The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our lives and the lives of our children in ways that no one could have predicted. From a spike in unemployment, to online school and all the challenges that it brings, everyone is tired and looking forward to warm, sunny days filled with beach vacations, days in the park, ice cream on the boardwalk, and playground excursions.
Unfortunately, although infection rates have diminished and most areas are slowly starting to open up with restrictions, COVID-19 is by no means conquered, and significant risks remain. Even as summer begins, research shows that a warming climate does little to mitigate the effects of the virus. Summer 2020 is going to look different from summers past.
Due to the asymptomatic nature of some cases of COVID-19, anyone could be walking around and spreading the virus without their knowledge. That is why it is important to continue to practice both mask-wearing and social distancing. It’s annoying--I know I’ve already driven out of my house, realized halfway to my destination that I forgot my mask, and been forced to turn around--but it really can make a difference in the spread of the virus, especially if combined with staying six feet away and frequent hand washing. The good news is that children do not appear to be a high risk group for COVID-19. The data collected by the CDC shows that the vast majority of confirmed cases belong to adults, especially adults 65 and older. But it is not impossible for a child to contract it, which is why schools were closed and why children older than two should wear a mask and practice social distancing. In addition, parents and scientists are concerned about the emergence of a multi-systemic inflammatory syndrome that shares many characteristics with Kawasaki disease, an inflammatory disease of childhood that can affect blood vessels
Summer 2020 won’t be like past years, but it can still be a fun and relaxing time for families. In this post we will discuss some of our ideas for summer activities that can help slow the spread of the virus while keeping kids happy and occupied. Arts and crafts, a classic childhood activity, can be a great starting point. Drawing with crayons and colored pencils, painting, using Model Magic, or even textile activities like knitting and crochet will keep kids of all ages occupied and away from large crowds. Some crafts can even be adopted as a group activity for everyone in your household, such as tie dye, puppet shows, or cooking. Arts and crafts are great because they encourage creativity and hard work, while also keeping your child safe from the virus.
For older kids and larger households, games are a group activity that can bring variety and excitement to a summer in social isolation. Growing up, my family played a lot of card games and board games, and it was a great way to bring us closer together. During quarantine, it helped us to forget about the news for a while and just focus on spending time together. There are literally millions of games on the market, but a classic to start with is a simple deck of cards--it’s inexpensive, and the possibilities are endless.
Although exposure to crowds of people should be avoided, you don’t have to spend your whole summer staying indoors. Having a day out at a local park should be safe as long as you wear a mask, practice social distancing, and sanitize your hands. It’s a good idea to do some research to figure out which parks near you are more popular and which ones may have less people. Where I live, the state government released a list of guidelines and restrictions that should be followed, as well as which parks are more likely to be crowded with people. Each state will have different guidelines for using facilities, which activities are open to the public, and which parks attract the most crowds.
Finally, certain states will be opening summer camps in a restricted capacity as reopening proceeds. The American Camp Association released an 82-page reopening guide for camps attempting to open this summer. It emphasizes that camps should only be opening with permission from state and local authorities, usually during Phase 2 or 3 of reopening. Campers will be required to be screened for symptoms each day, activities will take place in small groups only, frequent sanitizing of camp materials is strongly recommended, and materials should never be shared between campers. These restrictions could possibly make camps more expensive, and some camps may not be able to open at all. If you normally send your child to a camp, do some research to see what kind of amended summer schedule the camp will operate on this year.
These restrictions are annoying, exhausting, and especially difficult for families with children. But, by following them, we can help stop the spread of the virus which has already done so much damage to many families all over the world. We look up to superheroes, the people who go to great lengths to protect strangers from harm. Now, we have to do the same thing. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t find things that make us happy, even with restrictions. We must strive to find a balance between our individual mental health and the good that we can do for others. Summer 2020 will be tense and difficult, but we can make it fun, too.