By: Bonnie Azoulay
We’re more than halfway through summer (there’s a month left, but who’s counting?) and parents are still walking a tightrope to ensure their kids are safe while being entertained. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, plenty of kids have gone months in quarantine without seeing their friends and family. But now that states are loosening up their shutdown policies, your children may think it’s time to play without restrictions. Um, please: Not so fast.
COVID-19 is still very real and can spread if children don’t take precautions to ensure they’re social distancing, staying home if someone in the household isn’t feeling well, hanging out in small groups, wearing masks, aiming for outdoor gatherings, etc. They can still have fun together — but their playdate rules will need some tweaking for pandemic safety.
Avoid Eating Snacks Outside
For starters, eat your snacks at home! Prepared and packaged foods are generally safe from spreading COVID-19, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note, but not sharing food is one way to reduce the risk of snacks going from unwashed hands into tiny mouths. So when you’re scheduling playdates, aim for after breakfast or lunch so kids are full and not tempted to snack with friends. If you’re feeling confident they won’t share, pack them their own individual packaged snack and ask the other parents to do the same.
Limit Social Time
Another way to avoid close contact? Plan playdates for a maximum of one hour. The more time children spend together, the more time they have to be in close proximity to each other (and for small social distancing hiccups) — which increases their chance of exposing someone to the virus if one kid is a carrier.
Suggest that kids play games like catch or go for a bike ride together; both of these require minimal contact. Don’t be afraid to call out your child or their friend if you see them getting too close to each other — their safety, your safety, and your family’s safety depend on it. And, of course, when playtime is done make sure everyone thoroughly washes their hands!