parent can separately form a support bubble and/or a childcare bubble with another household if eligible.

If you or someone in your childcare bubble develop coronavirus symptoms or test positive

If you develop coronavirus symptoms

If you develop symptoms, stay at home and get a test.

You should follow the stay at home guidance. Anyone who lives in your household should also follow the stay at home guidance.

If you develop symptoms, you should alert the members of your bubble or anyone else with whom you have had close contact over the last 2 days. You should tell them that you might have coronavirus but are waiting for a test result.

At this stage (until the test result is known), those people should reduce social contacts and take extra care in practising social distancing and good hygiene, like washing their hands regularly. They should also watch out for their own symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they should follow the stay at home guidance.

If you test positive for coronavirus

If you get a positive test, NHS Test and Trace will contact you and ask you to share information about any close contacts you had just before or after you developed symptoms. You should include the members of your childcare bubble if you had close contact with them during this period.

This is vital to stop the spread of the virus.

If someone else in your bubble develops coronavirus symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus

If someone else in your household develops coronavirus symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, you should follow the stay at home guidance.

If someone in your childcare bubble who you do not live with develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, you should follow the instructions of NHS Test and Trace. If NHS Test and Trace tell you that you are a contact of someone who has tested positive, you must follow their instructions and self-isolate.

There is further guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person.

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable

People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are thought to be at very high risk of serious illness from coronavirus.

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. You are advised to take additional precautions to protect yourself, such as keeping rooms ventilated and washing your hands regularly.

You can still meet with your childcare bubble, or form a childcare bubble, if you are eligible.

Other forms of childcare support

There are several ways that parents, carers and guardians can continue to access childcare:

  • early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) are open for all children

  • supervised activities for children over 5, including wraparound care, which take place indoors or outdoors can be accessed by all children, regardless of need

  • some households will also be eligible to form a support bubble

  • nannies will be able to continue to provide services, including in the home

Published 6 November 2020
Last updated 17 May 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect changes in taking step 3 of the roadmap.

  2. Updated to reflect that indoor and outdoor supervised activities are now open to all children, as previously announced in the government's 'COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021' roadmap.

  3. Updated to reflect new rules on what you can and cannot do from 29 March.

  4. Updated to clarify rules on eligibility for bubbles and advice on self-isolation.

  5. Updated to reflect national lockdown stay at home guidance.

  6. Updated guidance to reflect that the 14-day isolation period is now 10 days.

  7. Updated with clarification of how childcare bubbles work for those in more than one type of bubble, and simplified guidance on travelling to form a childcare bubble.

  8. Added guidance on how to switch your childcare bubble.

  9. First published.