Complaints about schlepping their kids to and from them aside, most parents (and children) are missing play dates about now. “The increased family time during this pandemic has been wonderful for many families, but by now both parents and children can probably use some new people scenery,” says John Rodarte, M.D., with Descanso Pediatrics/Huntington Health Physicians in La Cañada Flintridge. There are many factors to consider before venturing again into the playdate pool, and Rodarte offers some tips about reasoning through the risks.
What conditions will need to exist before it is safe for children to have in-person play dates?
If we’re talking fully safe without worry, then that won’t really be until the pandemic is under control and the general population has reached significant protection, most likely through a widespread vaccination campaign. Unfortunately, that can take quite a bit of time. Thus, making it as safe as possible is the next best thing.
What factors should parents keep in mind? What safety measures should be put in place? What questions should parents ask fellow parents before letting their children interact?
The first thing to consider is what’s your own family’s risk? Do you have elderly people at home, or someone with a chronic disease that puts them at higher risk? If the answer is yes, then having play dates at this time may not be wise. Another consideration is the prevalence in your community. If there are many new cases, it is likely wise to postpone the play date.
A third consideration is the age of the children. It is more difficult for young children and toddlers to socially distance themselves and keep a mask on as well.
If the play date is going to happen, then these tips can help make it safer:
- Have the play date outdoors, where there is better ventilation and more space to keep the appropriate distance of 6 feet apart. Pools are felt to be safe as well, since chlorination kills off the virus. Just be sure to have proper adult supervision.
- Make hand sanitizer readily available or take frequent hand washing breaks.
- For children over the age of 2, try to keep a mask on, especially when unable to maintain 6 feet between them.
- If utilizing play items, best to bring your own from home and not share. For children who are gaming, bringing their own game or controller is safer.
- Bring your own snacks or drinks and do not share them.
And keep your play dates to a select small group, people you know well and who don’t feel uncomfortable discussing their exposure history with you prior to the play date.
When children are able to go out on play dates, what conversations should parents have with them to make sure they understand how to keep themselves safe?
Children have already been learning about safety during the pandemic, just by seeing what we or other family members do. It is also best to set clear guidelines for appropriate behavior prior to the start of any play date, with warnings that if the precautions are not adhered to, then parents have the right to stop the play date.