The crucial closeness: Reorganizing childcare centres in safety (RioNi)

The project founded by the Italian Ministry of Research and University (MUR) aims to build a prototype of actions/conditions for reorganizing childcare centre activities, a privileged context for the development of cognitive, emotional and social skills, after Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered face-to-face interaction with the caregivers, through the coordination of gaze, facial and vocal expressions, which is foundational for the development of secure attachment and emotion regulation, cognitive and social abilities and psychological health and wellbeing.

The project idea is based on 4 innovative elements:

  • a outdoor space (a glasshouse equipped with childcare centre materials) where the child can be involved in outdoor activities as a measure to reduce stress and boost different dimensions of child development;
  • educators’ use of transparent masks, to make their facial expression and lips visible to promote emotion regulation and language acquisition
  • monitoring of safety conditions managed by a pediatrician/infectious disease specialist through (a) specific training for the educators, (b) information meetings for families, (c) increase in risk-prevention measures;
  • enhanced attention to children by increasing the number of caregivers: from 1 every 5-6 children to 1 every 3 with the youngest ones, by involving qualified Master’s students in Education Sciences as an integrative resource (with credit recognition).

To achieve the expected prototype a target group of 4 chilcare centres (2 in each of the towns involved in the project:  Verona and Bari, for a total of about 100 children) and a control group of 4 other childcare centres (2 in Verona and 2 in Bari) will be involved. Before starting the pilot experimentation (T0) and 4 months later (T1) in all the target and control childcare centres, data will be collected on: (a) children’s emotional regulation and language acquisition; (b) children’s, educators’ and parental distress/wellbeing; (c) socio-sanitary measures indicative of possible benefits/inconveniences (absences from the childcare centre, number and type of diseases). A range of methodologies such as questionnaires, behavioral indicators and physiological indicators will be used.


Covid-19 pandemic; stress; emotional development; language development; outdoor activities; safety conditions management; transparent masks

Principal Investigator

Manuela Lavelli, University of Verona

Project Participants


12 months (September 2021- )