How to keep kids social during a time of social distancing

Running out of ideas that involve kids endlessly video-chatting with friends? Here are some ideas for deeper connections.

Your child’s school has been closed for two weeks, and everyone’s starting to go stir-crazy. She’s begging for a playdate, and her friend next door seems healthy. You know you’re supposed to practice social distancing, but the local park is pretty big to move around in. Could it really hurt to head out with a friend just this once?

Unfortunately, the answer is pretty clear. Although doctors think that children who contract coronavirus often won’t be as affected as adults, they can still be carriers, and therefore infect other people. Some studies suggest that the virus can be transmitted before symptoms appear, making it even more important to follow the rules. “The goal here is to create space between people to limit transmission,” says epidemiologist Keri Althoff of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

That’s not easy when parents and kids are stuck at home for weeks, with no idea when things will return to normal. “I have two children myself, and I know it’s hard,” Althoff says. But it’s all about “flattening the curve”—reducing the number of infected people so our healthcare workers have enough resources to help those who truly need it. “If people get sick too fast, we’ll lose that,” Althoff says. “Parents and families are playing a big role in slowing the pandemic.”

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