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What to know when weighing up the risks of summer activities for kids

19 October 2020, Impact of Our Work

Weighing up the risks of COVID-19 over the next few months

Summer 2020 is already looking quite different for many children around the country. As soon as school gets out the days start to stretch on with seemingly endless fun in sight. From all-day sandcastle builds at the beach to marathon bike rides with friends, the list of child-friendly activities is as fun as the day is long.

Of course, coronavirus has changed so much for all of us. After months of restrictions and school closures, social distancing is still the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As businesses and public spaces start to open up, it’s important to understand the guidance for how to enjoy summer activities while still taking precaution.

What contributes to transmission risk?

Although there is no such thing as a zero-risk activity right now, we asked our experts to provide helpful tips to consider when planning child-friendly activities for summer. Please note, personal risk always varies and is dependent upon a person’s age, health and the prevalence of the virus in your area.

“The single most important consideration when planning summer activities for kids is the transmission rate in the area,” says Eric Starbuck, DRPH, MPH, Advisor for Child Health and Pandemic Preparedness at Save The Children. “In a setting where there is very little ongoing transmission, the risk is lower. Conversely, in a setting where the transmission rate is substantial, the risk is high.”

“The highest risk of transmission involves enclosed spaces where people are crowded together closely for a long period of time. All of these contribute to increased risk of transmission.”

Eric Starbuck, DRPH, MPH, Advisor for Child Health and Pandemic Preparedness at Save The Children

“It’s also essential to consider the risk within your own family, and what could happen if a child does become infected and brings the virus home. It makes sense to be much more careful in families with high-risk individuals, even if the child themselves is at lower risk.”

Low Risk-to-Medium Risk — camping, spending time at the beach, bike riding, BBQs

While each of these activities is held outdoors, the potential for crowding does exist. So continue to practice good social distancing from other groups of people and avoid sharing drinks, utensils and equipment as much as possible. Of course, while you can't realistically wear a mask while eating and drinking, covering one’s face before and after meals helps to reduce the risk of transmission.

Medium Risk-to-High Risk — adventure theme parks, summer camps, group sports

Factors that contribute to increased risk among these activities include the potential crowd size and unavoidable closeness between groups of people from various communities, where transmission rates can vary.

High Risk — cinemas, shopping centres and arcades

A lack of ventilation due to the indoor setting of these activities lead to them being on the high end of the risk spectrum. They each also have the potential for increased crowd size and unavoidable closeness.

A few general guidelines for weighing the risks of popular summer activities for kids:

  • Indoor activities carry greater risk than outdoor ones due to ventilation.
  • Avoid activities that place you in close proximity to crowds.
  • Activities such as group sports, gatherings and park rides that involve sharing materials, such as balls, utensils or handles, up the risk factor. 
  • Do what you can to maintain social distancing of at least 1.5 metres from those outside of your household—in any instance where that’s not possible, wear a mask.

How to explain to children when the answer is no

It’s important to keep the discussion about COVID-19 going with children. While they may understand that school closures were put in place to keep children and teachers safe, now that school is over new opportunities will arise.

Should an invitation or opportunity come up that doesn’t align with your family’s risk tolerance, it’s important to be honest. Attending a birthday party may be okay for a neighborhood friend, but the risk may be too high for your own family. Likewise, if a friend turns down an invitation to attend your family’s outdoor BBQ, it’s important for children to understand why.

Tailor your approach based on your child. Approach the subject simply and calmly while also validating your child’s feelings. And as always, model good hygiene—like handwashing—for your family no matter what activities your summer has in store.

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