An African American boy welcomes his Hispanic friend over for a playdate.

Monkey Business/

Playdate Primer as COVID Winds Down (Hopefully!)

Getting your kids to be social again, safely

Now that vaccines are available for kids 12 and up (and hopefully for kids from 2-11, end of summer?), parents will likely be trying to get them on playdates, if they haven’t already.

As many vaccinated souls now ditch the masks to hit the malls, baseball bleachers and beaches, they’re also letting their guard down in terms of protecting their unvaccinated children. But remember to play it safe and (still!) follow the latest CDC guidelines, which recommend that unvaccinated people older than 2 wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings and maintain physical distance and hand hygiene. And always follow your conscience on the most responsible playdate choices for your family, mindful of any special health considerations.

Play in your comfort zone-- Decide playdate parameters before negotiating with other parents on COVID safety. In The Wall Street Journal, Gene Beresin of Massachusetts General Hospital advises parents to “start by describing your personal situation and why you want your children to adhere to certain rules during the visit” to put the other parent at ease. Lindsay Spolan Pinchuk sets her own rules and doesn’t let her daughters, 10 and 7, socialize unmasked in big groups like other families do, especially with her oldest prone to respiratory infections. Instead, she hosts small, masked gatherings at home.

Know thy state—A CNN article on the Delta variant advises parents to stay informed on their region’s Covid rates as some states have a toxic combination of a rising spread of the variant and a low vaccination rate. Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases, emphasized the need for adults to be vaccinated to protect children. “The vast majority of new infections are occurring among unvaccinated individuals. And creating a ‘pod’ of vaccinated individuals around young children as well as continuing them to mask and distance in indoor settings and among crowded settings will be important in keeping them safe.”

Parents may consider the vaccination status of a friend’s family as the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 75 percent of unvaccinated adults reported that no one in their household is vaccinated.

Pod play—In a CNBC article Dr. Scott Gottlieb recommends playdates with defined social networks. With his children “I’m being mindful about how many people they’re interacting with and who they’re interacting with,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017-19. “They are already exposed to that pod so we try to keep the interactions within that defined pod.”

Fresh air fun-time-- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends heading outside for less germy fun with more exercise, states The Modesto Bee. “Physically distanced activities such as tossing a Frisbee, hiking and biking are good options with friends or family members. Playing in parallel with at least 3-6 foot apart such as sidewalk chalk art, scavenger hunts, gardening and art projects are safe options.”

The article encourages virtual playdates if a member of one’s household has a risk for severe Covid-19. But it also affirms the importance of peer interactions “for healthy development, mastering social skills and mental wellbeing.” “For children and adolescents feeling lost an in-person visit with a friend or small group of friends may outweigh the risk of Covid-19. But maintaining mitigation efforts is critical to help reduce the threat of infection.”