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How to play it safe with kids’ fall, winter activities when there’s added risk
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How to play it safe with kids’ fall, winter activities when there’s added risk

Little girl in medical mask. At atumn playground

Regular activity is important for children’s physical and mental health. Simply going for a walk or bike ride, or playing at the park helps kids burn off some energy while reducing stress.

It’s that time of year when families are thinking about indoor activities to keep children active, busy and healthy through the fall and winter.

But like so much else this year, there’s an added layer of risk for parents to consider. Unfortunately, the decision to participate in sports and other indoor activities isn’t a simple yes or no. Here’s what to keep in mind as you consider ways to keep your kids active during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What to consider

There was already a lot to think about when it came to signing kids up for winter activities. Now parents are weighing COVID-19 risk factors, including:

• If they have a high-risk family member at home

• If their job puts them in contact with high-risk individuals

• What COVID-19 trends are like in their community

Not to mention: Not all activities are created equal when it comes to COVID-19 risks.

Factors to consider include:

• If all participants will be wearing masks

• The number of people participating

• The space available and proximity of participants

• If there is direct contact between participants

Indoor sports are largely going to be riskier than outdoor ones because of decreased ventilation and dilution from fresh air. However, the number of other people present and their proximity also matter.

Activities like tennis, dance, gymnastics and swimming – where people are keeping a good distance from others and there is little contact – will be safer than basketball, hockey and bounce houses. By their nature, those types of activities lead to closer contact. Activities like wrestling, where the purpose is to be up close and personal, are discouraged. Even if all participants wear masks, such activities carry significant risk for transmission.

What you can do

Yes, there are a lot of questions about COVID-19 risks. But there’s plenty that parents can do to keep their kids safe and healthy.

Ask: If you’re on the fence about an activity, check with a coach or organizer to see if masks are required or steps have been taken to further spread out participants. Your inquiry might be just the nudge needed to make a meaningful change.

Mask: In general, you should wear a mask anytime you’re around other people in an indoor public place. Some things (like swimming) make masking impossible. But many activities can be done with a mask on, even if they aren’t required by the organizer. Again, you might spur others to take proactive steps by being a model of safe practices like masking and social distancing.

Press pause: Things change. The COVID-19 situation in your family or community may be different than it was when you signed up for an activity. It’s OK to take a break until you feel more comfortable with the situation.

Go your own way: Regular activity is important for children’s physical and mental health. Simply going for a walk or bike ride, or playing in the leaves or snow helps kids burn off some energy while reducing stress. No one likes cabin fever! Families can also look at this unusual time as an opportunity to mix things up. This might be the year your kids skipped joining the basketball team and instead your family built an amazing tree fort. You might one day remember this winter as the time your children discovered their love for music, painting or another hobby.

We’ll get through this

We’re all feeling worn down and worn out by COVID-19. Being fatigued and frustrated is understandable and normal. The important thing to remember is that everything we’re doing to change our behavior matters for everyone’s health – yourself and your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers.

And it works. If we all keep up the effort to wear masks, wash our hands, practice social distancing and stay home when sick, we’ll be able to get back to our normal lives sooner while keeping as many people healthy as possible.

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