Summer Activities for Kids: Staying Safe During COVID-19
Tips on how to keep your little ones safe while they're out and about this summer.
If there’s anyone that’s excited to get outside and play this summer, it is a kid that’s been stuck in a pandemic-mandated quarantine. School is officially out, and with that parents are left scratching their heads as to what summer activities are allowed in this COVID-19 reality.
Experts weigh in
Getting outside, having social interaction, and being active are all essential for a child’s physical and mental health. However, social distancing measures have parents questioning what that looks like in summer 2020. Play dates and social distancing are at odds with each other, Harvard Medical School recognizes, but cautiously offers exceptions if friends are reasonably healthy and haven’t had contact with any known COVID-19 patients. Even then, outdoor meet-ups are preferable.
Paediatricians are calling for relaxed social distancing for children, in advance of September’s start to the school year. Ronald Cohn, the president of Toronto’s SickKids hospital, is concerned that social distancing outside will have the “potential to take away some of the positive experiences that our kids need in school.” However, there is still no conclusive guidance on how and what summer play looks like — it remains largely up to parents.
Remember that when it comes to COVID-19, we are still all learning how to navigate the pandemic. Masks and hand sanitizers are recommended by researchers, who also remind parents that 100% compliance by children may not be realistic. Instead, aim to be “thoughtfully intentional” about who your child plays with, what type of activity they are doing, and how to get them ready.
Plan for play
The pandemic has taught us to be prepared: masks, sanitizers, and a checklist of symptoms. When coming up with outdoor activities for kids, the same follows suit: be prepared. Educating your kids about what social distancing is (2 metres distance from others) and why it is important (to keep away from germs) is great. Better is to consistently review the importance of hand washing, as well as how to properly use a mask and hand sanitizer.
As for what is allowed and what isn’t, guidelines are still evolving. The type of play and relationship with other families should allow parents to make an informed choice about what activities their child engages in. Ontario’s recent introduction of a 10-person social circle now makes it possible for households to bring others into their bubble, opening up potential playdate partners for non-social distancing fun.
Still unclear? Chat with other families to see what their household COVID-19 protocols are, as well as their risk tolerance. Having an open and honest conversation about approaches to the pandemic is helpful in understanding how a possible playdate may look like, if you feel comfortable. Things to cover include where kids may play (outdoors over indoors), who is wearing masks (everyone is ideal), how long to play (shorter is better for reducing contact), what to do about food (2 metres apart is still recommended at mealtime), and supervision plans (to ensure rules are followed). In the midst of discussing pandemic approaches, make sure you also have a chat about standard child safety, ensuring everyone is on the same page about issues such as access to pools or helmet use.
If things still feel uncertain, there are options that allow for a fun summer, socially distanced. This may include options over FaceTime, more family time, or socially distanced activities. Kids thrive with routine and exciting activities to anticipate, helping them cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic. Soaking up the summer is an essential way of instilling some normalcy, even if it is a bit closer to home and family-oriented this year.
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Getting outside is the best way to experience summer, and that is one of the best places to be during COVID-19. No matter what you’ve decided about social interactions with other families, there is still plenty to do.
The good news? Pools are considered low risk for virus transmission, just be cautious about contact with surfaces like deck chairs, around the pool. Biking is okay, but should be at a distance if done with other kids or families. If open, public play structures may not be disinfected regularly, so sticking close to home is advisable.
Craving crafts for kids? Check out Backyard Camp, a free newsletter with weekly activities for children. Adventurous types can design a neighbourhood scavenger hunt for the entire community — perfect for social distancing! Pick a clear evening to host a movie night: project a kid favourite on the side of the house, and invite families to sit on their own blanket, 2 metres apart.
Issue a challenge to local kids to participate in a talent show; a great way to showcase ideas while respecting social distancing. Summer is a good time to work on letter writing through pen pals, or hosting get-togethers virtually. Check out your city’s online activities for fun game ideas, or plan a local day trip around your community.
Make it a summer to remember
The global pandemic may feel never-ending, but it offers an opportunity to get creative with your summer plans. Kids may pick up on what is different from previous years, but change doesn’t have to be negative. Create a list of activities you feel safe doing, and make them count — this can be a summer to remember, just because of all the fun you’ve had.