Play Dates and the Pandemic

In many ways, life during quarantine was easier. We stayed home, businesses were closed and the guidelines were very clear cut.

As Ohio has slowly reopened this summer under Governor DeWine’s Responsible RestartOhio plan, parents have had to make a number of decisions regarding their family’s safety and wellbeing. As businesses and attractions have begun to reopen and social distancing guidelines relaxed, you may be wondering when — or if — you can start setting up play dates for your children again. (Your kids, too, are probably wondering the same thing.)

Play dates look very different right now as we navigate our way through this pandemic. Read on for ways you can safely allow your children to enjoy some time with their friends.

Go virtual

We’ve been relying on technology a lot during this time, and for good reason. Between Zoom and FaceTime, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Relax your screen time rules and let your kids reach out to friends and family via phone or video chats. Organize a virtual play date where kids play a board game together or collaborate in a scavenger hunt. Get creative! This option is the safest and simplest way for kids to stay connected with their friends.

Be prepared

Virtual dates are great, but nothing beats an in-person get-together. If you decide to move forward with an in-person play date, health experts recommend several protective measures. First, before anyone comes over, ask the other parents if anyone in their household is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 often looks like having the flu. (However, the CDC notes that carriers can also be asymptomatic.)

Secondly, keep playdates small to limit the risk of exposure – stick to groups of two or three at a maximum.

Finally, make sure clear expectations are laid out ahead of time. How will you handle social distancing? Will kids/adults wear masks? Where will the playdate take place? Make sure all parties are on the same page.

Opt outside

In terms of play date locations, outside is generally safer than inside. The fresh air keeps everything moving, and kids can more easily practice social distancing. In addition, consider activities that can be done individually and at a safe physical distance. (Think bike rides or rollerblading.)

Maintain a “Social Distancing Bubble”

For the past few months, your household has likely been your social bubble. If you are going to expand that bubble, choose a small community of just two or three families rather than many.

Talk to a few other families who have been practicing social distancing and establish some general guidelines. If you agree to spend time together, families should limit social contact outside of your new, bigger bubble as much as possible.

Wash your hands

It goes without saying, but encourage children to wash their hands frequently during playdates. Explain that hand washing can keep kids healthy and stop the virus from spreading to others — keep soap and hand sanitizer in easy-to-access places.

Parents can consider other protective measures, too, depending on the ages of their children. (For example, wearing a mask may be more doable for older kids.) Be sure to frequently disinfect doorknobs and other high-traffic surfaces. You can also sanitize toys after playdates or designate playdate-specific toys.

Be a role model

We’re living in unprecedented times, and social distancing is difficult for everyone. However, it’s an important and essential way to remain healthy during this time. If your kids see parents modeling heathy behaviors, it will be easier for them to do the same. So, wear your mask on errands, Zoom-call your girlfriends and practice social distancing with the neighbors. Remember: We’re all in this together!

For more information on COVID-19, check out the CDC’s website at

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