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How to Safely Take Kids to the Playground

I cannot tell you that by going to a playground right now, you or your child aren’t exposing yourselves to at least some risk of contracting COVID-19. But I see you out there, parents of little kids who are desperate to get them out of the house and burn off some of their energy. If you’ve been debating whether or not to venture out to a playground, there are some precautions you can take to make the outing safer. © Photo: txking (Shutterstock)

Remember that risk is a spectrum

We’ve mentioned before that it’s helpful to think of risk as a spectrum. Going to a crowded indoor bar to drink and socialize all night presents much more risk than going on a physically distanced walk outdoors with a friend—with a range of other activities in-between. Generally, being outdoors is safer than being indoors. Being distanced from others is better than not. Those living with someone who is high risk face different considerations than those who don’t. And living in an area with a surging number of cases makes basically anything riskier.

All of these considerations should be factored into any outing you take in order to help you further reduce your risk. In this case, you’ll want to choose a playground that is, ideally, empty or—at the very least—not crowded. If you can get there first thing in the morning, its many kid-touched surfaces will have been sitting overnight, which may reduce the possibility of picking up germs from the swings or monkey bars.

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Take the usual precautions

By now, we know what these are, right? Wearing masks and washing or sanitizing our hands and avoiding touching our faces: these are basic ways to protect ourselves—and each other—from the coronavirus.

So, wash your hands and your kid’s hands before you go out and sanitize or wash them as soon as possible after they’re done playing (if you have any, consider carrying sanitizer with you to use periodically as they play). Wear a mask and have your child wear a mask (unless they are under age 2). Avoid eating snacks while you’re there—or be sure to sanitize or wash their hands thoroughly before they eat.

You may also consider bringing along a change of clothes for them in case you feel they’re had too much potential exposure. Alternately, have them bathe or change clothes as soon as they get home.

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Go ahead and hover

Normally, I’m pretty anti-helicopter parenting. But if ever there is a time to hover, it is while allowing your young child to play amongst other young children during a pandemic. Dr. Amina Ahmed explains why to PopSugar:

“You can have your child go down the slide but you’re going to have to be right there to make sure they’re not touching the slide after another child and then touching their nose and their eyes,” Dr. Ahmed told us. “And if you decide that you’re going to wear the mask, which I would encourage, then try to make sure they keep that mask on and that they’re not running toward another child to hug them.”

There still may be some slip-ups, some yanking off of the mask and rubbing of the eyes, but the more you can head off any face-touching or too-close interactions with other kids, the better.

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