will be allowed on birthday cakes in childcare centres under a new hygiene regulations (not guidelines) put out by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
They are also stating that all toys, cushions, and floors must be washed every day. Door handles must be "disinfected". If children play in the sandpit then they must have their hands washed in "sanitiser" both before and after they play there.
The NHMRC has also added to the regulations governing sick children. They, rather than the doctor, will now decide when a child can return to day care.
All this, reported in this morning's paper, will add immeasurably to the amount of work already done by child care centres - although I suspect that the floors in any reputable child care centre are washed everyday. It will also add to the pressure they are under as parents (also under pressure to go to work) will want their children cared for. It will also add to the pressure some grandparents and other carers are under to take over the care of a child who is deemed not well enough to attend day care.
As regular blog readers will know my father had his great-grandchildren here over the past weekend, They are still very young. One of them, aged ten months, has just started to go to day care for two days a week.
He is also teething.
"Of course he has picked up a cold," his mother told me. She was not disturbed by this. "He has to develop some immunity to this sort of thing."
She was concerned for him but not worried. Her view, like that of her sister-in-law (mother of the other two great-grandchildren) is that "a little dirt is natural". Their children are not, thankfully, going to grow up in a sanitised environment. Their clothes are bought with the idea that they will get dirty when they are playing. They are allowed to explore their environment. Their parents are watchful but they do not hover.
Of course there will be issues from time to time. Their parents are not perfect any more than I am the perfect aunt or their own parents are perfect grandparents. Nevertheless they are doing well at the very difficult job of being parents.They do not expect that their children will never be ill or suffer from the minor bumps, bruises and grazes of a normal childhood.
The NHMRC guidelines seem to suggest an entirely different sort of childhood. It is coming closer and closer to "bubble wrap". It is coming closer and closer to "sit still and learn but do not do". It is taking much of the fun out of childhood.
Going to day care is now considered the norm. Stay-at-home mothers are frowned upon. The government expects both parents to go to work. More and more guidelines are being imposed. We all need to know the limits if we are to live with other people but do these go too far?
The eldest granddaughter was given a sweet on Saturday afternoon. I am advised she put it in her mouth and sucked it for a while. Then she took it out and dropped it on the lawn. She picked it up again and looked at it. Then she carefully wiped off some dirt by rubbing it on the brick surround of the nearby garden bed and put the sweet back in her mouth.
There could be few less hygienic things to do. She suffered no ill-effects at all.