Playdates: Can Kids Safely Meet Up?
rior to our community-wide March 2020 shutdown, parents and caregivers had busy calendars. Organized sports, school clubs, music lessons, library groups, daycare, before care, after care, summer camp, family holidays and birthday parties made up the bulk of our daily lives. Then, the pandemic forced families to shelter in place.
Prior to our community-wide March 2020 shutdown, parents and caregivers had busy calendars. Organized sports, school clubs, music lessons, library groups, daycare, before care, after care, summer camp, family holidays and birthday parties made up the bulk of our daily lives. Then, the pandemic forced families to shelter in place. The first few weeks at home was a novelty (even a break!) from previously hectic schedules. However, now that summer is full swing, parents are concerned about their children’s loneliness, as sports/clubs/parties continue to be put on hold while distance learning has ceased due to the summer break. For those with children under the age of three, the worry is whether or not their children need more socialization to develop age-appropriate skills. Conversely, families with school-aged children struggle with the decision to accept invitations out, as they weigh the pros and cons of COVID19 exposure versus boredom.
The good news is that your relationship with your child, and the quality of the relationships between your child and other adult caregivers, is more important to their mental health than any social interaction outside of the home. The key to reducing isolation while avoiding unnecessary exposure lies in regular contact via phone, text, audio messages, video calls or even snail mail with friends and family that were previously a regular part of your child’s day. For example, have your child write or draw with sidewalk chalk at the end of your neighbor’s driveway if you previously would stop there and visit. Have a cousin or grandparent listen via video chat to your child reading a story aloud. Practice waving as a safer way of saying hello, instead of high fives or hugs. Your ability creatively maintain relationships with others virtually supersedes any successful in-person playdate.
If you’ve exhausted all virtual options and are planning an in-person play date, then confirm that no one in either household has been tested for COVID19 in the last two weeks.
If no one has been exposed recently, then safely socializing depends on all adults and children (over the age of two) consistently wearing a cloth mask when within 6 feet of each other. Strive to play outside! If swimming, maintain a distance of 6 feet apart on the pool deck and in the water. If you need to be indoors, wear a cloth mask at all times, sanitize frequently touched surfaces, restrict the children to one area of the house and open windows if possible. Limit play to items that are easily cleaned, either in a bleach solution or in the dishwasher, once the visit is over. If you are the guest, consider bringing your own supplies (crayons, bubbles, sports equipment) to reduce sharing of common items. As always, using soap and water for 20 seconds or hand sanitizer before and after using the bathroom, eating or when moving from one activity to another is paramount.
As the battle against the spread of the virus continues, it is clear that keeping your child isolated from all other people is unrealistic. Clear communication between adults prior to in-person play dates, plus the understanding that everyone must wear a mask when within 6 feet of each other, will significantly reduce anxiety on both sides and allow for your child to play safely.
Dayna Nethercott, PA-C has been a pediatric provider for 12 years at the Center for Pediatric Medicine, and she is the mother of two young boys, who love play dates. CPM is located at 107 Newtown Rd #1D, Danbury, CT 06810. For more information, please call (203) 790-0822 or visit https://centerforpediatricmedct.com