Parents Erika Reynolds and Greg Gunderson make the same trip to their neighborhood park in Woodland — every day — with their two boys, Aiden, 6, and Carson, 3. It’s a nice break from being cooped up at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s also gotten a little tedious.
“They were enjoying the scooters for a while and now they’re bored of it,” said Gunderson, who brought a kite on Sunday to make things more interesting. “There’s only so many times they can come to this park without going to the playground.”
To change their routine, they thought about doing a physically distanced picnic with friends and their children. But after giving it more thought, Reynolds scrapped the idea.
“They’re five years old,” she said. “They don’t want to sit and talk to each other like we do. They want to run, they want to play, they want to hug each other.”
“And wrestle,” Gunderson added. “They want to play swords or whatever.”
Six weeks after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place order to slow the novel coronavirus, parents are wondering when they’ll be able to again schedule playdates for their children.
Those would be a nice relief right now for the Meyerzon family.
“Really, the toughest part is during the day trying to work and keep them busy and entertained,” said Ven Meyerzon, at the park with his two sons, Ben, 3, and Adam, 1. “We love each other but there’s also a limit where you need some personal time to yourself.”
A health order in San Francisco last week gave parents the false hope they could start scheduling in-person gatherings.
The city later clarified that only child care centers for parents of essential workers could operate with groups of 12 kids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines continue to recommend against in-person play dates.
“If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household,” the guidelines read.
Ellen McCleery, a pediatrician at UC Davis Medical Center, acknowledged it’s difficult for parents of young children to continue to “talk to them over and over about why they can’t see their friends or their classmates. It’s hard and we’re all feeling it.”
But, she added, there's good reason for the sacrifice.
“We’re seeing success,” McCleery said. “We’re seeing that we have saved lives by all practicing physical distancing and sheltering in place.”
She said it’s not clear yet whether children spread the virus more than adults. But as California prepares to restart parts of its economy, McCleery noted that more child care centers will need to reopen.
To do so safely, they’ll need to keep children in small groups, practice consistent hand-washing, require masks in some cases and place desks further apart, she said.
To ease the stay-at-home burden, California’s guidelines encourage families to take their kids to the park “for fresh air” and to do everything from tree climbing to watching a sunset.
They also permit babysitters to care for minors.
But as far as kids playing together, that’s still a pandemic no-go.
“It’s okay to go outside to go for a walk, to exercise, and participate in healthy activities as long as you maintain a safe physical distance of six feet and gather only with members of your household,” the guidelines read.
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