The New Normal: Playgrounds

Children playing on a swing

Image: iStock

Okay, so when it comes to easing the nationwide coronavirus lockdown measures, playgrounds are a tricky one.

They are typically the sorts of places that are full of children screaming and sliding, running and climbing, getting in each other's space and putting their hands all over everything. And yet, for any of us who have young children, the opportunity to visit an outdoor play area is a godsend after months of being housebound.

They provide a fun and stimulating environment in which children can engage with each other and the world around them, allow for fresh air and exercise, and give frazzled post-lockdown parents a much-needed respite from hands-on parenting.

With that in mind, here's a round-up of all the government guidance on how to take your children to a playground whilst adhering to social distancing measures.

What To Know Before You Go

Of course, our main priority is to keep our kids safe.

Official government guidelines acknowledge that adhering to social distancing measures in a playground setting can be particularly difficult, and so the general advice is to be aware of that. But that doesn't mean they can't be enjoyed, so long as sensible precautions are taken.

Coronavirus can live on certain hard surfaces for up to a few days. But there is less of a risk of this in outdoor spaces, particularly after exposure to rain or UV light. For this reason, outdoor play areas are at a slight advantage compared to indoor ones. Playground operators are being encouraged to clean equipment at regular intervals to minimise risk. Don't bet on this though; a lot of public playgrounds won't have the staff on hand to regularly sanitise everything, so it's a good idea to bring your own cleaning products and sanitiser for little hands.

Some parks and play areas may be operating a limit on how many children can be in the area at any one time. Some may even require a booking system with a specific time slot for your child to use the facilities. With this in mind, it might be a good idea to try and go at a time when it is less likely to be busy.

You may be asked to accompany your child on various pieces of playground equipment in order to supervise distancing.

The consumption of food and drink may well be banned, to prevent the spread of germs.

Remember to ensure that everyone washes their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water before going.

Consider having a talk with your child about face touching. It's also a good idea to remind them to keep their distance from other kids, something they might forget when they're busy having fun.

What You Can Expect To See

At this point, we're probably all pretty well-practised in the art of socially-distanced queuing. If your local playground is being monitored to keep crowds down, you may find you have to wait to use the area (something to prepare for if your kids are particularly excited to go and play).

There are likely to be lots of signs and posters around playgrounds reminding children and parents to social distance. You may also see a sanitising station in certain areas.

Certain equipment may be closed because it poses too much of a risk, or simply because nobody has got round to checking its safety yet. Some might be open only for limited use; for example, you may only be able to use every other swing.

Things To Take To Keep You Safe

Hand sanitiser: to be used before and after children play (and at intervals in between, if possible).

Antibacterial wipes: to wipe down accessible equipment if you feel it's necessary.

Face masks/coverings: for if the playground feels a little crowded. Given the nature of playground activity, you may deem face masks obstructive, even unsafe for you kids. This one's more of a judgement call. Not recommended for children under 3, though.

Gloves: be sure to dispose of these safely in litter bins provided.

After All That Seriousness...

Remember to have fun! Outdoor play areas are a great place for kids and parents to enjoy some fresh air and open space, and the government has said we're allowed to make use of them; go on, go wild. (But in a safe way.)



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