Stop taking children to playgrounds, playdates during coronavirus outbreak
With so many children out of school and daycare, it’s no surprise some parents prefer to practise social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak outdoors.
But in the midst of increasing calls for physicals distancing, self-isolation and quarantine, some parents are still taking their children to playgrounds and playdates.
Craig Janes, director of the school of public health at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont., tells Global News this is not the time to allow children to go to playgrounds.
“[Children] aren’t likely to follow the procedures needed for hygiene (washing hands, not touching face), and they are equally unlikely to adhere to social distancing protocols.”
Janes adds while we don’t yet know how effectively children can transmit the virus, they could bring something home to their family members.
One recent study found on some surfaces like plastic, the virus can last up to three days. This study was performed in a lab environment.
“The available science suggests that the virus can live for quite a while on surfaces, particularly plastic and stainless steel … which likely characterizes most playground equipment.”
Janes says if your children want to go outside, take them to the park or even the backyard instead. This way, they can maintain distance from other children.“I can understand the feeling of being cooped up with the kids going crazy,” he said. “[This is] going to be tough on parents for a bit as they struggle to find things for kids to do.”
But if any adult or child in the household has symptoms, Janes says you must stay indoors.
On Friday, Global News found a yellow warning sign at a Toronto park, advising parents, “the novel coronavirus can survive on metal and plastic surfaces, in cold and warm temperatures, for up to three days.”
Toronto Public Health spokesperson Dr. Vinita Dubey adds families can still enjoy the outdoors and being active, but avoid all playdates with other children.
“After going outside, have them wash their hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available, she said.
“Avoid frequently touched surfaces on playground equipment. Use a hand sanitizer if you do touch objects. Try playing with a soccer ball or going for a walk instead.”
Parents shaming other parents
Julie Romanowski, an early childhood consultant based in Vancouver, also agrees parents should not be taking their children to playgrounds or organizing playdates, adding if anything, children should avoid public spaces.
“Do something else outside like make your own playground, sandbox or obstacle course in your own yard or even indoors.”
But some parents take matters into their own hands, shaming other parents who don’t follow public health recommendations, either online or in person.
video: play at home:
“I don’t agree with shaming anyone for anything, however, we are in unknown territory here with this virus/pandemic and worries as well as stress and anxiety are at a high,” Romanowski said.
“People are scared and are reacting to that feeling — reacting out of fear.
Maureen Dennis, a parenting and lifestyle expert based in Toronto adds we should also take some time to explain to our children why we can’t go on playdates or play in the playground.
“My advice is to take this very seriously and explain to your kids why some things we normally do as a family have to change, at least for now.”
What can you do with kids?
The first big step is creating a routine they can get used to, as they do with school.
“If these days at home don’t have structure or texture, your kids are going to get pyjama fever,” she said. “Wake up at the same time every day and go through a similar routine where you’re getting dressed, you’re getting ready, you’re having your breakfast and then you begin the day.”
She recommends age and grade-appropriate workbooks or other school-oriented items that you can print off from the internet or if you are outside, stick to walks. She calls it “adventure storytime.”
“Let’s say you’re going for a walk, and the minute you step off the porch, you’re explorers in fairyland,” she said.
Romanowski says kids can still enjoy the outdoors, this includes going on hikes (again, practise proper social distancing), ride bikes, do chalk drawings in front of the house, paint rocks in the backyard or play with bubbles.
Dennis says we should also keep in mind children will miss their friends.
“My kids have been writing letters to their friends and having playdates through FaceTime instead.”