With lockdown easing, playgrounds in England are set to reopen again from 4 July.
It's a big deal for anyone with younger children -- how many times have we walked past those padlocked gates to pleading howls? However, we still need to be careful.
Even if the play equipment is cleaned regularly, it is impossible to fully eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in such spaces. What can we do to minimise the risk of coronavirus and stay healthy, besides social distancing? The following information will help parents guide their children to use outdoor playgrounds safely.
Before Entering Playgrounds
Check current government advice on coronavirus before leaving the house. Guidelines can change nationally or locally in response to outbreaks.
Check that the playground has been officially reopened. Make sure that any padlocks, tape or other barriers to entry have been fully removed. Don't attempt to go into the playground if it looks like it's been forced open, rather than officially opened.
Hygiene is of upmost importance when using metallic or plastic surfaces. Clean your hands, and your children's hands, with alcohol-based gel.
Remind children not to put their hands in their mouth, and try to avoid touching their faces.
Outdoor playgrounds are likely to be very busy in the first week or so after they reopen. If you see so many people that social distancing would be impossible, come back another time, or try somewhere else... no matter how much the children might sulk. (It's a good idea to let them know that this might happen before you leave the house.)
When Using Playgrounds
Playground equipment may not have been used for some time. Check that everything looks safe before letting your children have their fun. Report any hazards to the council (most playgrounds have a phone number clearly displayed).
Don't adjust any play equipment yourself. If, for example, swings have been rolled up, or roundabouts fixed in place with tape, do not try to release them yourself. The playground has not officially reopened.
Stick to social distancing guidelines (in England, that's at least 1 metre apart, from 4 July), and encourage your kids to do the same.
Try not to touch the play equipment yourself. Evidence suggests that children do not pass on coronavirus as readily as adults and do not suffer from the virus to the same extent. However, parents can easily pick up coronavirus from infected surfaces or by getting too close to infected people.
Consider wearing a face mask if you are able. You can also explore the possibility with your children.
Use hygiene gel after using play equipment, and also throughout play, if you're going to be there for a while.
Get out and have a great time!
The guidance in this article is based on information from the government and the Register of Play Inspectors International.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.